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Be a Tool or Have a Tool?

Posted Jan 03 2013 10:22pm

I'm a big believer in taking responsibility. I'm not saying that one must take the blame for everything. What I do say is this -- you can't change other people but you can change yourself. I've been on both sides of the coin -- the victim side (so not fun and totally useless, by the way) and the responsibility side -- and I'll take responsibility any day. Personally, I find it more empowering (as opposed to feeling like the scapegoat for everything and everyone).

Of course when I started practicing yoga, I was on the victim side of the coin. I took up the yoga mantle with great relish...and self righteousness. You see, I was practicing yoga, so I didn't have to do any work. I didn't have to take responsibility because my yoga practice ensured that I was perfect. Oh yes, I was a good little spiritual doobie.  I was like some sort of self-proclaimed yoga superhero (there on the's a's a's Super Yogi!!!!!) but instead of a cape, I wrapped myself up in my safe little cloak of invisibility that allowed me to check out but feel good about it because I practiced yoga regularly. Did I take responsibility? Ummmm...I practiced yoga 5-6 days/week. Did I show up in relationship? Uh....I practiced yoga 5-6 days/week. Did I ask for what I wanted/needed? Ermmmm...I practiced yoga 5-6 days/week. Do you see a pattern here?

Yoga became my happy little escape hatch, my get out of jail free card, my surrender all responsibility here pitstop. Sad but true. Rather than realize that yoga is a tool, I was the tool (and a self-righteous one at that). I know, I know -- it sounds a little harsh, right? As Maya Angelou says, "When you know better you do better." Luckily I know better now (I'm working on doing better). But back then I used to think that getting on my mat regularly was the only thing I had to do. I didn't need to show up or work hard or tell the truth. I could just settle onto that mat and...viola: instant transformation? And all of those people around me who where not making me happy? Well, they just weren't in the same head space as I was. If only they practiced yoga regularly like I did, perhaps they would "see the light."

Yeah. Imagine my suprise when the light hit me where the sun don't shine years later and I figured out how blind I had been. <SIGH> Have I mentioned I'm a late bloomer? 

You see I have this friend [Blogger's Note: this "friend" is actually a composite of many people that I know -- I'm just rolling them all into one for the sake of simplicity. Yes, that means if you're one of my male friends and you're reading this post thinking it's about you, think again. I think I hear Carly Simon singing in the background, " probably think this song is about you..."]. He's a wonderful guy. He works hard. He works a lot. He spends a great deal of time inhabiting his head (he's a neck up sort of guy who thinks emotions are messy and should be tempered). Did I mention he's a really smart guy? Some would say brilliant, in fact. People think he's a wonderful guy. They adore him. They come to him when things get rough for advice, support and the occasional pep talk.

Said guy wasn't 100% happy though. He had that whole "something is missing" feeling. Then he happened upon a spiritual practice that changed things for him. Suddenly he felt something he'd never felt before. He entered into a relationship and it felt different than his past relationships. At first, he thought it was the new woman in his life. It must be her -- that's why things felt different. When the relationship ended, he entered into another one and continued on with the practice. He began to think that it wasn't the woman that had made that last relationship special but the practice. He continued with the practice sporadically and entered another relationship. Rinse. Repeat. 

So was it the practice, was it the woman...or was it illusion? Was he really changed? If so, then why did a long string of relationships look exactly the same, causing him to question his relationship skills? 

This story gets me right in the solar plexus. I feel the pain here. The Groundhog's Day scenario where things just keep replaying over and over -- the names and faces are different but the same things keep happening. And you keep looking outside of yourself for the magic elixir. You put on the cloak of invisibility so you can check out and defer to something/someone other than yourself. That way, if things don't work out, it's not you -- nope, it's the other person. The thing is -- it doesn't matter how many hours you spend on your yoga mat or your meditation cushion or doing any spiritual practice for that matter, for those are tools or vehicles only. There still needs to be someone directing the tool or the vehicle. 

In other words -- you have to take responsibility! You can't put it on your practice or another person or anything else outside of yourself. Just the other week I was having a conversation with someone who was complaining about the area he lived in, the people in his life, his old boss, and all other kinds of irritants that had gotten him into the rut he's presently in. He can boo hoo hoo his way onto the yoga mat and perhaps he might lighten up, but ultimately he has to be willing and open to looking inside of himself and make changes. Can yoga, meditation or a spiritual practice do that? They can certainly help, but they won't get you all the way there. There's gotta be some internal motivation.

The first step for me was admitting to myself that I was doing this. Awareness is a powerful thing. Heck, coming clean to y'all feels pretty good too. It's a step further into knowing better so I can do better in the future. So, who's with me? Who's ready to drop the cloak and start doing better?


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