I’m at the tail-end of an unplanned three-day health and wellness jaunt.
It all began on Saturday when I went for a first consultation with an acupuncturist. After giving her my health history, and she looked at my tongue and felt my pulse, she deduced me as being: Sensitive. In need of balance (seems typical for all diabetics) And a worrier. I’d say she’s right on all counts.
Here’s the clincher: She told me to relax more. I don’t know about you, but telling me to relax stresses me out!
So feeling a pressing need to relax, I was inspired to go to a stress reduction yoga class on Sunday at the Princeton Center for Yoga and Health. Gentle yoga poses with breathing and meditation.
Our instructor began the class with a story of how yoga permeated into his everyday life just the day before: “I went to Howell Living History Farm with my son,” He told us, “I was drinking a cup of tea with honey on my way there and thinking about how that cup of tea had to be just about the best cup of tea I’d ever had.
When we arrived at the farm, my son and I were walking on the path. I was in my sandals, and a bee stung my foot! I sat there for a moment, amazed, and realized that this is a real lesson in non-judgment.”
I didn’t quite get his statement at first. The experience sounded more like karma, or irony, to me.
He continued, “Everyone’s yoga experience is different. Practice with non-judgment. Keep your eyes shut, and experience your yoga from within.”
Again, I didn’t quite get it. I mean, I do get that I shouldn’t judge myself or others. I’ve meditated before, and learned the lessons of non-judgment before as well. But the bee, the honey, yoga, huh? How exactly is this reducing my stress? And how am I supposed to do yoga with my eyes shut???
We began by breathing in cross-legged stance, stretching arms up, to the side, and back. I was more focused on the pain I was feeling in my hip though. Twisting and turning. To the side. To the back. Breathing up and down. I had to stretch my legs. My hip was killing me.
I opened my eyes to see if the instructor noticed. His eyes were closed as he instructed us to raise our arms overhead and stretch. I couldn’t help but look at the people around me. So flexible. Able to twist and turn much deeper than me, bend down further, balance stronger.
And there it was. I judged. Myself and others. Good or bad. Anticipating others judging me as well.
I closed my eyes again. I am aware. Breathing. Twisting. Turning. Raising arms. Stretching. After about ten minutes, I realized that the pain in my left hip had dissolved away. I smiled from within as I noticed the change.
As we segued into standing poses and inversions, bending over with the blood rushing to my head, viewing the world from upside down, I let out a big internal epiphany: Oh, I get it! The bee!
Our instructor judged the tea as being the best he’d ever had. And then sure enough, something bad happened. He was stung by a bee. I had forgotten that judging things as good or even the best is, well, also a form of judgment. So the Universe showed him, miraculously enough through a bee, that nothing on this planet is either good or bad. Everything is just that. What it is. Nothing is permanent. Everything changes.
“Judgment is external. Forget the external world. Focus on your body within.”
The ego-driven, external world judges. Black or white. Right or wrong. But really few things in this world are black or white. Our true selves, our essence, where everything is truly perfect, comes from within us, and when we are attuned to it, life flows.
I left yoga feeling exhilarated, at peace, and yes, less stressed out. A bit of yoga and meditation goes a long way in relieving stress. But really, feeling inspired to live each moment without judgment helps me relax. With that state of mind, I’m not trying to prove anything, no comparisons, or striving toward perfection. Instead, I’m just learning to live life from my true self.