“Dear Mr Leonard Cohen,
What inspires you to write‘the song "Hallelujah"?
Later that same winter day the reply arrived: “I wanted to stand with those who clearly see G-d’s holy broken world for what it is, and still find the courage or the heart to praise it. You don’t always get what you want. You’re not always up for the challenge. But in this case — it was given to me. For which I am deeply grateful.”
From My Friend Leonard Cohen: Darkness and Praise, NY Times
I have been in the Blue Mountains now for more than a month... Moving from the familiarity and warmth of Asia to a new terrain, climate, culture, history, rhythm of life, not to mention the changes in lifestyle, social relationships, even the mode of transportations. All have been both exhilarating and painfully jarring for my mind to adjust. As a self-professed seasoned traveler, I thought I was well setup for this big move - mentally, emotionally. The physical acclimatisation is just a matter of time. Well, much to my own surprise (and demise), the transition has been harder than I thought.
Starting with the never-ending feat to NOT be cold, I also miss the openness of an international community of like-minded friends, the ease of hopping onto a motorbike for a yummy hot bowl of Khao Soi, the affordability of a laid-back lifestyle, the friendliness of the Thai people, and the list goes on... Even though I've always embraced solitude, I have somehow lost myself in a deep sense of loneliness, cut off from the familiarity of things, places, and experiences that I could usually turn to when I needed a refuge. I found myself confronted by an unsettling discomfort, as my deep seated attachments and conditioning started to reveal themselves in words, behaviour, mood swings… I projected my ideas on the way things should be, how people should think or act. My mind came to a juncture where I could no longer run away from the fundamental question - of whether I am ready for this change, digging deeper into decades of upbringing and neurosis. Can I truly let go of the way I had been seeing the world, everything that I have identified with the person that I am, the roles that I play in my life, the things that were supposed to make me happy / content? Can I release my clinging to "everything will be just fine if I just have this or do that…"? When I realised that my routine of nature walks and yoga practice have now become means of distractions from having to deal with the constant nagging restlessness . I had no choice but to own up to myself.
There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in… ~ Leonard Cohen
From "Anthem", Leonard Cohen
What happens when there is too much light? Can I just close my eyes, shut out the light, and stay in the pretend darkness?
Recently a student asked me, why, after she has decidedly, consciously, chosen a more peaceful lifestyle to live without strife, to practice yoga and surround herself with "Sattvic" (balanced) activities, is there still so much suffering to deal with?
As a yoga practitioner, a "conscious being", aren't we awakened to a higher consciousness to be in bliss and equanimity all the time? Why are we still hurting from things not being the way they SHOULD BE? Why are there still so many consequences to bear?
I know now that every ounce of pain is a projection of the perspective my mind / ego has chosen to take. The key word is "chosen".
The cracks = the SHOULD BE's that our mind attach to, they give form to how we subsequently perceive people, things, phenomenas. We have these pre-formulated pictures of what reality should be, what the future should bring, how people should behave, even how we should react... And when the "Reality" of these can't quite come up to scratch, we contract - into sadness, anger, frustration, blame and fear. Disconnected, disillusioned, disappointed, we get wrapped up into the drama of our storylines, which for some lucky "awakened" ones they now also include the dilemma and conviction that we "shouldn't" be "attached, angry, confused, sad , because we should be able to practice what we preach (on awareness, non-attachment, chit ananda or blissful consciousness).
It becomes a vicious cycle - the more we ask ourselves to be "aware", the more we we lose grasp on the context of truth. We become ever more entangled into our web of emotions we can't run away from. We put people into boxes and we label them as being fair or unfair, good or bad, nice or annoying... We forget that no one owes us a living, and get this - no one is responsible for our happiness / peace of mind / contentment. How we react / respond to the actions of others is our karma, and what other people say or do are their own. There is nothing and no one to fix, not even ourselves. There is only awareness, to be present with it all, light and darkness, broken and perfect.
When we treat yoga, meditation, engaging in "mindfulness" activities as ways to postpone the tenderness of our broken heart, instead of seeking the truth, they are no different to turning to people, food, drinks, other pastimes or substances... As long as we treat any types of "therapy" as a form of escape then what matters isn't the activity (Sattvic or otherwise), but the intention.
Are we putting a blindfold on to block out the light?
To transcend suffering into grace is to step deeper into inquiry, into the infinite web of all that is manifesting in this moment of reality, even if it's not what we thought it should be. To see this broken being in its beauty and perfection beneath the stark light, pure and unfiltered...
May we have the serenity (and patience) to stop resisting change.
May we have the courage "suck it up" and keep walking our talk.
May we have the wisdom to not fix the cracks, so we don't lose the light.
I don't consider myself a pessimist. I think of a pessimist as someone who is waiting for it to rain. And I feel soaked to the skin ~ Leonard Cohen
Registered Yoga Therapist, Somatic Movement Educator, Bodyworker, Yoga Teacher Trainer