“Looking for the good” is a key teaching of Anusara Yoga. For the past few years, I have taught “looking for the good” to represent a look at the whole, thus providing a perspective for us to see where energy is flowing. There is a wonderful Sanskrit word that evokes goddess, life, abundance, and good luck, called sri. It embodies the benevolent, cultured, refined and juicy features of life. When we look for where sri is flowing, we in turn discover where it is blocked. We then can see where life (or a yoga pose) is misaligned, off, spilling out, cut-off, disharmonic, or disengaged. When we realize where energy is misaligned, we can then take decisive steps to re-align.
In the past few weeks, many of us have participated in a conversation that has hoped to deconstruct a tangled array of teachings from an increasingly repressive and dogmatic view. One of these topics has been “looking for the good”. Is it possible that this viewpoint could actually create more harm than good? Think about how the construct of “looking for the good” can manifest. It can lead us to a belief that no matter what, we must have a positive attitude. It implies that there is a lot to look at, at any given time, that is not “good”. So, to say “look for the good” means that there will be “bad”, too. Otherwise, we would need not focus on the good. How could this be anything other than a good thing?
If we train ourselves to look for the good first, we can actually desensitize our instincts and intuition. This may look “yogic” on the outside, in that we train ourselves to offer only positive commentary or to spin contentious events as a positive. What we end up with is a limited and dualistic view. When we attempt to look for one side of things, we may tend to lean so far towards the “good” that it can become unrealistic at best, and delusional at worst. At its best or worst, this viewpoint leads to denial.
Let’s take a step back from that view even further to say that we must look first with our eyes open to the wholeness. This encompasses a full-of-life view in which we can take life maturely into our hands and recognize life as a gift.
Having a positive attitude can be a wonderful way to live. But an important question arises: is your positivity keeping you from experiencing the fullness of life? I am not suggesting that a negative outlook is preferred, nor that a bland neutrality has peripheral benefit. Rather, I am proposing something far more daring: that a voracious appetite for all life has to offer is optimal, from noticing the way a breeze flutters through leaves on an empowered tree in spring, to our feeling a deep sorrow of loss of a loved one, to the sweet delight of watching a child jump for joy. In yoga storyland, that would be to embrace Kali’s darkness simultaneously with Sri’s light.
We can misconstrue Kali for “bad”. Even if we want to emphasize that which is life-enhancing while alive, we must remember that death is not life’s opposite, but rather an essential part of it. May we celebrate the release through our tears, our regrets, our sorrows, our anger, our fear that is our passenger for the ride. Every inhale longs for its partner, the exhale. May we welcome our darker emotions to uphold what we want to protect and sustain. That which we value is worth standing up for.
Sometimes life is offering us one thing but we want another. Sometimes we think that if we wish hard enough, we will change an outcome. But the truth is, we never know. In our inevitably subjective view, we bring our objectivity. The only way to look at the whole is to know that there is so much more that we cannot see. That uncertainty can be daunting. But we must try to see all that we can. That is essential for yoga. From what I can tell, all yoga traditions want us to see more, not less. If we open to a fuller vision, we can sync up to life’s rhythms with an awakened sense of subtlety and renewed passion for the simple things.
We can look for the good or we can look at the whole picture. What will you choose?