“The same road that connects two souls together when stretched, becomes a path to God”…written by Muhammad Ali in the 1970’s. There is no doubt in my mind that Muhammad Ali was a yogi. He was connecting with something deep inside, and he was listening to it and paying attention to it, he was acting on it and living from it. He had faith in it and spoke from it. He brought this life forward…emanating it. A person can only do this when connected to his inner lifeforce, in alignment, and in relationship with all that is.
His life was an expression of something deeply personal, and so many of us were inspired by his strength to bring this forward. If all of us knew about ourselves what Muhammad Ali knew about himself, what would the world be? The only thing that made him special was that he knew about the magic inside of him. Somehow he gained access to this, whether naturally, or via a few hard-knocked lessons. Regardless of how it came about, the only thing that made Ali stand out from the rest was his ability to behave from, and live life from, that place of knowing what he could be, and what he could bring to this world…and he brought it…full on! Leaving no one questioning.
We don’t know how much Muhammad Ali may or may not have struggled privately with this, in the way all of us do, or whether it came to him naturally and with ease. My hunch is the former, as rarely does a person who makes this kind of impact, have it easy. Being connected deeply to oneself creates greater awareness of the inner conflict between life’s expectations and heartfelt desires…which often run at odds with each other. I highly doubt this came to Ali with ease, he was faced with some substantial obstacles, but he didn’t seem to fall into their traps. He seemed to know how (or learned how) to use them for his benefit; meaning, he knew that an obstacle could be used as a personal education toward betterment of, and freedom of self. Neither of these being considered acceptable aims for an African American man, born at that time in history. In Ali's early years, no one would have linked “African American man” with "education" and "freedom". It seems as if he took these upon himself as his training, his internal boxing ring. He didn’t see himself the same way anyone else saw him. Somehow he emancipated himself from the labels he was stamped with, and what came into form was the full power of love. Because what he brought forward was love in many ways. His life was beauty because it was art. I think this is why people listened to what he said, not because of the volume with which he said it.
What stops us from being our fullest potential? Do we ask this or even require this of ourselves, or are we satisfied to sit back and admire someone else’s ability to do it? Have we stopped to consider how we might change the world (or even our little corner of it), and what wonderful things we might contribute, what beauty we might leave as our footprint? If we’re not willing to command forward this inner potential as he did, then the world continues on as it is, somewhat predictably. Someone once said to me, “we only have one kick at the can”…that’s ONE…so what will we do with that “one”? Even if we have to begin by wishing ourselves into such potential. If we do, it will naturally start to become us, because it’s who and what we are meant to be. Sure, we may not be as verbose about it or state it with such grandeur as Ali, but we would bring it into form, one way or another, and we would love it, and we would love ourselves (as he did himself)…because it would be our fullest, our grandest, our most free, because it stems from the intelligence of the heartspace.
No one shares the unique stamp of our creative potential; so no one else can taint it. If we can develop the confidence to believe in our deepest selves no matter what, as well as the faith to allow its flow through us, then no matter what anyone else says or thinks about it, we can do it…we can achieve our aim, if it’s coming from that inspired space.
We need to keep in mind how long Muhammad Ali worked at this, he decided and committed to it at the age of twelve, building the momentum into adulthood. If we think about the years and commitment of his practice, there is a lot of energy behind that! It didn’t just come to him easily like a gift handed to him. No, he brought his gift forward through the efforts of dedication and discipline, to self and to his heart. I would say some of the ingredients Ali may have used in his ongoing practice, were: faith, focus, commitment, unwavering discipline, momentum, follow through in action and in word, self-honesty, self-inquiry and self-mastery. All the power that creates has to tumble forward at some watershed moment…whatever that moment looks like within individual lives.
A commitment to our heart is often feared only because it’s vulnerable, but nurturing that vulnerability turns it into great power. Even if only great power for oneself, it doesn’t necessarily need to be on the grand scale of Muhammad Ali…ultimately, the impact is the same. When we pay attention to what is said in the quote above, it’s multi-layered in its wisdom. This is my perception of the way Muhammad Ali communicated in so many ways, and that is being connected…it’s artistry, and it’s inspiring. Through the words that he said, the way that he said them, and how he demonstrated all of it, Ali was showing us not only the reward of being who we are, but also what it takes to be who we are, even in the face of all obstacle. He held that unwavering commitment to being who he was in his heart without compromise. No one else could tell him because no one else was him, which is the same for us all. There wasn’t ego behind this (maybe on the surface but not in truth) as more deeply, he seemed driven by truth of what we all are, and what it takes for each of us to stand up in the face of adversity. Ali gave us the gift of witnessing his internal boxing ring. He let us see that amongst all obstacle, maintaining and calling on faith steers us ever forward in the direction we're committed to. The outcome being more freedom of our souls than not.
So no matter what your style of yoga practice, let your heart be stretched…if not toward another then toward something.--with love Letters In Yoga www.lettersinyoga.com
The Maple tree outside my window is huge and beautiful; but, this year, it has tiny leaves. What this might mean has worried me, because I love this tree. And yesterday it was confirmed. It was mentioned by an arborist, that many trees are producing small leaves this year…due to lack of rain, snow, and general moisture over recent years.
A couple of weeks ago I started watering it, in a futile attempt to do something. Considering the tree’s enormous root system, the watering I do is only a drop in the bucket. But still, I can’t sit idle; so, every morning and evening I go out with my bucket, and water what I can. My home isn’t my own, leaving me without much say in water scheduling...my landlord designates it as a city tree, so he leaves it alone. So I go out there, looking a bit crazy to my neighbours, but, that's the state of things.
This proud Maple spreads so much shade in the summers, and leaves me basking in that green hue from the sunlight that filters through. It has a resident squirrel who is always working! He bounces around from branch to branch, and shares the space with all the birds that visit in the Spring. There is something about Spring, that draws the birds to rummage around in the mossy bits of the tree, and no doubt they’re twittering away while they rummage. This tree is a system in itself….and this system will be gone if that tree dies.
This brings me to the topic of obsessive thinking. And how, through obsessive thinking, we can unintentionally neglect the larger system. We’ve recently been working a lot with obsessive thinking, in the yoga classes I instruct. We’ve been noticing how small our worlds become because of obsessive thinking. This kind of thinking is so self-involved (and therefore self-important, even if it’s self-deprecating), and it revolves completely around an unhealthy emotional belief. Obsessive thinking separates us in a way, that we don’t realize we’ve obliterated the outside world. This unhealthy self-belief then colours our mindset and mood, and we neglect the outer world without intending to do so. Every human has that point of weakness that sucks us in to obsession, before we realize one day, that we can’t give that obsession one more thought. It’s like we realize we can’t even physically think about that one thing anymore. When we reach this kind of breaking point, we’re on the verge of freedom…freedom from the obsession, and instead focused toward a larger, more thriving outlook. Suddenly we see the system again.
These obsessive self-beliefs are usually harmful, even if covered up with any arrogance and presumed entitlement. They’re harmful to the way we relate to ourselves, and therefore, in the outer world. So what can we do to open up our world? The antidote to obsessive thinking is giving…we can give what we have. Giving what we have is very different from giving of ourselves. The former is generosity, the latter can be martyrdom. Giving what we have encourages growth of gratitude within the giver, as well as engraining a deeper compassion. Giving what we have opens our world again, it opens us to the remembrance of connectedness. We connect more deeply to ourselves, toward what’s real and true, and we connect to the outer world. We see ourselves as part of a larger system and we want to be a part of contributing positively to that system. We start to see the consequences of our actions on the Whole, and we make choices toward positive connection with that Whole. We naturally want to be a part of a healthy, thriving, functioning system; but, for the most part, society is fostering an unnatural system of “keeping up with the Jones’s”. And we’re suffering from this, the whole planet is suffering from this separation.--Letters In Yoga www.lettersinyoga.com
image credit: first image, unknown; second image ben giles
I don’t even know if it could be called a LIFE purpose. And a Purpose isn’t necessarily a money-making idea (that’s something commercialism has capitalized on). Purpose is really about having a meaningful life. Such an alive, dynamic, and changing aspect of an individual’s life, for some, might be one purpose which grows, with branches that subtly inhabit all aspects of one’s life. And then there are those people who land on a Life purpose, and that stays as the sole passion moving forward from that moment. Who knows. A person’s Purpose is so deeply personal and inexplicable to anyone else that, I believe it can come down to “what is my purpose right now?”.
Regardless, our Purpose is not a one size fits all, so we should not be looking for something we recognize or presume it to be. It’s more subtle than that, and it’s such a part of us that we could probably trip over it right now. Its only hint is how it threads through everything that we do. Unfortunately, our society provides such little guidance on how to cultivate and nurture our Purpose, that we end up relating to it as an object, we end up desperate for it, reaching out for it in a time of begging and pleading, wishing for a sign. But you’re longing for your purpose for the very reason that it is already there. It’s not so much about needing to find Purpose, but instead, choosing it over the stuff that’s covering it. That’s the kicker. This unpredictability and intangibility is part of what life on purpose is like.
1) Quiet down: Quieting is essential. Quieting is a humble aspect of our nature. Approaching the altar of Life with this request for help with our Purpose, from a space of quiet, can be a challenge. When we’ve asked for help, we need to be humble enough to be Quiet…verbally, mentally, emotionally. From being a person who talks a lot, to a person who needs the last word, to a person who strives constantly, to shutting down the rambling mind, we need to stop Doing and Trying, and just be quiet. When we can quiet ourselves (and this does take discipline on our part), this Quiet state knows how to penetrate itself more deeply within us.
2) Ask: Even if you think you don’t know what to ask for. A genuine heart and pure intent holds the silent Ask that Life can hear. Life understands the language of a heart that is chock-full of pure intent, this is asking enough for whatever higher life form you believe in. What are you asking for? Life’s guidance on next steps. It’s the steps…those tiny, seemingly inconsequential steps, that reveal what might be an unknown Purpose.
3) Listen: With the openness of a child. A lot of listening is about surrender; and, it brings the vulnerability of a child. Listening means you might need to drop what you thought you needed, or pick up something you never considered. This is learning a new language. This comes from the Ask. Following the steps as they’re revealed means that you will suddenly realize, you’re walking what you’ve asked for, making more suitable decisions from where you’re at now (not where you used to be) in any given moment. I read a quote recently: “the reason children see magic is because they believe in it”.
I love to work with individuals through the Yamas and Niyamas, for the very purpose of helping others unite with their own Purpose. Discovering our Purpose is an exciting venture really, when given the perspective it deserves. Perspective takes the fear, desperateness, and overwhelm out of it, changing your Purpose from being something foreign to feeling like something quite natural.--with love, Vanessa www.lettersinyoga.com
image credit: awakenedsoullove and ursulasweeklywanderings