Removing obstacles to getting started: move out of your own way

Fittingly, this first post is about my own personal experiences and reflections in overcoming obstacles to getting started on the yoga path of self discovery, both on and off the mat.

The mighty Ganesha, “lord of beginnings and remover of obstacles,” Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, April 2013

Beginning or venturing into something altogether new will naturally take you out of the zone of what is familiar and comfortable, challenging you in some new and different way. When you have no base of experience from which to draw upon, an underlying current of apprehension and even fear — of failure or success — may begin to course through your veins. Whatever the outcome, however, you can expect to learn more about yourself and evolve and grow in some new way.

For the rare breed of thrill seeker, the notion of newness and challenge is enticing and exciting. For the general human populace of creatures of habit and comfort, however, trying something new and different is sometimes just too intimidating or scary, despite the potential benefits. Before you know it, procrastination sets in, and the protective walls shoot up as you analyze the possible outcomes, engaging in incessant rounds of the doubting game of “what ifs.”

For instance, what if by trying this new thing, you end up looking bad or stupid to others? You could suffer big embarrassment and hurt and feel like a real loser, right? Well, maybe or maybe not. What if you try this new thing and to your surprise, you end up liking it? Maybe even loving it! There is only one way to find out — just go ahead and give it a try. And maybe as a result of engaging in this new experience, you will then begin to question your fundamental thinking on a deeper level and act differently and for the better, honoring and living more as your true self and worrying less about what others might think about you.

Channel your inner elephant strength for some heavy mental lifting

Albeit a bit trite, the old saying “nothing ventured, nothing gained” merits consideration. If you don’t at least explore new and different opportunities presented to you in life, you may later find yourself wallowing in a bed of regrets. Of course, that’s often much easier to say than to actually do. Removing obstacles to starting something new requires that you channel your inner elephant strength to mentally lift those fears and self doubts holding you back.

To this end, one can appreciate the fundamental symbolism behind the Hindu deity Ganesha as presented in the accompanying photo, regardless of one’s spiritual orientation. Adjoining the head of an elephant, mighty in wisdom and strength, with the body of a robust man sitting atop a mouse, the beloved Ganesha symbolizes the “Lord of Beginnings and Remover of Obstacles.” In effect, wielding your inner elephant strength to remove mental obstacles begins with the adoption of a new mindset for how you define and measure your self-worth in life.

Redefine your self-worth through ego detachment – ouch!

Ego detachment … sounds rather painful, doesn’t it? And truly painful it is, considering a person’s true self and measure of their self-worth is generally masked by an assumed identity that is their ego or sense of the self in comparison and contrast to others in the world. Removing the mask of the ego is difficult but necessary for discovery and appreciation of one’s true self. As I continue to practice and learn more through yoga – the basic definition of which is “to yoke or unite mind, body and heart” – both on and off the mat, I have personally become more mindful and appreciative of applying the concept of “detachment” and peeling off the mask of my ego. Certainly, feeling exposed, imperfect and vulnerable is uncomfortable, but it’s also very liberating at the same time.

To provide a little more background, the concept of detachment goes back to the timeless teachings of the ancient yoga sage Patanjali in the first of his “Eight Limbs of Yoga” or eightfold path. In the first limb, referred to as the “yamas” in Sanskrit, he lists and describes a select set of universal moral observances, notably the concept of “aparigraha” which essentially means “non-grasping” or “non-attachment.” While the concept on a more apparent level denotes the importance of not harboring attachments to material things, it also offers opportunities for much broader and deeper application in life.

Move it over ego

When you focus solely on achieving a future outcome or end result in life at the expense of truly experiencing, learning and growing from the actual process along the way, you effectively let your ego take control. The ego strives to brainwash you with that grating and condescending tone into believing that you are somehow less, even worthless and not inherently good enough unless you achieve or possess this or that.

When the ego dictates your thoughts, feelings and actions in life, it may cause you to put off starting that new thing or never start at all. Or, suppose you manage to start something that presents a new and uncomfortable challenge, your ego may tell you that the safer bet is to just quit altogether now while you’re ahead and save face. But the unfortunate reality then is that you may miss out on a potentially pivotal opportunity to learn, grow and progress in life in terms of discovering more about living as your true, best and whole self. So get started, you are worth it. Just tell that ego to move it the hell over and make way for the real you to come through!

See my next post for a first-hand case example of obstacle removal …

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