Recently, I embarked on a project (more about that in the future, yogis!) that has brought me into some new yoga situations. I've met new teachers with styles of practice and teaching that differ radically from my own. I have entered into communities that are unfamiliar. I have unrolled my mat next to yogis who knew as much about me as I knew about them - which was virtually nothing, other than the face and attitude we put forward in the change room.
Over the last 15 or so, I've become fairly adept at quieting the voice of self-judgment while on my mat. Of course, there are lapses: rude mid-asana reminders from injuries; the envy generated by the bouncy, bendy Betties who, with youth and ease of movement, have already discovered the yoga path; and, the occasional moment of discouragement when I can't strike a pose the way I did on some other day. Small inconveniences aside, my mat is most often a safe haven away from my crushing superego. The edges of my Manduka act as a subtle electronic fence, zapping negativity as it comes near.
Much to my dismay, however, the critical voice I had trouble stifling these past few weeks was directed outward. When entering a new class, listening to new language and cues, and seeking out new traditions and evolutions of the practice, my prejudices and judgments became impediments to real learning and exploration. How much did I think I could absorb and appreciate when my mind kept spewing: "I can't believe you just said that." and "That's not how it's done!" and "This is bullshit." Worse still, my internal tirade eventually led to a blast of self-recrimination. "Stop being such a hypocrite, Cynthia! Stay open. Be present..." After all, cultivating a "beginner's mind" is something that I try to practice as well as preach. Getting hooked on a preconceived notion and carrying it into practice simply pulls you out of the present moment and drags you into counter-productive grooves that you're trying to smooth out.
As I venture into more new territory, I'm trying to arm myself with healthy curiosity and enjoy this shot of perspective, It is both a challenge and a privilege to confront my rushes to judgment. After all, life doesn't often hand us such clear-cut examples of how we can truly change, so I had better take note. This is a fascinating exploration of how tightly I hold onto my thoughts, how stubborn and attached the mind can be.
This month, try to let go of the holding patterns and judgments that might cheat you out of taking in something new and experiencing life to the fullest.