I’ve been busy the past few days attending my teacher, Kausthub Desikachar’s workshop on the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. Any of you who have studied the Yoga Sutras in one way or another will understand that this means that it has been a heavy few days with a lot of introspection, unanswered questions, lightbulb moments if you’re one of the lucky few, feeling like you know even less after the hours of discussion of just a few sutras. If you have never heard of the Yoga Sutras, it is basically one of the most important yoga text, and I like to think of it as a handbook on “how to live life more efficiently”.
We discussed a lot in the 2 out of 4 days of the workshop that I managed to attend. We talked about how yoga should be practised, what attitude to have, the meaning of yoga, different types of perception, mind structure and memory, the types of obstacles we encounter, and the list goes on… But today I want to talk about what stood out for me during this workshop: transformation.
Yoga is essentially a personal inward journey, a tool to help us lead an obstacle free life. It is not a religion, simply a very practical way of life. Yoga helps us remove the layers of identity we have imposed on ourselves which sometimes restricts us from acting in our full potential. Yoga helps bring about the freedom to express.
Woah. When Kausthub said that on Sunday, I wanted to shout “Amen!” right there right then. Way before I even heard of yoga, I felt all these boundaries imposed on me based on identities either I or other people associated me with.
I remember when I was 15 years old, I wanted to choose Art rather than Science as a school subject, and my father was so mad at me, because I was saying bye-bye to a potential career as a doctor, engineer, or a Sheldon Cooper.
I remember when I was 17 years old, and I asked for advice from various people as to what I should study at university. The suggestions I got were based on what subjects I was good at in school, and careers which would result in money and social status.
I remember every time I visit family in Hong Kong, family members would comment on my appearance and weight, because I was not as thin as the girls there, my skin was not as good theirs, or my skin tone was not as light as theirs.
Sometimes I rebelled against those boundaries and identities people imposed on me – I chose Art instead of Science in Year 10. Sometimes I didn’t – I majored in Finance and Economics at university. Sometimes I merely did not give a rat’s ass that I was considered fat and dark in some societies.
For years I could not figure out what that nagging feeling inside of me was. I always felt like I’m different to the “norm” of the identities I was associated with. Meanwhile all this time, it was my inner self trying to fight off the identities both I and society have imposed on me. Then I read this great article over at Linda’s Yoga Journey about Transformation in Yoga Philosophy which sums up the 4 stages of a transformation and I was like “Oh my word my gut has been pushing me along each step of the transformation process and I didn’t even know it!”
To paraphrase as briefly as I can, the 4 stages are:
- Heightened senses and perception
- Identity Crisis
- New patterns manifest
*Please read Linda’s post to get the whole essence.
Meanwhile, my 4 stages are (not always in that order and sometimes I progress, sometimes I regress, but every time I reach the fourth stage I feel I have made some longer term progress):
- Heightened senses and perceptions: I am extremely analytical and need to know why and how of everything. I question a lot of things and need to find out answers for myself, including simple things like how to maximise the use of my iPhone to more complicated questions like the ultimate meaning of life… This often leads me to #2.
- Identity Crisis: I was born in Hong Kong, moved to South Africa when I was 8 years old. Raised with Asian values whilst exposed to the multi-cultural complexities, if that isn’t enough to create some sort of identity crisis, my innate desire to question everything certain has helped lead me to that point.
- New patterns manifest: Trying out new things to test my boundaries. From choosing Art over Science, to trying out hiking, scuba diving, to quitting my job, changing careers, going travelling, living in a new country…
- Freedom: Every time I get to this stage in some small little transformation, I realise that my potential exceeds my expectations. Like learning how to swim only when I was 20 years old, then becoming crazy into scuba diving when I don’t even swim that well! Then applying that attitude that led me to swimming and scuba diving to life.
Of course I had looked up the meaning of transformation. Whilst you can take the girl away from her economist desk, but you can not take the economist out of the girl. When I looked up the word transformation in the dictionary, it came as no surprise that the definition which resonated with me the most was the mathematical definition.
“Transformation is a process by which one figure, expression or function is converted into another that is equivalent in some important respect but is differently expressed or represented.”
Essentially, I haven’t changed much. At least not the most important aspects of me. I don’t feel the way I think has changed much, but my ability to process those thoughts, my ability to accept that certain things cannot change, my ability to peel off those layers which restrict my full potential, all those, is now expressed differently.
P.S. See how useful mathematics can be, make your kids do maths! *says the inner maths nerd*