Anyone whos ever taken a yoga class or been in the presence of yogis has heard of yoga being refered to as "a practice". Last year I was in Portland assisting a yoga workshop and recall the studio owner's 11 year old daughter asking her parents and I what we were practicing for. "Life", I responded. I explained that among other things, yoga asanas represent different seasons or qualities of life, so as you place your body in different positions, what really requires attention is your inner pose, or how you respond to what's coming up as you become all the different forms. She seemed satisfied with my answer.
The "life " I had in mind and was referring to when I answered the young girl's question, was a nice and easy life, not one that involved cancer! Until recently, I subconsciously believed that if I took well enough care of myself, ate really healthy food and enjoyed life, I would somehow be exempt from any illness or pain. After being diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening disease, I experienced a lot of anger towards my body, as though it had somehow let me down. After faithfully practicing yoga for ten years and eliminating meat from my diet, this is what I get??
Then my friend and teacher Hareesh suggested that this might actually be the culmination of my practices- that this was what I may had been practicing for, perhaps even the fruit of my efforts. What good is your yoga or spiritual practice if you can't take it to your relationships, or other challenging areas in life?
Life is full of joy and sorrow. Pain and loss are part of the human experience. Our healthy lifestyle and spiritual practices will not stop these things from happening, but they can serve to minimize suffering as a result of how we practice responding when life inevitably presents us with hardships. We can choose our spirit inspite of everything.
Every time we choose love, we move incrementally toward greater emotional, mental and physical health. Each thought and action has consequences for our joy and our sadness. We want to practice feeling our joy more than our sadness, otherwise, the sadness slowly creeps over us and diminishes our quality of life.
-Meredith L. Young-Sowers
You can offer the best of yourself in any circumstance, including difficult times. In fact, the two things you are always free to do- despite your circumstances- are to be present and to be willing to love.