The Hidden Dangers of Sunshine and FlowersBy:
As many of you already know, I am not what I would describe as a ‘sunshine and flowers’ yoga teacher. Listening to teachers talk about how wonderful all creation is and seeing inspirational (but philosophically empty) quotes on my Facebook newsfeed gives me an involuntary facial twitch some would call an eye-roll.
And this is not (necessarily anyway) because I am attached to my pain body or living in negativity. I don’t, I’m quite hopeful (most of the time) but I don’t like the expectation that if I practice yoga, I should be feeling sunshine and flowers all the time.
I practice yoga because it saved me. It continues to save me: from depression, anxiety, and a major eating disorder. It gives me concrete tools to deal with crisis, and gives me a home base to come back to day after day, no matter what’s going on in my life. I practice yoga because it empowered me to understand my own body better, to get stronger, and that minimizes some of the inherited fear I have about sexual assault and predators on the street and in my communities. I practice yoga because it gives me the courage to do things like speak up about injustice. And I know I’m not the only one. Sunshine and flowers is an occasional, and very nice, side effect, but it’s not the reason, and it’s not the goal.
Anyway, who decided that irrepressible optimism, open-heartedness, and blind trust was the true path of yoga?
Let’s ask four of the major philosophical lineages we turn to in Western yoga:
Classical Hinduism believes that the world we live in is Prakriti, a material illusion, separate from true spirit. We practice yoga to get out of this mortal shell and become one with Purusha, the true soul, somewhere out there, that we can never access in our day to day life.
Tantric Hinduism sees that there is no separation between God/Soul/Purusha and us. Everything that exists in the universe is not a creation of, but actually a manifestation of the divine. Nobody ever said that was a good thing: People pooing on the street, syphilis, child molestation, sunshine and flowers: neither good nor bad, but all divine. We practice yoga to remember our own divinity, but not to assume that it’s a good thing. Medicine for syphilis is also a manifestation of the divine.
Buddhism’s main principle is this: Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. We will get sick, we will get old, and we will die. We practice yoga (or Buddhist meditation) to reduce attachments in the world, stay present to the moment, and accept that everything is temporary, including sunshine, flowers, and pain.
For our Daoist perspective, I’ll just go ahead and read you a passage from the Tao Te Ching:
Do you want to improve the world?
I don’t think it can be done.
The world is sacred.
It can’t be improved.
If you tamper with it, you’ll ruin it.
If you treat it like an object, you’ll lose it.
There is a time for being