You might be thinking: So why do you even bother to write this post, if you already have an answer to this question? Well, recent posts in the cybershala have made me think about this question again. Here's an example. In his recent post, Grimmly alludes to this thing called "injury guilt". This is what he says:
"I'm sure experienced teachers are wonderful at helping their students with their injuries in the shalas but I can imagine said students often feel a bit of a bother and an imposition, injury guilt, however much they're told that's why the teacher is there and welcomes the break from the monotony."
I think I can relate to at least some of what Grimmly is saying here. I injured my SI joint big time last June, and while this happened after I had moved away from my teacher and was no longer practicing in a shala, I still felt frustrated and yes, a little guilty that my practice was not pain or injury free. If the idea of practice is to achieve Sthira Sukham Asanam ("Asana is comfort with stability"), my practice was definitely lacking in the Sukham ("comfort") department. I remember that in the first couple of weeks of the injury, it took me more than two hours (and a ridiculous amount of sweating) just to get through primary. There was also the guilt associated with not practicing well enough to avoid injury. And then there was the guilt associated with feeling this guilt (second-order guilt?). I can go on and on with this whole thing. But I think many of you know what I'm talking about here, so I'm going to leave it at this. I guess the question is: Is such practice/injury-related guilt something that gets in the way of the practice, and should therefore be avoided? Or does this guilt somehow serve a positive function at some level?
Guilt also surfaces in the practice in a more mundane everyday way. One might feel guilt at having missed practice, or at faffing around too much, or at not giving one's perceived best in particularly challenging postures. And of course, one may also feel guilty about feeling guilty (again, second-order guilt). Again, the question is: Is such guilt something that gets in the way of the practice, and should therefore be avoided? Or does this guilt somehow serve a positive function at some level?
And of course, there is guilt that manifests in our lives off the mat. Guilt at not being a good enough son/daughter/father/mother/husband/wife/teacher/student/you-name-it. Moral guilt at having done something morally wrong, or not having done something morally good enough. Existential guilt. The list goes on. Again, the same question: Is such guilt something that gets in the way of a fulfilling life, and should therefore be avoided? Or does this guilt somehow serve a positive function at some level?
I have already given you my answer to all these questions at the beginning of this post, and am curious to hear what you think.