As part of Yoga teacher training we have a fairly long reading list, some books I love, some a bit less, and some really irritate me.
The sections I most resent are invariably about some kind of supernatural phenomenon, attainment or power. Stories of Yogis happily being buried alive for months, stories of energy fields, of chakras opening, of cancers cured and states of higher consciousness being attained. I actually came out in long and passionate rants about some of them (apologies to the poor folk I subjected to these!) and have several scribbles on the books like “bollocks!”, “really?!?!?!”, “get the feck out!” etc.
Pretty strong reactions from someone who’s meant to be all blissed out and shit! So, why lose the chill? The long and short of it is that I think setting this kind of expectation is irresponsible and counterproductive.
In my own experience suffering and disappointment are ALWAYS the result of a discrepancy between reality as it is and reality as we would like it to be. So, if I think that by doing some pranayama I will be able to <insert favorite magical outcome> and this doesn’t happen, I will be discouraged, and maybe even put off pranayama altogether.
I see how one could think that holding some kind of “spiritual carrot” in front of aspiring Yogis may be a good idea, a motivator. But I believe it can actually do more harm than good.
There is no need for that, really. Yoga’s tangible benefits are huge, it has literally changed my life, and that of many others. Today I found this gem in “Dropping Ashes on the Buddha: The Teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn“:
It is true that people might be attracted to Zen if a Zen Master were to walk on water. But if they came for this reason, they would find actual Zen practice too difficult, or too boring, or too unmiraculous, and they would soon leave.
Nicely put. Because yes, sitting staring at a wall is boring and rather unmiraculous! But meditation does hold the key to a greater understanding of ourselves and our reality.
By the same token, there is so much wonder, beauty, love, strength and potential in ourselves and our lives; I feel that learning to notice, appreciate, and cultivate these is the great miracle of Yoga.