Evolve, from the Latin evolvere “to unroll, roll out, roll forth, unfold.” It’s what we do. Here, embodied, we roll, on this planet of ours around the Sun. We roll from one day into the next, one phase of life to another. Our lives unfold before us.
I think we assume that there is a progression, improvement even, implied in the term “evolve” but maybe we’re not always sure that’s what’s happening. I get it. Especially when those same old, seemingly unhelpful habits persist, it’s hard to see that we’re gaining much ground.
The Yoga Sutras tell us that our primary obstacle is avidya – not seeing. A favorite translator of mine, Nischala Joy Devi, calls this “innocence.” I’ve also seen it referred to as “ignorance.” Just yesterday a client and I were talking about having our “heads in the sand.” I think we’re all aware that this is part of the process. Sometimes (usually?) it’s more obvious when we see it from a distance.
To practice yoga is to practice paying attention to how things are connected. We see more clearly when we look more closely.
When we look more closely at the alignment of our hips or the movement of our breath, we see more clearly where there is (and has) been effort and where there is ease. With our sustained attention, we gain the ability to direct our energy towards what is most important.
Skillful action is the result of yoga practice, the practice of paying attention.
The Sutras also tell us that as we evolve, as our life unfolds before us, we can avoid future suffering. We can use our awareness to extract the wisdom from our experience. (Sidenote… we won’t be able to completely avoid pain.) It’s the “not seeing”pain as an integral part of the experience that often leads to suffering. We often get pre-occupied with thoughts of what would be better. We miss the chance to see what is actually right here.
The structure of our practice gives us the support that we need to see more clearly. It’s like putting on a pair of reading glasses. At Yoga for Mental Health we practice feeling the edge of what’s possible in our bodies as we stretch and sit and stand in unfamiliar ways (which of course, get more familiar as our practice evolves.) We also practice listening, both to our own thoughts and each other’s stories. This is especially true in our Evolve Monthly Mindfulness groups.
We see our life and practice rolling… in motion. We see ourselves more clearly. We see, feel, hear and sense our pain and our potential. What is most important, most beloved, and most threatening becomes more obvious. With the support of a witness, be it a therapist, a friend, or a group of likeminded practitioners, we become more real. Our process becomes more well defined. Our compassion grows as we realize just how difficult it can be… for ourselves and each other. We also realize how fun it can be and how inspiring and beautiful it is. We realize just how free we can be! We practice on behalf of all beings.