On practice

Each practice session is a journey. Endeavor to move with awareness and enjoy the experience. Allow it to unfold as a flower opens. There is no benefit in hurrying. Yoga grows with time. Some days are easy and the mind is calm and the physical body is light and responsive. Other days you may find that the mind is running wild and the body feels like wet cement.

We must breathe deeply and remain detached. Asanas are not the goal. They are a vehicle to access a deeper internal awareness. Create a practice that best suits your personal needs so that it is something that you look forward to. Yoga is a place of refuge and a soothing balm for the stresses of modern life. Within each practice find ways to refine your existing understanding so that you continue to grow.

Rather than simply moving from asana to asana, feel that action from deep within. Listen to your breath. Can you ride the breath like a bird on a breeze? Where is the mind? Can you maintain your focus and remain clam even when approaching a posture that you dread? Enjoy yourself.

Yoga is a scenic journey to our deepest spirit.

— David Swenson, Ashtanga Yoga

On fixed identity

As much as we want to, we can never say, “This is the only true way. This is how it is. End of discussion.” As individuals we, too, have plenty of fundamentalist tendencies. We use them to comfort ourselves. We grab on to a position or belief as a way of neatly explaining reality, unwilling to tolerate the uncertainty and discomfort of staying open to other possibilities.

The root of these fundamentalist tendencies is a fixed identity. With a fixed identity, we have to busy ourselves with trying to rearrange reality, because reality doesn’t always conform to our view. In Buddhism we call the notion of a fixed identity “ego clinging.” Ego clinging is our means of denial. The fixed identity is our false security. We maintain it by filtering all of our experiences through this perspective.

Meditation practice starts to erode that fixed identity.

The purpose of the spiritual path is to unmask, to take off our armor. The Buddha taught that the fixed identity is the cause of our suffering. Looking deeper, we could say that the real cause of suffering is not being able to tolerate uncertainty—and thinking that it’s perfectly sane, perfectly normal, to deny the fundamental ambiguity of being human.

We have a choice. We can spend our whole life suffering because we can’t relax with how things really are, or we can relax and embrace the open-endedness of the human situation, which is fresh, unfixated, unbiased.

Pema Chödrön