Monday, August 15, 2011

What I Learned by Looking at My Shadow

I arrived early for my yoga class and found a sunny spot to place my mat and do a short meditation and invocation to prepare the space for my students. When I opened my eyes I saw my own shadow, it was a nice silhouette of of me sitting in meditation. Kind of a cool picture, I thought. But then I looked closer and noticed that my shoulders were creeping up towards my ears. When I actively released my shoulders downwards I felt a wave of relaxation and realized that I must have been sitting like that during my meditation. When I see this posture on others I assume they are stressed, defensive or fearful. I thought... just what am I holding on to?
In the book Yoga and Psychotherapy muscle tension is described as a "primitive way of separating oneself. By keeping the muscles tense and partly contracted, it serves as a boundary between oneself and others", thus giving the illusion of security. What secret invader could I be unconsciously trying to ward off ? Come to think of it I have had a sore neck over the last few weeks. I tried a few stretches, Epsom salt baths, even sleeping without a pillow for the last week. I replayed my various activities over the last week that could have possibly strained my neck. I finally settled on the unfortunate pounding I took in the impact zone while Stand Up surfing, but that was over a month ago and I really didn't remember hurting my neck. A posture can reflect the way a person is feeling inside, but holding the body a certain way can also accentuate those feelings and cause the feelings to be sustained, inhibiting our growth. Was this shoulder tensing preventing me from growing? At the very least my neck was hurting and that was effecting my practice. As I went through my day I realized I was tensing my shoulders more often than not. Something else was going on.
 I thought about the exercise that I had just completed in my teacher Rod Stryker's new book, The Four Desires. This particular exercise was designed to uncover your vikalpa. As Rod describes it "Your vikalpa are the kinds of mental constructs or beliefs that split or separate you from your highest self and from the destiny that your highest self would have you fulfill. In the end, it is your vikalpa that make up the inner obstacles - your false ideas, deep seated patterns and perceptions- that lead you away from your highest destiny."
A person can set many goals, intentions or sankalpas (resolves) but unless you have uncovered your vikalpa, it will be nearly impossible to fulfill your true destiny.  Once I completed the exercise and uncovered my vikapla, the set of beliefs that have been standing in my way of achieving great success became abundantly a ton of bricks... falling on my head. I flashed back on many opportunities come and gone that I let slip through my fingers-  relationships that I stayed in for too long- because really... I didn't feel I deserved to be successful and why I didn't feel I deserved it was even more surprising. But with that realization came a lightness. Just like it felt when I released the tension in my shoulders- a wave of relaxation.
So now I am using the habit of holding tension in my shoulders as my Departure Point, another technique outlined in The Four Desires. Rod describes this as a "juncture where you break the momentum of your old trajectory by interrupting a habit pattern and thus trigger a new trajectory twoard your goal. By giving something up you create an opportunity for the universe to fill the resulting gap with something new, and specifically something you desire- your sankalpa." It may not sound like much to give up, but I am already feeling the freedom its created in both my body and my mind. I sense a fire lighting the way towards achieving my goals that comes from a deep place and a new awareness that will help me to avoid the pitfalls that I have made it in the past due to my limiting beliefs.

You can order The Four Desires- Creating a Life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity and Freedom by Rod Styker at along with the accompanying guided meditations.
Please feel free to share your vikapla stores here.


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