Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Receiving, as much as Giving, is an act of Yoga.

Being in the "yogasphere," there's often a lot of hype or hearsay about what makes someone "yogic."

You've probably deduced that I love this topic. I get to read articles published by dear friends, peruse ancient texts (FYI "peruse" means to read carefully and not skim - who knew?), review research in science and education publications, and I get to practice alongside and under guidance of incredible yoga teachers and gurus.  But one of my favorite kinds of learning is one that unexpectedly sheds the light on all of the elements I choose to formally study: Talking to my parents.

My mom recently shared a story with me on a brief visit to Florida, where I grew up, as we drove back to our house from a yoga lecture. Her story offered a kind of purity and balance to what already was a positive experience of listening to a yogi's wise words.

As luck would have it, the timing of my pop-in home a few weeks ago was during a visit from Swami Muktananda, a man who travels nearly 9 months of the year through Europe and the U.S. before returning to India for three months of continued Kripalu yoga practice and planning.  My parents and I had just driven to a humble Hindu temple- a refurbished Tampa single-family home lined with red carpet and modest deities and paintings where the living room would have been- to listen to a lecture the Swami offered. He stood wearing a kurti dyed traditional turmeric orange at the door with a soft smile that made you feel peaceful - maybe more from his eyes than from his grin. People of Indian background were the majority (a rarity for me to experience since childhood which I've now learned to relish when it happens) though people from all races, ethnicities, and faiths were present. No exclusion. We were all there to gratefully receive his teachings.

Swami Muktananda's lecture and song hour offered insight into an inherent knowingness in all of us. How a cat can give birth to her kittens and know exactly how to care for them - no guidebook needed. Instinct is something all beings share. The swami's calling attention to this everyday knowledge allowed me to be mindful of the magic in Self. Of the profound intelligence in all Life.  The swami belted out mantras from the center of his chest, his eyes closed and happy as he swayed. It would seem that in his deeply committed offering of his own explorations of spirituality and free living through yoga and meditation were completely "self-less."  That this man, who is what I would truly call the definition of humble and pious, only gives without taking.  I thought to myself, "Man, this guy is truly yogic."

What what I now see as my half-understanding of the level of his "yogicity" or "yogic-ness" or whatever we want to call it was made more complete by a story my mother shared soon afterward as we drove through quiet, winding roads home later that night.

She told me about how on Swami Muktananda's visit the previous year, she and my dad had the privilege of driving the swami in our car to stay in one of our local friend's home for that night. On Swami Muktananda's travels for nine months, she explained, he is invited into homes to stay the night where he is given food, place to sleep, place to bathe.  When she and my dad had offered Swami Muktananda a ride to my "uncle's" (family friend's) house, he simply and graciously accepted without fuss or strangulated thank yous. When he stayed in my uncle's home and sat for dinner and breakfasts prepared for him by someone he had just met, he openly and graciously received it.

We often imagine that it is "un-yogic" to receive. That it is "un-yogic" to rely on others' for support and to allow us to stay lifted.  But what is clear from my mother's story after having viewed Swami Muktananda as only a noble giver of lectures is that the act of receiving - the art of receiving - is equally as important as giving.

We stand as individuals, yes, but we also trust and rely on one another as a collective. There is no shame in accepting when we offer in other ways.  And when we start to feel off-balance (maybe without spreadsheet evidence but more just a feeling of giving or receiving out of balance -I know you've felt it!) - to me, being yogic means simply paying attention to that.  It is a more profound and a higher level of trust than immediate 1-1 exchange of "I scratch your back, you scratch mine."  It is a trust in the Wholeness of all that is- that what we are putting out there is being received, and that what we are receiving may not look or feel exactly like what we are giving, but it is there for receiving.

We can all rest and evolve in being yogic. It is not reserved only for those who wear turmeric shirts or for those who own a purple yoga mat.  Yoga is Unity. Yoga is All. Reception is the balance to Giving. Giving is the balance to Reception.

We, Individually, make up a beautiful, intended Collective yogasphere.