Curiosity & Honesty: Entering Into Divine Flow
Svadhyaya & Satya: A Path to Connection
This 4 part series is an exploration of themes and concepts related to Yoga practice, spiritual practice, and life practice, a rambling through a tangled, muddy wood of experiences; it is a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other adventure into curiosity. When we are curious, we learn what it means to suspend judgment and step into Divine Flow, the Loving, Creative Spirit-Energy of Existence that moves through all of us. What it feels like. What it looks like, sounds like, smells like, and tastes like to allow unfolding, unfurling, and to feel this happening in the moment.
Part I: Adaptability
In 2000 when I first enrolled in yoga teacher training, I learned that there were “different kinds” of yoga, and really only two: Hatha & Ashtanga Vinyasa. The lead Ashtanga teacher at the studio took one look at me and, with her characteristic smile said, “You’re athletic? You’re coming with me.” I didn’t know a chaturanga from a chakrasana; I figured she knew best, so I agreed, and experienced a resonance. It actually brought my worlds together: Primary Series in Mansfield, Ohio? Primary Series in Mysore, India. Holy Mass in Mansfield, Ohio? Holy Mass in Rome, Italy. It was a fine fit, and through all the years bore all kinds of good fruit, not the least of which was the little website, blog, and small fundraising site The Catholic Yogi (now The Catholic Yogis).
I loved the physicality of the Ashtanga practice. I loved the pattern and routine. I couldn’t perform all the postures perfectly or do every single vinyasa, practice 90 minutes a day, 6 days a week, but I sure tried. And when I failed, I buried my head in the sand, pretended it was fine, told myself it was okay, and didn’t believe myself one bit when I said it. I had four babies by c-section over the course of 8 years, did more pilates than primary series, didn’t have a separate meditation practice, didn’t have a separate pranayama practice, told myself it was okay that I wasn’t “doing all the practices exactly as prescribed, super-correctly, most auspiciously,” and I didn’t believe myself for one second when I said it.
I didn’t even know to look for
and uncover my own needs.
I thought I had to want to try for perfection
in every single thing. All The Time.
Throughout those eight years, lots of “other kinds” of yoga started popping up all over the place (thank you collaboration and The Internet): “Mindful Yoga,” “Vinyasa Yoga,” “Yin Yoga,” “Power Yoga,” “Hot Yoga,” “Restorative Yoga” – the list is seemingly endless. But I didn’t really feel I could dip my toe into any other water. It just wasn’t even an option for me. It was all or nothing. I was stuck in a cycle of “Not good enough; can’t leave.”
Some of the reasons I was not able to practice The Primary “as prescribed by ‘tradition’” was because I was a householder, a person with female bone structure, hip dysplasia, chronic inflammation, subacromial compression in the shoulder, and chronic pain. Not to mention limited physical access and financial resources. My beginning was “before the internet” or at least before its current iteration, and offered so much less access than the abundance of online resources we enjoy today.
It is important to note, too, that I didn’t realize much of this when I was young. I thought I could do everything, and so I should do everything – with or without access, finances, support, accurate information, knowledge, experience, mentorship – should (lots of moralizing there). In fact, I didn’t know until just three years ago when I suffered an end-range-of-motion injury in ardha chandra chapasana that my hip sockets are, in fact, not “fully formed.” (Totally the reason my hips never seemed to “open” beyond my “this is always the way it is” baseline arc, no matter the hours of practice over years of effort, and completely the reason my body always recoiled from kapotasana. Now I am thankful it always felt dangerous enough for me to shake my head and back away.)
I share all this to say that when I was younger, I didn’t know. And, unfortunately, we don’t know what we don’t know until we know it. Or until a wise teacher shares it with us of their own accord. Because, guess what friends: I didn’t even know the questions to ask. I didn’t know it was okay to not try to do “the full thing,” to not try to reach for and achieve some version of “perfection,” to not be hard on myself for not already knowing everything about everything. “Accessible Yoga” didn’t exist back then the way it does now. And even if it did, I probably would’ve given it the “side-eye” and been all judgy about it. I didn’t know it was okay to adapt postures or practices to take care of my needs. In fact, I didn’t even know to look for and uncover my own needs. I simply thought I had to want to try for perfection in every single thing All The Time. “Needs” were irrelevant.
Yes. This Was Exhausting.
It’s important to acknowledge here, too, that even if we can do something, our explicit ability to do that thing does not imply that it is a wise thing to do. That’s right. I said it. And now you can, too, in case you felt alone in that. And now we can say it together.
The first step in cultivating adaptability is giving ourselves permission to do it. Once we allow ourselves to adapt postures and practices, the next step is to experiment. And a healthy dose of curiosity & honesty helps with that.
Curiosity & Honesty
Sometimes honesty is about clarity. And sometimes clarity is about truthfulness. When it comes to practicing adaptability, svadhyaya (self-study & study of sacred texts) and satya (truthfulness) are necessary. We need self-study, the study of sacred scriptures, and truthfulness to get at the heart of our own beliefs and be honest with ourselves about them: do I believe I must strive for someone else’s, or a certain lineage, tradition, or institution’s concept of perfect, ideal, or full? When we look at the specific situations and circumstances, are we seeing clearly? Are we looking to confirm our own biases, or to uncover the truth that takes all perspectives into account? We need more than asana to practice Yoga. We need more than someone else’s practices to walk our own Spirit-Path. So it’s necessary that we get curious about what serves us.
Before we dive into a study of self, scripture, situation, and circumstance, curiosity must be present or we’ll keep banging our heads against the walls of ignorance, judgment, and condemnation. Curiosity opens the doors of truth. The desire to learn and understand opens the gates of sectarianism and leads to a path of connection.
When adapting postures, positions, and perspectives, what are the most important pieces?
- Knowing you have the permission (from yourself)
- Knowing you have the blessing (of Spirit that lives in all)
- Knowing you have the wisdom (within your heart and body)
- Knowing you have the ability (to make it happen)
- Gathering the courage
- Accessing the creativity
- Collecting the support
- Receiving & Enjoying the benefits
For Practice & Experience
To begin to practice and experience Divine Flow, consider experimenting with these invitations to contemplative inquiry:
- What do I already know about Divine Flow?
- What do I wish to learn or experience about Divine Flow?
- What am I ready to know or experience about Divine Flow?
Alongside curiosity and compassion, take these inquiries into your meditation or savasana practice, then write or sketch your mind’s, body’s, and heart’s responses and impressions. Notice what you are ready to be curious about, be honest about, and what you are ready to adapt, modify, change, or allow. Are there non-negotiables? Are there non-negotiables that are desperate to negotiate?
What is true for you?
Entering into Divine Flow is a practice of connection. It is relational and requires effort & effortlessness, offering & receiving, allowing & attentiveness. Remember your most important pieces: permission, blessing, wisdom, ability, courage, creativity, support, receiving, & enjoying. Just because we can keep our heads buried in the sand, doesn’t mean it is wise to do. And just because we can lift our eyes to the horizon, doesn’t mean it is wise to do. We must do our own inner work with curiosity and honesty, svadhyaya and satya. Then we can make our own wise choice. This is the first step.