Most of you reading this article know that the “pose of the year” in my classes has been Triangle Pose, trikonasana. To describe it simply, it’s a leg- and hamstring-opening and -strengthening, pelvis-opening and -stabilizing, core-strengthening standing twist. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve been focusing on one little piece of this multi-faceted and complicated pose, starting with the feet and moving up, changing the focus every couple of weeks or so. We were focusing on just the legs all the way through May. Many people have been helped by this intensive focus plus spending a good deal of time on/in the pose almost every class, and many others who thought they had this pose down have been surprised to realize how much more there is to it than they had thought, and more than a few who used to like Triangle, have admitted that they don’t like it anymore… which needs it’s own blog.
A couple of weeks ago, a student, after the pose when I asked if there were any questions, asked the good question, the title of this article, “How do I know if I’m doing it right?” It’s a good and logical question and in retrospect, I’m a little surprising that it took 9 months for someone to ask this one… though maybe everyone else just assumed/felt that they were just doing it wrong. I mostly dodged his question at the time and put it back to him, as I often do. (It’s one of the “typical Ti answers”.) He said something like, “It’s a feeling?” which seems like a good part of an answer, and then I asked him a follow-up/additional question, “How do you know if you’re doing your LIFE right?” and suggested he take that as a question for his homework to think about for the week till his next class since he didn’t have an answer at the time.
Ever since beginning teaching almost 25 years ago, when I have given homework or advice, I myself endeavor to take it, in the case of advice, or to do it, in the case of homework. That’s simply the way that I see the Universe working, that if I’m giving advice to someone else, I also need it, at least as much as but in some cases even more than the other person. So thank you, this student, for the inspiration.
Here’s what I noticed from more than a week of holding this question and looking fairly closely at it and meditating on it. First of all (always), the answer depends on what perspective one is coming from. The first answer, the most “loud” one, the answer coming from the Inner Critic, which is expert at getting it’s voice heard, was, “You’re NOT getting it right. In fact, you will NEVER get it right!” This dominant voice comes, as far as I can tell, from a very vigilant and committed place, full of seeming certainty. As far as I can tell, many people who attend my classes have a fairly well-exercised and practiced voice that says similar things. Even having that negative voice, it’s amazing, and I think incredibly hopeful, that I (and we) still work and do practices that that voice tells me don’t and will never work! It seems to point to something stronger in there, something more life-affirming and life-enhancing and forward-moving.
The enquiry continued. Another answer, perhaps a more “yogic-process” one, and really my first thought at the time of being asked the question, is, “It’s not about doing it ‘right’. Actually, it (yoga or life) has nothing to do with doing it right.” A number of times over the year, in the midst of adding yet more postural details to the Triangle Pose, I have pointed out, “Remember, these details of alignment are NOT to increase the amount of yoga dogma in the world, but that it’s about awareness! The points of alignment are partly for safety and energy flow, but primarily for awareness.” So if it’s all about awareness, then “right” becomes more a matter of “with how much awareness am I approaching this moment?” and we can answer that for ourselves.
This answer flies in the face of the government schooling and then college that most of us were subjected to in which there ALWAYS was a right answer and you could know it or not know it and be tested, judged and graded on it. You could even work backwards FROM the right answer to figure out how to approach the problem! From this perspective no gray areas are allowed and to NOT have a right answer is to be wrong at best, and to be risking death at worst. After the critic, this perspective is probably the next most destructive to a person’s peace and happiness.
If yoga or life has nothing to do with getting it right, then how are we to navigate through either? Is it all just random and arbitrary? These questions naturally follow, so from another perspective, there IS a “relative” right, and that, as my student had thought, is a feeling. We ourselves can KNOW, but it’s a more intuitive and feeling thing than a thing that others outside can assess, judge and grade us on. There’s a feeling of flow, of Life, of peace and connectedness, of Truth, or Knowing, of rightness, not so much thinking.
On follow-up with my student a couple weeks after his/my initial questions, he said he had realized that he didn’t necessarily know when it was right, but he did know when it WASN’T right. And that’s the easiest way to begin to know the rightness. If we can tell it’s NOT right, then some part of ourself knows what right FEELS like. And this is also a very hopeful thing. We can then celebrate the fact that it DOESN’T feel right when that’s what’s there because then we know that our inner compass is still functioning properly!
So many perspectives, just one “little” being! For those of us on a spiritual Path, the “final” or “ultimate” answer, but one which we CANNOT simply believe but must experience first-hand for it to be truly meaningful and honest, is “Of course it’s right (whatever it is). How could it (anything!) NOT be right?” In God’s “Infinite Economy,” everything has a place, though our limited little minds might (Often. Always.) have a hard time perceiving or even imagining it or letting that possibility even exist! From this perspective, it’s the little mind that makes right and wrong. If “I” can get bigger than that little mind, then I may see only good in this world, as we sing in the Universal Prayer at the end of kirtan on Fridays. (Scroll down to the bottom of the linked page, and you can listen to it on track 8 on the first playlist.) This perspective is not to invalidate suffering, whether our’s or others’, but to have a bigger perspective on it. This experience/viewpoint also does not in any way get us out of the necessity and loving inevitability of heart-felt service to those who suffer. As far as I can tell we can move toward this experience through loving devotion and surrender to God/Higher Power/Life/Nature/Love, whatever we call it.
So which of these perspectives is “right?” Ha! But true. Good question. After reading this far, hopefully we can all understand that they are all “right” and all “wrong”, just depends on where we’re standing. We may favor one or the other, but the fact is that until we are established in a complete knowledge and understanding of our True Nature and the True Nature of the Universe, these (and probably other) perspectives will continue to shift and flow one to another and back and around again. Perhaps, though, if we can even settle a bit into the rightness of even that fact, then we can have peace whatever is happening and whatever we are experiencing in the moment.