Peaceful Pursuits


"You must be as joyful when you fail again and again as you are joyful when you succeed. It is often when you fail that you move toward the goal without being aware of it. You must feel joy even when you have not fully succeeded but only moved toward achievement of your goal."

-B.K.S Iyengar



Culturally speaking, many in our midst are stirred and inspired at the start of a new year to kick ambition into high gear and establish corresponding goals to the rhythm of our orbiting planet. Though I personally didn't happen to set any lofty goals specific to the marking of this particular lap around the sun, I certainly have many objectives I am working toward in general. There are incessant interests that perpetually unfold-- always more to learn, new ways to grow, and places toward which to venture.


I know for myself that when I consider all of the things I want to do and accomplish, I can often have a sense of feeling overwhelmed regardless of how enthusiastic I may be about each endeavor. There is always a lingering inclination of wanting to excel at each of these various things, which is certainly not inherently negative, but if I don't keep myself in check, these impulses can take on a form of self-aggression, cultivating impulses of grasping.  


As B.K.S. Iyengar suggests, we can lean into an invitation of a peaceful trajectory, and discover a sense of joy at our perceived failed attempts towards our goals. What often looks like failure might just be progress in disguise, so heightening our awareness and adjusting the lens through which we see becomes of great importance if we are to embark on a more placid path with this trust. It seems, too, that our missteps can at times reroute us onto something grander, or perhaps better suited. These stumbles become a dance, with their own beautiful, chaotic rhythm. As with most things worth pursuing, the path will likely harbor unforeseen challenges, unexpected turns, and potential potholes, yet if we enter each moment, with a spirit of inquisitiveness and a dose of humor, versus one of fidgety quest, we have a greater likelihood of keeping our cool and offering ourselves gentleness for the journey. When we stumble over tumultuous terrain, grace can make an appearance as we come back to stand, maybe even with a smile. I deeply believe that part of life and yoga is learning how to fall better. 


When working toward a challenging pose in the asana room, it can be quite the chore to quell the ego at times. We may deal with ourselves harshly when we consider our lack of strength, or our yet-to-be-realized flexibility. Our severe speak to and about ourselves can lead to shame or the depletion of our self-esteem, which not only lacks any benefit to our physical state, but also does a number on our mental perceptions and fluctuations. Often times the more we strive and over-effort into a pose, or frustratingly grasp towards that which is out of reach rather than mindfully aligning ourselves to ease into it, we set ourselves back from our perceived goal (in worst cases leading to injury). It is imperative that we journey on the peaceful path-- and with abundance tenderness, showing up to ourselves to simply do our best, honoring the place the body is at in this particular moment in time. As Maya Angelou once said, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." 


In Yoga Sutra 2.46, Patanjali speaks of yoga as being established with equal contributing qualities of sthira (effort or steadiness) and sukham (comfort or ease). To me this has a lot of insight to offer in our work both on and off the mat. In establishing effort, yet keeping that in balance with easefulness, peace, and grace, we can venture on this path with enough steadiness to stay grounded, and enough grace to remain agile, so as not to harden in the face of difficulty. The longer I tarry through trials in pursuit of this path, the more I recognize that this journey is less about tranquility and more about intentional cultivation of harmony and union-- the art of integrating the good and the grueling. 


Peace can be realized, not just in the end goal, but as a present reality and common thread artfully woven into the path here and now, blurring lines of grace and adversities. Surprising strength is created through the interlocking of many individual fibers, yet there remains embodied softness within this tapestry.