Recently I was set a task for my spiritual development: I was to incorporate the Four Paths of Yoga more fully into my life. Did you know that yoga is much more than postures, breathing and meditation?
Each Soul is potentially divine, and the goal of yoga is to manifest this Divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal.
We can do this either by work (karma yoga), or worship (bhakti yoga), or psychic control (raja yoga) or knowledge (jnana yoga) – by one, or more, or all of these and when we do we shall be free.
Always remember that the bringing forth of Divinity within us is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books are but secondary details.
– Swami Vivekananda
What most of us think of as ‘yoga’ is actually part of Raja Yoga, which is the path of mind control. After all, the main intention of postures or asana in a true yogic sense is to purify and prepare the body for meditation.
But I digress
The concept I was given was to incorporate the four paths of yoga into my life, or in other words, to make my life my yoga practice. The first path I was to work with was Karma Yoga, the yoga of selfless service. My task? When someone asks me to do something, I am to say ‘Sure!’. No attitude, no thoughts or complaining, just ‘Sure!’.
My first thoughts? I’ve got this covered. I’m a mother and a community volunteer. I’ve been in service for a decade. Karma Yoga? No problem.
I didn’t have to wait long for my first opportunity.
“Mum!” said the Fairy Queen. “I can’t find my shoes!” She was standing there, all tousled hair and big eyes glaring expectantly at me. I look at her for a moment, considering.
“So, what would you like me to do?” I asked.
Her little forehead scrunched. “Find my shoes!”
My eyebrows raised. “How do you say that nicely?”
She sighed. “Mum, could you please help me to find my shoes?”
“Sure!” I said easily.
With that simple utterance, I felt perfect ease and acceptance as I located her shoes. I recognised that normally I would be irritated that she had kicked her shoes off without care, impatient that I was being interrupted, rudely at that, and annoyed that I was always the parent asked to do these tasks. I realised in a flash of insight that subjecting myself to these emotions were causing me far more pain than the actual situation warranted. I flash back to my smugness over my Karma yoga practice and cringe a little.
Yes, sure I am a mother and I do a lot of unpaid, unnoticed work every day. Yes, sure I volunteer in my community and expect no payment for my work. But there is more to Karma Yoga than this. It’s about selfless service. Work with no attachment to outcome or recognition. This is about work as service in the spirit of love. It’s the next level, people.
So, yes. Much work to do here
But let me tell you something I noticed as I began to work with service in this way.
People don’t ask for what they want properly.
You may have noticed that I had to encourage the Fairy Queen to convert her complaint into a request for my assistance. She is 5 years old, so obviously I don’t expect her to have her communication skills down pat. But it was the same with my 9 year old son, and the Bear…
I have a friend over, and we’re looking for a place to sit outside where it’s not too hot. We decide to sit on the back verandah, and start to walk towards it.
The Bear: “Or maybe it would be cooler on the front verandah.”
Me: “Would it?” (In a doubtful tone – it’s on the western side of the house on a hot afternoon.)
The Bear: “I want to clean out the gutters so you’ll be in the way here.”
I feel irritated by this exchange. Why didn’t he just say straight out what he wanted? But later it occurs to me that this disability is not just limited to my family – many people do not feel comfortable in asking for what they want.
As you would expect from an opinionated friskette like me, I have some thoughts as to why this would be :
- People don’t know exactly what they want – they only know what the problem is or what they don’t want, therefore framing their request as a complaint.
- There is a vulnerability in asking for what you want. When you ask somebody for help, you are essentially saying: I don’t have everything I need, I am unable to provide it for myself, and I need your help. Not everyone feels comfortable with this.
- There is an assumption that people will know what you want so you don’t need to clearly articulate it. Common in families, it relies on someone interpreting and mind reading what you might want, problematic at best.
Now that I’ve noticed, I’m going to keep an eye on myself to see how I ask for what want. What about you?