I’ve been pummeled by hail … my feet often blister … I’ve cried … and I’ve even been known to throw the occasional tantrum. Not to mention, an encounter (or two) with a bear that wasn’t me.
Yet I’ve never once regretted hiking up any mountain.
Sure, there were plenty of times on the way up I had to take a rest, compose myself, and even talk myself out of giving up. But then I’d remind myself what was waiting for me at the top – it was the view. A clarity and scope of landscapes and sky that simply isn’t possible from down there on the ground.
You see, without mountains to climb, I’d have no other way to see the world from that higher perspective. Mountains are nature’s way of helping us up and clearing the way for us to see.
Sometimes we compare obstacles in life to mountains, challenges we must overcome on the way to greatness. But they aren’t in the way, or even on our way, at all – they ARE the way. The way up. The only real difference is that these are often not the mountains of our choosing. The promise of the extraordinary lures us to one, yet lies in both. And the effort to get somewhere great is the same, whether you choose it or not.
Truth is, I’ve learned a lot about myself on both kinds of mountains. The kind of lessons that make for both interesting stories and real life changes. Because there ARE obstacles I’m forced to face on the way up – elements within me that are far more challenging than hail.
These elements are the poisons that keep us from higher levels of consciousness. There is anger, delusion, greed, laziness, envy, and the one I am forced to face most often – desire.
Yes, desire. That one can seem harmless enough, right? In our ordinary existence (like days with no threat of bears), we shamelessly let our preferences guide us towards what we want and away from what we don’t – simply because we can.
But if we are seeking an experience that’s out of this world, then first we must break out of ours.
And the only way we do this is through conflict, by coming up (and sometimes hard) against our tendency towards comfort. Though painful at times, this struggle is not the obstacle. In fact, it’s the conflict that will actually help us clear what IS in our way by first, bringing it into our consciousness and then, by forcing us to deal with it.
Kind of like the way Ganesha works. Most of us know him as the removal of obstacles but don’t actually realize, he’s also the one who places them there to begin with.
Our practice helps us in the same way we look to Ganesha – by pitting us up against ourselves. You see, Ashtanga yoga is not exactly the practice of desire. I mean, no one is lured to this practice with the promise of something yummy and juicy, right? No. Instead our method has all sorts of hailstorms and tears built in. We even have our own version of blisters.
Yet by having a practice where every asana is of equal importance – where a forward fold is as important as a backbend or a headstand, regardless of our own personal inclinations – conflict arises only as often as desire. Though, as John Scott explained in a recent interview –
In doing all the asana and through all the asana, we may actually come to that stage where preferences cease to harass us.
That’s why I’ve also never regretted a practice. Sure, I’ve been conflicted … had to take rests, compose myself, and even talk myself out of giving up. But then I remind myself – that’s also why I’m there.
And maybe … just maybe … eventually, this experience through practice will translate more fully into my life. That when a mountain rises before me, rather than see as a hindrance, I will begin to greet this challenge as the opportunity it is – the universe’s way of simply helping me up to the next level.