Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sitting with the Angel of Struggle

A week ago today I embarked on a day of retreat to be in silent contemplation of "the place of struggle and grace on the path of love".  This retreat was homework for a group I am a part of that is committed to the practice, the study, and the living of  Kripalu Yoga.

Yoga is not a physical exercise regimen. Yoga is a complex set of practices and inquiries that guide the aspirant toward a life of consciousness, a life of awakening and spiritual evolution. Struggle is a part of life for everyone. Yoga provides us tools to be with struggle, to see the gift and opportunity that struggle offers. Struggle will come and then we get to choose how to relate with it. In the face of struggle we will take some form of action, the question is will our action be ruled by fear or by faith, by judgment or by compassion?

Swami Kripalu said, " When we consider the nature of our struggles, we may think them to be cruel or depict them like horrible demons. Yet the true nature of struggle is not evil. It's really an angel in disguise, bringing good to everyone. struggle keeps us from becoming lazy. It keeps us active and aware, and bestows the kind of knowledge that can't be obtained from any other teacher. struggle is thus the prana or animating force of our lives. Leading us from darkness to light, from ignorance to knowledge, and from death to immortality, struggle is a skillful sculptor who carves a beautiful statue out of an ugly rock." (excerpt from the book Pilgrim of Love)

As I set out to do the prescribed practices, meditations and journaling for this day as directed by our teacher, I was actually quite excited to have a day of quiet and solitude dedicated to my own practice. That does not happen too often being a mother with three kids at home.

I was riding the flow, feeling content and connected, until about seven hours into the day. At that point I was doing a walking meditation outside. It was quite a hot day and the Shanghai air was a bit heavy, as it can be. As I walked I started to feel agitated by the quiet, unsettled. The aloneness started to feel sharp and uncomfortable. My very meditation was becoming struggle itself. At that point I also happened to be walking past an abandoned gated compound of houses that is crumbling away and looks so forlorn and desolate. As I felt myself crumbling a bit myself I tried to be in the experience I was feeling, lonely and desolate. I happened to look to my right and there was a sign, a graffiti sign in fact. There in black spray paint on brick was one word, "solitude" . I got goosebumps upon seeing it, and I truly felt like it was put there somehow, for me, in that moment. That simple sign shifted my outlook and brought me back to the oasis of solitude and out of the shadow of loneliness.

An angel in the struggle. Grace at work.

I continued my day and received great insight, formed intentions and sealed them all in prayer and devotion. My final journal entry that came through source, intuition, divine guidance, or whatever you might call it, was quite powerful to me and so I will share it with you.  

"Keep opening your heart, that is where all the light and knowing you need resides. Keep stepping through doorways of faith, you are protected and provided for. You do not have to fix anything or rise to any occasion. Be always in the company of your breath, your light and your love. Do not worry about any outcome, just give. Give of yourself with a brave heart and an open hand. Remember who you are. Return to the shelter of your spirit, to love. Dedicate to that in practice. Freedom is already within you. You are love and love will never abandon you. Take rest."

A day of solitude and reflection is a powerful thing. We spend much of our lives looking outside ourselves when the greatest treasures are within. Consider taking the time to be quiet and come home to your heart.    

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