As I was driving through the Columbia Gorge a few weeks ago, something caught my eye. The trees were black at the bottom from the fire devastation, but as I gazed upward tiny sprouts of green were emerging from the top. These trees had survived the fire from last summer and lived to tell about it. One could say that they persevered or maybe they just had stronger roots. We may never really know why a few trees were sprouting while others lay completely dead around them but that contrast from black to green was such an incredible sight! It reminded me of a conversation that I once had with my yoga teacher. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali writes about the perseverance in reference to practice and non-attachment. Abhyasa and vairagya always go together. It is said that these two concepts are the principles on which the entire system of yoga rests. Which is what led me to ask my teacher one day if there would ever be a time when it would be wise for practitioner to deliberately stop practicing something if the entire practice of yoga hinges on practice. Is there ever a time when it is not appropriate to persevere? It turns out that the answer is very much held in the second part of the yoga equation which is non-attachment.
My teacher explained that we don't keep practicing and practicing with the goal of getting certain results. And if we're not seeking certain results, why would there ever be a time to contemplate not practicing. Instead, we practice and persevere without concern for the outcome because realistically we can't know what that will be. So we practice for the very purpose of persevering. And while we're doing that, we practice non – attachment by doing a lot of observing and a lot of non-judgmental noticing. From that place of noticing, we are able to see beyond our fears, beyond our struggle, beyond our sorrows, and even beyond our joys. The practice of persevering is a type of fire that illuminates our truth so that non-attachment might birth the true desires of our heart into being. Author and speaker Glennon Doyle Melton uses the phrase, "First the pain. Then the rising." to speak about a similar concept. There will always be an opportunity for persons to cause pain to our environment, to each other, and to themselves. We can know that and choose to live every moment of our lives from that day forward carrying the torch of fear. We can also acknowledge the pain, acknowledge the fear, and determine to keep practicing, to keep seeking truth, and to keep persevering in our practice of life.
What gives you courage to keep persevering?