I read an article by a young woman named Andi who was sharing why she stopped teaching yoga. You can read the article here but I'm going to give you my take and why it's got my mind percolating. Overall, the practice of yoga comes from a culture not our own and because of that we in North America have taken what we like out of yoga, commercialized it, industrialized it, and thrown away the rest. According to Andi, and this is a view I share, the practice of yoga is just as much a spiritual practice as it is a physical practice. But for many in the Western world it's simply a form of exercise.
I am drawn to this article because in the practice of Reiki I've come to understand far more about why we do what we do in the practice by understanding the culture and the roots that the practice of Reiki comes from. Like yoga, Reiki is not from our culture and is far more of a spiritual practice than simply a healing one. The Western world focuses on and sells the positive side effects of both practices - the physical strength and flexibility of yoga and the healing power of Reiki.
And all of this percolates in my brain because my Western thinking was no different. I started yoga as a form of exercise, though I give thanks for the meditation I learned through yoga. Within three months of learning Reiki I had thrown it out. I was in serious physical pain looking for instant physical healing and what I got from Reiki at that time seemed to be a big fat zero, the pain won! What I missed completely were the spiritual aspects these practices offered.
Why do the spiritual aspects matter? I believe that if you are looking for the deeper meaning in your life or asking yourself what the purpose of your life is perhaps what you are really looking for is a spiritual connection to something greater than yourself. And if you are drawn to something like yoga or Reiki, could it be that you are really looking for more than just exercise or physical healing?
There are many practices that can offer spiritual connection to you. The issue is the work involved to get to the true benefit of the practice, whatever the practice. And while you may never have a full understanding of the culture or times from which a particular practice comes I believe there is great benefit to be found with consistent action. However, it may take some amount of trial in error to find the one that suits you.
I say that because A Course In Miracles (ACIM) is another popular spiritual program based on the teachings of Jesus. It is not a religion. In fact, it is considered a self-study program, but it uses much of the terminology found in the Bible though often with slightly different meanings. I don't know if you've ever read it, or even parts of it, but I found it a very difficult book to read. And even harder to practice! And what about the Buddhist philosophy? At the recommendation of my friend Scott I have read a number of books on the philosophy but also found those difficult to understand. Yet I find nuggets to keep my interest and with his encouragement I keep reading.
The mistake I made, and I think so many people do, is to look outside of themselves for a connection or feeling of purpose. The practice is only a stepping-stone, a means to your inner self, much like the trainer wheels when learning to ride a bike. The Reiki ‘protocol’ as my doctor friend calls it, or ways of doing Reiki, just gives you the tools to access that greater connection. But the connection is made within your heart and mind on a daily, hourly, and by the minute basis. It’s not easy to keep the connection at first but it gets easier once the practice moves into being a habit.
Having read, tried, and let go of many a spiritual practice, I have found one thing they all have in common - the need to be vigilant in how you use your mind. In Reiki it’s the daily practice of training your mind with ‘Just for today’ and goes from there. I don’t have to be Japanese to understand how to manage my thoughts and actions for today only. But I do have to practice it!
While understanding the culture behind a thought system helps bring meaning to the rituals of the practice you can begin without it. I wonder if Andi could open a conversation of the spiritual parts of yoga through her class instead of not teaching at all? In any case, only with consistency will you begin to feel that spiritual connection and experience the deeper meaning of your life.