I went on a mountain bike ride in the beautiful California sunshine a few weeks ago, and while I was straggling behind my fellow riders climbing up the hill I was taking in the scenery, the brilliant blue sky, blooming monkey flowers, and fruiting prickly pear cactus along the trail.
At one point I looked down and saw, just about to get squished by my front tire, a tiny little potato bug. (You know, the ones that we used to poke with sticks when we were kids and they would roll up into little roley-poley balls?) Well, unfortunately for this little bug, a lesson I’ve learned over and over in mountain-biking is that you have to look where you want your bike to go. As I looked right at that little guy, so too went my tire… being the good yogi I am, I desperately hoped that he managed to roley-poley himself just in the nick of time.
What, you might ask, does this have to do with yoga? As with bike-riding, driving a car, or skiing between trees, similarly in our daily lives the place where we focus our gaze, our energy, our awareness is exactly where we end up. Our bodies, and our lives, follow the path that began with our gaze, just as when you look at a tree or billboard beside the road your car tends to drift that way as well.
However, when we set ideas and intentions in our mind about qualities we would like to possess, goals we would like to achieve, or relationships we would like to cultivate, we are beginning the journey that will ultimately take us to this result. If we believe that we cannot, will not, will never do something, it’s quite likely that we won’t, unless or until we shift that mindset. And in almost all situations, the dream is actually well within our potential. This is quite similar to how a skilled teacher can guide a sequence of poses in such a way that all of a sudden you find your body in a position that you had never previously been able to perform on your own. Almost always, it is the doubt in our minds that actually holds us back.
Quite often, if I find myself stuck in a rut with my practice, relationships, or my job, all I have to do is take a look at my current belief structure to find the source. When we believe certain ideas to be true about ourselves, we create relationships and situations in our lives that perpetuate these ideas, thus maintaining the cycle. For example, “This is the best job I am qualified for, therefore I shouldn’t look for another one even if I am unhappy in this current position” or, “All men/women act this way toward their partners, so all of my relationships will be like this.” The Sanskrit word samskara means a groove or a pattern that perpetually pulls us, as the creators of the groove, back into it. This pattern happens over and over until we recognize it, and therefore choose to create a new path.
Breaking the cycle:
As Mahatma Gandhi famously said, you have to “be the change you wish to see in the world.” In other words, the potential for anything that you can dream up is already within you; you simply need to embrace it fully and you will become it. This starts simply by recognizing your true desires and dreams, visualizing the path, and taking the first step. Then repeat. And repeat. And repeat again. In this way the path unfolds and changes along with your dreams, and the journey becomes the gift, whether or not the original desire ever becomes manifest. You may actually find yourself in an incredible situation all of a sudden that was not at all your original intention, yet is somehow even better.
My teachers in the Anusara tradition call this phenomenon co-creation. The idea is that we are all co-creators of our own destinies. We are not ultimately in control, but we certainly have steering power. And it all starts with our ability to choose. By choosing to focus on the positives, on our dreams and what we CAN achieve, we give ourselves the opportunity create the life of our dreams.
Parting words to remember from the Dalai Lama, “Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.”