I followed a cute chick into a classroom one day because she smiled at me. I know I had other plans for the day, but I’ve always reserved the right to drop everything and chase women. Turns out, she was the teacher and she smiled at everyone. I was duped. I thought about pushing everyone over in downward dog, then she smiled at me again and my faith in yoga was restored. For months I went to classes regularly. I loved it, so long as the room was full of future girlfriends and men less flexible than me. If I looked over and saw a guy that could do the splits I told myself he probably had a defective penis and I was better than him.
I went on like this for a while, getting glimpses into the power of the practice. Mostly I was getting caught up in the superficial: what kind of mat I had, if I could do handstand, if the teacher recognized my potential…that kind of shit. I cared about that stuff and I wouldn’t deny it for a second.
Then it got serious one day.
A real teacher, an older man that didn’t rely on hot playlists to bill his class, approached me. He said I was just scratching the surface, maybe even wasting my time. I began training with him every day. Only he didn’t care about yoga poses. He cared about philosophy and self-observation. He worked with me on recognizing the ego and the sacredness of life; letting go of external desires and satisfying my inward voice. This is what he called yoga.
I did the ego training, hard. Peeled myself down to nothing. Became disgusted by myself: my desires, insecurities, my imperfections. I didn’t matter, the world was huge, everyone was the same, insignificant pieces in a giant puzzle. I dug so deep into my own thoughts that nothing remained hidden. I was completely exposed, raw, and defeated. I did enough yoga to hate myself.
Facing your shit isn’t fun. My teacher let this happen for a time. Then he stepped in.
“Now that you have gotten to the roots and seen yourself for who you truly are, it’s time to let go of judgment and accept the human condition.”
The human condition.
Our entire existence is flawed… and that’s the beauty. There is no salvation in enlightenment, because it’s not going to happen. The entire purpose of us being here is to explore life in accordance to our intuition. We get feelings and we make a choice to follow them or bury them. One leads to freedom, the other to conformity.
I realized I was a creator, I needed to create. I had talents that I wasn’t using. I was stagnant and unhappy because I was listening to the wrong people. I started listening to myself, to the sound of a voice that knows things before my brain can even register.
The more I tuned in, the more life unfolded. This isn’t a new story, but it’s remarkable how profound the manifestations emerged. Every time I acknowledged and responded to a gut feeling, the next clue was revealed.
I put aside my “nothing mattered” mentality and filled my days with things that blew my mind. I made a choice to only spend time with people that inspire me to be a better person. I’m never going to be a monk, and I’m ok with that. I’m going to spend my time doing things that make me feel alive, because I want each day to rock my fucking world. It’s not perfect, but that’s the beauty. And it gives me the freedom to be bad sometimes.
About the Author
Kirk Hensler was raised in metro Detroit on a steady diet of meat, potatoes and team sports. As a competitive athlete, he relied on his speed, power and dominant attitude to excel. Years later, when he took up martial arts, he was tossed around a sweaty dojo for months by various women and children. One day, while horizontal on the mat, he had the profound realization that their patience and finesse quietly trumped his strength and aggression. This led to an exploration of ancient Eastern philosophies, which, in turn, led Kirk to Taiwan, where he taught English, studied martial arts and ate a lot of delicious and strange street food. When Kirk returned to the US, he began applying what he’d learned to his Western, urban life and to his career as a wellness coach, martial arts instructor, and yoga teacher. If you haven’t seen his latest video, Real Men Do Yoga, you kinda need to.