There are many reasons we practice yoga but they all ultimately funnel us toward the same destination: we’re learning to become who we already are. There are just as many or more reasons we chose to have this particular human experience but they too all point to the same lesson: we’re learning to become who we already are.
Why would we need to learn to become who we already are if we already are it? Doesn’t that seem contradictory and ridiculous? Well, yes, but can you seriously say that being human so far hasn’t been filled with paradoxes and at least an occasional episode of complete absurdity? Imagine you asked one hundred random strangers, let’s say in an airport, who they are beyond their bodies, minds and belief systems and what their purpose is for being here on this planet. I bet at least half of them would look at you like you have three heads and just walk away (they’re too busy, you know). Out of the other half, how many do you think have at least some awareness that they are more than what happens to them and what they accomplish during the dash between their birth and death day? Who, or what, do you honestly think you are?
I shared this story by the great Anthony de Mello with my yogis yesterday:
“A man found an eagle’s egg and put it in a nest of a barnyard hen. The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them. All his life the eagle did what the barnyard chicks did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet into the air.
Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird above him in the cloudless sky. It glided in graceful majesty among the powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat on his strong golden wings. The old eagle looked up in awe. ‘Who’s that?’ he asked. ‘That’s the eagle, the king of the birds,’ said his neighbor. ‘He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth – we’re chickens.’ So the eagle lived and died a chicken, for that’s what he thought he was.”
Suddenly learning to become who we already are makes more sense. The eagle in this story lived and died a chicken because that’s what his BS (belief system) told him he was. What are you living as and will die as? If you follow the BS of the mind, you will live and die as just a human. Which is not bad, but what a waste of potential. And you’ll keep recycling back until you learn to become who you already are. The beautiful thing about learning to become who you already are is you can’t possibly fail because nothing you do or believe can ever change who you are. The only question is, my dear eagle, how long do you want to suffer because you keep mistaking yourself for a chicken?
Yesterday, before I guided my yogis through a practice that peaked with eagle pose, I gave them this “mantra” from the song Aerials by System of a Down (OMG, heavy metal in yoga?!):
“Aerials, in the sky
When you lose small mind
You free your life
Aerials, so up high
When you free your eyes eternal prize”
When I’m stuck in my small mind, when I find myself in the head and not in the heart, which guarantees that I’ll feel like life is against me, I might as well be walking around like a scared and angry chicken, shouting: “You wanna piece of me?!” Every time I wear my silly chicken baseball hat, which I’ve had for years, I’m reminded that in any situation I have two choices: I can blindly live in my head and think I’m a just a messed up human. And no thanks, I’ve been there and done that. The other choice is to drop into my heart to free my eyes and see myself and everything around me as the eternal prize I came here to redeem.