Where you come from matters.
But maybe not the way you think it does. If you’re here in the US, you might have a nagging feeling that you can do anything you set your mind to. As a nation, we are deeply susceptible to a collective belief in the American Dream: if you work hard, you can, against all odds, succeed. This would imply that where you come from doesn’t, in the end, matter to your success. If you work hard enough, you will succeed.
I believe that this conceit– that your achievements are yours and yours alone, that you alone determine whether you prosper or don’t– is dangerous to a healthy society. Indeed, no individual can thrive without interaction and cooperation with others, we don’t ever do anything alone, and no accomplishment is born solely on our own merit. We are social creatures, we need each other to grow.
Becoming who you are in any given moment unfolds through your surroundings and relationships. Some of your story will be pure dumb luck (coincidence, chance, universal organization, whatever you want to call it), and, if you believe in free will, some of your story will come through the choices you make.
Sutra 4.2: A change from one state or style of being into another takes place through redirecting energy into that state or style. Translation by Kofi Busia
Where you come from matters. HOW it matters is your story.
Who you are is built on your history, and as such your background can be celebrated and incorporated into your understanding of yourself. Where you choose to direct your energy comes through knowing yourself well enough to know what you need to do to move yourself in the direction you want to go.
Take how you practice yoga, for example.
Your structure determines a great deal of how you should do what physical actions you do. It may even determine whether or not you should be engaging with certain actions at all. Your daily activity and habits (and past activities and habits) influence your soft tissues (muscles, connective tissue, etc). These you can continue to influence through what you do (with or without someone else’s help), and if you want to change their functioning, you can learn what actions to favor and which to avoid to make those changes. Your attitude towards this process of change is likely to effect your progress.
Who you are now, who or what teaches you, what you learn, what you choose to do with the information you have, and how you think about it in your head –are all ways of “redirecting energy” that shape who you are (in this new moment).
Maybe you want to learn meditation because you’ve heard it’s good for you (it is), but you think you wouldn’t be any good at it because you can’t sit still or quiet your mind. But one of your good friends has started meditating and talks about how it’s helping her, so you decide to show up for a class and give it a try. Then you learn from the teacher that being “good” at meditation isn’t innate, and while you may have to exert effort to make it a habit, and this can ask for some patience with the experience, that patience isn’t required and learning to meditate doesn’t necessarily have to be “hard work”.
You learn that if you choose to show up, you can meditate. Your opinion of meditation and of yourself start to change. Pretty soon, you’re the friend who’s experience serves as a catalyst on someone else’s journey to try meditation.
With the help of others, you redirected your energy towards meditation long enough to make a shift.
That is yoga.
Hari om tat sat!
Experience your true self and bring it into every moment of your living!
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are a classical text on yoga–a guidebook of sorts.
Each week, 216 teacher Esther Palmer dives into one of the sutras and we let it take us where it takes us.