I got to start 2013 off right with an inspiring workshop led by Sarah Powers. It was Sarah’s first time in Melbourne and she shared some of the foundations of the Insight Yoga method that she created and teaches internationally. Insight yoga harnesses the power of both yin and yang yoga postures to examine and train the mind, drawing on insights from Taoist, Buddhist, and yogic teachings. Yoga’s transformative power comes from its ability to show us who we really are and Sarah spoke eloquently of our journey towards self-awareness being like a path through the forest. If we were to go walking through the woods where no path had been cleared, we would not get far. We would have to cut trees and clear branches and move rocks. We’d get pricked and scraped and cut and stung. Along the way even the most enthusiastic nature lover would stumble, get angry and frustrated, feel overwhelmed by the task of cutting through such an immense forest. We might think, “It will take forever to clear this path and we don’t even know where it’s going to lead.” This is like our meditation practice. We start with lots of enthusiasm, determined to discover ourselves anew. But then there we are in the dense, dark forest of our thoughts and we are overwhelmed. As we sit and breathe and try to make space, we are menaced by anger, impatience, frustration and even boredom. And like the tall trees in the forest, these obstacles can loom large. We fear we can never get through them. Or we succeed in clearing a little mental space for a day or week and then a person or event triggers a strong reaction and we think, “Damn! I’m stuck again.” Just as the enthusiastic naturalist might decide the forest is too thick and dangerous to clear, we may give up on making any space between ourselves and our most deeply rooted prejudices or strong emotions. But meditation does not promise that the way is always clear or that distracting or harmful thoughts or strong, disorienting emotions will vanish. When the path is cut through the forest, the trees remain on all sides. The path is small in comparison to the forest. But a dedicated meditation practice, like a narrow path amongst the trees, gives us just enough space that we can start to work our way through everything we think we are towards an understanding of who we really are.