Beginning when I was a young child the notion of self improvement held a dominant position in my mind. Much of this was very likely innate, and being read bedtime stories on the likes of Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson went far in strengthening the intuition that an essential part of a life well lived was to develop one’s character and virtues to the furthest possible extent. Notions of Enlightenment and spiritual development rose easily from these early foundations, adding figures like Gandhi, Buddha, and numerous Yogi Saints to the virtuous pantheon. I may not have been raised religious, but my worldview might as well have been, for I typically viewed the human soul and the world as a battle between the forces of love and evolution on one side, and the forces of fear and contraction on the other. Years of earnest effort and razor sharp self criticism revealed something very interesting indeed.
Like so many other seekers, I found that no matter how hard I tried, certain habits of thought and action would not change. In fact, with the many of them, it seemed that the harder I tried, the more obstinately they remained rooted, even increasing in frequency and expanding well beyond the walls I had erected for the containment of all that was unacceptable about myself. Was I truly so bad at the core? Why was I so firmly bound to tendencies which were so selfish that they couldn’t even count as self serving? I changed strategy and attempted to play to my strengths, taking great care to avoid paths that ran into my inner brick walls. The more skillfully and swiftly I walked the safer paths, the more fully it dawned that there was no escaping myself. Then one day I realized that my attempts at self improvement were not being undermined by some iniquitous part of my subconscious, but were rather being scuttled by an exceedingly benevolent part of my Self.* Inside all of us there is a ruthless part of the Self, so loving that it requires complete, radical self acceptance. We may try and try with all our might, but there will be times when the only possible change will be the acceptance of what is.
The deepest teaching of Yoga is found hidden in plain sight in the first of Patanjali’s famous Yoga Sutras. “Now, the Teaching of Yoga”. The Union between the aspiring soul and the Self that is “Yoga” does not happen in some faraway place or some other time, it happens only right Now. This is so to such a degree that even the word “happen” can cause distortion, for in our language, things that happen, just as often don’t happen. Things that happen are bound by time and space. Enlightenment, however, is always happening. In fact, it’s the only Happening. It’s here. The words on this page and the thoughts moving through your mind are but so many ripples on the surface of a vast silent Ocean. Yoga is both the recognition and unfolding of innate pure potential. The expansion of Consciousness is the acceptance of your own, already Awakened Self, a wholeness that is, that’s always been, and that always shall be.
Jai Guru Deva Om
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om
* The actual “mechanics” of going from self loathing and condemnation to forgiveness and acceptance are somewhat mysterious and very difficult to adequately put into words. So much of the forgiveness in my life has come through the practice of Ascension.