It’s a habit of yours to walk slowly.
You hold a grudge for years.
With such heaviness, how can you be modest?
With such attachments, do you expect to arrive anywhere?
Be wide as the air to learn a secret.
Right now you’re equal portions clay
and water, thick mud.
Abraham learned how the sun and moon and the stars all set.
He said, No longer will I try to assign partners for God.
You are so weak. Give up to grace.
The ocean takes care of each wave
till it gets to shore.
You need more help than you know.
You’re trying to live your life in open scaffolding.
Say Bismillah, In the name of God
as the priest does with a knife when he offers an animal.
Bismillah your old self
To find your real name.
-by the 13th century Sufi poet, Rumi
Rumi. The Essential Rumi. Translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne. HarperCollins, 1995.
I read this poem to my fellow yoga teacher-training participants and instructors last night, at our final exhibition. We had each been asked to give a presentation of up to 2 minutes, which would express or embody what the program had meant for us.
Last weekend, I was thinking about what I gained from the course, aside from the ability to guide people (well, just my husband, so far) through a 1-hour power Vinyasa yoga intro class. Did I grow, and how? I found my answer in the Yamas and Niyamas, five of the 10 ethical guidelines provided by Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutras.
At one point in the weekend, I was completing the take-home, open-book exam. One question asked me to list ways that I can apply each of the Yamas and Niyamas to my life, and to my teaching. I got stumped on the fourth Yama, Brahmacharya, which in simple terms means “moderation of sexual power.” I had to learn more about it: I was convinced that it meant more than avoiding being a tease.
And, apparently it does mean more, at least according to what I discovered that late evening with the laptop. I do hope to read a book or two from a credible source, but for now, I will work with the notion that Brahmacharya means moderation in a more expansive way: Relying on an activity or method so much that it becomes a sort of crutch, is a form of overindulgence, so we should avoid that reliance. It will leave us stuck in the mud of our endeavors. Trying new methods, and releasing the white-knuckled grip on old ones, is the path to success in life and enlightenment. You only grow if you let go of the familiar, and take some risks.
So, for the exam I was able to come up with an answer, something along the lines of: keep an open mind, and if one instruction doesn’t work for a student, try wording or demonstrating it in a different way.
By taking this course, I also observed Brahmacharya: I started to let go of my longstanding fear of speaking in front of people; this fear had guided my decisions for long enough, and if I am ever to meet my goal of becoming a teacher, I’m going to have to get more comfortable in front of people. I also had to let go of the comfort of some of my old routines, in order to give my new endeavor, and my life in general, space to grow.
I stumbled upon the poem above, later in the weekend. I can see that there are many jewels hidden in it, but this week, it speaks to me about letting go in order to grow.
Note: I will attempt to explain an unfamiliar word: “Bismillah” refers to an Islamic invocation of the higher power, which is similar to, “In the name of God.” Strangely enough, this poem was what my Rumi book first opened up to, when I revisited it for the first time in years, this weekend.