I want things. I want to make more money. I want to have more students attend my yoga classes. I want to travel. I want new clothes for the quickly approaching Vermont winter. I want to have thicker skin when dealing with criticism. I want to learn how to more efficiently run my small business. I want to learn how to drop back from standing into Urdhva Dhanurasana and I want to advance into the Ashtanga yoga second series.
Why do I want more? Because I’m human. And like most humans, I want things. Occasionally my desire for something outside of myself can be a conduit for positive change in my life - like my desire to leave behind restaurant work in order to become a yoga teacher. That was the best decision I’ve ever made, on many levels. However, desire has a side effect; It’s called suffering. It’s all too easy to cross the invisible line between productivity and suffering when it comes to desire. Something that I want can quickly change from goal to obsession if I do not pay close attention and constantly check-in with myself. Once obsession takes hold, suffering will follow.
When I started practicing Ashtanga yoga, I was excited to learn how to do a jump-back. Excitement turned into obsession. I practiced every day, relentlessly. Within one year, I landed my first jump-back, much to my elation. Pretty soon my entire practice was full of them. Almost immediately, my left wrist began to hurt. Then my left shoulder began to hurt. One day I got on my yoga mat to practice and realized that I not only couldn’t do a jump-back, I couldn’t put any weight on my wrist or shoulder due to excruciating pain. My arm stayed this way for months and greatly hindered my ability to practice without serious modification. Because of desire I had pushed myself too hard, I broke, and the suffering began.
This experience forced me to ask myself some difficult questions: Why do I attach myself to desires? Once I accomplish a goal, will my life be any better? Is it possible for me to be in the present moment without the need for advancement? It also enabled me to recognize that stuff like this happens ALL THE TIME! I have a tendency to attach myself to goals, attain them, only to then find something else that I want and begin the pursuit all over again. The cycle perpetuates itself. Until I break the pattern. It will be a lifetime of work. It is the reason I practice yoga.