I’ve been doing this kundalini yoga thing a while now — about 10 years.
As a result of my studies, I’ve finished a bunch of 40-day sadhanas, a few 90 and 120, and I even have a lifetime sadhana that Guru Singh, my teacher and mentor, gave me about four years ago. (Sadhana, you may remember, means “daily spiritual practice.”) I impress the hell out of myself with these things. Seriously, it’s no easy feat committing to this practice at this level.
But let me declare at the top of my lungs (via newsletter, blog, Facebook and town square) that I screw it up, fail, suck at it, whine about it and generally do a crappy job very often.
There. Cat is out of the bag. I have blown it again and again. I get back up and fall flat on my face — and get back up again. And fall. But my most recent example of “sadhana failure” turned into a profound insight about the nature of my perception.
I’m in the homestretch of a 40-day Aquarian sadhana, which is a group yoga and meditation practice done between 4 and 7 a.m. each day. In the second week of that commitment, I made the decision to practice at home one morning. I was feeling pretty lousy, really depleted from all the running around the city at 4 a.m. to join others on yoga mats in what I used to refer to as “closing time” but I now call the amrit vela. So given my fatigue I thought it might be wise to adjust things — a sensible and compassionate choice I would have recommended to any of my students.
Yet the entire morning afterward, I heard an obnoxious voice nagging away: that didn’t count, you’re a faker, a liar, a cheat, just forget it, you blew it, you bailed on your 40-day. I posted those thoughts as a status update on Facebook — confessing about my “sub-standard” showing that morning and my feelings of disappointment in myself and finishing off with a rather anemic (and, yes, defensive) “But it still counts!” Then an amazing thing happened.
I received comment after comment from friends, fellow yogis and students embracing my choice and telling me not to be so critical. Of course it counts, they wrote. Whatever I perceived lacking in my sadhana that morning, the bottom line was that I showed up for my commitment. My perception of it was just that: an opinion, and an unforgiving one at that.
The unanimous urging of these people to be more accepting made me realize how harshly I was treating myself. I really had not been aware that I was being so judgmental — my clever, determined Inner Commentator had me believing I was simply making an honest assessment of my practice.
It has taken a lot of work — a lot of sadhana — to come to a place where I can give myself any kind of credit instead of punishing myself when I’m not perfect. It will take a lot more effort to develop and maintain the compassionate consciousness I felt after getting that validation from others. I know that my vicious internal critic is not going to shut up and go away permanently. But with awareness I can choose to believe something else about myself, something more complex and realistic and loving.
There is a phrase that applies here called “perfectly imperfect.” That’s me. Thank God. I am a perfectly imperfect student, teacher, yogi and human being. I’m doing the best I can each day and it is enough. It is more than enough. When I am able to experience that self-acceptance — that my so-called mistakes, limits and failures are a beautiful and rich part of being human — I’m able to feel compassion and kindness toward the humanness of other beings, too.
What a relief.