Last week I bought a new NutriBullet to replace the old one I had used, and abused, for years making smoothies and green drinks. Unpacking this new NutriBullet, which looked and operated a little different than my old one, I started to read the user guide which came with it. This guide not only contained “important safeguards” but also assembly and use instructions, care and maintenance directives, and a few delicious recipes as well. I stored these instructions in my household file where I have quite a few other user manuals — for the oven, refrigerator, dishwasher, barbecue, food processor, etc.
I was having a little argument this morning with my husband (about what I should or should not have said to my daughter) and I thought about this user manual. Why isn’t there a user guide for relationships? Why didn’t he come with an instruction manual when we got married? More than that, why didn’t my babies come with a user guide when I took them home from the hospital as a new mother? Or, when they started to talk back, get attitudes, roll eyes and became teenagers? What about relationships with friends and relatives? Why aren’t there “important safeguards” written somewhere, as well as care and maintenance guidelines for those? It can be overwhelming not knowing the way and having to learn everything ourselves, often thinking we should have known better after making mistakes in “use and maintenance”. Yet, how were we to know without a user manual of some sort? Unlike the machines and devices we have come to rely upon, we ourselves (as well as our spouses, children, relatives or any other human relationship) do not come with instruction manual.
Those of you that practice yoga, and I know it’s most of you if you are reading my Sunday thoughts, do have such a manual! That user guide is our yoga practice. This practice, and the philosophy behind it, offer us many “important safeguards” as well as use, care and maintenance lessons about ourselves, our relationships with others, and our relationship with the universe. The methods and practices of yoga developed over the past 5000 years (or more) all have one purpose — a desire to learn more about ourselves and our relationships with others and the universe. Yoga is the classic “instruction manual”. The ancient texts, from The Bhagavad Gita to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali to more modern Tantric yoga teachings, set forth guidelines to living a happy life with ourselves and in our relationships. There are limbs and tenets that make up this so-called instruction manual, from the moral considerations and conducts of behavior about being kind, truthful, honest, non-attached, and finding the moderate path, to being clean, pure, content, focused, and balanced. The instruction manual says to follow these instructions now, as in always and continually without interruption, and when we do that — along with focused awareness and mindfulness, as well as a physical practice that helps us stay healthy for ourselves and our loved ones — we will find peace and happiness. Of course, we know there will be mistakes and misadventures along the way because this life is a learning process and, as much as we want guidelines to help us navigate it, we need to learn from the journey (which is more important than the destination).
As a matter of fact, one of those directions offered to us in the Sutras is self-study and self–discovery. It is through this self-study, through the journey of life, that we create our own instruction manual, some of which we can pass down to our children and share with our friends and family. Yet, through this discovery process, we come to know we are all different and we each have to experience life for ourselves and to the fullest to find our own life’s path and happiness. There is no such thing as a user guide to life but you can allow your yoga practice and progress to help guide you through this life, learning lessons along the way and developing your own instruction manual. And, even when you think you’ve discovered that illusive “user guide”, know that life is always changing and we are all works in progress with so many more lessons and instructions to learn. That’s the journey of a well-lived life!!
Enjoy discovering your own instruction manual. Hope to see you on your mat this week in any of our in-studio and online classes where you can continue to explore your own user guide.
As always, thanks for reading my musings. Namaste, Leslie