We are so conditioned to think that, whatever we do, especially if we do it regularly, we need to get better at it. We need to progress. But what exactly is progress? In yoga especially, but also in many other aspects of life, this is very easy to misjudge. My teacher James says: ‘you might be able to levitate, but are you able to get above your anger?’ I think the same about work. You might earn a lot of money, but do you know how to use it with care and beauty? You might be very busy, but do you sleep easy?
Real progress, in my experience, does not come with bells and fanfare. It is quiet and understated. I remember thinking that getting a certain posture was progress and one year, I was very excited to show my teacher in Crete whom I only saw once a year, that I had achieved a particular bind. I was probably expecting something like ‘very well done! You did it!’ but I got a glance and he walked off. It is not a big deal.
What is a big deal, I have found out, is to be able to truly retrace your steps and approach practice with a beginners mind. This means not only doing the practices one used to do a while ago, when the journey began, but to truly embody that enquiring mind. In the amazing meditation and pranayama training I am doing with Kia, she has invited us to do just this. Beginning again is the advanced practice. I cannot believe how much I have missed on the simple breath by putting in all the fancy stuff, how much I have taken for granted, how much more there is in the most simple act of breathing. Can you cook, walk, look, sing and draw in this way?
If progress is anything, it is a detachment from it: to truly enjoy putting one foot in front of the other, feeling the earth, breathing in the surroundings, feeling the weather, the changes in weight, the articulation of the body rather than running for a goal that, as soon as we reach it, will move elsewhere.