Reading in Yoga

I am experiencing heartbreak today. I am sad, disappointed (in myself and other), and feeling generally like a failure. These tears are purifying me and letting this negativity pass through me. I know that (mind), but I’m trying to know that (heart). I am a sensitive person and easily overwhelmed with emotion sometimes it’s hard to see beyond the rush of feeling. Once I know, the pain is processed through, and my heart speaks up to remind me that I am on the right path, no matter how hard the road seems. ‘Don’t get so attached,’ it tells me. Remember we are all one and here fulfilling sacred contracts. Ok, I say, but for now, I’m going to sit with my sadness and disappointment and cry.

One of the ways my heart guides me is through books. Magically, a book will be presented for me to read (recommended by a friend or I’ll just randomly pick up and open to the “right” page), or a memory from something I’ve read will pop up to soothe my aches. Today I am thinking of Viktor Frankl, not because my pain is anything close to what he experienced (as if there were a pain scale) but more because I need to be reminded of a bigger purpose, a more expanded view of life.

Viktor Frankl was imprisoned in several concentration camps during WW II, Theresienstadt, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Kaufering, and Turkheim. His optimism in the face of unspeakable cruelty, constant abuse, and unimaginable hardship confirm the belief that once an individual finds a meaning for life, then any situation can be endured. He promises that “suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.” Frankl is not suggesting that we suffer unnecessarily–that would be masochistic–rather, we find meaning and purpose in our suffering.

Frankl practiced logotherapy, meaning-centered psychotherapy. The root logos is Greek for “meaning” or “will to meaning.” This therapeutic technique allows an individual to encounter and then reorient one’s life toward that meaning. In other words, once an individual finds his/her dharma, hopelessness and futility fade. Dharma is a Sanskrit word that means the role we are to play in life, our duties to perform. It is one of the four principle aims of human existence as illustrated in the ancient texts of Vedic philosophy. The other aims are artha (prosperity, wealth), kama (pleasure, self-gratification), and moksha (liberation). Dharma is a personal code of conduct that helps us secure our place in society and our path to liberation, and a successful life.

But, as Frankl asserts, “what matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.” This can only be determined by practices of constant self-inquiry and self-reflection. Be mindful of conformism, only performing actions because everyone else is doing it, or doing what other people want you to do (totalitarianism). The only remedy is to offer oneself in service to life. This means performing our actions with heartfelt love, for love itself, rather than any reward or recognition. He reminds us, too, that “human kindness can be found in all groups, even those which as a whole it would be easy to condemn.” We cannot discriminate, but treat everyone with love and respect as we perform our duties. This is the ancient wisdom of Yoga also.

One of the most important steps in discovering our meaning in Yoga is to practice self-inquiry (svadyaya in Sanskrit) and to acknowledge all the wonderful things you have accomplished. Perhaps you could create a “life resume.” What have you done that you are proud of? Then, ask yourself, what is mine to do going forward? You may need to ask this of yourself moment to moment. When confronted by a request of action, ask yourself, is this mine to do? Take a few moments to reflect and answer honestly yes or no. Look back at challenges and your “knee-jerk” responses, are they helpful or harmful? What patterns of behavior do you see in yourself? What patterns of thought?

Healthy mental tension (these acts of self-inquiry and self-dialogue) suspends an individual between what one is and what one is to become moment-by-moment. The confusion of “figuring out” what we are meant to do next is healthy. It helps us improve our discrimination in determining ours and not-ours. Surely, if we try to run from our responsibilities and what is ours to do, the karma will catch up to us sooner or later.

Practice right living, finding the meaning in your life moment to moment. Start by reading the book “Man’s Search for Meaning”…it may provide you with the inspiration that you need. Then maybe you too can remember it during challenging times so that you can be motivated to push on…fulfilling your Divine path and purpose.

         In a word each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible. Viktor Frankl


Leave a Reply