For me, yoga is all about the art of the possible. But often we stop because we aren’t able to “achieve” or do the things that we think we ‘should’ do.
You sit cross-legged and start to meditate. It lasts a minute. Your mind is brimming with thoughts and feelings. You practice an asana – say uttanasa (folding forward from hips pose). You find you can barely reach your knees let alone the floor with your finger tips. You try to follow your breathing – inhaling and exhaling normally but simply observing your breath. Your mind jumps in with a “to do” list. You pick up the Bhagavad Gita to start to read it, but your eyes glaze over and you would prefer a cup of tea.
There is a tendency amongst us all perhaps, to berate ourselves for not meditating for 20 minutes, or touching our toes in uttanasa. To tell ourselves off for thinking about everything other than our breath observation or not finishing the first few verses of the bhagavad gita.
The same can apply to so many things. But maybe we are looking at this the wrong way round. Maybe rather than thinking about the outcome or result – we should be considering what is possible – the possibility. This seems much more liberating and empowering. And after all, we have to start with everything somewhere. So why not start with a question: “what is possible if I do this?”
My thinking about the art of the possible stretches back some forty years when I was on holiday as a teenager with my family. We were on a sandy beach in France. It’s called Sables d’Olonne. The clue is in the word ‘Sables’. It means sandy. the tourist board describe the beach there as being 3 kilometres of pure, fine sand. Ideal for sunbathing and frolicking in the sea.
While my family set up for a day of sunbathing, I prepared to go fossil hunting, despite people around me suggesting that this was not an ideal fossil hunting place. But I loved fossil hunting, and it seemed to me to be a good excuse to be walking in nature, by the sea and finding relics from millions of years ago. I was fascinated with geology and nature generally so this felt like a good thing to do. It still does, and if I am on a shoreline I will still wonder off to look for fossils and other relics.
After walking for about half an hour, I was astonished to find an ammonite lying on the sand. I looked around. There were no other rocks or cliff faces around me. I picked it up, and in a state of wonderment, walked back to my family to show them. It is fair to say, that they and others were astonished too.
The ammonite which is pictured here, has stayed with me ever since. It is solid proof that anything is possible.
The art of the possible only requires three things: an openness to anything being possible, a desire to explore and investigate, and a natural curiosity.
Thinking about yoga (or anything really), if you are aware of the possibility – the minute meditating is a start, the forward bend as far as you can go is a move in the right direction, observing your breath has to begin somewhere and well, at least you opened the Bhagavad Gita and read the first verse.
There is another thing that helps open up possibility and that is making a start. Turning up or taking a step and moving forward, are both starting points. When you make an effort or start to – anything is possible. With a sense of openness, curiosity and a desire to explore added to that initial start – anything is possible – in yoga, fossil hunting, or in life more generally.