I heard a sad story today about a middle-aged man named David Rakoff who died recently from cancer. Over the years, I enjoyed his comedy contributions to a podcast I listen to regularly called This American Life. What saddened me more than the fact of Rakoff’s death at a relatively young age was that he seemed to have been a tortured soul for much of his life. We often hear of the difficulties creative people experience in getting on in the world, and perhaps it’s the very issues they are trying to sort out that lead to their brilliant artistic achievements. What moved me the most in Rakoff’s speaking and writing was the understanding he came to late in life – that for him being clever and witty was a poor substitute for the ability to be intimate. Intimacy is not an easy practice for many of us. Wouldn’t it be a different world if we learned in schools from an early age how to talk honestly about our feelings? Even better, if we understood that’s okay to feel our feelings, even when they are deemed not normal or not nice. What does this have to do with yoga? To my way of thinking, yoga is all about being authentic: truly being in one’s body, comprehending one’s energy, discovering the content of one’s mind, rather than denying any part of our experience. To the extent that any levels of our being are suppressed, they are still unconscious motivators. Best befriend all the good and the bad bits as they arise or they will keep revisiting in one form another. I think David Rakoff did make a sort of peace with himself though his incredible creative output before he had to move on. Certainly he had a tremendous internal push to do that.
tasya saptadha prantabhumih prajna
The attainment of clarity is a gradual process.* *Patanjali’s Yogasutras, translation & commentary by T.K.V. Desikachar.