"We are here in this life to realize one thing - unconditional love, the source of our own being." -Sharon Gannon

When I was traveling, I took Jivamukti's travel yoga CD's with me in 1999. I did the exact same practice over and over again for months, with Sharon Gannon's familiar voice as my guide. This line, spoken while I was in 75 breaths of Paschimottanasana (a deep seated forward bend), always made me cry.  I was never sure if it was the discomfort of the forward bend (along with the previous intense 60 minutes of asana) or her words. Maybe it was a little of both. They have resonated with me ever since and I will never forget them. That, along with Ram Dass' declaration that deep, unconditional, compassionate love for all beings is possible, have shaped my journey of yoga and life. That's not to say it is ever easy. 

It is my belief that all beings crave unconditional love and deep acceptance, and that it is what drives us, even if this is unconscious.  I believe it is this craving (and the fear of NOT having it) that draws people to gurus, religions, drugs, dogs, and relationships of all types. This is just my opinion, of course, and I am not a psychologist or an expert, but in my experience, this is my internal truth. Imagine being fully accepted for who you are - with all of your flaws, weaknesses and deepest, darkest, secrets.  Ram Dass speaks of this awakening to compassion for all beings and this acceptance.  He speaks of seeing people past the layers of ego and personality. It is what drew him to his teacher, Neem Karoli Baba and what draws many people to Jesus and his teachings (again, this is my opinion). 

The issue that I see in our day to day life, is that we all go around pretending a lot.  We pretend that the weaknesses and flaws do not exist and that we are NOT perfectly perfect in our imperfection (Purnamidah, Purnamidam, for you yogis out there). This is true especially in the age of social media and advertising. We see only what a person projects and often not past the layers of ego everyone has built up. I understand this to some degree, as it IS more appealing to see the best sides of people, and I myself enjoy wearing make-up and having my dancer's feet look a little less callused sometimes. I enjoy pretending that I always look and feel great.  But I also really enjoy getting to know real people, the stories of people behind their masks. And the humans I love the most are the ones who know my crappy side and my mistakes and still love me wholeheartedly. 

An unedited picture of my Flintstone feet in paschimottanasana. 

An unedited picture of my Flintstone feet in paschimottanasana. 

I am not saying we should all go around spilling our secrets or flaws (god knows, we all have those friends on Facebook and that's no fun either), but instead, we can and should cultivate the space for each other to really see one another.  To look another in the eyes and heart and have empathy and compassion, even if we don't understand or agree with another's actions or lifestyle or religion or career choice or whatever. As many great teachers have said, it is even more important to do this with people we may not like so much, as with those we are friends with or already love.  In Metta (or LovingKindness) meditation, we are asked to start with ourselves, then send out the love to those close to us, then to someone we are indifferent towards, then finally to our enemies. 

Unconditional love, acceptance and compassion are the keystones to this practice. This is my quest and again, I know it is not easy.  It's so much easier to judge and to hate and to be annoyed.  It's so much easier to feel separate and to condemn and to pull back.  Letting go of fear is a huge factor in this, as it has been in so much of my life this past year. As I told a friend recently, I am sometimes worse at this practice than I was 10 years ago.  I never claim perfection or that I am any where far along this path.  But it is my sincere hope that I will keep getting back on, keep practicing, keep moving along.  I hope you'll join me. 

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