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I’ve been talking to a lot of people lately who have been telling me their life stories. They tell me of situations that have happened to them that are horrible and horrifying. Rape. Mental illness. Abandonment. Drug addiction. You name it.

And when I hear these stories one of my first thoughts is “Oh my God. If anyone deserves to feel NO joy, its someone who’s gone through this!”.

But as they continue to tell me their journey it almost always ends with….”And NOW life is much better. I found a way to find peace, joy and love again.”

WHAT? Even after rape? Yes even after rape there is peace.

WHAT? Even after suicide attempts? Yes even after suicide attempts there is peace.

WHAT? Even after mental illness and drug addiction? Yes even after mental illness and drug addiction there is peace.

Yoga teaches us that the situations in our lives do not define how we feel about life. That is to say that we can find joy, peace and contentment NO matter what the situation is…if we choose to.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali discusses the 5 kleshas (or obstacles) that keep us in sadness and despair.  Those obstacles are:

  1. Ignorance (avidya).

Ignorance in this context is defined as not knowing who you really are. Meaning, that you don’t fully understand that you are MORE, so much more than a body of flesh and bone. That at your core you are a flawless and faultless being. One that is constantly unfolding through the experiences you have. When you are clear on this, it becomes even more clear that everything that happens to you, that appears to steal your joy is really a helpful servant in your path of knowing your true selves.

  1. Egoism (asmitta).

Life simply isn’t about me, me, me. And that is not to say that you shouldn’t take care of yourself and practice self-love. But what, it think this klesha helps us guard against is taking situations in life personally. When your husband is short with you that doesn’t necessarily mean YOU are the cause of his bad attitude. When the “wrong” politician is elected, that doesn’t mean the country is against you.  When we realize that nothing is personal we give people and situations space to not affect us so deeply.

  1. Attachment (raga).

This is a biggie. And in my mind, yoga is really all about practice and non-attachment. When we attach ourselves to the outcome (which we have no control over) instead of our process we basically set ourselves up to fail. How many times have you become attached to looking a certain way in posture? Or getting your kids to behave a particular way? Only later to realize that you can only do what you can do. And the rest is up to…Grace.

  1. Aversion/hatred (dvesha).

Who do we serve by hating another? What do we gain by hating a situation? Nothing! Just more heartache and grief for ourselves. That is why forgiveness is such a powerful daily practice. Letting go and forgiving the actions of another frees up your energy to receive the best of life. Instead of constantly re-hashing the worst parts.

  1. Fear of Death (abhinivesha).

Let’s face it, our bodies are designed to keep us alive on this physical plane! But there is something inside us all that fears we’ll dissolve at any moment! Fear of death is what makes moms, neglect their children (because they feel they are “dying” in their constant effort to take care of someone else). Fear of death is what makes people, lie cheat and steal. However, yoga philosophy teaches us that there is no death….really. That we are energetic beings and energy (as defined in physics) can neither be created or destroyed.

I know I struggle with more than one of these kleshas on a regular basis. But part of our yoga practice is to help us become aware of the obstacles that block us and keep us stuck in various degrees of unhappiness. Why? So that we can make a new choice and find the peace and joy in life we all deserve.

Here’s to an obstacle-less week mama!


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