Transformation is thrilling; it’s the topic of countless inspirational quotes and books that call us to action. We’re told that if we are clear on our goals, have a positive attitude, and work our butts off, we will change both ourselves and the world. In this context, hearing dialog in yoga class about simply observing where we are in the moment and learning to “just be” is lackluster. However, even if we are crystal clear on where we would like to be, we can be hopelessly lost. Just as we have to enter both a destination and a starting point into Google maps for directions, the first step to personal or global transformation is to sit still long enough for our figurative GPS to lock onto its current coordinates. To know how to get somewhere, we have to know where we are.
Yoga teachers don’t drone on about stillness and surrender to encourage us into a state of permanent passivity; most agree there is a place for conscious goals and clear action. Yoga teachers focus on this aspect of the practice because humans are characteristically bad at turning off the doer-within for long enough to sit in clear, unbiased observation. Meditation is so uncomfortable for us that when attempting it, mundane distractions like an itchy nose or a mental grocery list become the most interesting things in the world. Because we rarely switch on our internal GPS devices in earnest, we don’t have the information we need to achieve the life we want. We don’t know where our starting line is, so our actions are haphazard and prone to constant distraction.
In meditation, we temporarily turn off our desire to change, to move, or to grow so that we can notice the present moment without judgement. When we emerge from the practice, this unadulterated information helps illuminate the path to our goals. For example, we may realize that not being able to fit a daily yoga practice into our schedule has more to do with a perceived lack of time than an actual lack of time. Or, we may realize our perceived individual shortcomings are truly the result of institutionalized prejudice, and the path to our goals lies not in relentlessly bettering ourselves to no avail, but in bettering the world. Through a daily practice of observation we may also recognize and accept that when we, ourselves, have unexpectedly changed, and our goals and desires have shifted. Knowing where we are empowers us to focus and direct our energy to elicit profound transformation that aligns with our most authentic desires.
Taking time to observe is not being apathetic; it is the precursor to intelligent action. Recognizing where you are, no matter how unglamorous it is, is not being negative; it’s grounding your life’s work in reality. Acceptance is not giving up; it is having the wisdom to start where you are. So let’s sit, be still, concentrate, meditate, geolocate, awake, and then begin where we are. Let’s begin today.
Contributor: Barbie Levasseur