Unconditional Faith: Ending the Guilty Pleasure Myth.
Yoga Sutra 1.20 is a recent favorite of mine — it lists five attributes one must adopt in order to succeed on the path of Yoga:
śraddhā = unconditional faith, trust, confidence, belief, certainty; virya = inner strength, vitality; smṛti = memory, retentive power; samadhi = ability to be absorbed in one’s goal, a tranquil and composed state of mind; prajñā = the higher wisdom that comes from discrimination, and this wisdom is assiduously sought through the process of introspection.
Each of these attributes speaks to a step that must be taken in order to progress. What I love about this sutra is that it speaks to the multi-layered experience of working towards a goal.
About five months ago, I determined to change my life. After 16 years of abusing food and alcohol, I made the commitment to change. I asked for help from a few trusted teachers and experts, I asked them to hold me accountable, and they asked for my commitment. I gave it to them. I had given my commitment before and broken it. Oh, so many times. Something was different this time: Faith.
When I hear the word Faith, I associate it with elements of my Catholic upbringing. There is perhaps even a little undercurrent of judgment. Faith is lazy, blind, disconnected. I see a room full of believers waiting for someone else to tell them what’s so. But when I really look at this Sanskrit word broken down into its component parts, it is so completely not that.
śrad literally means “that which gives you space and holds you in place.”
dhā provides nourishment for you to grow.
Your body is that which gives you space and holds you in place.
Pleasure is that which provides nourishment for you to grow.
In order for any of us to proceed on this path, it starts with śraddhā: a willingness to be in the ‘here and now’ and need of the physical body, and that takes a lot more than just learning how to handstand. In the last five months, I have interrupted and rewired what I really thought were unbreakable addictive patterns of behavior.
These changes occurred not through Yoga asana, but through Yoga — a self-reflection and practice-based reunification of light and dark, masculine and feminine, soul and shadow forces within myself; a curated blend of Ayurveda, Expressive Art Therapy and mentorship, and straight-up ass-kicking fitness. This kind of work takes diligence and surrender. Sthira and Sukha. It takes a whole hell of a lot of support.
This work of coming home to yourself through Yoga is not about mastering the perfect pose or even aligning shoulder girdles and pelvic bowls, this work is about occupying your physical space thoroughly, unapologetically and with deep reverence.
This is about listening to your body wisdom and taking action.
This is about putting an end to the guilty pleasure myth. If something brings you pleasure, you have no reason to be guilty about it. Make a distinction between your vices (the ego’s need for self-sabotaging indulgences) and pleasure (a human need for sweetness, delight and nourishment). When pleasure is received with guilt, it weighs us down and slips quickly towards shame.
When pleasure is part of the dance of our every day, it opens us up, softens our experience of the mundane, and adds a flavor not otherwise available.
Enjoy it. Open up. Take it in.
You’re not wrong, desperate or weak for wanting; you’re human, and your desire is wise beyond measure.
Stacey Ramsower is a teacher, writer and artist living in Houston, TX. She has studied and worked professionally in the fields of theater, film, dance, Yoga, education and writing, and is currently exploring the wisdom of Ayurveda and Vedic Astrology. The impetus behind her work is recovery — physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. You could contact her via her website.