On the 4th of July, I found myself on my mat in a C2 class in which the teacher introduced the theme of freedom. The idea did not immediately resonate with me as it was overplayed and cliche. However, then she defined freedom to her:
Freedom is effort without struggle.
Now that struck a nerve and moved me to conviction beyond my mat. I can think of so many areas of my life where I tend to be enslaved in struggle: condemnation of myself and others, insecurity, weight, anxiety–to name a few. Back on my mat, she kept coming back to this idea, encouraging us to play our edge with effort, but to withdraw from struggle.
Meanwhile, on the mat next to me was a whole lot of struggle. A gentleman, who seemed new to CorePower but not to yoga, was attempting every inversion and peak posture known to man. Very rarely was he aligned with what the class was doing. His form was terrible. He moved in and out of flying squirrel and side crow and handstand with a series of grunts that sounded like it came straight out of Buddha’s upset gut. His warlike breathing was making me nervous. It’s almost like the teacher hand-picked him to be there, to personify the idea of enslavement in struggle. Where was the peace? Where was the surrender? Where was the presence?
Oh wait… where was my presence? Right… on the mat next to me. All this time, I am judging the yogi next to me, completely distracted from my own practice, my own breath, my own moment. Ugh.
And then wondrously, again, a small epiphany occurred on my mat:
Effort is about me; struggle is about others.
And I thought about my life, my career, my friendships, my perspective. I am enslaved when I am judging others, comparing myself to them. Struggle is competition; continuing the cycle of oppression so that I can feel better about myself; striving, straining in relation to others; distraction; a perpetual wiggling out of this present state. Effort is my best, my intention, my focus, my progress. When I can focus on me–what I can control–I am free to be. There is sweet surrender to what is.