I was born in the Chinese year of the Monkey. I remember telling this several years ago to Mei-Chen, a wise yoga practitioner who you will find frequenting yoga classes. She looked me up and down and said… “Ah, yes, definitely Monkey.” I wasn’t quite sure if it was a compliment or a concern. Needless to say, I definitely share many qualities with the Monkey. For example, you rarely see a monkey sitting still. They are curious creatures drawn to shiny objects, explorers of sorts. And when they lose interest, they jump (literally) onto or into the next object or activity. This is me, to a fault, as perhaps Mei-Chen was referencing through the inflection of her response.
Rarely do I have one activity going. It’s more like…well I really am afraid to even count. Often, too many…but I love all the different aspects of my life and have a hard time imagining what I would let go of. But as I’m getting older, I’m getting ready for more simplicity in my life and as a result I am asking the hard questions: What can I let go of? What do I need to let go of? And how will this potentially impact others? How can I bring simplicity into a life which has so many facets: Mother, wife, musician, professor, yogini, and business owner to name a few? Is it possible to maintain these various identities and not burn out? How do I carry all of these shiny objects? Am I mentally and physically strong enough? And would putting any of them down be working against my own inherent Monkey nature? Would I end up just picking something else up? (Uh…based on past behavior, that would be a “yes.”)
Perhaps, it is not about giving something up or cutting something out or away. Perhaps my inquiry is really more about integration. How do I pull these aspects of myself together to create a consistent whole? Well, is this not the practice of yoga?
You may have heard the story of the man searching for a water well. He would dig a hole 5-10 feet deep or so, and say, “there is no water here, let me try somewhere else.” He never did find the well. He only created many shallow holes. In order to find water, he needed to keep digging, deeper and deeper, in one place. I asked my good friend Gopalji several years ago if by “digging” into various spiritual practices, I was somehow like the man who never found the well. Or perhaps I was like a Monkey, looking for a new shiny object. Would I be better off sticking to one practice? His answer surprised me. “They are all the same practice. You are only digging one hole.” I contemplated this for some time and discovered that he was absolutely right. Indeed, they are all practices which lead to the realization of an ultimate truth. The different spiritual practices weren’t different holes, they were different tools! One allowed me to shovel topsoil, another to cut through tree roots, and yet another to drill through bedrock. I needed all of them to find the well, a shovel alone just wouldn’t do.
Likewise, the roles of mother, wife, professor, yogini and business owner provide different perspectives on the practice of yoga…they offer different tools for this Monkey’s tool box. Would I still like more time to sit still? Of course. Oooo, what’s that over there?!