There’s an old Zen story about a little girl who lived in a lovely house, in a comfortable neighbourhood of a smallish city, much like ours. Her home was spacious and allowed for everyone to have a room and much besides of recreational and storage space, a sunny conservatory and plenty of guest rooms for entertaining.
As the little girl grew, she became aware of a room at the very outer border of the house which was locked. Everyone in her family knew of this room but no one could open it and since they did not need the additional space, they simply let it be.
However the little girl, let’s call her Chloe, wanted very much to open that door. She looked outside the house for a window but all the windows were sealed tightly. She wrenched on the door handle but it would not budge. Nothing she did would open the door.
Life continued and she grew into young adulthood. Boys came and went in her life which was full of friends and busy with community activity and education. From time to time she would attempt to open the door, but no matter how hard she pulled and pried, the door remained locked.
In her twenties, she explored many personal growth experiences and teachings. And one day, coming home to an empty house she decided to try once more to open the door. Using one of the many esoteric practices she had learned she sat in front of the door and it opened! Trembling with excitement, Chloe went into the room and suddenly found herself in the familiar surroundings of the kitchen. She had opened the door but – somehow – not opened the door.
Years followed years and Chloe married a kind man who moved into the family home and together they had children. Again and again, in her persistent fashion, she opened the door successfully and repeatedly, just as she gained entrance she would find herself once more in the kitchen. What could she do? A locked door is a locked door.
Eventually Chloe became a grandmother with a grey hair or two but in contrast to her early obsession with the locked door, Chloe began to spend more time with daily life and less in front of the door. She took care of the daily things and spent more time in the moment.
One day she passed by the locked door on her way to another room and with a start she realized it was open! Inside was a welcoming guest room with a cosy bed and table and a few small items for the comfort of the occupant.
Chloe entered the room and from the doorway, looking back at her home of many years she saw how cluttered it had become with useless stuff. And just as she saw clearly how that was so, the clutter began to disappear and fade away as phantoms do.
Chloe realized that her home had always been open and inviting and only her pushing on that door had kept it sealed all along.
And so it is with our yoga practice. As long as we see the door shut, it is shut. But when we deal with the moment to moment needs of the spirit-embodied, we see that the room is open and there is no need to clutter it with our phantom junk.
There is no way to know this until we experience the truth for ourselves. The radiance of our practice is always available. Much of what we call practice is sitting in front of the locked door. Chasing after the perfect yoga asana is sitting in front of the door with clutter at our backs.
Perhaps we look for the perfect teacher or the best workshop and then we see the illusion for what it is: the thing we all want is over there and not here.
And finally, when we catch ourselves creating conditions for liberation which are not here and now, the door opens to what simply is.
Placing ourselves on the mat with the body we have now and the mind, breath and spirit within, we de-clutter our entire being when we release the thoughts of our imperfections, inadequacies and shortcomings. Our practice is ours alone, perfect in its way for us just as we are now. Santosa, the Niyama of contentment prepares us to open the door to the Light of Yoga.
Kelly Murphy is owner of Bend Over Backwards Yoga Studio in Nanaimo.