The Relationship Between Vacation, Gardening, Yoga, Yoda, and Desikachar

LUKE: What’s in there?
YODA: Only what you take with you.

Now if the title of this post doesn’t make your head spin and think “say what?!?!?!” I don’t know what will. I’ve got a lot of things to tie together here, so let me get started. Hang in there — I’d like to think it’ll be worth the wait.

My brother was the Trekkie in the family while I was the Star Wars fan. Yep, I was a total Star Wars geek — I saw the movies, bought the action figures (and quite a few light sabers), even ate the cookies (you die hard fans will remember the cookies that came out around the time of Return of the Jedi). My mom delights in telling the story about how the cashier at Toys R Us, after ringing up quite a few Star Wars toys during the Christmas rush, said “Wow, your little boy is quite lucky.” Being that my mom waited 12 years and two boys to finally be blessed with a girl, she shamefully replied that she was actually buying gifts for her daughter.

But I digress. The reason I had such a love for Star Wars was that the good guys always seemed to prevail and the timeless lessons included in the movies from ancient texts/religions. One of my favorite characters, of course, was Yoda. Yes, he was so ugly, he was cute, but DAMN that little green guy could blow you away with his wise little one-liners. The quote above comes from the scene on Degobah, when Luke is wary about entering an ominous-looking cave. Who knew that Yoda was a smaller, uglier version of a Buddhist teacher?

Why think of this now — years later when my light sabers (yes, I do still have a few) are collecting dust in a closet somewhere and I’ve traded in my light saber fighting for practicing yoga? Because the lesson still applies. And now we tie it into vacation…

While on vacation, I was surrounded with a fraction of the static that I am when I’m home. The books, the clothes, the computer time, the to do list — all drastically cut back. And yet, I didn’t miss any of it. I enjoyed my simple existence. Which now takes me to gardening…

Somehow when I was away, the weeds in my yard got together and threw some sort of orgy and multiplied out of control in my absence. Garden gloves on my hand and bucket hat on my head, I’m spending some quality time in my yard tackling the super human chore of eliminating the weeds. I’m ripping out the weeds yesterday when I realize that I need to do some weeding in my life as well. If I didn’t need all of the static on vacation, then why do I need it now?

So, in case you couldn’t follow my circuitous path, here you go — I realized that Yoda was right — I’m taking more than I need with me. Being away put it into perspective for me — I need to simplify. And all of that weed pulling reminded me that I need to start weeding things from my life. As Patanjali says in the Sutras — and I’m paraphrasing here — you have to deal with the weeds (or Kleshas, in yoga-speak) when they’re small.

And as I’m thinking this, I come across an excellent video excerpt of a Paul Grilley workshop in which he talks about how the junk in our minds takes a toll on our yoga practice. He uses the phrase “contra mantras” and his point is well taken. Perhaps before you step onto your mat, you might ponder Yoda’s words about what you’ll find — “only what you take with you.” Lucky for me Paul also offers up an easy solution for anyone suffering from backpain. Being that I’ve been doing all of this yard work, I could use a little lower back care. Click here to view the video of Paul — you’ll get a chuckle and perhaps have an “ah-ha” moment.

Now you may be wondering, how on earth can I possibly add an international yoga luminary into this odd mix? Here goes…

As all of this is running around in my head (which is pretty crowded what with Yoda being in there and all), I find myself weeding out my magazine pile, which has been neglected for a month of so. As I’m reading through the old magazines, I come across an interview with T.K.V. Desikachar in the August issue of Yoga Journal. His wonderful answer to one of the questions reminds me that I can also let go of some of the aspects of my asana practice. I can let go (or weed out, since I’ve got gardening on my mind) of perfection in asana, the amount of asana that I practice, and the feelings I have about missing a practice here and there. While I’m still a Yoda fan, I think that Desikachar’s wisdom blows The Green One out of the water:

“My wish is that more students experience the vastness of yoga, not simply asana. Increased attention to the concept of body consciousness has become very popular. Yoga was primarily evolved for inner limbs such as mind, senses, emotions. Unfortunately, many yoga teachers themselves are not aware of these techniques to be able to guide students in these domains. It is my sincere wish that both teachers and students of yoga move beyond their obsession with the body level, to actually experience these subtle and more powerful dimensions of this ancient wisdom. This requires patience and commitment and a serious search to look at oneself.”

So, to recap, we’ve got vacation realization of simplifying one’s life, which is reflected in the weed-pulling, which reminds me of Yoda’s words to Luke, which ties into my yoga practice and is a sentiment somewhat echoed in the words of Desikachar. Whew — that was one wild ride, eh?

Enough about me and my crazy ramblings (it is entirely possible that all of this yard work means that I’ve been out in the sun way too long and the rays have fried my brain), how about you and your life? Here are some pondering points:

  • What are you taking onto your mat? Are you attached to asana and ignoring meditation, pranayama, and other yogic tools? Do you honor your body or do you berate it when it doesn’t fit into the yoga mold that you think it should (do Paul Grilley’s words hit a nerve)?
  • What can you weed out in your life? Can you delete more emails (or get away with giving up email altogether)? Can you give away some of your possessions? Can you let go some of your obligations?
  • Can you move beyond the body? Can you cut back on your asana in order to incorporate more meditation?
  • What are some small things that you can take care of now — before they get too big and overhwelming to tackle later?

Just say “no” to the contra mantra!


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