Steve Fazzari (Shankara Deva)
In 2007 I moved from just outside of Toronto to Whistler, BC. I was on a quest to find snow, and to find adventure. At my side were three of my closest friends, all on the same journey. Within days, I had done my first Yoga class and began my exploration into the Yoga techniques; my initial introduction, however, came years earlier as I read the texts and studied the philosophies inherent in the practice. This foray into the Yoga poses ended abruptly, however, when the snow began to fall.
The snow has always been a huge part of my life. One of my first memories is learning how to ski at Toogood Pond, maybe four years old. My continued pursuit of the steep and deep came with some lessons though; without proper attention to well being, some teachings may arise in a way that can be hard to ignore. Injury after injury saw my body degrading quickly, so I decided it was time to take purposeful action. Returning to a healthy relationship to the Yoga practices could return some health and balance back to some of the areas I had neglected in my body over the years. Developing a strong relationship to a whole foods, plant-based diet has set a new baseline of health in my life; days after making the (totally unintended, unforeseen shift) to this new diet, I was amazed at how good I felt - I hadn't even known I could feel that good, that nourished, that healthy, that energized. It was a no-brainer; eating well and taking care of my body could help bring a healthy balance back to my life, and allow me to continue exploring this planet and do the things I love doing most.
Developing an intuitive understanding of what my body needs has been a constant learning opportunity; you better believe you will get reminders if you stray too far from your body's needs. The more purposeful I have become in my pursuit of knowing what the current state of the conditions of my body are, the more subtle of an understanding I have developed. Sometimes I can be receptive enough to subtle cues in a way that I gain the understanding without the more jolting reminder; sometimes I cannot. Injuries have been some of the most powerful teachings; this body is not permanent, and its health fluctuates along with the rest of nature. We can do our best to maintain balance, to maintain health, but the ideal is not always the reality. This journey into understanding my physical conditions has brought me years of enjoyment in the activities I love, that physical ailments at one time had threatened my future ability to do. I am thankful for every opportunity I get to continue the adventures. I am blessed with every opportunity I have to follow my passions and be true to what makes me most excited about life. The real benefits of my life have come not through the physical health I have striven towards, however, but rather all the mental benefits that have developed subtly alongside.
Gaining a more intuitive understanding of the physical conditions has allowed me to gain a better perspective or understanding of the more subtle aspects of my self; my mind, my emotions, all the temporary fluctuations that distract from the most subtle, most powerful part of what makes me who I am; my truest Self. Have I gained mastery over these fluctuations of mind? Absolutely not. I am a beginner. At the end of the day, progress in Yoga, progress in life cannot be measured by how many poses you can do, how good of a snowboarder you are, how hard of a climb you can complete, or how quickly you can knit a scarf. All the poses in the world mean nothing if they help you gain no further insight. All the snowboarding, the rock climbing, the dinner with friends, the relationships; these are all techniques to gain insight into the Self.
With every day I am given the opportunity to see where I can strive for the best in every aspect of my life, with every moment I am given the sole responsibility of using my senses of perception to gain perspective from these lessons. The more subtle I can strive to be in my understanding of my conditions, the earlier I may be able to recognize the cues in my life that will remind me where my true path lies, and return to that path before I stray too far and the reminder becomes much less subtle. Those jolting reminders come, and they come for a reason. It may seem difficult to understand the full picture, or see the benefit from suffering, but those moments are often our most powerful teachers. Our strength is limitless. Our love is limitless. When we can develop the focus, the determination, and the fortitude to direct our strength in a manner that will benefit all, we have met our highest calling. It doesn't matter what form that takes; make sure you do things you love so you enjoy life. Make sure you surround yourself with people you love who inspire you; these people will help you gain insight, and guide you back to your truest Self. My life doesn't look anything like I had pictured it, but its funny - if it had gone the way I had planned, I wouldn't be where I am today - and I wouldn't change a single moment for anything.