Sunday, November 21, 2010

Is getting to your roots getting in the way of your yoga?

Many of us find it an interesting & enriching process to study our family tree. We enjoy tracing our roots back as close to the source as we can. We get into our Irish-ness or Italian-ness or other-ness by practicing various traditions, purchasing cultural items or cooking traditional recipes. It helps us to feel more connected to our families, and to others of the same background. How can such a connecting practice limit us in regards to yoga and spiritual progress?
In and of itself, the sense of connectivity derived from studying our geneology isn't detrimental. That is, as long as we are mindful not to allow it to limit us. How would it limit us? If we begin to identify with our blood heritage, we may become too attached to it as a label, a limiting concept of "who we are". This can trap us in all sorts of limited ideas of what we can or can't do, what we are supposed to look like, act like, and so on.
In addition, while helping us to feel more connected to others, it creates a seperation between us and others of different roots. This is the same for all labels we may identify with and falsely take our sense of self from, mistaking them for some sort of permanent and abiding situation. Rich, poor, Jewish, Christian, pagan, male, female, artist, secretary, librarian, gay, straight, vegan, meat-eater, American, French; the more we repeat these labels to ourselves, the more entrenched in concepts we become.
Granted, rarely do people change genders, and we can't change our blood heritage. Yet, most labels can & will change over time as we grow. Spirituality may or may not change, but at least hopefully evolves. Labels can feed the ego by creating a false-sense of conflict, fragmentation and a false-self that is thought of as seperate from others. How do we deal with this in a yogic sense?
It is good to understand & learn about your family heritage, if it interests you. But watch that you don't develop a sense of judgement or seperation from others. Watch that you don't judge traditions as right or wrong, better or lesser.
Also, reflect on other pieces of your experience, such as spiritual lineage. The majority of the world can trace its spiritual heritage to the Middle East or Asia. As you study, keep an open mind & again watch out for any judgements of value.
As we try to trace our roots back to our source we can keep the ego in check by putting it all into a broader perspective. We can look at ourselves as a member of the human family. We can see the oneness in our smiles, tears, pain, and love. We can see that we are mammals, and contemplate our connection to all other mammals. We can look at ourselves as animals, and see our similarities as members of the animal kingdom. We could look at ourselves as earthlings- members of planet Earth, along with the other animals, trees, plants, rocks, and tiny, tiny creatures.
The majority of the world's people believe in one Source of life, one Universal Creative Intelligence. Can we accept that no one type of people has a monopoly on This? Can we believe that we all can connect in our own distinct way? In this way maybe we can enjoy our uniqueness & diversity, and at the same time see ourselves, and all of creation, as part of the same whole?
That is the ultimate goal of yoga. Union, oneness, universal perspective. So, from the yogic perspective, enjoy what you enjoy, but be on the lookout for any practice or concept that fosters the sense of seperateness within you. That false sense of seperation is the root of all craving & suffering.

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