Life is hard, ideas are soft and in the middle is action!
I'm back with my Ask an Aspiring Yogin Column! Here is my first response from a question submitted a while ago. This submission asks a very universal question I think we all wonder throughout our life: How do we manifest our thoughts and desires?
A wonderment from Rachel: I have a question I'm pretty much always wondering about: how do I take action in making my ideas, creations and dreams a reality rather than just letting them float around in the mind. I guess simplified I want to know: how do I manifest?
Like most of my posts I return to the elements to answer this question. In this response, I'll divide wonderment into three elements, splitting it much like the ayurveda doshas of vatta (space/air), pitta (fire/water) and earth (water/earth). I'll focus on the more stark qualities of space, fire and earth in relationship to manifesting our dreams.
Space quality is where thought and ideas exist; basically, our dreams have more ethereal percentage than the other elements. They are soft. They float. They come and go quickly. These are all qualities of space. You used this description in your wonderment, Rach. You said, "[they] float around in the mind."
Then we have the exact opposite element, earth. The solid things that are manifested in the world. Your body. Your dwelling. The car you currently drive. Life manifested is hard. You can touch it. You can pound on it. But please don't pound on your body too hard.
The process to manifest - to make things go from soft to solid - is basically energy going from space to earth but there's much in the middle. When we have an idea travel into our heads it starts to travel down into our hearts and guts and we say: I want this to be true; I want this manifested right now. We don't want the process. We want instant gratification.
I guess I should have said a part of us wants instant gratification. The part of us that is young. The part of us that often gets called our ego. But I would argue it is an immature ego that wants things instantaneously. Not to dimension immaturity, either. Immaturity is needed to mature. We need that burning desire and childlike instinct to spark us as well.
And, yes, as you could guess, the ego desire is the fire element. It propels the need for action. It burns and yearns for movement. And, it creates.
However, if stymied, imbalanced or underdeveloped the ego-fire within us can go in one of two directions: sluggishness or frustration.
The sluggishness is a dampened fire. It says, "oh, I can't do that; it takes too much energy." So the ideas are squashed. The manifestation process is halted by the lack of motivation and inspiration. It may even look outside itself and say: "why can't 'it' just happen for me?" This ultimately gives our power to external forces.
Frustration, the other side of the coin, is an unruly fire. Blazing full blast, "I will do EVERYTHING to make this happen!!!!!" So we sacrifice...everything. Money, time, relationships, our health. This way of living is quite lauded in our society. It's how we become successful, right? And, yet, our society is burning all of our resources. We are scorching our humanity. We've made the ultimate sacrifices, all in the name of successfully fulfilling (someone's) dreams. And when we're not satisfied, whether the dream comes true or not, we become frustrated. We are deeply angry because the dream is not what we thought it would be or because we resent all we had to sacrifice to attain it.
So the answer? There is a middle way. And the key to this middle way is growing a mature and connected ego. One that can take action and, at the same time, recognize actions are not the sole creator of our life or the ultimate decider of what manifests on earth.
And what is the ego connected to when it is mature? It is yoked to our wisdom (buddhi). This wisdom is able to discern what is a reasonable and healthy sacrifice. It is also able to discern when we are giving up too easily; giving our power to someone else.
The more we develop our ego the more we become our wisdom. The more we become our wisdom the line between ideas and manifestation becomes the flow of life.
Yoga is discipline, which is a devotion to the Self. The practice asks that all of your desires be funneled toward your discipline and devotion to life as it is. And through that daily stoking of the fire you are purifying the ego, yoking it with wisdom and, therefore yoking self with all that is.
On the days when I feel united with spirit, I believe, however, I do recognize this takes great faith (another key aspect of maintaining practice), through this discipline we are connecting to the flow of life and that flow will help us manifest the ideas that need to be manifested. It will also help us weed out those that are not needed, even though the immature ego may have wanted or needed them to be.
On my days when I feel separated, deeply angry or I want to give up, I drag myself to my mat. I force myself to do some kind of practice: a meditation, a few yin poses or full on yang salutations. This force is great. It changes my energy, however slight. And then, during or after the practice, I also force myself to recognize where I have seen evidence of this practice manifesting my dreams, my ideas that were/are needed in the world (however small). And I hang on to that evidence. It helps me find gratitude and restoke the faith.
So life is hard. It is hard to make things concrete. Ideas are so so soft. They seduce us with their weightlessness. And the gateway between these two is the fire of action. Keep building your beautiful practice, Rachel. I know it's not always easy and it takes great faith. But I know you are up for the challenge of yoga, of living a connected life that trusts in life itself.
There are many great ideas out there on this topic. I will leave you with a really wonderful talk from Marianne Williamson on this very same wonderment. Her talk is long and coming from a slightly different vantage point, but it was useful for me to hear her words.
Travel well as you explore these ideas. Enjoy and trust your practice.
Much Love & Respect,