I opened this past weekend's class with this dharma talk I wrote, a derivative of the commencement speech I gave at the College of Engineering at my alma mater last month:
Come into a comfortable seated position with your spine erect. Begin taking long, slow, and deep breaths through the nostrils. Take notice of your body... what’s happening within you today? Take notice of your mind... how is your spirit today?
We are near the end of our eighth week of our yoga teacher training; only two more weeks to go. We’ve devoted our weekends, and weekday mornings and evenings to this journey. Along the way, we’ve bonded as a community and have grown to know each other’s souls and bodies. What brought each of us here, and what will we take away as this training comes to an end?
For today’s opening, we will contemplate the lifecyle of learning and growth. I call them the three C’s: curiosity, courage, and confidence. Let's meditate on these three C’s.
We all wanted to be part of this yoga teacher training because we are curious about yoga and are interested in learning more. Curiosity is the basis of learning and creativity. It’s more about asking the right questions than the answers themselves. On the yoga mat, being curious opens ourselves to discovering and connecting with our minds and bodies. Off the mat, our curiosity allows us to discover and fuel our passion. Walt Disney once said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
Now let’s talk about courage.
How many of us know someone who has said to us, “I don’t want to try yoga because I’m not that flexible?” Or “I don’t want to try do X because I’m afraid of Y?” Maybe we have felt that way at times too, when we had to make something out of nothing, or when we engaged in an activity even though we didn’t really know what we were doing.
On the mat, we summon our courage to go into poses that may be new, or seem awkward or unnatural. Whether on or off the mat, courage is the willingness to face whatever is in front of us. Maybe it’s fear of failure. Maybe it’s a fear of the unknown. Maybe it’s a fear of rejection. Whatever it is, when we gather the courage to face whatever is in front of us, we emerge stronger, more resilient, more flexible, and those qualities will withstand whatever failure, rejection, and uncertainties we encounter in life. Courage gives us the strength to take risks, and where there is risk there is opportunity.
The last C is about the value of challenge and adversity and the confidence gained from it.
Each of us made sacrifices to be part of this yoga teacher training. We devoted significant time, energy, and money to be here. Along the way, we had doubts about our ability to fulfill all the commitments required of this training. How could we possibly complete all the reading, writing, and practice hours while juggling work, family, and other responsibilities and commitments? And yet here we are all still here. We are doing this!
On the yoga mat, as we practice asana, we are physically and mentally challenged. Sometimes we don’t know if we can get into the pose, or stay in it long enough. But when we do, we feel awesome!
Adverse conditions help toughen us mentally and build confidence. We can choose to blame failures on factors we cannot control, or we can believe we have the ability to shape events and circumstances by making the most of what we can control. When we take on new challenges, a little at a time, we build our confidence to take on more ambitious endeavors. And thus the cycle of learning and growth begins again, with curiosity.
Let’s bring our hands together and offer our salutations to Brahma, for curiosity which cultivates passion and creation; to Vishnu, for courage through which we persist through whatever we face in front of us with optimism, and to Shiva, for adversity and the confidence and joy gained after we overcome challenges.
Guru Devo Maheshwara
Guru Sakshath Parambrahma
Tasmai Shri Gurave Namaha
(tr: Guru is the creator Brahma, Guru is the preserver Vishnu, Guru is the destroyer Siva. Guru is directly the supreme spirit — I offer my salutations to this Guru.)