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Bound By Certainty

I remember moving away from home at the age of 18 feeling confident that I was already worldly, independent and smart. I was full of hope and in my opinion, already had an incredible sense of knowing. It amazes me when I look back and marvel at my young confidence.

A fortunate epiphany and my greatest learning that first year away from home and attending university was the realization that what I thought I knew was so small compared to what I still had to learn! It was a humbling acknowledgement and I am so grateful that it started me along the path of seeking not only answers but also seeking more questions!

To be good at anything we need to first be full of questions. Certainty can only bind and close us off from other possibilities. In my chosen field of yoga and mindfulness study there are many avenues of debate. So many different lines of yoga with various approaches to the movement, the breath and the perceived benefits of each “method”. It is always interesting when a room full of yogis come together to learn.

In December I was taking part in an amazing workshop with the highly knowledgeable Tom Myers (an integrative manual therapist and author of Anatomy Trains). We were learning how to see and understand postural patterns so that we can work smarter, not harder. We were also discussing how the body moves and settles into holding patterns during our days and in specific yoga poses.

There was a moment when the learning environment went off the tracks so to speak and the learning became bound by individuals perceived certainty. A heavy discussion (or rather a passive aggressive argument would be a more accurate description), occurred when a few teachers jumped in to “evaluate” a certain yoga pose. They brought their determined certainty, their ideals and their methods of yoga into the discussion and the learning stopped. It quickly became a debate about what was the “right” way to be in the pose and what was “wrong” about this specific posture. I remember feeling disappointed in the gathered group of yogis by how vehemently each method of yoga was defended and proclaimed as the way it should be.

For those involved in the heated discussion, it was obvious to see that they had lost themselves in their certainty. Their certainty eliminated the need to pay attention. Certainty shut everything down.

So this begs the question, how can we approach learning mindfully? How can we let go of what we believe to be true? How can we cultivate ease in the discomfort of uncertainty? Can we turn to our practice on our yoga mats, or meditation cushions and explore the unknown with an openness to what is new?

With time, our mindfulness practice teaches us to notice and acknowledge it all. We hope that with practice we can cultivate an awareness to multiple perspectives and to be open to every way of knowing. We hope with practice that we can stay fresh, curious, sensitive and alert and to be comfortable with the vast unknowing that will always be.

I find comfort knowing that we are all on the same path of learning. My teachers, my mentors, my parents, my husband and children are both knowing and uncertain; as am I.


Note: Tom Myers presented a wonderful workshop and in the moment of “blind certainty” that I described above, he mindfully observed the discussion as it moved through its various forms. Eventually the teachers involved sensed their mindless distraction and Tom was able to use the “debate” to deepen the discussion about how our beliefs can be stored in our tissues. Fascinating work!



Originally posted on Mindful She, Mindful He.

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