27 Dec Yoga Enlightenment or Entitlement?

As I pause for a second and look back at my yoga journey, it all seems to have happened as fast as a lightning bolt. To think three years ago I dressed up from head to toe with glistening wax to slick my hair, wearing a funky shirt with tailored jacket, fierce pants and flashy shoes, carrying my Tumi bag running across skyscrapers in the city between Jakarta, Bali and Bangkok. I was working as a creative director and teacher for a design and lifestyle institution where image that you see on the surface is basically, pretty much everything!

However, as much as I love fashion and style, there are things that made me feel like a misfit in this society. Perhaps I just don’t like being categorized in just one box, or all this artificiality, air kisses on the cheek, image consciousness, judgements and barometer of success based on what’s the latest handbag you sway is not something I buy into.

Two years ago, when I started doing yoga, I found a new light. Okay, let’s not sugarcoat it, at first I was attracted by the form of poses –asanas. I saw it as an art. Every time I learned and mastered new tricks I got excited – my creative outlet was Instagram. I feel no shame today; social media is one of the most effective platforms yogis can use to share their progress (as well as aesthetic) from their practices. It is a way to express how dedicated they are to their practice, how unique their style is, how wise their quoted words are, to show off their hot bodies wearing those tight yoga attire, or to use it as a marketing tool to promote their career and get recognition. I enjoy the variety of expressions you can see these days that pay tribute to something as ancient as Yoga.

The more I share my practice and teach, I develop new perspectives on life. I accept myself more each day and become less involved in other people’s business. I value the truth, peace, and non-violence in my actions. I find yoga in all sorts of forms of regular life, whether you are gardening, solving a puzzle, or watching TV – when you have a clear state of mind, being present and blissful, it is Yoga! I feel like a peeled onion, layer by layer I shed my cloaks and discover new things each time.

My carefree and delicate baby steps into the yoga world has been stumbled by the static and tough exteriors of certain yogis I’ve met. Why? I keep asking myself: They seem to be in another world, making it almost inaccessible by being unapproachable. Once I was ‘privileged’ enough to be introduced to a Western Kundalini Guru in Ubud. He refused to shake my hand as I reached mine out to greet him. He just placed his hands in front of his chest and blandly said; “Namaste.” I wonder if the image some yogis portray is an expression of enlightenment or entitlement? I am still curious to know what that guru was thinking.

That was until the day someone, that had practiced yoga for many years, told me that I shouldn’t be wearing my bowler hat or my stretch short when I step in to a yoga place. “Because it’s not yogi” that person said.

That statement hit me quite hard honestly, I didn’t expect that – it felt like I was back in the artificial world of my boyhood! I thought yoga was the place where you don’t judge, or label, especially with one’s physical appearance. I am a yogi, a practitioner, I don’t have any tattoo nor piercing or long hair, neither did I chant nor quote wise words. Do I feel different from those who have and do this? Of course! But as a rebel and as wrong as I am, I will not judge, suggest, or comment on others about what they should and should not do with their own way of life.

That’s the beauty of yoga I can relate to, it’s not just about the non-judgment, the presence, the wellness, the philosophy, the creativity, the beautiful Instagram pictures (whatsoever)! It is the practice on a day to day basis to have that neutral ground where you can stand and be in the present moment being true to yourself and share this space with a diversity of souls – without putting your ego and judgment above anyone else’s.

I admit I used to be a little judgmental back in my big city boy era, I felt so unhappy. My circle was all about judging others, but unconsciously I always thought “Who the hell do I think I am to judge other people? I am not a saint myself either!” I then realized when I focused on judging others, my ego got triggered by this high level of superiority, uncertainty and insecurity. Once I saw this, I had less interest in judging, gossiping, and getting angry or pissed when I hear unpleasant remarks about me. It was like picking out a clog of rubbish from a gutter to allow the water to flow freely again.

So, despite being labeled as a “non-yogi” for what I wear, my bowler hat and short will remain. No matter in which community you’re in -even among the yogis, people judge. It is just in our DNA. But how long are you going to lather or let it out is totally up to you! We instead should cherish our differences, celebrate everyone’s uniqueness. No one is the same as YOU. Have you actually realized how great that fact is as oppose to pushing your point of view to create a box of what’s yoga and what’s not?

By Diaz Chairullah