In a recent conversation between Oprah Winfrey and Eckhart Tolle on Super Soul Sunday, there was a fascinating statement that I cannot shake. They were playing a game of fill in the blanks, with Oprah starting a sentence and Eckhart Tolle finishing it.
Oprah: I believe in...
Eckhart: Nothing in particular.
Oprah bursts out in laughter — continuous, seemingly stunned laughter.
This struck me as brilliant. I totally get this statement. It resonates for me on a deep, vibrational level that feels right.
Growing up, I attended an Episcopalian school during the weekdays and a non-denominational church founded by my parents and their close friends on the weekends. The lead preacher at my school told me that my parents and friends were going to hell because they believed differently than the Episcopalian faith. I fought with him about this. I cried tears at night in fear of his prediction. This teaching didn't seem right to my young, innocent mind. Eventually, I changed schools.
Now, I'm a yoga teacher. In the Americanized version of yoga, we have different styles which often act like brands. I'm quite knowledgeable about two differing brands. These brands teach very different approaches to physical postures, each claiming their approach is the only way that won't cause injury.
The thing is, I’ve practiced both styles. Neither of them have caused me harm. When I harm myself on my mat, it's because I'm slaving to my ego and not listening to the needs of my own body. It has nothing to do with the sequence or the poses being called by the teacher.
Yes, I believe sequencing is important. But at the end of the day, it’s how I’m treating myself that matters. If I’m honoring and respecting my body’s needs and wishes, I can't do myself harm. Therefore, I’ve found myself believing in all styles of yoga.
When we dogmatically adhere to one philosophy, I feel we block the flow of the universal source of energy. I feel most connected to this source when I refuse to bind myself in absolutes. For example, I used to say that I would never eat meat again. But sometimes, I share a bite of bacon with my children. They love it, and it warms my heart to partake in something with them. Plus, it tastes good.
Another example: I used to say that I would never practice headstand again. However, in a private recently, while working with one of my students who traveled more than forty minutes to learn how to do inversions, I remembered that an influencing factor in my ability to pike up into handstand was working headstand piking in my early Ashtanga years. In that private, since this student is an avid ashtangi, we worked on piking from headstand and then drew correlations to handstand alignment. She made great strides. Since then, I've been teaching headstand and practicing it again in my classes.
There's wisdom in learning to go with the moment, in not attaching to something adamantly, in listening to your body, your mind and your soul, and recognizing that your desires and your needs are ever-changing. The only thing permanent in this world is change.
So if you catch yourself using absolute words like "always" and "never," consider pausing and taking a step back. Breathe. Be curious. What do you feel in the moment? See where it lands in your body. Perhaps you’re holding onto something a little too closely, a little too tightly. Perhaps you would benefit from a little space, a gentler approach and the wisdom of believing in nothing in particular.