Friday, October 19, 2012

What Makes a True Path?

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” – Buddha

I read a lot of yoga blogs, probably too many. I live in my head, and yoga blogs are a way to think intellectually about what I “should” be practicing. One of the blogs I read most frequently is “linda’s yoga journey.” One of the issues she often discusses is how to be on a “real” yoga path. I usually find myself nodding along to her posts, thinking, “she is totally right., the way yoga has hit mainstream America is barely recognizable as yoga. ‘Real’ yoga is something different.” And then I realize I am the person she is describing, the one talking the talk but not always walking the walk.

I do not make time for an asana practice everyday. I do not make time for a meditation practice everyday. My meditation practice is often in my car. Most days I take a few moments to sit in the morning, and I attend classes on the weekends, but my practice is not as structured as it could be. I can come up with all sorts of excuses as to why this is, but excuses are not the point of this post.

There is no question that my path is to find a way to bring yoga into daily living. Whether that means asana “At the Desk,” meditations in the car, or even ways to recognize and overcome vicarious trauma, yoga is not something we can only practice in the Himalayan peaks. It has to be something we can bring to daily living. But that means less time for the actual deepening of the practice. Sure, we can go on yoga retreats and fill our yoga buckets, but how do we bring these practices into daily life?

As the Buddha says in the quote above, “We ourselves must walk the path.” There is no substitute for practice. But how can we balance the need for practice with the need to get up in the morning and go about our daily living? That path is not for everyone, but for those of us who know our path is to find the balance, how do we do that?

On days I do not make time to practice, I feel guilty. That’s not very yogic, now is it? But on days I take the time to practice, I feel different. The sense of calm lasts a little bit longer. The ability to respond rather than react is a little bit larger. Those moments come more often the more time spent in practice. But too much time spent in practice means the unread materials pile up and the deadlines get missed. And of course that causes stress and anxiety of its own.

But the path can be both. I know it can. The true path is learning to listen. Through yoga, we learn to listen to what we need. We eventually learn to understand it as well. Some days, doing the work that is piling up at the office is more yogic. It clears the space around us giving us a space for clear thinking. Some days, no matter how high that pile has become, we need to turn to the mat. Those are the days that no matter how much we try to tackle the pile, unless we take some time away from it, there is no way we can do it. Sound familiar?

But that still leaves the aching question – is this a “true” path? Is the only true way to bring yoga into our lives to make time to practice every single day at the same time? When the guilt is rising high, my answer to this is sometimes yes. But the rest of the time, the time when I take the time to reflect, I realize the answer is no.

A true path is in the intention we bring to it. Where is the heart? And are we willing to walk the path ourselves? Are we willing to bring our entire soul to it? When we have the intention, we can miss our mark sometimes, but we always know we can return. We always remember that we can come back to the path waiting within us.

And it is that intention that we bring to our daily lives. I still get upset with people. I still lose my temper. I still feel anxiety. But underneath those moments is a little voice reminding me it need not be that way. And in those moments, sometimes my breath returns, and I laugh at the situation. And sometimes it does not, and I leave disgruntled and guilty. And after a decade of this practice, countless hours in meditation and on the mat, and countless hours reading yoga blogs about different paths, something has finally clicked.

Those moments are the true path. All of them. When our paths are between the modern world and the yoga mountains, finding the bridge is the path. And we are going to have many, many moments on both sides of that bridge. But with the intention to continuously come back, we are on a true path . . . even if we miss a day or two on the mat. It may not look like a traditional yoga path, but it is what allows us to be true to our own hearts. 

How does your path look? Where is your intention? 


© Rebecca Stahl 2012, all rights reserved. 


  1. I love your blog, Rebecca! Beautifully written. Thank you <3

    Namaste from Norway

    Katrine Legg Hauger, mom, alchemist healer and lawyer

  2. oh my! thanks for the link love!

    but don't think for a minute that just because you get mad, upset, whatever, that's not the "real" yoga path.

    will always remember what I heard Jack Kornfield say at Spirit Rock -- that if someone thinks that a person on the yoga or spiritual path can't ever get angry or upset, then that person has a kindergarten view of spirituality.


    1. Thanks, Linda. That is always a wonderful reminder!