Be Unique to Fit In
We are all unique and we want our dreams to come true. We all have a vital contribution to make to the planet and to humanity. The humbling realization that we are united in our very desire for uniqueness is something regular yoga practice can help us all feel. The heart opens as a bridge to the understanding of ourselves and others and ultimately helps long term students learn to love unconditionally. Within yoga postures students can see that everyone wants to find the best way to lengthen their hamstrings, relax their hips, build strength and bend their back. On a spiritual level we all share the same basic desire to love and be loved, to feel at home and be at peace and to find and share happiness with those around us. Even the loners and outsiders among us want a community and a place to feel at home. This shared desire for peace, love and happiness is perhaps at the very center of a definition of what it means to really be alive. Yoga brings us more in touch with this universal emotional connection to ourselves and others.
You are not the only one dreaming your dream, climbing your impossible mountain of success. In fact the mere fact that you dream it means that there are probably hundreds, thousands, if not millions more who dream the same dream. Perhaps it is not originality that puts us at the head of a movement but similarity, and as such, a similarity so great that it can bring together many seemingly disparate groups. Yoga has outlived civilizations and survived a historic 5,000 years because of its ability to bring out what we share. When you practice yoga you cross the gap between the personal and the communal with ease. You feel like your obstacles, pain, pleasure, success and glory are very much yours alone and yet you realize that many other practitioners share the same experiences. These shared feelings are the glue that binds the yoga community together. Whether you practice in a group or a by yourself, when you meet a fellow yoga practitioner you find something of a kindred spirit regardless of what discipline of yoga you both may practice. The contradictory ability to be both intensely personal and democratically universal is a gift that speaks to the core belief of yoga itself. Meant not to separate you into an elite yoga world, this practice actually means to connect you more with your ever-present humanity. The fabric that binds us is the opening of a true compassion, a belief in the fallibility of the human heart and a decision to nevertheless share love, be love and feel love. Yoga itself is nothing more than a mechanism for you to find your own uniqueness in a way that makes you that much more humble, caring and the same as everyone else.
We want to have distinguishing features that make our vital contribution ours alone. At the same time we want to be accepted for who we are and fit into a community of like-minded individuals, a sangha you could say if your community is spiritually-oriented. Yoga helps you find balance between the selfish urge to be resolutely individualistic and adamantly socialistic. The ability to maintain two apparently contradictory thoughts at the same time is a highly advanced cognitive and moral intelligence that requires both strength and flexibility. Yoga asks you to do just this each time you find balance between stability and release in the yoga postures themselves.
Yoga helps you realize the universality of both pleasure and pain and, perhaps, more important, the natural human tendency to run from pain and run towards pleasure. Once you experience first hand how much an injury hurts, how deflating it can be to backslide for no reason or how frustrating financial limitations can be you will never be able to close your heart to another being going through the same experience. In this way all the pain we feel when we practice yoga is itself a heart-opening path to the realization of empathy. Our pain is not ours alone no matter how intense it seems. Our loss is also not unique no matter how deep or pervasive it is. As many problems as you have there is someone somewhere else on Earth with more.
Every unhappy experience has a lesson held within it. If you can just get over the pain enough then there is almost always something to gained from what appears to be just another ordeal. In fact the very seed of awakening may lay dormant in the fields of distress waiting for you to nurture it with the water of your own consciousness. Tragedy unites us just as much, if not more, than the best of times. Just look at how many people love tear-jerkers like a classic Shakespeare or an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. It is pain that the Buddha stated as the first noble truth and every painful experience deepens the bond we share with others. Part of what binds yoga practitioners together is the sometimes painful intensity that yoga students are asked to endure. If you practice yoga, it’s not uncommon for you to wake up before dawn, twist yourself into uncomfortable positions, lift your body off the ground until your muscles shake and do things that terrify you, all before breakfast. And of course, you often leave yoga class smiling, fulfilled and even more connected to your fellow students.
Practicing together makes the bonds we share in our spiritually oriented community deeper not because what we experience is so unique but because it is something we all share. The elation you feel when a posture you have been working on for a long time magically happens is often shared by your fellow practitioners. The vulnerability that cleaves off layers of defenses and leaves your heart open, tender and tearful is a state of mind that every yoga student sooner or later knows first hand. The inescapable greatness that lingers in the afterglow of a truly powerful practice brings out the best in each of us.
Humility begins when we realize that we are not as unique as we once thought. This might seem like a downer that forces us to give up on our special, personal dreams. But the truth is actually that when we see how much we all share then the motivation to do something that unites humanity with a common bond begins. And it is in this that the contribution to the flow of life that is uniquely ours to give can really begin to flourish. When we see that it is not the personal, but the universal that we all share then we can succeed from a place of true power. Success gained from a humble heart filled with the love of humanity is a gift that we each have to share in our own special way. The practice of yoga gives us the tools to better discover just how that perfect mix of our self-expression will take shape in the world.