The word foundation conjures buildings, yoga, relationships. As the beginning, the foundation of a building must bear the load of what is above it, as well as be able to anchor the integrity of the structure when it’s faced with changing external forces over time. In a similar way, when we offer Yoga Foundations programming, it is to provide a strong base of understanding, tools and individual awareness, upon which one can not only build more complex techniques but exists as a steady base of support when the forces of life threaten the integrity of our wellbeing. This all seems obvious. We get it. We need good foundations. Further, they must be tended over time, even if the original construction was solid. It’s not a one and done thing.
The same goes for relationships. The partnerships we build with integrity: in the light, with honesty, clear communication, respect, trust, kindness and generosity are ones that thrive; they were grown from a solid base, enabling them to weather the storms of time and age. While they may experience the natural currents of ebb and flow, if the foundation was well-built and regularly tended, those connections live on even as we grow and change. But if that original foundation was shaky, much like a poorly crafted building, the whole thing can fall apart pretty quickly when a big storm comes along.
I’ve been thinking about how this applies to us as individuals, because the truth is that we didn’t build our original foundation. It was built for us by our family and culture. And here’s the thing: whatever varying degree of dysfunction was the norm in your family of origin was also very likely the substance of some of the foundation stones upon which the rest of you was built. No matter how strong, steady, mindful, diligent and attentive you’ve been to the building of self over time, much like a physical structure, a yoga practice or a relationship, the state of your foundation is at the core of the integrity of the structure that is you.
In the past couple of years, I’ve spent a lot of time investigating my own subterranean base. I’ve been taking a look at what foundational building blocks were laid that are solid, steady and enduring. Just as important, I’ve been examining what are the shoddy, sub-par, crumbling foundation stones that need to be repaired, tended, or chucked into a dumpster and replaced altogether.
I was built on some good stuff: honesty, responsibility, self-reliance, integrity and accountability; putting others first; the necessity of hard work and flossing your teeth; and doing your best always. For the most part, I’ve tended those building blocks well, maybe to a fault at times. But I recognize the value of these parts of my foundation as the solid frame from which I was able to build a business, support myself, grow a community.
But let’s be real. There is also some real garbage in that foundation. Those foundation stones include maxims like: be seen and not heard; who and how you are is not good enough at the best of times and is unacceptable at the worst; do as you’re told; your worth lies in your productivity; no matter how bad things might be, just put your head down and keep going. While some of these foundation stones were critical in supporting my survival at various times in my life, the truth is that each of those flawed blocks threaten the integrity of the foundation necessary for me to build a full life wherein I can thrive and embody the totality of me that I was designed to be. Those blocks are made from old stories, flawed thinking, and not the best of the ancestral gifts.
Much of the subterranean excavation process I’ve undertaken has been to slowly and consistently chip those flawed blocks away and replace them with new, relevant, solid foundation stones, composed of what I believe now, what is most true and real and whole— exchanging them for the broken stone-stories of the past. It’s a lifelong process: the foundation of anything important will always need to be tended. But if we don’t take time to do a proper inspection, things can be crumbling away under our feet, and we don’t see it until something in our lives begins to unravel.
So if you find yourself asking questions like: Why am I doing this? Why am I like this? Why do I feel this way? How do I find myself here yet again? It’s interesting to consider both the overt and unspoken guides that shape and have always shaped your mind and actions, as perhaps they come from foundation stones that you were not part of laying. In other words, where are you still living from a bedrock of beliefs and stories put into place by the dysfunctional parts of culture and family rather than operating from the principles and tenets you know to be true now?
What are you trying to build? What parts of your foundation are strong and steady, supporting your process of becoming? What is crumbling and old and with what new stones could you replace them? We are all in a constant state of transformation. Consider your own foundation and how it is and is not supporting the becoming of who and what you most want to be. Tend the base. Grow from there.