Each time I come to the mat it is a practice of turning inward and experiencing mySelf. I call this a practice because each time I start, I have to start from the beginning. My thoughts are on the stories of my day or what I have to do, my eyes wander to the people in the room; my mind is curious, distracted, thinking about asking my neighbor where she bought her super colorful yoga pants! Then the first step of the practice takes place, I become aware I am doing this, that I am focused on the external. At first it is a struggle to transition inward. I’m literally telling myself stop looking around, I try closing my eyes every now and then to help, I catch myself not in the breath and have to give myself constant reminders to breath deeply. At some point I don’t have to try so hard. The transition can happen at any point in the practice, sometimes the beginning, maybe once I’ve built up some heat, or sometimes not even until savasana. When the transition takes place I know it because suddenly I don’t have to try so hard, the yoga starts working- I’m in the breath instinctively, I’m paying attention to what I am doing but I don’t really hear what I am being told to do, I just absorb it. The people in the room are there, but I am no longer aware of them, my attention has drawn inward and my face is relaxed.
At this point the next layer of challenge arises. As I am turning inward, my stories, my past, my future, start to bubble up in my consciousness. I’m taking a break from interacting with the external world, and suddenly my mind is facing mySelf. My mind is having trouble categorizing it, putting it on a list, fitting it into the boxes where my external world exists. Thus I start to tell myself stories, I explain to myself the emotions as if they were tangible; and just as before I become aware of what I am doing.Yet again, awareness initiates the process of letting go. " in order to be who you are, you must be willing to let go of who you think you are." (Michael Singer)
Effort or effortless at times, it depends on what the situation is, what the practice is like for you personally. I believe that it is the stories we tell ourselves of who we are, of why we feel, of the should’s of the could’s, the attempt to define and judge ourselves, that always leaves us somewhat left astray and lost for the truth. The truth is we are not a story at all, we are more than that. We can leave impressions and be impressed on, but "you don't have a soul, you are a soul, you have a body." (C.S. Lewis) Yoga can be a practice of discovering this. For me it doesn't come naturally I have to practice it everyday. When it comes it comes, in flickers of tiny moments, that I can only recognize retrospectively. On rare occasions I am riding the wave; it is blissful, it is pure honesty and truth, it is what keeps me coming back to the mat.