In the early morning hour,just before dawn, lover and beloved awakeand take a drink of water.She asks, Do you love me or yourself more?Really, tell me the absolute truth.He says, There is nothing left of me.I am like a ruby held up to the sunrise.Is it still a stone, or a worldmade of redness? It has no resistanceto sunlight. The ruby and the sunrise are one.Be courageous and discipline yourself.Work. Keep digging your well.Don’t think about getting off from work.Submit to a daily practice.Your loyalty to that is a ring on the door.Keep knocking, and the joy insidewill eventually open a windowand look out to see who’s there.-Rumi
After last month’s satsang, someone said something that struck me—“my whole life I’ve been trying to be special and not just be a cog, and here I am trying to be a cog again.” It’s a brilliant revelation that after a lifetime of bolstering the ego and trying to become very important and respected, the real truth lies in simply being—letting go of self-importance and the need for egocentric recognition.
In another conversation with a student, the topic of asana (postures) came up. She told me she progressed from ashtanga’s primary series to the intermediate series. She told me she asked one of her teachers the honest and rarely asked question of “Why?” What is the purpose of advancement in asana? What is the purpose of arm balancing and putting one’s legs behind the head? Now, I don’t recall if she was given an answer, and if so what it was. However, when one comes to a practice with the original intention of cultivating a deeper union with the higher and truer self, asking why we do what we do is an essential part of the process. Additionally, understanding the reasons behind our methodology brings us to an investigation of how the prescribed methods work.
These two discussions provided me with ample food for thought. I personally prefer practicing in silence and relative solitude, apart from the small cluster of familiar faces I see daily and weekly. I find that my ego doesn’t speak up as much or as loudly and self-observation is more likely in an intimate setting. Now, some might say that one shouldn’t shy away from throngs of people showcasing their physical prowess and their super hip and trendy yoga attire, arguing that there’s no better environment in which to challenge oneself. I can only speak for myself—and I know enough to say that what little inner awareness I have isn’t yet steady enough to face crowds of people, leering students, loud music, and even louder personalities.
The fact remains that finding stillness is hard with or without external opposition. And often, once one embarks on the journey toward stillness, it becomes even harder. Self-observation means seeing things we once turned a blind eye to. It means noticing when the need to be the best and brightest has usurped our original intention of inner awareness and growth. It’s struggling against our own inner critic and continuing to do the work in spite of doubt, fear, and self-recrimination. This has become the grueling type of work I have become accustomed to. Doing this-asana or that-asana has provided me with a relatively stable environment in which to test the waters of my own fragile awareness, and therefore the asanas have not become an end unto themselves. Practicing persistently in this way has given me a certain perseverance over the years to keep going despite inner and outer changes. These days, I rarely step foot on my mat or approach sitting with the intention of feeling good about myself. Rather, the work I do is approached with a spirit of curiosity and a desire to understand what is seen.
Since keeping in contact with one’s initial intention of finding stillness is hard if not nearly impossible, another question arises: How? How in this world of hip-hop yoga, singles yoga, and new age avoidance and self-indulgence does the sincere yogin approach practice? The prescription is simple: abhyasa-vairagyabhyam tan-nirodhah – The vritti (mental fluctuations) are stilled through dedication and dispassion (1.12).
These are important matters for all teachers and sincere students, because while the prescription of discipline and nonattachment may be simple in theory, the medicine itself is known to be bitter in taste. We ask during this month’s satsang: What does discipline mean? How does one understand what it means to make the right kind of effort? What is the aim of our efforts? What are we aiming to be free from as teachers and as students? And foremost, how can the seemly opposite poles of discipline and nonattachment nourish each other?
Sincere students and teachers are encouraged to attend this month’s satsang on discipline and non-attachment. We will be looking at yoga sutras 1.12 through 1.14. Relevant feedback and questions regarding the topic are welcome and encouraged. Satsang will be held on Sunday, April 1, at 5:30 PM at Purple Yoga. Attendance is by donation.
For those of you who were unable to attend, please visit the follow-up blog. The blog is password protected and held privately for those in the group. If you are a satsang member, but do not have the password, please contact me.