I’ve been practicing yoga for ten years. One of the qualities that I most enjoyed about the first years of yoga was that I had no goals around my practice except to simply show up. It was wildly refreshing to be goalless in some part of my life. That in itself lowered my shoulders at least two inches.
Without even noticing it, my practice began to transform me. I can’t say when or exactly how, but the first time the transformation surfaced I was sitting with a group of business colleagues who were asking me to consider moving my residence to another part of the state. Seeing my hesitation they asked what was my greatest concern. Without getting my guard up in time to filter my response I said, “finding a good yoga teacher.” It wasn’t what I expected to say and definitely not what they expected to hear. Now my eyes were open to this emerging transformation and I was interested in it. I agreed to the move and, indeed, found an amazing yoga teacher.
Rolling forward some years later in my continuing yoga practice I learned about the 40 Days to Personal Revolution program designed by Baron Baptiste and offered at my studio at the time. The commitment to daily asana practice wasn’t a stretch for me. I was aware of the bigger picture eight-limb path of yoga and was interested in learning and experiencing these other aspects of the practice, like meditation. It was in this 40 Days program and specifically the meditation practice that I first learned the term, “observing without judgment.” As I sat in meditation waiting for stillness to arrive and my mind was going over my goals for the day, I was told not to be discouraged, rather “observe without judgment.” This was such a foreign concept for me. Making judgment is what I do, what I am trained to do, what I am paid to do. So, I was very intrigued with this new notion. Even if I couldn’t do it I was intrigued with trying, and trying, and meditating, and trying.
Fast forward to today, I’m part of an amazing group of twenty students in the Teacher Training program at Be Luminous. I was interested in being part of this training as a means to deepen my own practice. And deepening it is. We spend 35 hours together over a four- day period each month. We practice together, meditate together, teach and assist each other, learn anatomy, and immerse ourselves fully in learning about the eight-limb path. Maybe the greatest learning is about us. We learn about ourselves by observing each other. It’s intense. Uncomfortable sometimes. Can’t hide because you’re looking in the mirror. Observing without judgment. Definitely deepening.
I think I just figured out that watching my yoga practice over the years is my model of observing without judgment. I set out goalless and flowed where the practice took me. I was not aware of a path, only the desire to keep walking. I was not aware of results, just wanting to keep learning. I wonder if the absence of judgment lies in effortlessness. Maybe just stop trying.
“When the pupil is ready the teacher appears.” Yogi Ramacharaka
Toni Aspin is a private consultant guiding organizations and individuals to create and implement strategic plans.