About a year ago my dog Rufus was diagnosed with congestive heart failure (CHF). It turns out his heart is way – like WAY – too big (which is so tragically poetic – he is the sweetest doggy you’d ever want to meet). Anyway, apparently having a WAY big physical heart is a very bad thing.
I was told that his CHF could significantly shorten his lifespan and that he would never be cured of his disease. Instead it could be managed with medications. The meds worked wonders in the beginning, but as time passed, his condition worsened. He is now in the final stage of the disease.
Rufus, however is a trooper. He has shocked the veterinary medical community by doing as well as has been for as long as he has. He is still feisty, still happy most of the time and is still the sweetest doggy you’d ever want to meet.
So what exactly does the practice of yoga have to do with this story? Lots! Not for Rufus, but for me. Yoga is more than just exercises on a mat. The very word means, “to yoke”, or to join. One of my favorite teachers, Goswami Kriyananada, said that the purpose of yoga is to remove the root cause of pain and suffering. The root cause of this suffering lives is our busy, over-active, mindful-less, non-intentional minds (he used to call it, the “monkey mind”). The real trick to a yoga practice is to get out of your own head and instead be present, be in tune with, be one with each experience as it occurs. Attaching no judgement, we are charged with seeing things as they are – not how we think they are, not how we wish they were, not how we plan for them to be.
So what on earth does yoga have to do with my sick doggy? The practice of being ultra present with him helps me to see the magnificent being that he is, despite the illness. The illness is just the illness – it is NOT him. Any emotion that I may have around the illness is just the emotion, it is NOT me. When he passes, and I know that will be soon, what will remain is the essence of who he IS and that I got to be a part of his journey. So in the end, we are both blessed.
This is the power of yoga. It is not about how many cool yoga tricks you can do (although some are amazing), or if you can meditate for an hour – it is realizing that the practice of yoga is to remove the root causes of our pain and our suffering. Yes, it starts with the body (the yoga poses), it quiets the mind (relaxation and meditation) and it leads you to a place where you can see the light in even the darkest of places. In other words, you see the truth – just as it is. Nothing more. Nothing less.
I thank God for leading me to this practice. It starts with the poses and if you stick with it and dig a little deeper, something amazing happens. I invite you to continue or even to begin your journey with me as I will be teaching Gentle Yoga Flow in the fall. The link will be available soon.