Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Serenity

One of the main things that has drawn me so deeply to yoga at various points in my life is its ability to provide sanctuary.  It can feel as though it's this spirituality that I've been searching for for so long, as a non-religious person, to call my own.  A great yoga class can feel like having just spent a beautiful morning in church.  And it's something you can turn to in times of crisis.

I've been thinking a lot about the Serenity Prayer the last couple of days.  It's commonly associated with AA, and you've probably heard it before:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference

I first saw this prayer as an embroidery at my grandmother's and when I was young, I thought it was a joke rather than an actual prayer - than the final line was a clever little punchline.  I'm not sure why I thought that, but I suppose it can be.  And who knows where a 6-year-old's thoughts and sense of humor come from.

It occurred to me how similar it is to one of my favorite yogi quotes - BKS Iyengar's, "Yoga teaches us to cure what cannot be endured and endure what cannot be cured."

The two seem to really complement each other, and taken together, almost suggest that yoga is the source of that serenity, courage, and that it is the wisdom itself.

There have been a lot of changes going on in my life lately, what with the engagement (and having recently set a date!), my sister's upcoming nuptials, friends preparing to move to and from cities.  Most of these are tremendously positive, but it always seems like the universe balances things out, as I've had a close friend go through a deeply dark and potentially tragic time in the last few days, which has had some unpleasant side effects in my life as well as a result.

With this massive influx of positive and negative stress, set against the backdrop of the absolute madness that is New York weather in the springtime, I find that if I don't come back to one or both of these phrases - treating them both as prayers - it can be a huge struggle for me to keep breathing and keep perspective through it all.

It's kind of ironic, too, how I've finally gotten my nose out of bridal magazines and have really committed to rereading The Joy of Living, which I said I was going to do three weeks ago, now that I'm often finding myself in these moments of free reading time so distracted by heartache involving my friends that the last thing I want to do is read about meditation and it affects our brains.  But then, isn't that the universe showing me that's exactly what I need to be doing?

All I can control is me, my thoughts, my actions, my decisions, my reactions.  It's very tempting to lose yourself in self-pity, and what I love about these two prayers is that they're not sentimental at all, and there isn't an ounce of pity in them.  They're firmly grounded in reality and in dealing with the punches life throws at you.  If you don't already have a prayer or a mantra or something that gets you through the crazy times of highs and lows happening in your life simultaneously, give these a try.  And don't forget to breathe.

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