You Can’t Turn a Man into a Tile – A Reflection from our time with Michael Stone
There is this point in one’s yoga practice where you’ve studied enough books to know that you can no longer respond to life from a place of habit. Instead, with all these tools you’ve learned over the years, you must respond to life from a place of integrity. It’s so challenging because there are moments in my life when I do want to act like a teenage version of myself, stomp my feet, scream to whomever is closest to me that they “are ruining my life.” Storm off to my room and sulk. I suppose that is still an option. But after spending 10 years studying yoga, the philosophies that traditional yoga offers, and trying to wake up in this world, I have to shed impulsive desires and replace them with more appropriate responses to challenge.
Michael Stone was at our studio recently talking about how to bridge yoga asana, meditation and mindfulness. He shared a story of this teacher who travelled 2 days down a mountain and up another mountain to visit a student. When he met the student, he asked the student, who was sitting in meditation, “What are you doing?” The student replies, “I’m becoming buddha.” So the teacher picks up a rock and starts buffing it against his clothing. The student looks over, “and what are you doing?” The teacher replies, “I’m turning this rock into a tile.” The student thought that if he studied hard enough, practiced long enough, tried hard enough, he would then become ‘awake’ (which is the more loose translation of what buddha means). But the reality is you can’t make a tile out of a rock for the same reason you can’t make a person into a buddha. When we strive for something that is already within us, we suffer. The lesson is that we are already awake, we are already happy, we are already everything we’ll ever need. The moment we try to find it, we lose it.
When he shared this story, I was looking for the literal translation of what it meant in my seated meditation practice. But what I was failing to remember is that the meditation practice itself is the place in which you create enough space in your life for the awh-ha moments to present themselves. So I kept going back to the story over and over in my head as the day and evening went on.
The next day I woke up and did what I do every single day. I rolled off my bed and right onto my mat. I closed my eyes, and started to breathe. In through the nose, out through the nose. Pay attention to the sensations, the feelings without placing words on them, instead just feel them. The first few minutes of my seated practice I notice really superficial things such as the noise outside, birds, the gurgling in my tummy, my impatience with myself. Each distraction I eventually remember to come back to my breath. Over time, I start to shift away from the surface distractions, to the internal ones. My broken heart, my aging body, the really tough conversation I had the week previous with somebody I care for deeply. Every single distraction a reminder that I am human. And each time I remember, I shift my focus back to my breath. In and out, in and out. The great lessons of life seem to present themselves just when the student is ready for them, when you’ve created just the right conditions for them to surface. I guess the lesson that rose up that day I’ve been hearing for a while, but it was the visualization of turning a stone into a tile where it clicked fully. I sat there trying to come back to my breath but all I could visualize was me sculpting and moulding my ex-boyfriend into this tile. As if desperately trying to turn him into something he is not.
The tears immediately started to roll down my cheek. Still with my breath, I stayed with the feelings that surfaced. The heaviness in my chest, each tear rolling down the side of my face dripping like a tap, right on to my shirt. My tears a reminder that no matter how many years pass, no matter how much yoga I practice, I still suffer, I still learn, I still make mistakes.
One of the things anxious people tend to do is live inside their head. I’m well known for getting lost in thought to the point that I’ll miss an entire conversation. I have to actively work to keep myself in the present moment. But when I forget, I project into the future, and I project my ruminating thoughts on to my expectations of others. And I did just that in my relationship with Wade. When I met him, I was so floored that he could be so brilliantly kind, so caring, so supportive, so willing to drop everything to help another person. What I didn’t love about him was that he was indecisive, sensitive, and didn’t have a self reflection practice. I thought that with time, he would turn into the person I wanted him to be. And like all relationships that start this way, it was the beginning of our end. I thought I could buff him into the perfect tile that I wanted.
I’ve said this often and I really do mean this. I think Disney movies set girls up for significant failure. They all start the same, some evil outside force causes a young woman to have to be rescued by a man. Their hero arrives, always the girl’s idyllic partner, and then they ride off into the sunset. Happily. Ever. After. We watched these movies, over and over again reinforcing that we deserve to have the perfect partner. And then from our teens into our early 20s we experience the first real devastating blow. He isn’t perfect. He is his own person. He is planning his future and it probably doesn’t include you. So we go searching for the next series of relationships where we are seeking out that perfect somebody. Again, devastating blows. Partners who are really only interested in sex, or partners who like you, but they aren’t perfect so you don’t want to date them. By the time our mid to late 20s arrive, we settle on the idea that we will fall in love with somebody who has potential. The rock that can be buffed into the tile. The man who can be turned into the buddha. And then so our creative and probably unconscious manipulation begins. We think to ourselves, one day his career will be together, one day she’ll want kids, one day he’ll sit and meditate with me, one day. And for too many, that day never arrives. And you’ve painted in your head this perfect idea of who your partner has the potential to be, which is nothing that they want for themselves. And we are left suffering in silence, do we leave them for not meeting our expectations or do we learn to accept them for who they actually are.
I recall thinking this many times in the last 2 years. If I stay with him, I need to accept him for who he is. If I leave him, I have to trust that he’ll become who he wants to become and not feel tortured by my unrealistic expectations of who I want him to be. So this, among other reasons, is the reason I’m now single. I couldn’t bare to witness how badly I tried to change my partner to fit this idea of who I want him to be. So much focus was directed towards he and us, that I forgot that the only real work I need to be doing is on me. So I’m back to the drawing pages. With a new perspective and a new lesson to hold near and dear to my heart. Something to carry with me in my months, years ahead. The practice of surrendering, the practice of acceptance the practice of being okay with where people are at and not trying to coach or change them.
Darci is an avid student and teacher who feels that yoga doesn’t stop once you get off your mat. It’s a lifestyle, a way of living, and a way of taking care of those around you. With an unwavering attention to detail and an innate curiosity about the human body, Darci is a dedicated student of the Moksha Yoga community, both as a studio owner, a teacher and a student. Raised in a flow based community, Darci has studied Moksha, Moksha Flow, Moksha Level Two and Yin under the guidance of Angela Zawada and the greater Moksha Yoga faculty. She is always inspired by the teachings of Michael Stone and that to live a life that is full and supported, you have to engage in conversation and take care of each other and yourself. She is humbled by each member of this community (sangha), and their love for life!