“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