The creation myths of the yoga tradition paint a potent picture of our universe and our place within it. Woven into the stories are the very qualities of human life as we know it and clues as to how to navigate our place in this complex world of difference, of relationship, of desire, chaos, and the privilege of enacting goodness in a world that is anything but.
In the tradition the universe is created out of a singularity that wishes to experience more than itself. This singularity containing within itself all of the possibilities that could ever be begins a vast unfolding out of desire for more, for difference; because its only in difference that we can engage in relationships of meaning, for as my teacher Dr. Douglas Brooks says "we don't love a mirror."
And so the singularity begins to break apart into a multiplicity, undergoing an experience of itself.
Without turning this into a lesson in the creation myths of yoga, suffice to say that this creation requires something. It requires sacrifice, it requires ardor, tapas, fervor, and turning up the heat.
It requires destruction of what was as all creation does.
And from the stress, the destruction, the fervor, and the sacrifice something refined, beautiful, compelling, conflicted, and chaotic emerges.
Something worth having. Something that will require something of us.
This is life isn't it?
Beautiful, compelling, conflicted, chaotic,* and requiring something of us? A sacrifice, a willingness to destroy old paradigms in favor of creating something more.
The most beautiful souls that I know, that are bringing the most light and beauty into the world have been in the wine press of life. They have been pressed from all sides, they have come out of destruction holding within them a refined fire of courage and grace.
Burnished into the shining ones through their own sacrifice, their willingness, and their deep commitment to being brave in their hearts in a world that would ask them to harden and to hide.
This past week I attended a wine dinner from a vineyard in Argentina. The woman leading the dinner shared something that struck my heart deeply and is so demonstrative of why we must welcome the ardor, the trials, the shaking, if we wish to also invite the burnishing, the the growth, the creation, and the courage.
When the winery first expanded into Argentina to begin producing malbec wines, the farmers planted in an area flush with water and rich soil.
As one would expect the vines thrived, the grapes were large, vibrant in color, and the fruit plentiful.
The wine-makers were thrilled. Surely this wine would be bursting with flavor having come from grapes like these. So perfect and beautiful, untouched by spoil or harm.
But they weren't bursting with flavor. They were flat. The wine produced tasted watered down and flavorless.
They moved the vineyard, they grew vines in an area where the earth was less forgiving and the water less available. They produced vines with less leaves and smaller berries.
It was magnificent. Full of life, rich and fragrant.
Stressed vines produce better fruit.
They concentrate all of their resources, minerals, and nutrients into the few berries they produce and those berries are magic, those berries have something to give.
The vines need the stress to produce. The stress causes the vines to concentrate their resources and to produce something worth having.
And we are like this too.
We need the stress. We need to be pressed. We need the opportunity to be brave, to stand in courage, to be tested and to find out what really matters so we can place our attention and our efforts there, in things that are less finite, that fulfill our soul's call, and bring goodness into the world.
When I look back over the span of my life at all of the painful and traumatic moments, at the heartbreaks from which I thought I would never mend, at the sacrifices I made for what I believed in, at the trials I learned to stand through, at the moments I chose courage and a brave heart over hiding or shying away, what I see now are the moments I was able to do my best work. I see the moments that I learned to refine my vision. I see the places in my path where on the other side of the stress I was able to walk with a little more grace, a little more patience, and a little more compassion.
I see moments of pressure where I learned to press back with just a little more peace. I find art, poetry, music, teachings that flowed through me, and an increased capacity to serve.
I remember in bible school as a child a passage (from which book I can't recall) beckoning us to "count it all joy" when we encounter trials, knowing it produces patience and that when we allow this patience to complete its perfect work in us we gain the jewel of wisdom.
I have found this to be true. I have found that when I relax into what is, press back with peace, and allow myself to be in the knowledge that this too is impermanent, I'm gifted with new wisdom, granted new opportunities to practice grace, and I walk away bearing good fruit.
Fruit filled with love, kindness, tenacity, and bravery.
Early in my spiritual path I was looking for a way out of pain and trials. Not recognizing that often I was exactly where I should be and getting exactly the medicine I needed.
I thought that when you were good enough, did enough, reached some spiritual height that the trials would cease, good vibes only, and everything sweet would be drawn to me.
That's just not how it works. Life is chaotic. Uncontrollable, wild, and unpredictable. Man plans and God laughs as the saying goes.
I've come to accept that love will always be accompanied by a measure of grief, that trials will always come, that disappointment will happen, and sorrow will never permanently end.
And in that has come such sweet freedom.
It allows for alignment with what is.
It gives me the space to face my challenges with my palms open wide, my heart on, and the volume turned up on my internal peace and contentment.
I have not escaped suffering but I am fortified. And I rarely ask why. It's such a boring question and always in the past. Acceptance of the trials and stress of life has given me opportunity to produce good fruit through better questions like "how and what can I be now that I couldn't at any other moment" and to concentrate my efforts there.
Like the vines.
I do not seek pain or stress, but I don't run from it either. It is all my teacher and my opportunity to create something beautiful.
Because this is life...conflicted, chaotic, competitive, and oh so beautifully compelling. It is all of these things. And maybe we are too.
How do you face life's inevitable challenges with grace and willingness?
*Thank you to my teacher Dr. Douglas Brooks for sharing your knowledge with me. The early portion of this piece contains bits of wisdom gained in his Sri Vidya courses on the early yoga tradition. Endlessly grateful. It is here I learned about these qualities of the universe, bits I probably wouldn't have drawn from the texts in my own private study. To learn more visit Rajanka