Looking for More than Good

“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?

8 Responses to Looking for More than Good

  1. Thank you, Sarah, for beginning the outward conversation of this! As a previous student of Anusara, the philosophy offered me a new perspective to see that even dissolution could be life-affirming. I attempt now, to use the words “good” and “bad” as little as possible, instead, looking at the quality of the situation, energy or emotions at hand. I feel as though this was lacking in the system as it stood previously, but is now coming into the light to work with from a new perspective…one that the Taoists have been contemplating and teaching. Helpful contemplation! Hope you are just as you are meant to be in the midst of such big movements…

  2. Dearest Sarah —

    Thank you for these thoughts, this writing. It helps me to see it distilled.

    I will take this journey with you — this journey to bravely taste the fullness of all of life.

    Always with love, Kendra

  3. Great writing Sarah! I love “a voracious appetite for all life has to offer.”

    Love to you,

  4. live and love ferociously, absorbing all that the universe has to offer and emanating all that we have within us, with every fiber of our being, always. this is our task. i’m with you, sayree.

    saprema ~

  5. Thank you Sarah.
    looking/seeing good…knowing that there is more than we can see…knowing that looking is limited by our perspective. Uncertainty is daunting but so is certainty…. I want to practice looking for the whole picture, not just “the good”.

  6. Dear Sarah,
    I love where you are going with this! If we look for the wholeness, for integration and I wonder… Yes we may want to address when something is blocked from flowing except sometimes the block could be the most sri thing like the pause between the breath. We might also want to consider when the flow is turning around to cycle back the other way and what might be important about a block like blood clotting or blocking emotional trauma and under what circumstances it is sri to release this sort of block. Once I was at a breathwork and one woman had suffered so much severe abuse that the process itself did not provide enough container for what was stirred up in her. She had to leave and seek a more secure therapeutic container. Sarah, I so appreciate the environment for yoga and healing that you already create and I hope my delvings are felt by you as respectful exploration. Like everything else I can imagine camatkara in all of this. I would love to hear/read anyone else’s moreness.
    Love and gratitude for this discussion,

  7. Ash, thanks. I love the Taoists thoughts on perspective and that thinking clearly is essential in a true spiritual practice and is a pretty good idea in life in general.

    Jennifer, I like what you add about limited perspective. Our perspective is key, even though limited, we can keep expanding it and keep making the next best choice.

    Dominique, I love it! I agree. And this is that very part of the underpinnings of continuums and spectrums that is so necessary to appreciate. Thanks for adding more!

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