Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Kingdom or the Forest?

We are nearing the end of the Mahabharata.  Through this rich story, the Pandava brothers lost their kingdom in a dice game, were banished to the forest for 12 years, returned to battle their cousins the Kauravas, (led by Public Enemy #1,as I have come to call him, Duryodhana), and won their kingdom back.  The Kauravas perish in the war, and the Pandavas are restored to their royal place.  They regain their land, their elephants and horses, their chariots and castles.  All is right with the world, right? 

Well, not exactly:  “Joined with Arjuna, Yudhishthira with his brothers and Draupadi, all wearing bark, walked into the north.” (i.e. back to the forest - the north is the Himalayas, a place of hermitage and wisdom).  

Huh?  So they get the castle, the riches, the parties, the food that they fought a vicious war to win back…and they walk away?  If this were a movie (and it is - check out some of the videos on You Tube for the "Cliff Note" version of the story!) I think I'd be a little annoyed at the twist ending!

This is a story ultimately about Dharma, the true path each person is destined to follow in their life.  And their path took them on that whole journey – to the dice game, the forest, the war, the kingdom and back to the forest - all of it was part of their story.  So although the banishment to the forest was at first seen as a punishment of sorts, it was there that they ultimately learned what was truly important to them. They had to come back to fight for their kingdom and, of course, to destroy the evil that had overtaken the land, but it was the means, not the point.  Theirs was a higher purpose.

I have shared before that my family has moved around a lot.  When we moved to Chicago (2008 – 2011) I went kicking and screaming.  But once we were there I embraced it, made it my own and carved out a beautiful life for myself and for my family.  The experiences I had there transformed my life dramatically and created new and unimagined pathways that I never would have found if we hadn’t gone.  Ultimately the path led back here, but I’m so much more open now to where my path might lead me in the future.  Since we’ve moved frequently I’m always saying I’ll never do it again (because really, moving is exhausting!), but when I think about it, that move that I so resisted was one of the best times of my life, a time of tremendous growth and abundance on so many levels.  One of the greatest gifts of that time was learning to not pre-judge a path presenting itself simply because it is not the one that was in “the plan”, and even when it’s not been one of my choosing. 

Our path leads us where we are meant to go.  Every journey becomes an opportunity for growth and even abundance. It’s not always the obvious choice (like the one filled with the riches of a kingdom), but when we live with the intention to devote our lives to the highest purpose of yoga, to connect with innate grace and goodness, it makes the path we do choose (or are forced to choose for one reason or another) easier to follow.  And we know that that path will eventually lead us to what is most important. When we open ourselves to all the possibilities and paths that life has to offer, we align with the fullness and abundance of the universe. 

Off the mat, reflections for your week:
Was there a time when you found yourself in a situation not of your choosing?  Looking back, can you see how it was part of the larger path of your life, how it fits in with the whole of your existence?

On the mat:
Open To Grace: Want what your creator desires.
Step into your breath and into the flow of your dharma. Let yourself be carried by that great river to the places you are meant to go.
Become aware of what is really important to you, where your path is ultimately leading regardless of the winding road it might take to get there.

Muscular Energy: As you tone your skin to muscle to bone, move from external to internal, from superficial to deep and deeply important values.
Firm your muscles to embrace what is really important, and whatever route might get you there.

Inner Spiral: Widen your sit-bones to open to the abundance of pathways that will lead you to fulfillment of your goals.
Widen your inner thighs to broaden the perspective of “having” (whether it’s a kingdom or a pose) and recognize that that is not “it”.

Outer Spiral: Scoop your tailbone to come full circle back to the forest, to the things that are truly meaningful in your life.

Organic Energy: Stretch into the unknown.
Expand into the awareness of your highest purpose of life, regardless of the path you find yourself on.