by Matthew Coe
You utter the popular “the struggle is real” saying to someone and you’ll almost always get an all-knowing nod or head shake. Because we all inevitably suffer the trials of life. It’s a thing that makes us human, and it connects us all. The struggle is one important reason we practice yoga.
Any given day, you never really know what life’s going to throw at you. Yeah sure, we may generally predict how most days are going to go, but ask yourself, how many of the days that have gone off the rails could you look back and have seen it coming? That day you broke a bone? Got in a car accident? Fell horribly ill? Worse still, if you have children, how about when one of these things happened to them? What about when you came across a seemingly random situation with strangers and you were drawn into its events? Best laid plans…and what about the situations WE create, ever self-deprecate? Fight with your love over something dumb? We can create the struggle too.
Yoga helps us deal with the turmoil life, from mundane frustrations to the off the rails – such as the guy cutting in front of you at the grocery store, the fourth hour of a defiant toddler, the jerkface that unnecessarily honked at you on 6thstreet, the printer that’s giving you the silent treatment, Facebook (all of it), and then burning dinner in the midst of it all. The hows and whys of it are not mystical, but come from the very nature of the daily practice.
We bring our bodies, minds and hearts to endure the practice, face its challenges and suffer its scrutiny. The practice is our daily crucible. Be it uncomfortable asana, awkward pranayama, a new teacher that scratches your brain’s chalk board, or arriving late to have to take that last front-and-center spot in the room, our acceptance of and adaptation to these discomforts is our practice. And it’s through the repeated ritual of making ourselves uncomfortable in the safety of the practice, that we temper our bodies, minds, and spirits to better withstand the stresses of life’s fluctuations outside the practice.
Your yoga practice is about delving deep to face and acknowledge your physical and mental biases, weaknesses, anxieties, fears and fallacies, to do your shadow work (and understand the relationships there), to find a place of equanimity, your true center. And from this forged middle ground position, fashion a better version of you to cope with life’s ever-changing challenges and explore life’s opportunities.
This middle point of being is the sattvic state in yoga-lingo, where we embody a calm-minded center, and are able to pierce through desire and bias to acknowledge truth and virtue. Our practice is intended and designed to drive us to sattvic state, where – from this balanced vantage point – we can treat our unfolding stories of success and failure equally, better managing outcomes and the importance (stress) we place on them.
Our struggles are real. And the struggles change with age. The challenges and anxieties of our 20’s are most likely not the same in later decades. New ones inevitably slither in to replace those we’ve surpassed. We may fall in and out of sattvic being-ness as we move through life. This is normal as our paths morph with the ages. But our practice is there through the years to continually help us stock and replenish our proverbial toolbox for clearing new middle spaces to move from.
This is of course a complex topic with more nuance that could be discussed, visit QuietTao for more on the middle ground from Matthew.