I have just spent a week with 3 of my grandchildren, all of whom are in their 20s. I love watching their uniqueness, love of life, and growing wisdom. I feel proud of them and hopeful about the future. But there is a problem. I also see the immense amount of stress they feel and the high standards they hold themselves to.
I want to shout, “No!” Don’t you see? The very fabric of the universe is love and delight and joy. Like the Creator of the universe whose being elicits endless possibility, potential, and play, we are here to dance, to sing, to be, to experience, to eat strawberries, to smell pine trees, to feel water caress our skin.
We are not here to be perfect, to accomplish a lot, to accumulate a lot. We are not here to please others, to mold ourselves into another’s standard. We are not here to push ourselves or to fix ourselves. We are not here to worry or to fret. I want to tell them to relax; life is too short and too beautiful to get caught in this web of pressure.
I want to tell them all of that, but you see, even though I know this to be true, I can still feel my own over taxed nervous system. I can still feel how I bend myself to culture’s ideas of success. I still experience the whip of my own self-abuse. How can I cry out to them when I feel the clench of these same traps?
The yoga master’s give a name to this trap: avidya or ignorance. Pandit Rajmani explains ignorance as our willing participation to be unfamiliar with ourselves. Think about this! As much as we long to be free, we also don’t want to give up our pleasures, even when they cause us suffering. We willingly throw ourselves into busy routines even though it makes us tired and unsatisfied. We willingly eat food that pleases our tongues even though it makes our bodies and minds sluggish. We willingly push ourselves towards achievement even though our bodies are begging for time off. We willingly choose the false over the real.
Seeing how we love and cling to the very things that enslave us is a step in our spiritual awakening. Seeing the lies we tell ourselves, the excuses we make, our lack of strength to stop our over indulgence can bring us to the place where humility and grace can find us. Seeing our refusal to hear the deep calling of our hearts can begin to open our ears.
We have all been invited to a party. Our awareness and practice are to see the ways we actively decline this invitation. Slowly, slowly, through trying and failing, through humility and grace, our ignorance is loosened and our hunger to experience the deeper offerings of life becomes our most important focus. It is a journey of awareness and grace.