Ever heard the one about the Dalai Lama and the hotdog vendor? Make me one with everything. This has always been my favorite joke. Recently, I was made aware of how, like a lot of effective humor, the punchline is based on a not so funny premise.
As an astute Shakespearean scholar once pointed out: "As long as there is pain and suffering in the world, there will always be something to laugh at."
A few weeks ago, my dear friend and teacher, Mark Whitwell, came to town. He always seems to get right to the heart of matters. He turned to a woman sitting in the front and asked:
"Are you one with Life?" She hesitated, half rolled her eyes and responded: "I'm not sure what you mean." When pressed for a yes or no answer to a simple question, she relented: "Sure."
I imagine that many of us would be equally reluctant to answer "yes" to the question of whether we are one with Life. Probably because it often seems otherwise.
When I came to yoga as a young man, I didn't like myself much. I thought there must be something wrong with me because I had all this pain and confusion I was experiencing. I did not think of myself as a whole person and was striving to achieve or find an unknown something that I perceived to be obviously lacking.
Torturing my body made perfect sense. Seemed like the right thing to do and, frankly, there were approaches and philosophies in Yoga that certainly encouraged me to treat myself in a less than nurturing manner.
Fortunately, I've come to understand that my practice needs to be "actual, natural and non-obsessive." By making my practice more measured and patient, less about pushing my physical boundaries and more about feeling and enjoying the immediacy of my breath and body, my thinking changed.
Ultimately, as I embrace the notion that there is nothing wrong with me, that the pain and confusion I feel is not an indication that I am somehow lacking but is simply part of being human, torturing my body no longer makes any sense. In fact, it seems like kind of a dumb thing to do.
There is a correlation between how I am with myself in doing breathing and moving exercises and how I am with myself in general. If there is a whole lot of struggling, straining and having a bad time in the practice, the same tends to be true in general. By cultivating a model of greater ease in my execution and pleasure in my efforts, the same translates out quite seamlessly.
When life starts to feel less like a story of existential longing and more like a grand blessing of experience, a sense of oneness in the universe becomes a perfectly rational determination.
The question is: Why are we not taught that we are one with Life in the same way that we are taught that 2+2=4? Both are facts. Yet, the math equation is a given and my sense of self worth and place in the universe is relegated to naivete.
We all started as a single cell that split and duplicated and formed into blood and bones and lungs and hearts and skin and eyes and it's all quite fantastic really. The pain and difficulty that life presents does not make our existence any less miraculous. Shouldn't this be taught and understood by everyone as a matter a fact as reading, writing and arithmetic?
If we were all taught, from an early age, that we are nothing but the extreme intelligence of the Universe and one with Life, the joke about the Dalai Lama and the hotdog vendor would cease to be funny. It would no longer make any sense. How can someone be made to be one with everything when it is already the case?