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On commitment

It’s interesting how depth takes you in deeper, and causes you to float higher, ensuring that you simply have less to worry about and less to do, as time goes on. 


In the yoga practice, you eventually learn after many years of doing deep forward bends that forward bending eventually shifts from being all about tight hamstrings and back muscles to all about tapping into deep core strength.


As a teacher, I’ve found myself trying to tell students what will happen years down the line in their forward bends to offer a “goal” for them in their practice. This attempt has often been met with an appropriate apathy. After all, when you are on step 6 and you are being offered the sweetness that comes on step 72, it can be more frustrating than anything. At that point, it is more about achieving some arbitrary level of success that is conceptual at best. And though that may be helpful for a short time, the mind will eventually lose focus and change gears. 


Instead of offering information on what might come years down the line, more important is consistency of support on just showing up, day after day. Encouragement that with awareness, the sweetness of the practice comes in different forms for everyone. It is so much less about exactly what you commit to, and much more about the commitment itself.  Pick something that resonates and roll with it. Not because you adore it, but because you are seeking depth in commitment. No matter what you choose, eventually the honeymoon will wear off and the real work will begin. 


Consider any relationship that you might put effort into — with a friend, a spouse, a family member — with time and effort comes a rewarding and beneficial bond that offers the beauty of support and companionship in this human state. Giving up is the easy way out. Going the distance offers depth and maturity in relating. 


This concept is the same in relating to oneself. It is a commitment to the most substantial relationship that one can have. The deeper you go into your love affair with yourself, the more you find that you value taking care of yourself more. You value your health, your vitality, your happiness above all else.


Just like every meaningful relationship, each day you find yourself more deeply committed and more bonded, because it’s what you’ve chosen to do. In essence, it is commitment to any path that provides depth and meaning, and this depth and meaning cannot be conceptualized…it must be embodied to understand, which is why it’s not something that someone else can offer to you as a carrot on a stick in front of you. It’s more of a truth that everyone seems to find when they’re really committed to something. 


With the embodiment of depth of commitment comes a delightful lack of concern for things that don’t matter as much, things that don’t serve you, things that aren’t healthy for you. With a depth of love for self comes a mindful and protective yet adventurous nurturance, like a good parent to a child. With commitment comes a greater sense of self-care.


On the way to this committed state, however, there can be an uncomfortable process of shaking off of those things that once had great importance. It takes time to unhinge from unhealthy patterns, people, circumstances. After all, familiar pain can be easier to handle for the mind than unfamiliar ease. But unfamiliar ease is something that the mind comes to when it is ready, when it has loosened its grip on all the things that it thinks it needs to control, manipulate, and judge. It all comes with unwavering commitment. The byproduct of committed practice; the passive act of letting go, or non-attachment. 


In taking all this commitment discussion into practice, how many forward folds do you have to do before you truly find the grace in a deep, unimaginable access to core strength? How many years of marriage does it take to truly find depth of love for another? How many sits on the meditation cushion does it take to find a sense of quiet in the mind? How many strides does it take before runner’s high finally sets in? How many strokes of a paintbrush on canvas before the painting creates itself? When you’ve put the intention and the work in, you feel it; you just know. It’s beyond description. 


It’s probably about the point where you forget what it was that you were oriented to achieve where you finally feel it, because the actual sensation of “ease beyond the effort” is far beyond the comprehension of the imagination. It’s a place where the pike lift is effortless. Where the float is just there. Not because you’ve pushed yourself to an exaggerated point of exhaustion to get “there” fast, but because you’ve put the proper intention into your committed efforts. No matter how long it takes. 


Does an old man who’s been married for 53 years lovingly look upon his wife with a contrived forceful gaze of devotion? Of course not. And would he ever tell you that the depth of his love didn’t take time to develop? Or that it didn’t take effort and sacrifice to achieve? No way. Would a 20-year practitioner of yoga ever suggest that his commitment to his practice didn’t trump his natural abilities? Or that his daily practice wasn’t at times a burden? That he had to soften his mind into it at some point and find true intention toward what he was doing rather than seeking some arbitrary goal that someone else set for him? 


Same thing, truly. 


Speak to someone who has had a dedicated daily commitment toward anything with a true intention for a solid amount of time, and there’s similarity in language. A softening of judgement. A grounded discernment. A deeper compassion. A kinder heart. A forgiving grace. A focused awareness. 


The forward bend is just one way we can learn how to find depth in what we are doing. It’s where we begin our journey in the yoga practice — with the one thing that we have the most feeling and abilities to mold: our bodies!


Next time you fold forward in your practice, consider how deep you are going, and how much deeper you could go. Not for a photo or accolades or a bigger trophy or sore(er) hamstrings, but for your own commitment to yourself. Try it every day for a long time. See what kind of lightness comes, and what heaviness you are able to rise above.

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