As you exercise more discipline in your relationship to the world, your ability to concentrate and focus the mind will grow. With this enhanced mental clarity and stability, new understanding and insight will reveal better approaches to living. In this way, inner and outer discipline reinforce each other.
Joel & Michelle Levey, The Fine Arts of Relaxation, Concentration, and Meditation, p 22
Lovely isn’t it? As we forge more meaningful relationships with everyone in our lives, we are able to enjoy a more meaningful relationship with ourselves. And isn’t it beautiful–this idea that when we do the work of finding clarity in our inner life, our external lives will mirror that clarity? This kind of thinking really puts us in the driver’s seat of all of our life experiences.
It has been said many times in many different ways, but it’s worth saying again because so many of us never grasp the responsibility that we have in creating lives that bring us joy and fulfillment–we need to start with our selves if we want our lives to be different. Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” The Buddha said, “All that we are is the result of what we have thought.” Michael Jackson was aware of his supreme responsibility in making the world a better place when he sang, “I’m starting with the man in the mirror.”
What would happen if we were taught from the very beginning to start with the person in the mirror when we wished to experience change? In our yoga asana practice we learn how to view life and ourselves from different angles as we move into inverted, standing, seated, prone and supine postures. We learn how to breathe, and we see how our breathing affects our experience of our bodies and ourselves. As we relax into a posture that challenges us and as we discover that the thoughts we bring with us into the pose will color how we experience it, we gain the insight necessary to apply this same awareness to the postures, angles, and challenges of our lives.
If we can commit to moving in the world with peace in our hearts, if we are dedicated to serving those around us with the sincere desire to see them flourish, if we are able to slow down and enjoy the precious little moments that combine into a lifetime of experiences, then when it is time to be still and go inwards, we know that there is nothing to fear. We have nothing to hide from anyone out in the world, and we have nothing to hide from ourselves. Slow down just a little, and you’ll be able to notice tiny little details of this grand existence that you otherwise would’ve missed in your rush to get on to the next thing. Slow down a little, and when it is time to sit, you’ll find that each slow, mindful breath is a miracle.
The spiritual path has been likened to a steep ascent to the peak of a majestic mountain. Treacherous footing makes it dangerous, there is so much effort involved that at times it seems impossible, and often there might be a strong feeling of wanting to give up completely. But walk the path one step at a time and the peak is highly attainable. It is the same with the path of self-knowing. It is the same with the path of being a courageous crusader of lovingkindness out in a world that often seems bleak and stricken with pain. One step at a time, and it is possible.
Courage my friends. We can all make this place, this life as beautiful, as enjoyable, as healthy, and as balanced as we dream they could be–but we need to begin with ourselves. Discover your beauty, your joy, your wholeness, and your balance within, and then mirror these gifts out into the world. Look for the beauty, the joy, the wholeness, and the balance that already exist in the world around you, and you’ll be able to see the reflection of those qualities within yourself. We are all mirrors. Let us choose to reflect the very best in ourselves, let us choose to see the the good in this world, and let us give back to this existence that has offered us so much. Joy awaits!