“Yoga develops the ability to focus energy into specific areas….Learning to focus energy with great depth and precision is a vital part of yoga that is often not emphasized (so I, Ti, am emphasizing it for some time in my classes). This ability [depends] on a quality of mind that is able consciously to sense the body for tightnesses and blocks and then focus into them.” -Joel Kramer, from “Yoga as Self-Transformation”, May/June 1980 Yoga Journal (the current reading in my classes)

There are so many possible ways that this writing could go from that quote above.  Since reading that in class for the past few weeks and continuing to ponder it over that time, I have about an hour and a half talk on it in my mind, but for brevity, only one point this time.  In Yoga, we are to focus our energy, true, but in that quote, he is suggesting/encouraging/pointing us to focus on something very specific: tightnesses or blocks that we encounter when we sense our body.

I think it is completely valid and meaningful to expand, or generalize, that narrow suggestion to include “any place that is calling for more focused awareness,” but regardless, if we are to focus on tightnesses or blocks or anything LIKE that, we can be assured that it is going to be at least SOMEWHAT unpleasant.  At the new Northside Gateway memorial at the corner of N Roberson St. and W Rosemary St. in Chapel Hill, a memorial to the freedom fighters of Chapel Hill’s Civil Rights movement (Check it out. It’s very powerful and beautiful.), there is a quote: “Courage, after all, is not about being unafraid, but doing what needs to be done in spite of the fear. -James Farmer”  I think that applies to our yoga practice, too.  If we are going to acknowledge, and possibly even explore and focus on, something that is uncomfortable at best, some part of us is going to resist that process and we may encounter some fear in it, …AND if we are going to continue in the process toward a deeper realization of our True Nature, we will have to do it anyway, which is courage, by that definition given above.

Mostly in acknowledging this fact, I want to honor and acknowledge all of you (and myself) who have committed to your yoga practice and who have dedicated yourself to looking deeply within.  This Path is not for the weak or the faint of heart. It’s also not for the deluded who expect only to find Love and Light inside.  (It’s in there, just sometimes buried under a lot of other unpleasantness.)  Yoga is a Path for the courageous and the strong… or at least for those whom living an un-investigated life is simply too painful, but even then, courage is necessary.  Will there be moments when you (I) doubt yourself and your abilities and your strength and courage?  Of course, but please, please, please, join me for a moment of sincere self-appreciation…unless, of course, you have already done that today.

We come to the mat and/or meditation cushion every day, or however often we do, and as rewarding as it is, as much as we are glad that we did it after we did it, there may be times when it’s challenging to get there, or to get to class, and if we can see some beautiful and positive thing about ourself in it, in our practice or even in the getting to it, then getting to the mat will be easier AND more fun!  So, can you feel it?  Can you LET yourself feel it? Some sincere positive regard for yourself?  Some love and appreciation for some part of yourself that is uniquely you?  Some love and appreciation for the beautiful and funny idiosyncracies that make their home in your experience?  Some compassion for yourself and for the parts of yourself with which you struggle? (You’ve read this far, so what are you acknowledging about yourself now?)

Having this sentiment toward oneself is not just for “new-age-y”, touchy-feely, sickeningly sweetness (which I have no tolerance for), but as a very real balm to soothe the process of being with the rough or chaffed or raw inner parts.  Though perhaps it is not completely needed, anything that helps smooth the ride and make it more pleasant will allow the process (our Path) to continue unabated, which is, in the Yogic “big picture”, one of the most important factors.  AND if you find it difficult to find something you sincerely love and respect and appreciate about yourself, in my book that in itself is a HUGE problem, just one step below not being able to think of anything about yourself that you would love to be different.  If you want homework from this article, then if you didn’t think of something positive about yourself and your practice yet, then you have a day to come up with at least 10 things.  Feel free to tell me how it goes.