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Maybe Hardship is Where the Gold Is?

As you may know I(Ben) haven’t always been into yoga.  I haven’t been studying the asanas or the spiritual teachings of yoga.  I didn’t enter into an agreement with yoga to learn or be a certain way.  To change the way I talk, the way I treat other people or look at myself differently.

I wasn’t looking for a new path or some grand change to take hold of me.  Truth is that I had a wife who found value in it and in seeing her begin to change and find a voice all her own with no dogma attached, I began to become interested.  Again, not in any one aspect of yoga.  No obsession with handstand, although I did ensure I learned them because it’s just fun.  I didn’t dive into retreats or trainings, I didn’t follow any particular teachers to help guide me.  My path to where I am wasn’t even really about yoga itself, it still isn’t.

Here in Canada the yoga culture is an amazing thing, it’s no doubt creating lasting change in many peoples lives and that spreads, yet it is no doubt an industry as much as it is a culture.  There are “cool” yogis, there are “top” yogis and their are yogis who feel bad about themselves because they are neither of the former.  This aside, there is change happening in the world 100% traceable to the acts of people who have found yoga in our Western world.

But why?  Why are, amongst all the profits and businesses, people still drawn in, still adapting and changing themselves be better in the name of yoga?  Why is it so impactful on our psyche?  Those who have not found yoga as their path have no doubt found something, those who are choosing to be better that is.  It doesn’t need to be yoga, it’s just this seems to be a new world mainstream path countless people find every year, in all forms.  Physical, mental, spiritual, quietly alone in their rooms, curiously in their minds, but somewhere anyone who is choosing their thoughts and actions is in a way finding yoga, whatever name it goes by.

But why?

I’ve had a theory rolling around in my mind for a long time now, probably 3 or 4 years.  I have heard people talk about this is different ways, even some in the same way I think about it, but there isn’t really a way to prove it, so I’m not sure it will ever become a truth because it tends to leave some of our actions to our animalistic genes, rather than our minds.  Not an easy thing to wrap our thinkings minds around, the ego doesn’t like it much.

My theory goes something like this:

We humans used to fight for our survival (many places we still do), we used to face truly threatening events almost everyday.  We used to fear Winter, knowing that many people froze to death in Winter, possible yourself.  We used to fear all sorts fo things, animals, war, nature, disease.   Many of these things are still a topical fear, and rightly so, but how many people do you know who these things are a visceral fear which can be addressed?  Not just fearing cancer because it’s common, but fearing leaving your home because there are very real Tigers out there?  This part of our nervous system used to be in full operation mode, 100% of the time.  This is how we humans have advanced to the world we have today, we seemed to be really good at seeing the dangers around us and addressing them.  Again very very real dangers.

Now think about your day today, or your last week.  How many Tigers did you run from?  How many dangerous folks from another tribe do you encounter daily?  Again, I know many souls confront these things still, but I’m asking you.

Now why are you drawn to yoga?  Why are you drawn to meditation?  Why are you drawn to learning something new, a new challenge of some sort?  Is it because it’s easy or smooth?  No, it’s damn hard to find your mat everyday and hold chair pose or lift weights, or sit on a cushion for 30 minutes in silence.

So my theory is that we humans have learned to crave these hardship in a way.  Not consciously, but with the way our nervous system has developed over years and years of changing environments.  The fight or flight mode of being is very real, I think we all know this, but most of the time we don’t use it anymore, so unknowingly we search for things that are hard to feel better about ourselves.  Perhaps the lack of hardship is a reason for so many of us live in anxious fear of the future, even though there is no real threat present at the moment.  It’s like a high energy dog who needs to run, that energy usually leads to destructive behaviour from that dog.  Maybe we are the same.  Maybe yoga is that hard thing so many people have found and feel better because they are willing to put themselves in situations less than comfortable?  Maybe hard things are where the gold is?

I don’t know really, this is me making up a theory based on things I have learned about myself, about the nervous system, about human evolution and from seeing that if I pamper myself too much my anxiety seems to rise.

What do you think?  Why did you find the things you have found?  Were they easy and simple or do they challenge you in one way or another?

I’m a yogi because I am willing to challenge the way I see the world, I am willing to challenge what my body can do at any given point and because I know I am not always my thinking mind, sometimes I am wrong and sometimes the easy way just isn’t the right way.

Namaste ‘n Sh#t

-ben

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