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Lions Roar : November 2013
And I hate being frowned upon. Actually, that isn’t quite true. I had grown accustomed to being a failure, or at least thinking of myself as such. There is a peculiar kind of security in knowing that you will always feel inadequate. Welcome to purgatory. You can always do better. Stretching, straining my forehead toward my distant shins, I came to under- stand this with a new sense of clarity. Yoga tapped into an ancient piece of wisdom, as old as Tantalus and Sisyphus: you will never get there; you will never touch those shins; you will always want to; prepare to suffer. This is what I’d missed in my first exposure to yoga, and it is what brought me back. Yoga’s newfound popular- ity might look like a combination of vanity and orientalism, but I suspect that it can also be traced to something that the world’s mat carriers don’t like to chat about. Despite our best efforts—Botox, Rogaine, Zoloft—life is still the excruciatingly painful process of dying. Given that ignoring or masking the pain isn’t a sustainable strategy, we would be well advised to accept it, or more accurately to own it. Small consolation, perhaps, but at least it’s something. If I had to suffer, at least it could be my suffering. If life had to be a yoke, at least it could be my yoke. I decided to test my hypothesis. I eased up and the excruciat- ing sensation in my hamstring subsided. This was, after all, my hamstring. I could ease up if I wanted to. There was a rustle in the high grass. I knew the elephant was close. No. That wouldn’t do. Again I stretched deeper. You know what those spiders felt like when you pulled their legs when you were a kid? No? Me nei- ther, but I have an inkling. I might never touch it—that (expli- cative) shinbone—but at least I could really feel not touching it. The elephant could go to hell. I thought that my resolve and harsh language might scare it away. I was wrong. Elephant. Elephant. Elephant! There it stood: a pathetic little furry Dumbo (the elephant isn’t really that big if you take a close look), along with all the other pathetic little things that scared me in the past, present, and future. I thought to myself that purgatory was about to get a whole lot worse. But this time, I was too deep into the pose to pop out of it in order to make a quick getaway. I couldn’t just slam the door. So I paid attention to it—Dumbo and the pain in my leg. This was it? This was the “anything” that I wasn’t supposed to think about? This pain? This sorry little specimen? Okay. Okay. Okay. No problem. The elephant, like anything that realizes it’s on the verge of being ignored, walked away through the tall grass. I’m not sure what ever happened to that pathetic little fellow. I was left with the pain, but purgatory isn’t that bad. It could be worse. I could be that spider. I think yoga suits me. Both of us seem a bit happier. I no longer cry at night when I think of the man in the sarong, and he doesn’t scare me during the day either. I think that doing these existentially honest poses could actually help me be a little more compassionate, especially where I is concerned. Me agrees, although he doesn’t like to talk feelings too much. I and me think we might have a future on our yoga mat, on our three-by-six-foot corner of purgatory. ♦ SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2013 26