At my last yoga teacher training weekend a couple of weeks ago, our class was asked, as homework, to think of a person who has hurt us, and see if we can arrive at true forgiveness after considering our role in the situation, as well as the ignorance involved from both parties. We were asked to look at it objectively with discernment, and ask ourselves if we can take responsibility for what is ours, and release what is not.
Are you still with me?
Suffice it to say that literally no one was comfortable with this assignment. Nobody. Who wants to revisit a difficult situation, and then look for where YOU were wrong?! Yeah, no thank you. Still, I gave it a try.
I had a couple circumstances that immediately came to mind, but I settled on the one that felt still somewhat unresolved to me. This option is not nearly as emotionally difficult as the other I could have chosen, yet somehow it seemed infinitely harder for me to really admit my fault in it. That lead me to question why. “What exactly am I resisting here? The idea that I was wrong?” But I was wrong! For parts of it, I was extremely wrong. Yet looking at the problem from this perspective changed things considerably, and I am not good with change. I’m getting better (yoga has helped me with this quite a bit) but I am still very much a creature of habit, who feels the urge to control everything whenever possible. Unless I am the instigator of the change, I tend to only see it as a frightening wrench in my carefully laid out plans. This usually results in my anxiety arriving to take over. Good times.
I made a genuine effort with the assignment, and eventually came to feel like I had made a small bit of progress. At the very least it forced me to let go of some (likely misplaced) anger I was holding onto. A meditation I use when teaching Reiki includes the instruction of “letting go what no longer serves you”, and I think I had failed to practice what I preach in this regard. I chose not to share my experience in class, mainly because of the complex emotions I have associated with it, but listening to other people sharing was really eye opening. It was heavy. I cried (what else is new). If you are reading this and feel like doing something super uncomfortable but potentially productive, I urge you to revisit a painful situation of your own, and see if you can gain a new perspective on it after accepting responsibility for what is yours, and letting go of what is not. Can you arrive at true forgiveness for the other person? For yourself?
One other aspect of this particular weekend that was intense for me was the chant that we normally do. I feel a strong connection to this chant (it is called Śrī Guru Pādukā-pañcakam if you’re interested) and I practice it on my own frequently. I took a couple of recordings of the class doing it in the past so that I can sing along in the car or at home.
My teacher had asked me to lead the chant during one weekend, and while it was a little nerve-wracking, I enjoyed it because it just meant that I got it started, and then the whole class chanted together as one. On this most recent weekend, however, things were different. Marc (my instructor) pulled me aside before we began a long meditation, and asked if I would lead the chant again. I agreed, thinking it would be the same as last time.
Marc led us into a quiet meditation, as we all laid on our mats with blankets covering us. He came over to me after awhile and let me know it was time for the chant. I started to get up into a seated position and quietly asked him if I should ask the rest of the class to do the same. He said no.
I was confused, but not panicked yet. “So… he wants me to sit up, but everyone else will chant lying down. That seems strange, but okay.” I sat up with the words to the chant in my hands, and then finally, after probably a century, realized that I was meant to chant BY MYSELF. To the room of nearly 20 people. If you don’t know me well, let me explain to you that I have extreme social anxiety. I’m doing better with it lately, but regardless I was honestly shaking with cold sweats.
It’s funny how you can come to find what you are truly passionate about when you are faced with something so scary. Through this experience I have learned that I am really and truly passionate about chanting, because I managed to put those feelings of impending vomit and fainting to the side, due to how badly I felt the need to perform the chant. I began with the traditional opening of “sadgurunath maharaj ki jai”, and then went through all five stanzas of the chant in Sanskrit clearly, without faltering. I felt so much lighter afterward. So much happier. So, hi. My name is Katherine, and I am a devotional chant nerd.
This chant in particular is translated to English to read as though we are worshipping someone’s sandals…I can see how that seems very odd. The sandals are just a metaphor, though. They represent those of us that have walked the path before us. With this chant we are honoring that path, and its traveler. When I first learned this in class, it resonated with me immediately. Each time I practice this chant, I devote it to someone new that has walked the path of yoga (or life in general) before me. I never run out of people to choose from. I am learning from everyone around me, all the time, and to me that is worth honoring.
So there is my wrap-up of my latest YTT weekend. The usual tear-shedding, but thankfully no embarrassing loss of consciousness episodes to speak of. I have only 3 weekends left (1 next month and 2 in May) and I’m excited to finish, but also trying to properly savor my time in this experience while it lasts.