Friday, March 18, 2011

Indulgence and Restraint

Cookies and Kale side by side. A Lenten dinner (Ha!)

'Tis the season ... Lent is here if you're of the Christian bent. In years past I might have dubiously summoned up all my courage to banish some troublesome vice from my system for the full forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter only to find myself "cheating" in some way or forgetting about my plan all together until the damage had been done. I'm finding I don't do well with harsh edicts passed to myself in a stern tone. I'm not a particularly good listener, then I get all bent out of shape at my "lack of willpower" and a session of hating on myself continues until I eventually snap out of it and get on track again. This had been a routine for years with few 'snapping out of its' until I met Anusara and Tantra. Now the routine does get repeated, but with much less force and a quicker 'snap out of it' turn around. (so, in short, I feel better)

Let's rewind a little bit, shall we? The day before all of this starts is the totally awesome day of Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday. Here is the day for a party. The day to go totally overboard. To (in my case) eat chocolate until your belly might explode, knowing full well that tomorrow starts the lenten chocolate fast. Mardi Gras is the day to go full force into Indulgence! Indulgence! doesn't even sound great just to say (or read) that word? There is something so forbidden in that word even. Like you'll get in trouble if you do too much.

And so then the next day we are slapped hands down into the complete opposite, Restraint. If Indulgence sounds wonderful, Restraint kind of sounds depressing, don't you think, even like a dirty word. Like you're going to be sent to a really bad, evil school with a horrible headmistress who will only let you eat bread once a day in order to keep your soul clean or something. Nobody gets in trouble from too much restraint. Well, not outwardly. Teenagers aren't punished for restraining themselves from taking the family mini-van on a joy ride. Instead we're all congratulated on how well we hold our lives together and restrain from being TOO MUCH of much of anything.

I think both are a bit off. Well, at least, once again we meet the Tantric Paradox in all her beauty. Two good things, but good things turn less than optimal in overdoses. Indulgence overdone means a hangover for most of the Mardi Gras party goers. Restraint overdone means boredom and coldness in those who would take it to the extremes. And Tantra tells us, once again, we need both. We need balance and balance is dynamic so be ready to dance.

So this is what I taught on Mardi Gras (a while ago). How can we have a dancing, dynamic balance of both indulging in our lives and in restraining ourselves when the time comes? How can we indulge in the beauty and juicy yumminess of a pose while also restraining ourselves into the alignment that will keep us from injury? I think it comes down to knowing your tendencies and doing what needs to be done to bring yourself to having greater joy in your life. For me, as I mentioned in the opening, I can get pretty darn rigid and stuck into my routines, my plans, my schedules, my responsibilities. I keep very close track of time. And I forget to indulge. I forget to enjoy a beautifully sunny day, to eat awesome desserts with abandon, to stay up too late so I can finish a book, or to stay out later than planned to be with friends while we're having fun. I forget to laugh aloud. So, for me in my asana I get easily caught in the alignment and forget the BLISSful fun of it all. Both on the mat and off my "work" is to remember to balance all this wonderful studious stuff with FUN and more of it. That's where I am. But others may be having so much indulgence as to forget all responsibilities. Their work is to come back the other way without losing the fun. Either way, when we are in that fleeting dynamic place of a balance of both indulgence and restraint a little window opens in our hearts where we realize this feels GOOD. And feeling good, as Tantra teaches, is part of who we are on a cellular level. And That is worth indulging in every single day.

So on that note, this year instead of giving up anything much for Lent. (I'm still eating chocolate from now until April and beyond) I'm actually using Lent as a reminder to come again back into balance in many many ways. Most especially, it's time to indulge in a little more fun and see what comes of it.

Contemplation: Where am I on the indulgence/restraint continuum? What could I do to bring more balance to both each day?

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