I was an optimistic, happy, loving kind of kid. Although I was quiet, I got along with everyone, was easy to make laugh, and found joy in the simple (donuts) and complex (jelly donuts). In home movies, my siblings ping around me at high speed as I sit reading and glancing up now and then to see who was getting into what. I was described by a beloved uncle as having ‘a little too much happy’.
While I suppose at my core I’m mostly the same, along the line a little bit of pessimism snuck into the mix. It’s a bummer, really, because the only person it brings down is me.
Did you ever notice how Bikram Yoga provides opportunities to practice love? It took me a long time to learn this, and I still really suck at it sometimes, but it is there, as a growing awareness, giving me the chance to stretch my spiritual self out.
You’re all part of this journey with me. You’re actually (usually) the ones who provide the opportunities, although not intentionally. But every time you lay your matt too close, or wiggle around in front of me, or make noises or fuss around with your towel, you’re pushing my buttons in a big way.
Doesn’t sound like love to you? Well, grab hold of your seats, folks. It’s about to get deep up in here.
Author Richard Rohr divides our essence into two selves – true and false. False self – ego, persona, status, possession, race, etc., – are most of the ways we define ourselves. I’m a teacher, a woman, a mother. False self isn’t bad, or wrong. It isn’t you, but it is your real self.
Let that marinate for a moment.
Rohr compares true self to a diamond – something buried in us that must be searched for, uncovered and separated from all the chaos our false self creates. Some call it our soul – the indestructible part of us. Zen teachers would say true self can be likened to the face we had before we were born.
Rohr contends our false self distracts us from knowing our true self, getting in the way of our spiritual maturity and authenticity.
Got it? True self, false self.
I’ve been a fan or Rohr’s writing for a long time. But the other day when I heard an interview with him during which he described love as ‘the death of the true self’, I thought he’d gone a little loopy. How could love, so beautiful and solid and full of unicorns and fairy dust be the death of anything, much less our true selves? It struck me as fundamentally wrong. I struggled.
I think he may actually be right. Because in order to truly love, you have to let go of who you thought you were, and what you thought it was supposed to be, and just let it be. When you love, you hand over the power to change you, to evolve you. Loving makes you more of your true self. It’s the way the self expands.
Every class, as we set up for Full Locust, we tap our hands on the ground and send each other love. By the time that pose comes along, I’m usually so into the zone I barely notice all you people around me; it’s feels nice to give and receive loving energy and reconnect. How easy is it, at that moment, to move our hands and make some noise in a gesture of love? About as easy as it is to love ice cream or Santa Claus or jelly donuts.
Your true self knows about the harder love. It knows that loving those who are difficult, who push buttons, is the true stretch. That love means I give up what I think should be (quiet, still, serene), and let it become what it is in that moment, without judgment. I expand.
The other day during a super rough class a moment of pessimism flashed through me as I (very, very briefly) imagined reaching out, shoving the lady next to me over and shouting ‘That isn’t how you do tree pose!’ I immediately lost my balance, both literally and figuratively.
Strange tree pose lady was just providing another opportunity for me to accept, and love, and get closer to my true self. She let me sweat a little pessimism away. And while that itself isn’t love (please don’t think I’m asserting one should make others uncomfortable as a favor) it is, by its very nature in making me so uncomfortable, a hector-reflector chance for me to figure out something about me, and grow.
I’m both embarrassed and amused by my small little mental outburst. Embarrassed because it’s such an ugly thought, but amused because it’s so far from what I am, and what I would really do, ever, that it’s just funny.
Don’t be nervous if you find yourself next to me in class; I’m not about to knock you over or fixate on your imperfections. But I am going to send you love and see if I can find any for myself in you.
In the meantime, I’m wondering…where do you find love in Bikram Yoga?
By Sharon Linde, Bikram Yoga St. Louis Blogger