Monday, November 4, 2013

New Tricks


"Samskara saksat karanat purvajati jnanam 

Through sustained focus and meditation on our patterns, habits, and conditioning, we gain knowledge and understanding of our past and of how we can change the patterns that aren't serving us to live more freely and fully."
—Yoga Sutra III.18


As a yoga teacher and a spiritual seeker, I am constantly looking for inspiration. In books, blogs, dharma talks, the Oprah Winfrey Network- you name it and I've scoured it. Usually though, the most inspiring things don't come via the internet or the television but from good old everyday life.

This past Thursday I was at a Halloween party with a very dear friend of mine and the topic of veganism came up. She casually shared a story with me that was so touching I just had to share it here, and with my students. Her Grandpa, a retired cardiovascular doctor, had watched Forks Over Knives and decided to become a raw vegan. That was 2 years ago when he was 90 years old. "He's not raw anymore," she added, "just vegan," as if that would take some of the shine away from his decision. Can you imagine? Nine decades of carnivorism out the window after seeing a movie. He wants to live out his platinum years in optimum health. He's a man after my own self-improvement-obsessed heart.

What this shows us, so simply, with so little fanfare or flowery language, is that no matter how fixed we are in our habits, our thought-processes, our addictions, our worries, our diets- we can all change. If you know something isn't working for you, why keep doing it? If you know you can do better, why not just go on and do it already? The yoga practice gives us an opportunity to identify our repetitive habits- quitting, overexerting, laziness, fear, self-consciousness, striving, perfectionism- whatever your individual pattern may be. This process of identification is necessary before we can initiate change or as they say in AA, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.

Now I'm not saying we all need to be perfect. I'm certainly not saying we all have to be vegans. What I am saying is that change is possible whenever you're ready to make the leap. Don't be discouraged by all the self-work you have left to do but be inspired by the possibility of evolving all the way to 92. Old dogs apparently can learn new tricks.