Yoga blog 05/09/2013
I just watched a TED talk from 2009 by a young Nigerian author, Chimamanda Adichie. The theme of her dissertation was stories. She spoke about how stories, novels, articles, create a particular view, a certain impression in the reader. For instance, being from Nigeria, stories from America gave her a certain impression of life in the United States. When she travelled to the U.S. to attend university, she was continually confronted by the impressions that the people she met had of Africa, because of the stories they had read about how life was there. In Nigeria, there was a single “story” of America, reiterated from all sources to some degree. In America, there was a single story of Africa as it had been presented in the context of American literature and media.
Of course these “single stories” were simplified representations. The single story of America being “the land of the free”. The single story of Africa being “the horrors of war, famine and dictatorship”. Not to mention that Africa is a continent of many nations of many diverse peoples, and how absurd it is that that huge continent is viewed as having a “single story”. How truly impossible that actually is.
Chimamanda Adichie is involved in opening up the many stories of Nigeria by encouraging those diverse stories to be written, published, and sold planetwide. This is how we break out of stereotypes involving ourselves and others on a global scale, not to mention the person to person power of the internet.
As I watched this lecture, I began to realize that as individuals, we often do the exact opposite. As adults, we begin to define ourselves and our reality through a single story, which we make into the pivotal moment of our life. As we focus more and more on this single story, it becomes the reason for who we are, it becomes the story that happened in the past, but that has shaped the present. Soon, we become blind to everything around us, as we can only see our “single story” to the exclusion of everything else that has happened to us, or that we have done. Many happy stories of love and joy are left to fade and wither within the memory, as the “single story”, usually a negative one, envelopes our consciousness, and becomes the scapegoat for all that we dislike about ourselves and the world.
I have survived the “single story” of my own life, and gone from being obsessed with unresolved negativity from the past, to being the ecstatic owner of Now, the blessed enjoyer of the fullness of the present. The Present is a Gift. All we must do is receive it. And yet how can this be done with the terrible story of the Past looming over us, defining who we will be in the future, as well as who we are in this moment? How are we to overcome all the power we have invested in this single story? This story in which we begin as the helpless victim, and grow to become the victim of the story by which we have defined ourselves, limited ourselves, excused ourselves?
Here is one way that we can again take responsibility, quit making excuses, and redefine our past, present, and future. Within the context of the practice of yoga, this is possible. Take up all the divisions you have created within yourself, detach from them by forgiving yourself, and come into the Union which is Yoga. Here is a meditation from Yogi Bhajan to do this in under a minute.
You may at first read feel skeptical, but just give it a try, you may be surprised and delighted by the result. I have used the first meditation to successfully rewrite some of my worst stories, and now when they creep up, I get the rewrite, and it leaves me filled with love and joyful release, rather than bringing the suffering of the past into the present. This selected text comes from Yogi Bhajan’s teachings in the Kundalini yoga manual Physical Wisdom.