Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Hero's Journey

I was talking with a good friend last night about the nature of time and how it can be so malleable and shifty. You can live out an epic adventure in a minute's worth of sleep, or learn more about yourself in five minutes of a mushroom dream than you did in the previous twenty years. Or conversely, how that last hour of work at a job you hate can feel like a week.

I told him how I've come to see my daily yoga practice as a complete lifecycle lived out on the mat. I begin every practice completely new — I'm not the same person that was standing at the top of the mat yesterday. My mind is different, my body is different. I can't expect to perform "better" than I did the day before. All too often I've entered into practice with some sort of expectation, only to have it wiped away two sun salutations in, finding energy where I thought there was none, or lacking flexibility that was there just hours before.

Over the course of that two hours, I'll experience a Campbell-esque hero's journey, from the "call to adventure" as I wake up out of bed, to the "crossing of the threshold" as I step on the mat and intone the first sound, "OM", signalling the beginning of a voyage into an unknown realm. Here we encounter the "road of trials" — the first struggles we either overcome, or fail to but continue anyway. Even the end of practice, Savasana, is a symbolic death. When we return to the top of our mat in seated position, close our eyes, hold our hands in prayer and chant "OM" once again, we are reborn, transformed and renewed.

We can then leave our mats and re-enter the world, having drunk the elixir of life, "the ultimate boon" of Campbell's archetype, having found union within, and without ourselves.



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