"When you surrender to what is and become so fully present, the past ceases to have any power. The realm of Being, which had been obscured by the mind, then opens up. Suddenly, a great stillness arises within you, an unfathomable sense of peace. And within that peace there is great joy. And within that joy there is love. And at the innermost core there is the sacred, the immeasurable, That which cannot be named." – Eckhart Tolle
I was first introduced to yoga as I imagine many of us were, through the physical practice, the asana. As I moved my body to create the shapes being described by my guides, my teachers, I listened to them speak of being present and, often as my physical practice goes, I responded to their words with my own internal dialogue. Their words "be here now" playing to the beat of my breath and my thoughts of what was presently happening playing back in my mind.
Our mind is a beautiful instrument designed to think, analyze, wander, and dream, but it is not always the best for guiding. Several years after beginning my yoga journey I was attending my second training with teacher Sonia Sumar and Yoga for the Special Child. We began each day with Sadhana, a morning practice involving meditation, chanting, and asana. It was towards the end of our week together when we sat in meditation for about 45 minutes. As I moved through the asana practice that followed I found myself overcome with feelings of agitation, even anger.
My day had begun like any other day that week. Rising before the sun, a quiet walk through Brooklyn while the city that never sleeps was seemingly at a standstill, a subway ride to Manhattan filled with my favorite music ringing through my headphones, and morning Sadhana. I had arrived on my mat grateful for the opportunity to be a student for another day, to practice a discipline that I loved. The uncomfortable feelings that arose during my meditation stayed with me throughout the day and when our time was up, I may have very well looked like one of those cartoon characters with a cloud of dust behind scampering feet. I was out. Gone. In a full speed soul sprint towards anywhere but there with the emotional and mental discomfort.
I walked through the streets of Greenwich village thankful to be done with the day. I walked to meet my sisters and mom who were visiting. As we walked the High Line together I deflected. I was agitated because I was tired, because I disagreed with the material we covered that day, because I was throwing darts at an empty wall of explanation for the feelings that had come up. The longer I walked, the longer I talked, the more I deflected, the more I removed myself from that situation, and the better I thought I was feeling.
The next day I woke up feeling completely different, like I had never been agitated or angry at all. There's something about a new day's sun that can have that effect on your world. I walked through a quiet Brooklyn, I hopped the subway, I arrived in the studio, I took my seat on my mat, I began my Sadhana. During our group discussion that followed I shared my experience from the day before. I told Sonia and my fellow yogis about my feelings, but reassured them, and myself, that I felt totally fine today! I must have figured it all out!
Sonia, looked at me soulfully as only someone who has practiced the discipline of yoga for so many years can and said, " don't just say 'now everything is fine'." She went on to explain and encourage us to sit with those uncomfortable feelings, to explore them. When we run from them, we are never really giving ourselves the opportunity to let them go.
I truly believe that the practice of that week, and particularly that morning, had led me to an opportunity to be truly and fully present. As Eckhart Tolle's words read, a moment of great stillness, of unfathomable peace was rising within me. To reach those moments of peace, of great joy, of tapping into something sacred at our core, we often have to travel through feelings of discomfort. We have to move past moments of hardship that we pushed down deep and take the opportunity to confront those feelings and finally move past, completely letting go.
The practice of being present can begin by simply dropping the to do list of your day, of ceasing to create the grocery list for your errand on the way home. Practice this over and over and over until the internal dialogue begins to quiet and when you encounter something deeper, something fuller, and something possibly uncomfortable, don't run from it. Stay. Sit with it. You are being given the gift of finally letting the past be the past to be fully joyful in the present.