YOGA AS EMBODIMENT AND THE GROWTH OF ACCEPTANCE
The first step toward change is awareness. The second is acceptance.’ (Nathaniel Branden)
‘…be loyal to life, don’t create fiction but accept what life is giving you, show yourself worthy of whatever it may be by recollecting and pondering over it, thus repeating in imagination, “this is the way to remain alive.”’ (Hannah Arendt, as quoted by Marion Woodman)*
‘Acceptance looks like a passive state, but reality it brings something entirely new into this words. That peace, a subtle energy vibration, is consciousness.’ (Eckhart Tolle)
Many of us, in our personal lives and the state of the world, hunger for change. Awareness of life shows us that, converse to our expectations, acceptance is the beginning of change. Yoga can bring us to a place of acceptance, and therefore transformation, because as well as showing us what is possible, connecting us with the potential of life through the body’s relationship with nature and spiritual longing, it also reveals to us our limitations. We could refer to this as our ‘edge’ places, where, through the encounter with ‘centredness’ we discover from our practice, we can glimpse into the unknown: what we fear and push away, and what we are lost in or clinging on to; the patterns we have built up in our lives in order to survive and feel safe.
All of us need to accept these patterns in the depth of our being before we are ready to find new pathways and patterns. Maybe these new discoveries will enable us to see that the ‘edge’ that arises from our experience has become too small, and is no longer useful for our growth. So the edge becomes a threshold place over which we need to tread in order to move on.
Or sometimes we can discover at these edge places that we still need the container that has formed around us and allowed our life to blossom… We need to be still and wait.
Always on some level it is a combination of both of these movements. Different places and relationships bring different needs to the foreground. Our task is to be discerning. To really see what is ‘staying’ and what is ‘going’ in the body and the mind is a fruit of yoga and meditation, whereby we can find a place from which to perceive our particular tendencies of flight, fight or freeze; the strategies that have served us to deal with stress.
In all that is arising in the soul-body, which includes of course the unconscious as well as the conscious mind, we need to practice acceptance so that the necessary integration can take place for us to become more human, more fully and expansively ourselves. And eventually to contribute to the life around us, build relationship with the divine as we’re called to, and with others; those who are like-minded and the ‘stranger’, those who are not.
Vanda Scaravelli says in her book Awakening the Spine that there is a place in the middle of our backs, somewhere in the centre of the waist, where this process of integration takes place. In the nature of the body, and referring eventually to the mind, this is the integration of the natural forms of ground and sky. Some mystics allude to the same thing when they use the words ‘gravity’ and ‘grace’.
In yoga we are exploring this possibility: of becoming more deeply connected to ground and sky through the spine. When all parts find their place in the spine, we then find that gravity draws on us in equal measure through the whole body, and beyond. Here we find, piece by piece, freedom and transformation. This process enables our re-connection with nature and with others, not to merge or disappear into our ego ideas about ‘connection’ and ‘oneness’, but to allow ourselves to really feel. The wisdom of this ability to feel is deeply intelligent, and we find what it is to be part of an integrated whole with our own totally unique embodiment and presence.
Vanda Scaravelli also goes on to say that this cannot happen when we impose our ideas (namely about yoga) upon the body. We need to allow for ‘infinite time and no ambition’. This is an ideal, and some times we need to be on a retreat or in a different environment to our daily pressures to get a taste of what this might mean for us. But we can begin on the journey. We then find (in Vanda’s words) that ‘elongation and extension (expansion beyond our edges) can occur when the pushing and pulling have come to an end’. Acceptance is the key.
*Marion Woodman – Addiction to Perfection