Ready to bust out your tool belts, folks? No, not the Tim the Tool Man type. I'm talking about the type of tool belt that you carry around inside your brain and your heart: the belt that carries all your tools for making your way in the world. Ruh-roh! Yeah, it's about to get hairy up in here.
What tools do you carry in your personal world-tackling tool belt? Fear or Security? Anger or Peace? Resentment or Love? Despair or Optimism? Doubt or Belief? Storm or Calm? In truth we all tend to have every range of these tools at our disposal at any given point in our lives. Yet, we also all tend to become specialists over time - developing ourselves (often unconsciously) into masters of those tools to which we devote the most practice.
For example, we "practice" conscious relaxation so that we have that tool at our disposal when we need it in life. Yes, it's nice to get all set up with cushy yoga props in a cushy yoga setting and be guided in a safe, luxurious way through a relaxation experience. That's nice...and easy. Anyone can find relaxation, calm, peace there.
But how often do you take that experience and apply it in the rest of your life? When stress, tension, or even fear arise do you whip out your relaxy-tool and bop it on the head with all the love in your heart? If you don't, we need to practice a little more.
You see, that's what all that practicing yoga is for after all. We know we're really starting to approach mastery of the lessons of yoga when we think and act to apply them in every moment of our lives. We strive to stay conscious, meaning present, for our relaxation so that we can experience it fully, get to know its sensations in every cell of our body and every neuron and synapse of our mind. In this way we become more well-acquainted with calm than chaos. We train our brains to recognize, and eventually prefer peace and the steady, sustainable happiness that is its inevitable side effect. Inner peace is a choice and a tool that once learned and then mastered is incredibly hard to put down! But we have to start by picking up that tool regularly, consistently, and studying it, practicing with it until we get really good at it. Its no different from any other tangible instrument - practice, practice, practice makes perfect.
It's not just about relaxation either. There are plenty of moments when we practice steady, responsible strength and how to wield it with compassion and wisdom. We practice adopting postures of great strength with compassion towards our own bodies, paying close attention to the quality of our breath, the alignment of our parts, and the emotional feeling generated. Yes, all this is to keep ourselves safe while we get stronger, but more importantly it's so that we can ultimately gain the wisdom to extend these qualities to others in our relationships and interactions. That is how we can "be the change" - we embody the tools we learn and become the very instrument of change we seek.
As we begin to master the tools in our belt of peace and happiness, we naturally start to wield them at every turn in life. It is the sure sign of a novice who leaves her tools in the shop when class is done! The master-to-be carefully packs her tools and takes them with her because she can't wait for the next opportunity to use them, which must be soon (surely before the next class!). Think about it. How many opportunities have you had in the last day to whip out your yoga tools and apply them to spruce up a moment of your life? Think about it. I'll wait…
So, if you think practice in the yoga room or on the mat is enough, think again. That occupies anywhere from 10 minutes to, say, 4 hours at the most "intense" levels of what I know of Western practitioners. What are you doing with the other 20 hours in your day, 140 hours in your week, 7280 hours in your year? You're practicing something in those hours, developing expertise in some tools, but do you even realize what you're practicing or what tools you're mastering?
This is why the personal development work we've been exploring here is so very very vital. I challenge you to take action every day to ensure that your thinking expands always beyond the mat, beyond the yoga room, to your every waking (and even sleeping!) moment. Use the tools in your belt to make everything you do, heck your entire being, into an instrument of great stuff in the world. Why? Because you can.