Have you ever tasted wine with a Master Wine Sommelier? Have you ever eaten with a great chef or Connoisseur? The wine takes on a whole new depth and the food awakens one’s senses. Watching a maestro (related to the English: “master”) play their instrument evokes feelings of grace and inspiration. When we see the great musician playing, we are seeing skill in action. When we witness the Connoisseur or Sommelier sharing their knowledge we are witnessing skill in action. The unifying trait in all these people is that they have cultivated skill in their ability. Whenever we are around greatness of any kind, we experience similar reactions and feelings.
For many, life is complex and challenging, and we often look to spirituality for answers. We think of the spiritual as some mystical process that can’t quite be described in words or fully grasped until experienced and then somehow our lives will be fine. And yet, when we look to an early definition in yoga philosophy we get a far different and simpler understanding: “Yoga is skill in action” (Bhagavad Gita 2:50). By this definition, yoga is not about practicing asana and contorting our bodies into strange shapes or spending hours seated in lotus pose meditating, but rather how skillfully do we live our lives? Simply put, yoga is skillful living. After all, being able to do advanced asana does not mean that we are skilled communicators, nor does it convey skill in cooking or tasting wine. Sitting and meditating does not guarantee or convey being skillful in our marriages, in our careers or planning for retirement.
Think about all the different things we all do every single day from the most mundane to the most complex, and then think for a moment how much skill do we bring to each act. With what level of skill are we living our lives?
There are two aspects to developing skill in any discipline or action. The first is awareness. How do I do the things that I do? How much skill do we have in the way we communicate, in the way we run our businesses, the way we cook our food or to the way we conduct our relationships? We can ask ourselves, what is the level of my skill in my marriage? What is the level of skill with the way that I move my body?
For most of us (unless we have ben trained) the answer is very low. This is also why we often respect and honor older people because we assume that through time and trail and error they have most likely figured a lot of things out… they have had time to practice – which is the second aspect to developing skill in any action. But why wait until we are sixty five? We can speed up that process and become more skillful in our lives right now.
By broadening our awareness of how much skill we bring to an action, with discipline and consistent practice, we can come to live more of our lives, more skillfully. And isn’t this what we all want from the get go anyway? A life of freedom and a life of joy. A life well lived!