“What is Real?,” asked the rabbit one day. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you’re made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you…It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. Generally by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
—The Velveteen Rabbit
I believe that yoga helps you become real (real-er? more real?) It strips away your layers like the multiple skins of an onion, down to your essence. As the Skin Horse said, Real is a thing that happens to you, you become. Sometimes It sneaks up on you. You can’t think your way into being, you can only be. You can’t think your way to freedom, you can only be free.
I wrote here about a new spaciousness I have felt recently and it really hits me now and again. This just being is a lightness of being that is freedom, at least for me. The physical sensation of it is floating. Sometimes there are no words for these Things that happen on this Path, but that is my felt sense of it.
I think about people or things that I was very attached to six months ago or even one month ago and those attachments are gone….POOF!…like they never existed. Those attachments literally brought me to my knees, you have no idea. Of course “they” still exist but it is…different. Transcended. Free.
At my age I’m worn around the edges and yet somehow feel more alive than ever (you hear that Yoga Journal, with your ageist yoga advertising?), even with my aching back (the price of being uber-flexible among other things.) But I am not this Body.
I’ve been too many years on this earth to care what people think about me anymore. I’m not responsible for anyone’s happiness, only my own. I don’t tell my students what they want to hear, I tell them what I think they need to hear and what they choose to do is up to them. I am merely a yoga facilitator, I am nobody’s guru — “your breath will change your life”; “mindfulness begins now, not tomorrow”; “detach from the outcome and be free.” You can give a person the tools and show them how to use them, but eventually they have to build their own house.
In 7 years of teaching I’ve had students quit after one class and I have students who’ve been with me since Day One and I’m grateful for them all. I’ve heard it said that as teachers we get the students that we deserve. Maybe so. One day not too long ago a (former) private student told me that she did not like the way I worded things, that I was too harsh. That night another student told me that she does not have the words to tell me how much she looks forward to coming to my class every week. Same day, same teacher, same words. My voice off the mat is my voice on the mat.
“….once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
I am not ugly. I am Real.
“I got lucky
I got everything I wanted
I got happy
There wasn’t nothing else to do
And I’d be crazy
Not to wonder if I’m worthy
of the part I play
In this dream that’s coming true.”
–“Pilgrim’s Progress”, Kris Kristofferson
7 thoughts on “yoga wisdom from a rabbit”
Great post Linda. I’ve been struggling a lot lately. And this is a wonderful reminder.>>I like that a lot – <>I’m not ugly. I’m real.<>>>Thank you, Skin Horse from The Velveteen Rabbit!>>I believe acknowledging the struggle too, is being real. Trying to deny it, only considering all the ‘lovely’ things and ignoring what’s really going on for yourself is foolish. Its no way to be real. That said, one can’t get caught up in the suffering too much, either. >>Those students who, on the same day, had such different experiences? Of course, that was their own projection of you they saw, heard and felt. >>True teaching occurs when both the student and the teacher can pierce the veils of delusion at the same time.
so true, so true.>i too am more worn around the edges and i have discovered such a beautiful freedom and truth in that wearing down of what was perceived as real in order to discover what really is real.>great post>namaste>m>>p/s here is the link to that page i was getting the posts from regarding ‘self’>http://www.transpersonal.com.au/knower.htm
Your words are exactly what I need to contemplate right now. Thank you.
I loved that piece when I first read it in Stephen Cope’s ‘Yoga and the Quest for the True Self’, and I had forgotten about it! Thanks, Linda. Breaking atachments, that’s what I need right now.
I'd forgotten all about that “becoming real” thing from the Velveteen Rabbit…with “real” specifically not fitting anybody's idea of flawlessness on the surface…quite the opposite, in fact.
And, of course, the different and sometimes negative reactions from students are inevitable. If you were all flowery and full of fake positivity and greeting card feel-good vibes, there'd probably be somebody (like me) barfing in the back of the room…
Although I do not practice yoga, there is much wisdom in this post that I can relate to and benefit from. I just really appreciate this sharing–your catharsis–and think it applies to my life in many aspects. Thanks, Linda.
Maybe I'm just being greedy/nosy, but I'd love to hear more about what you think happened/is happening. I have noticed a very different tone (for the most part, Hellcat) and was curious what the combo of India and Africa meant to you.
Maybe it's still too fresh or personal. I'm really intrigued by the Transpersonal pursuit, as I'm contemplating my Next Move, as well.
Every time I try to read the Velveteen R to the boys, I get all emotional and they can't figure out why my voice gets so thick by the end of the book. “Mommy, why are you talking like that?”
Keep it coming, please.