“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” – Dalai Lama
I have posted several times before about this time of year. I was raised Jewish, and while now most of my practice comes from Yoga, the roots of Judaism are still there. And this time of year, the High Holy Days, is when I think about it the most. The period of time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is a time to reflect on how we have acted the past year, ask for forgiveness, and forgive those that have hurt us. I can think of no spiritual tradition that does not place forgiveness at the forefront of living a good life.
The legal world is not generally a place that forgives easily. In fact, we can be accountable for long periods of time for actions that occurred years ago. Interestingly, though, I work in one area of the law that starts by saying, we know what happened in the past, but it is time to move forward. The goal is to move on from the past and make the future a brighter place for children and families. That is a pretty amazing concept. I cannot say it always happens, but that is generally the goal at the outset. It is inspiring to see the times when it actually works out well, and families can move forward into a greater future.
But it takes a lot of work. Forgiveness and moving on are not traits that come easily to many of us. Yoga, however, can give us some tools for finding forgiveness and, sometimes more importantly, asking for forgiveness.
But there is no way we can offer our forgiveness to others until we find it within ourselves. The Dalai Lama, in the quote above, says it perfectly – we need to find our own peace, our own forgiveness, before there can be external peace and forgiveness. But how does that even look? Self-forgiveness is a difficult process, but it is fundamentally necessary to surviving in the world.
When we practice yoga, we are forced to look at ourselves head-on. We cannot hide who we are from ourselves. Instead, we slow down, and we turn inward. Yoga is not about getting fit. It is not about exercise. It is not about having a cute butt. Yoga is about coming face-to-face with who we are. A friend of mine posted a question on facebook. She asked, “Why am I brought to the depths of sorrow and tears near the end of each Yoga class?” I have posted before about how yoga is not always about making us feel awesome every single time we go to class. It is about understanding ourselves and discovering who we are. It is about seeing our true selves, not the mask, or masks, we share with the world.
And so, in many ways, yoga is about forgiving ourselves for pretending to be something we are not. We all have our masks. And everyone else shows us his or her masks as well. We live in a world where we hide who we truly are for fear of making someone angry or hurting someone’s feelings or even of just feeling different. But then our soul begins to react and get upset about our hiding it from the world. It begins to create dis-ease in our life. So, one of the answer’s to my friend’s question is that yoga brings us to this reality. It shows us what we have been hiding from the world, and the relief can come across as laughter, tears, and powerful emotions.
But after those emotions start to clear, we see our true selves. We can be with who we really are. And from there, we can begin to find the peace and forgiveness the Dalai Lama mentions. And once we are finally able to forgive ourselves, and see ourselves for who we really are – perfect beings on this turbulent ride called life – we can begin to forgive others and connect with them on a deeper and fuller level. No one is going to claim this is easy, but that is what makes this year so amazing. Just like Christmas is a day where you can smile at anyone, this time of year between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur has something in the air, even if you have never heard about these holidays before, so you have some support to start now.
How has yoga brought you to see yourself differently?
© Rebecca Stahl 2013, all rights reserved.