By Joyce Peirce (Photo credit, Yvonne Stauffer)
I was feeling “off” the other day and my mind went down the usual bunny hole of questioning whether it was because I ate the wrong thing the day before, or maybe it was the planetary alignments, or perhaps I have made bad decisions in my life, or I am just flawed. I am inquisitive by nature which serves me well in some endeavors (fixing things, learning new skills, etc.) Being curious is something I actually really like about myself.
In my best moments, it’s clear to me that some questions don’t have answers, yet I tend to ask “why” or “how” about anything and everything and I do that thing of asking myself questions as if I should know the unknowable. For example, asking “why did we buy a house with so many problems” implies that I should have known everything there was to know about houses and heating, plumbing, electrical, etc. This question also blames Rudy since I said “we”. Plus, I have yet to meet someone who owns a house that didn’t have unexpected major repairs at some point. At any rate, when my questions take me into my head, out of the present and away from being embodied (aware of sensations and the ground beneath me), it’s not so useful, and can even be subtly harmful.
I learned in my early 20s while living in an ashram, that I can turn my curiosity and questioning into an asset for my spiritual growth. But, I have forgotten and remembered and forgotten this lesson countless times. I do believe that these bunny holes are clues that I have some unintegrated feelings, and, in that way, they can be useful. In the past (and I mean even yesterday) I have been prone to having regrets, seeing the glass as half empty and assuming, in some deep dark place inside me, that anything that happens in my life that is emotionally painful is a punishment for not being good enough rather than extending compassion and kindness towards myself (Ahimsa). I work on this in private therapy, but I also benefit from learning about myself in the company of others.
Fortunately, nearly every morning, I get to Zoom with a group of kind and caring people which starts the day off in a good way and reminds me that every moment is a new opportunity. Rudy guides the Breath Practice Chair Yoga class followed by Community Time during which I get to ground myself in community and the practice of being present, listening and occasionally, sharing my own thoughts. This month, we are wrapping up the formal study of the Yamas and Niyamas; we are taking a month to integrate by revisiting readings and continuing to share insights.
The wisdom these yogic precepts provide is helpful for daily living, and when I am honest (Satya), I admit that I can only live my life one day at a time, or even one moment at a time; I can’t go back and change anything and I can’t figure out my future or get answers to unanswerable questions as to why things are the way that are, etc. I get to practice enjoying the present moment which is experienced through my body, rather than getting lost in thinking, which is my natural tendency.
Over the course of these 11 months of the study of Yamas and Niyamas, we have been asking useful questions. Although we complete our formal study at the end of April, I know these meaningful inquiries will continue to arise to help guide our conversations going forward. The Gentle Yogis Community is a great place for my curiosity and wonderment and I learn so much from listening. (If I could just maintain this posture and gentle inquiry all day, maybe I wouldn’t end up down that bunny hole as often!) An insight that someone shared this past week reminded me of the phrase, “live in the question.” I assume it comes from this passage:
“…be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”Rainer Maria Rilke
Here’s to living a life of inquiry, honoring mystery, and nurturing healthy curiosity about my relationship to myself and others through the Yamas and Niyamas:
- Am I being kind…is this a kind thing to think, say or do to myself and others (Ahimsa/non-Violence)
- Am I being honest and truthful with myself and others (Satya/Truthfulness)
- Am I looking outside myself for satisfaction or taking what’s not mine? (Asteya/non-Stealing)
- Am I living life as if it’s sacred and practicing moderation or are there excesses in my life either in my behavior or my environment? (Brahmacharya/non-excess)
- Am I clinging to people, things, or beliefs? (Aparigraha/non-possessiveness)
- Are my intentions clean and clear and do I feed my body only what I believe to be good for it? (Saucha/purity)
- Do I accept “what is” and practice gratitude? (Santosha/contentment)
- Do I make and keep commitments to myself that are for my highest good? (Tapas/self-discipline)
- Do I observe myself with an intention to learn how to know myself better? (Svadyaya/self-study)
- Can I actively participate in making things happen and then let go and trust life? (Ishvara Pranidhana/surrender)