One of the reasons why the classes I teach are not so easy is because we confront head on our sense of emptiness.
That sense of emptiness is always present in our hearts. To avoid it, to not feel it, when we have any spare moment at all what we usually do is to try to keep busy, look at the phone, check Facebook or Instagram, make a call, smoke a cigarette, go to the kitchen and eat something etc.
The moment I am looking at Instagram, eating something, smoking that cigarette, or simply talking to somebody, even if what I have to say is absolutely useless, for that short amount of time I don’t feel that emptiness.
Another way we try to get away from that emptiness is in relationships. Of course there is nothing wrong at all in being in a relationship, quite the opposite; we can be grateful if one is given to us, but we should not expect the relationship to give us that sense of wholeness and fulfillment; they are not the solution to our ‘empty hearts’.
Even if we have somebody by us, even somebody we love very much, that sense of emptiness will sooner or later rise again. In the beginning, that feeling is usually covered by the sense of happiness and fulfillment that new relationships give. But when the novelty starts to wear off, when routine starts to reappear, when differences emerge, as they always do, that sense of emptiness will show its head again.
Why is this?
It is for the simple but powerful reason that what we lack is not something from the outside.
This is what is so difficult to understand.
What we lack is not something that can come from the outside, but something we need to find in our own hearts.
And this is where yoga (or whatever other methods there are) can be helpful.
Most people think of yoga as a way of exercising, and that is definitely part of it, but there is so much more!
For me, as important and useful as the physical exercises are, yoga, at its depth, is truly about directing our attention towards that wholeness in our own hearts.
And the way we do that is by turning our attention around, from the outside world into the inner depths of our hearts.
What we do most of the time is look out, have our attention into people, into events, into problems, into worries. And yoga is like a tool that teach us how – and help us to – turn our attention around and look inside.
That sense of fullness that we look for in food, in the phone, in people, in relationships, that sense of fulness that we look for outside does not come from the outside (or when it does, it does only for brief moments). Think about it: if it did, shouldn’t we have found it by now? We humans have been around for quite some time, and now as a modern society we have access to more than most people in the whole history of human kind ever dreamed of. With a little bit of effort, we can get almost anything we want…but we are still looking, discontented, dissatisfied, often irritated, often unhappy.
But we don’t think this way.
Instead, what we think is that the problem is that we have not yet found the right thing that’ll give us that satisfaction and fulfillment we want.
Now I have a little car, but I think that if I get a bigger one, then! things will work out.
Now I live in this city, but if I move to that one, then! finally all will be good.
Now this relationship I am in is not really working, but if I get another one, if I could only find the right person, then!…
Of course there is nothing wrong with getting a bigger car, moving to a better city or finding a new relationship if the one I am in now is not working fine, but what I am saying is that they are not the solution.
Yoga is a tool that helps us turn our attention from the outside into our own hearts; and it is in that ‘cave of the heart’1 that we find the peace and fulfillment and satisfaction we keep looking for outside, in the things from the world.
I call this presence, but there are many names for it, and none of the names are completely right.
Sometimes I call it being.
Sometimes I call it silence.
Sometimes I call it truth.
Sometimes I call it awareness or consciousness.
Sometimes I call it the self.
In the old Indian tradition they call it Atman.
It is all of these and it is none of these.
In the Tao Te Ching2 they call it the Tao. But the very first verse of the book says: the Tao that can be named is not the real Tao.
Right now, if our minds are not completely dispersed and worried and busy, we can have a little glimpse of that presence. (It is there anyway, even if our minds are completely lost and distracted and absent and worried – it is always there! But if we are absent we simply do not notice it, just like we may not see even the most beautiful scenery that is right in front of our eyes if we are lost in our thoughts.)
Right now, we can have a glimpse of that Tao.
Don’t think about it because it is not a thought.
Don’t go back to a memory because it is not that either.
It is not even an emotion, even if nice emotions may arise when we find it.
It is prior to a thought, to a memory, to an emotion.
It is a silence, a presence, a sense of being aware. Not aware of this or that, but simply aware.
In this naked awareness we find the peace and contentment and satisfaction we truly want.
Right here, right now.
An open, unlimited, aware silence.
In the classes I teach there is plenty of movement and exercises for the body. But this gym is like a ‘side effect’ of that presence.
In the classes we learn not to make the gym the most important thing, but to find presence, and then from that presence, we allow the gym to come.
And in time, we allow the whole of our life to come out of that presence.
Even what we call our life, what appears at every moment in front of our eyes (outside or inside), is not the most important thing. The most important is presence, and we allow our life to come out of that presence.
Whatever that life is, talking to a friend, cooking, being in a relationship, working in the office, solving a problem, driving a car, moving to a different country, whatever that is, we find presence, and then we allow that life to come out of presence.
1. ‘Cave of the heart’ is an expression found in the Katha Upanishad, a sacred Indian text from around the 5th century BC.
2. The Tao Te Ching is a Chinese classical text written around 400 BC and traditionally credited to the sage Lao Tzu.