The Enlightening Mat: The First Noble Truth


It's hot, the room stinks, it's a long and arduous process, and the constant drone of the teacher never ends.

The Bikram yoga room is a nightmare where you are awake.

It's suppose to be. It's your training ground for living in a way where you are most fully alive. 

It's a playground for experiencing and working with suffering -- the material of your life. If you aren't suffering in the Bikram yoga room, then you're probably doing it wrong.

Bikram yoga is a place where you can come to edge of your physical and emotional suffering, be with it, touch it, understand it, accept it, take responsibility for it, and create anew.


This is the beginning of a four-part series looking at the Four Noble Truths -- an important Buddhist teaching. The First Noble Truth taught by the Buddha is that life involves dukkha, which has been loosely translated as suffering.

Outside Buddhist circles, people cringe at the mention of the word "suffering." It sounds dark and depressing, so it's interesting to look at other words that have been used to try to explain this concept of dukkha such as dissatisfaction, stress, anxiety, and disquiet. It's hard to wrap your head around the idea that dukkha could be as extreme as emergency surgery or as seemingly miniscule as the dog barking outside at dawn. Dukkha is our disharmony with things as they are.

I like the way Sylvia Boorstein has translated the First Noble Truth -- this ancient concept of suffering -- for modern ears:

Life is challenging. For everyone. Our physical bodies, our relationships—all of our life circumstances—are fragile and subject to change. We are always accommodating.

Life presents challenges, and we interact with them. How we choose to work with these challenges is completely up to us and can become a mechanism for expressing an enormous inner power called creativity.

In our daily lives we can play unconsciously with the challenging material that emerges or we can develop a mindful way of interacting with suffering. For me, Bikram yoga has become one of the tools that helps me develop awareness so that I can make creatively conscious choices when I am faced with new challenges -- the natural suffering that is the rich material of my life. 

The Enlightening Mat is a blog series exploring moments of awareness that come to Beth Hemmila while practicing Bikram Yoga.

To shop for yoga charms that celebrate the different poses click here to view this blog post Sterling Silver Charms for Bikram Yoga Postures

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