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Turning Inward

May 9, 2013


The mind that turns ever outward
Will have no end to craving.
Only the mind turned inward
Will find a still-point of peace.
– Tao


Now that I am returning to yoga after the SUPER YUCKY sciatic episode, I am ready to dive in more deeply to my practice. Next month I plan to start a personal 30 Day Challenge – 30 hot classes in 30 days. To prepare, I am doing a lot of noticing and making ready. I am going to have gird my yogic loins – so to speak – if I am really going to do this!

My starting point: turn within.

(More on the 30 in 30 gig in future blogs.)

One of my yoga teachers once described the bones in my hips, legs and ankles as a having a “profound inward rotation” to explain why certain hip-opening and feet-outward postures are difficult for me. At the time I felt a little sting of shame: my body just isn’t right, it is “less than”.

Of course, you will say, “Well, you are how you are” and “Just do what you can do, not what you can’t do” and you will be right, but there is a part of me that feels, from time to time, like there is something profoundly, inherently “wrong” with me because certain postures do not come easily, even after years of work. Perhaps there is a glimmer of change but not so you’d see it on the outside.

Zen teacher Cheri Huber has built her life’s work around addressing this inherent sense of “wrongness” that many people feel: we go around feeling like, on some deep level, we are profoundly flawed. Not just “imperfect” but as if there is something wrong with the very state of our being. Huber’s book There is Nothing Wrong with You (For more on her work, click here.) is based on the idea that many of us “spend a good deal of time, energy and money trying to improve ourselves, wondering what is wrong with us and trying to change ourselves in order to make your life work.” It is a painful and tiring way to move through the world.

In the last few months I have decided to try to make peace with how things are. I recently read a quotation from Dainin Katagiri that read: The important point of spiritual practice is not to try to escape your life, but to face it – exactly and completely.

So I have a profound inward rotation? Perhaps there is a gift in this. Perhaps it is time to read this not as a failing or defect but as a hint about relating to reality. Ancient traditions around the world support this notion: rather than trying to constantly alter “what is” to make life fit some conception of perfection, the real work is to meet what is with grace, patience and courage.

I may never be able to do certain postures the way others with neutral rotation can, but perhaps my physical structure can be a clue for a spiritual structure: the natural inclination to turn inward.

-Rabbi Chava Bahle

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