Most days, on my way to and from work I see a man riding his bicycle. On the handle bars of his bike he has a stuffed Spider Man doll. On the back, sits a milk crate holding a baby doll, dressed in pink. I can't help but wonder what his story is. Why does he have those dolls tied to his bike? Where is he headed to as I'm headed to work? What is going on in his mind?
I giggle to myself as I remember the Dr. Seuss book that I read a million times to my kids, "And To Think that I saw it Mulberry Street". In the book a little boy imagines all these wonderful things he'll see while he's walking home from school. As the boy rushed home he thinks "For I had a story that no one could beat! and to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street". The boy's father quite calmly says " Just draw up your stool and tell me the sights on the way home from school.." The father knows that Marco is "telling outlandish tales and turning minnows into whales" but he listens to the boy's story with the awareness that the story is colored by the boy's imagination.
Similarly, we too "turn minnows into whales" at times in our minds. I've personally had the experience of watching my mind take a little seed (thought) and tossing it around until I had created an entire drama!! When our minds are allowed to run wild, wow! you never know what could happen. Luckily, I had some sense of awareness that what I was experiencing was not "real" it was colored by my past impressions and the current state of my emotions at the time. At least this time, I did not identify with the drama I had created in my mind as I had so often before. I recognized that it was a story much like Marco's story of how a simple horse and wagon was turned into the most marvelous things in his mind.
Here's where the practice of Svadhyaya - self-reflection can be helpful. Honestly, I prefer to use self-reflection when I'm thinking about how far I've come and how much I've learned but real progress is made when we practice Svadhyaya to see just what samskaras still remain (samskara - our tendencies; judgemental-ness in my case).
As we practice Svadhyaya we can recognize if the "story" we are telling ourselves and others, for that matter, is the truth. I'm not referring here to truth as in not telling a lie but truth as in reality. More importantly we need not identify ourselves with the "story" of us. Our circumstances do not define who we are. We are Divine beings having a human experience. The most difficult part of Svadhyaya, for me, has been not judging myself when I realize that I've gotten caught up in the mind stuff. I notice those judgemental thoughts as they arise more easily now. I can see them for what they are..... mind stuff. Now all I need to do is remember to let them go.
Tonight as I was teaching a yoga class I was reminding the students and myself that when we let go of the things that no longer serve us, we make room in our consciousness and in our heart for the things that nurture and support us. When we let go of the stories we tell ourselves, we allow room in our minds for peace. When we let go of our judgements of others and ourselves we allow room for acceptance.
"I swung 'round the corner and dashed through the gate, I ran up the steps and I felt simply Great! For I had a story that no one could beat! and to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street!" - What are the stories you're telling yourself? Are they minnows or whales? If you let go of those stories what will you be making room for? As Marco's dad tells him "Keep your eyelids up and see what you can see". Practice Svadhyaya and see what you can see.
I'll never know why that man has a Spider man doll tied to his handle bars but I'm sure there's a whale of a story behind it.......