I often ask myself this question as I’m on my mat, sweating, sometimes dragging myself through my yoga practice. I wish I could say that I rush to my mat each morning with vigor and enthusiasm, eager to ‘meet’ myself and all that practice forces me to face. To be honest, sometimes I would rather do almost anything else other than show up for practice yet, there I find myself, rolling out my mat, and practicing. In fact, it is precisely those mornings that I’m full up with angst or negativity that I know will end up being the deepest and most healing.
By asking myself the question, “who’s practicing”, I have the opportunity to get some space, out of the way of myself, and of the many grapplings of my ego mind. The inquiry invites me to step away from the present thought or emotion that is taking over the moment and to step back into a space of vast, openness that is untouched by the chaos of my mind. It reminds me of the ground of well-being that is always present, no matter what.
The mind moves towards whatever thoughts, feelings or emotions are present. It’s conditioned to do so. If we stay overly identified with our mind-stuff, the lens we view the world through gets too narrow and tainted by all of the vrittis (movements). If we can remember, in the midst of the chaos, to step out of the way of whatever has a hold over us, the lens gets wider and perspective shifts. The noise of our minds gets quieter (and eventually less interesting) and the boundless, spacious, purity of the background shines through, giving us a glimpse of Who we truly are.
My mind easily gets twisted up with anger, tiredness, laziness, grief, anxiety, you name it, I’ve got it. If I stayed identified with any one of these emotions I may not even get out of bed in the morning let alone attempt my yoga practice. So, each day, with every practice, I inquire, “who’s practicing?” and, slowly, slowly the feeling of spaciousness widens and the radiance brightens. And the feeling of grace lingers just a little longer.
When I remember to pause and inquire into the nature of this “I” that is involved in all of the doing, I meet the unchanging, welcoming, perfection that has always been here and that will forever be.