Thursday, March 31, 2011

Packing light...

“The fool carries on his back all the possessions he might need.”

I took this quite literally and proudly thought myself such a good little fool for a time as I have never indulged in any excess with regards to material possessions. Not until I plunged, head first, into the extreme darkness that the north provides, was I able to see all that I was actually carrying much more than I care to admit.

“Don’t be stingy with yourself,” said Randall. These were the words spoken to me by a powerful elder and teacher that I was privileged to know in the great northern Yukon last year. This simple phrase of advice came at a particularly important time. I had never really thought about it this way before. I was a beginner in the practice of non-stinginess and didn’t really understand its subtlety or nuances very well…

“Don’t be stingy with yourself.” The words really struck a chord.

What does this actually mean? Well, it’s a wonderful idea because its opposite is generous. If I’m not stingy, that means I’m kind, generous and bountiful with myself.

For me, it has come to mean many things, which may seem counterintuitive at first, but read on anyways…

Being generous means not coping out of a difficult situation and watering down my experiences.

It means not tricking myself into believing that I can achieve any sense of lasting peace from anything outside myself.

It means not cheating myself out of the most complete and present experience possible.

It means to sleep when I’m tired, to eat when I’m hungry, to move when I’m restless, to laugh when it’s funny and to cry when it’s sad.

If I go out when I’m tired, run when I’m hungry or eat when it’s sad, that is most certainly not a great exercise in generosity, I slowly came to discover.

Now there’s one point that I can’t emphasize enough in the practice of partaking in generosity. Some of you may recognize this through line from a previous post: The outside factors of life really don’t have to change much. Most actions can be executed from a place of stinginess or generosity. It’s really up to me! My experience has been that similar actions executed from a place of generosity are likely to yield different results but these changes are generally good ones and will happen naturally and gradually over time.

Once again, my yoga practice becomes the perfect laboratory in which to test this theory. When I practice poses or asana in yoga, I can approach the practice from a place of rigidity and self-harm: “I’m not flexible enough.” I really just want a stronger body.” “Why can’t I fully get into this pose.” Or “My balance sucks!”

Where things get really juicy, however, are when I am generous and open. When I understand that these beautiful expressions I am able to explore in my body are a gift, which are to be received and offered back with a spirit of the utmost humility, grace and generosity, then things begin to truly transform.

Thus far, this fool’s journey has been in part, the story of learning to be generous with myself. Sure, I pack light in the material sense, stay away from heavy or expensive objects about which to worry and fret. But I have been known to carry around stuff of another variety... beliefs, thoughts and addictive behaviors that ultimately need to be abandoned in order to become lighter.

Now that I’ve thought about it and begun to put this into practice in my life, I find that I’m often amazed at all the different and new ways I can find to be generous. I’m still very much a beginner but I continue to find that the question is almost always worth asking: Am I being stingy or generous? The answer is seldom a dull one…