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The Spiritual Journey

Strong Enough to Believe in Yourself by Kino MacGregor

When the company General Electric first developed light bulbs they believed that it was absolutely impossible to create a bulb that glowed uniformly. They had the science to back their limited belief and so it was “truth” for them. Every new engineer was given the task to create a uniformly glowing bulb with the knowledge that they would fail. Starting in the 1930s each new engineer failed the test until in 1956 one young engineer brought a bulb to GE that glowed uniformly. Unlike his peers he did not know he would fail so the solution became available to him. Since it was in their interest to develop this technology the uniformly glowing bulb was easily accepted. But if you have an idea that rocks the foundation of a widely accepted belief, your idea might not be so easily accepted by your community of peers.

If you think differently you can expect a strong reaction from people who are attached to the status quo. Rather than being in favor of only one way of thinking we actually need both sides of the spectrum in the world, both time-honored traditionalists and revolutionary innovators. If you are part of what you believe to be the “new guard” do not expect an easy response from the “old guard”. Sometimes you might be pleasantly surprised when an outside the box idea is accepted easily by an inside the box person. But more often you need strength, determination and dedication to stay the course while you enlist others in your leading edge thought.

Sometimes within the context of yoga we are unaware of the popularly accepted dogmas that limit the expansion and evolution of the tradition. For example when I first started practicing yoga I wondered why so many men were able to perform the challenging vinyasas of jumping back and jumping through but not many women were able to do this. One teacher even suggested that women would never be able to do this movement. That was not good enough for me. I dedicated almost every moment in my practice to the discovery of this strong movement. I practiced, trained, visualized, analyzed, strengthened and worked in every conceivable way towards this goal. Jumping through happened after one year of practice but jumping back only started happening after four years of trial and error. Both are movements that I still work at refining today.

If you have the choice in whether to believe in what you want or to believe in the popular logic yoga asks you to believe in yourself. You have to care more about what you think of yourself than what others think of you. The knowledge gained from reaching a place within yourself where no limits apply makes yoga the transformational practice that it is. In a way we need to approach the impossible to give us strength and determination to learn how to believe in it. Through practice you slowly shift the notion of impossible to possible through concentrated effort and steady practice. The posture is not the end result, but you do get to learn the movement along the way. The end result is a strong, steady and peaceful mind that when aligned and set at a goal can achieve anything.

We all have conceptions of what yoga is that limit our experience. For example just believing that it a timeless tradition rich in history has its benefits and disadvantages. Krishnamacharya, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar all discarded the Hindu tradition of only teaching yoga, Sanskrit chanting and other esoteric techniques of spiritual realization to women. In the end the result is that women have become the majority of yoga practitioners worldwide. The strict adherence to this tradition would have impeded yoga’s growth and ability to reach and heal more people in the world. There are aspects of each of our paradigms that unnecessarily restrict the innovation of new ideas and growth. The key to riding the edge of impossibility involves finding all areas where stubborn attachment to the past inhibits the free flow of energy and ideas.

There is a delicate balance between irreverent disregard of tradition in favor of the new and shedding attachment to the past that is necessary for renovation and growth. Sometimes new ideas are controversial when viewed from the perspective of tradition. Yet if you have a dream you must believe in it even if no one else does. You will need to be strong enough to remain steadfast amidst criticism that your idea is flawed or wrong. If you alter your course to please the peanut gallery of voices you may lose your focus. If you have a dream you must face your own doubt squarely and believe in the goodness of your own idea. Against all odds you must be willing to take a stand for it, working hard for the result and even sacrificing things to stand for what you believe in. Eventually the truth wins out and if you are doing good and adding value to the world then that will be validated. But you have to accept from the beginning that not everyone will like what you do if your ideas are on the outer limits of what is popularly accepted. You can either try to please others or you can tune in and follow your own inner truth. The practice of yoga is about finding that inner connection and giving yourself the inner resolve to do whatever it takes to get the job done, even when no one else shares your faith, enthusiasm or belief.

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