Motives and Motivations
I hope this email finds you well, in good spirit, taking life's ebbs and flows with some lightness in the heart and a Mona Lisa smile ;-)
I got lots to share with you this month so if you have a few minutes and feel like it scroll down and check it out!
To continue from last month's topic, I wanted to share some thoughts with you about the role of ambition, particularly for those of us who try to live a more mindful conscious life whether through yoga or any other contemplative practice.
Like many others I used to have strong ambitions. I went to film school in my early 20s and wanted very badly to become a filmmaker. My goals were very particular, I knew exactly what kind of films I wanted to make and what kind of director I wanted to be. I fantasized about what my life will be like when i achieve all these goals. At the same time, in the subconscious background, I was creating an identity wrapped around this ambition that kept requiring feeding. Naturally, I was experiencing failures and challenges, both on an internal level (creative blocks, anxiety, insecurity..) as well as on an external level (rejection, criticism, irrelevance..). I also experienced a few instances of success which were quite disappointing because they lasted very shortly without any meaningful sense of fulfilment and usually led to bigger expectations of further success.
It took a few years to realize that this pursuit felt like constantly carrying a heavy load that keeps on tangling around my neck. It wasn't the drive to make films that caused the ongoing distress I was feeling, it was just a symptom. The actual process of making a film was very joyous and fun, and yet it was causing me a lot of suffering. I wondered why that was and started looking into that. I had to search deep under the hood.
If we are driven to achieve only for money, temporary pleasure, validation, respect, status, or any other form of narrow self interest then we may find ourselves in an identity crisis, experiencing anxiety, distress, burn-out, depression, things that many people experience all over the world. Most of us can really feel the negative impacts of nurturing harmful ambitions for long periods of time, very often substances or other forms of distraction are used to to be able to sustain this.
I know this sounds very harsh, almost like I am preaching against ambition and self-drive, but that cannot be further from the truth!
To simply put it, without any form of ambition we would never get anything done, we'd be unproductive and won't contribute anything to anyone, including ourselves. This will definitely lead to an unhappy life empty of meaning. There is no way to make any progress in anything (including yoga) without some amount of motivation and driving force. However, the source of motivation is very important, particularly if we want to maximize our potential to live with peace, harmony and happiness. That motivation has to be strong enough to last so that progress can be made over a sustained period of time and lead to a worthwhile outcome. Yoga texts discuss this matter in-depth and offer different solutions and ideas on how and where to find a constructive source of motivation. We can use these ideas in every pursuit in our life, and use yoga practice to develop them within us.
Yoga practice can feel at times like teeth brushing, a mundane activity that is done automatically just for the sake of maintenance and hygiene (In yoga's case mental hygiene). This can become very stale very fast. Yoga can also be a hobby, something we do once in a while for fun, self-improvement, or to release some stress. This is definitely helpful but can also lead to missing out on a lot of what yoga has to offer.
In India people practice yoga with devotion in their heart, offering the practice as a form of sacrifice to a divine entity of choice. This is very effective and seems to be a motivation that is sustainable and has very few negative consequences.
Someone like me who is a non-believer in divinity had to find a source of motivation elsewhere..
This is what I found as the most useful motive for stepping on my mat everyday and doing an effective practice - for me yoga is both an act of self-healing as well as an act of giving service to others.
Yoga is a wonderful form of preventative therapeutic modality, leading to health and wellbeing on all levels and potentially to a profoundly fulfilling life with a minimum amount of pain and suffering. The problem is that on its own this can easily turn into a selfish endeavor with potential downfalls. One can develop harmful patterns such as attachment to yoga itself, or certain beliefs or dogmas that can become rigid and harsh. It is easy to turn yoga into another form of conventional self serving pursuit.
The missing ingredient is the selfless intention, the aspiration to transform ourselves into more peaceful, compassionate and kind beings so that we can share our radiance with others, offering a presence that nourishes and heals. Achieving this kind of presence requires practice, it requires us to do the difficult inner work and start coming out of habitual patterns of suffering. It takes self-healing to inspire others to start their own healing process.
For me, practicing yoga with these intentions has a profound impact on the quality of the practice and its outcome, and it makes it a lifetime project that keeps evolving.
Looking forward to sharing the wonders of yoga with you!
With love and gratitude
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