Have you ever watched a sculptor working?
Even if you haven’t, you can imagine. It’s totally mesmerizing.
She is there working at a solid block of stone, chipping away small bits at a time to make a something you didn’t even see at first begin to appear right before your eyes.
Her vision and willingness to work at manifesting it reveals the shape. She’s literally removing the stuff that conceals the beauty of the stone for everyone to access.
Many years ago, my teacher asked me to meditate on and write about all of the reasons I wanted to study yoga and to study yoga with him.
I submitted my “assignment” to him, which included all of things I wanted to learn and all of qualities that I admired about him.
He barely looked at what I wrote and simply handed the papers back to me and said,
“I can’t give you any of this. I can only help you learn that when you are truly practicing yoga, you find all of these things within you and know how to discard everything that isn’t.”
This was truly a revelation to me!
All along, I had been trying to use yoga to accumulate wisdom and understanding from someone and something external. I was practicing postures and pranayama and meditation trying to accumulate things into a sculpture of a yogi. But I just kept adding on and adding on and feeling a bit overwhelmed.
At that time, my yoga was a continuation of the message we hear almost constantly from every direction. The message goes like this:
The more you have and the more you do, the better/happier/healthier/more successful you will be.
But my teacher pointed out to me that this was a complete misinterpretation of yoga. And a common one at that.
Practice should be helping us see what is concealed. It’s not about adding things on but it is about chipping things away. This is how we reveal and enhance those qualities in us already that are concealed or simply forgotten.
Yoga is really offering us totally revolutionary message:
You already have everything you need.
You are already everything you need.
Chip away at whatever isn’t your best most beautiful self and you will be able to reveal and enhance the qualities that make you the best version of yourself.
Even as I type this, I’m in awe of this possibility. But for as often as I assure myself and even experience this exact thing on my yoga mat and in my everyday life, some part of me remains skeptical.
I can hear that little voice saying inside whispering,
“But are you sure that there is no connection between a perfect triangle pose and everlasting joy?”
Do you hear that little voice too?
It might be a really good time to make a list of your own. What qualities are you trying to obtain in your practice of yoga? What do you admire most about your yoga teachers?
After you make your list, go back and see if you can catch even the smallest glimmer of those qualities in you. I’m betting there’s a pretty good chance, you need to do some chipping away to reveal them in their fullest.
Because, really, yoga is really meant to be teaching us how to “inquire within.” And it takes a lot of practice.