Published Jan 18, 09 AM
By Kris Nelson
As we pulled away from my grandparents’ house on Christmas my fiancée, Leah, looked at me and said, “I have a few more ideas about why you’re totally fucked up.”
We had just left my jovial, beautiful, and dysfunctional family’s Christmas get-off-get-down. Walking out, my now-sober aunt—crowned “Playmate of the Year” in 1984—and my intoxicated 23-year-old cousin were rolling around on the floor screaming while another aunt took pictures to post on Facebook. “That makes sense,” I said to Leah. It makes complete sense.
Tenured with just three posts at recoveringyogi.com, you may sense a few things about me that are probably fairly accurate: 1) I have an attitude problem, 2) I love attention, and 3) I am possibly a borderline narcissist. Which makes sense, no doubt. I am a recovering yogi.
Yoga makes a compelling promise: You’re going to change. You’re going to evolve. You’re going to grow.
And yet, so many leave frustrated, angry, and disillusioned—kind of like the coming-of-age Christian suddenly realizing that maybe their church’s view of reality is skewed and that the promised compassion and forgiveness is actually, in many cases, really judgment and hypocrisy.
Yoga makes a point and has a purpose. In the simplest of terms: you feel bad now, and there’s the path to feeling better. It’s an opiate for the masses dating back to before the time of pharmaceutical opiates and pre-established marketable masses. And though there is continuous scholarly debate, most of us can agree that yoga is at least really fucking old. People felt bad a long time ago, and people still feel bad. Damn this human condition!
Yoga is a successful product. It palliates a need almost everyone shares and most never attain–the release from suffering. Patanjali was smart! And, no matter yoga’s particular brand or style—be it a school of discipline and subjugation or a practice of accepting, inclusive tantra—there is that basic underlying personal challenge at its heart: I am not okay and I want to be okay.
And so we have created thousands of years of techniques, changes, and practices for change (or, at least, practices by which we pretend to change).
In the West it’s more obvious that we are desperately trying to change who we are. No one in their right mind wears Indian clothes because they’re attractive or takes on a Sanskrit name because it makes sense. In the East it’s perhaps more subtle, given that the practices evolved in the context of native cultures. But, no matter the culture, the following is true: my ego suffers and I want it be different. Yoga!
There is a great, observant saying that has been rendered completely trite and meaningless by refrigerator magnets and tea bags ad nauseum: Our experiences are not as we see them, but are as we are. We project. I project.
I place my dissatisfaction with myself into my yoga practice, and so do countless others. We desperately anticipate yoga’s promise to manifest, and we try desperately hard to appear less fucked up—wearing Indian clothes, using softspoken voices, talking constantly about “manifestation” and “grace,” getting Sanskrit tattoos we can’t even read, buying imported beads off hooks at meditation workshops—all because we are trying desperately hard to no longer suffer. Save me, yoga (formerly known as Jesus).
I can only speak for myself (of course, others are probably just slightly more fucked up than me, or so I tell myself). But I still suffer.
Back to my family, who I love.
My fiancée (she loves both me and my family dearly, and I love her dearly for this), making her simple observation, articulately expressed something deeply true. I am my family. I sometimes drink too much to cope, I act outlandishly to get attention, I am dismissive, I am insecure, and I think I’m great. I also love God dearly and desperately hope to be a better human being one day. I am my family, and I am self-made.
Being human, I project. I throw with reckless abandon all of the dissatisfaction and contempt I have for myself, others, and the world into the promise of change and evolution—and then resent yoga and everyone else for not delivering.
Recovering Yogi is where yoga begins.
Transformation begins the moment you truly, honestly, and daringly take complete responsibility for yourself. Drawing your projected energies and ideas inward you perhaps change, just a little. And, perhaps just a little, the suffering eases—despite yoga.
About Kris Nelson
Kris Nelson is founder and principal at Krama Consulting and Development, Inc. Kris leads workshops internationally on spirituality for the modern world. He lives in Los Angeles where he can be found teaching yoga in jeans to Snoop Dogg.
Find Kris on Twitter.