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"Lofty Ideas" ~ Archives
1999 to 2005
| Fall '99
Can you coax your mind from its wandering and keep to the original oneness?
as Healer, Yoga as Teacher
~ Lofty Ideas
1. Ahimsa - harmlessness, nonviolence, kindness.In The Heart of Yoga, T.K.V. Desikachar says that aparigraha means to "receive exactly what is appropriate and no more." Yogi John Friend adds "voluntary simplicity, not accumulating things beyond what is necessary." Similarly, in Christianity we are warned against the deadly sin of greed.
It's quite difficult in this affluent society not to get swept up in the desire for possessions. So many products are readily available and affordable. Look at the stuff that people set out in their garage sales - things they bought two years before at someone else's garage sale! Necessities? Marketers and advertisers do their best to manipulate us into believing that we need what they've got. First we buy the idea that we need the product, then we get out our cash or credit card. Even the "neediest" people I know have more than bare necessities. It's easy to accumulate clutter and debt. Consider the amount of energy it takes to maintain what we have, as well as the wastefulness of having things we don't use.
Along with possessions, comes the attachment to them as we assign them worth beyond their monetary cost. Our self-esteem can get entangled with our belongings. Status is certainly connected to what we own. We can develop fears surrounding the possible loss of possessions. What a challenge this is to keeping balance.
I remind you that yoga is achieved by managing energy. At that workshop I attended given by Dr. Robert Svoboda, he offered a great description of the Eight Limbs of Yoga as a "progressive restriction of your organism's ability to waste energy." The yogi increases his energy by functioning efficiently, eliminating that which is toxic or stagnant(in body or mind), and then building up reserves of healthy prana. We learn this process during our practice of asana and pranayama in our classes. But it is my understanding that the hugest waste of energy occurs in the mind.
Here is a self-guided image that I created once when I found myself obsessing with the desire for something that was totally unrealistic for me to have. I noticed a physical sensation around my heart when I was experiencing longings. I also found that I would instinctively place my hand on my chest when I felt this way. Meditating upon the situation, I saw an image of a voracious, snarling wolf, eating my heart. (Just a little snapshot from the dark side of my brain!) So I put a muzzle on him. A strong one. I realized the truth in the expression "eat your heart out." This statement is literal at the subconscious level. Symbolically I was allowing my yearnings to consume big bites of energy from my heart chakra. Occasionally I go back to this image and check the muzzle. There have been times when the wolf looks more like a domesticated dog. I take that as a good sign, but will not be fooled into removing the restraint. If desire or greed is eating at your heart, close your eyes and form an inner muzzle to control the hunger, or come up with your own creative solution to end this kind of self-cannibalism. Don't consume your own energy needlessly with greed.
Now my longing is to simplify and reduce what I have. Ironically, I still need to find more energy in terms of time and effort in order to accomplish that before I can be back in balance.
Next Set of Five - Niyama
Just keep doing it
fourth Niyama ~ Swadhyaya
with the Flow, Riding the Wave
"Let my life force be linked to my heart and my heart be linked to the truth that lies deep within me. Let that truth be linked to the eternal which is unending joy."
know you are, but what am I?
Is your body endomorphic, mesomorphic or ectomorphic?In the newest yoga book I'm reading, Yoga for Transformation, it says that the ancients saw that an individual could be symbolized by one of four types of imperfect vessels ~ the upside-down vessel, the dirty vessel, the leaky vessel or the tilted vessel. The author of this book, Gary Kraftsow, is one of the teachers I will study with next month at the Yoga and Ayurveda Conference. I think my vessel is tilted, but I'm only on page 15.
So what's the point of all this pigeon-holing? Once we have a glimpse into our own construction and motivation, what do we do with the information? One popular application is in pick-up lines or small talk at parties and awkward situations. "What's your sign? No, let me guess..", "I can't take my eyes off your mount of Venus..."
But seriously, it is clear in seeing so many systems of identifying patterns in Malcolm Godwin's book, that all of them seem to honor the varied forms of humanity without judgment. They recognize the need for a more sophisticated approach than the one-size-fits-all method of behaving, interacting, growing and healing. There is not a body type that is bad, or a personality that is superior to another. There is just enormous variety in the combinations of factors that make each of us unique (just like everybody else).
All systems demonstrate at least two opposite characteristics, a pair of opposites, that can be brought into balance for well-being. There are also systems of threes, fours, fives and nines which display geometric forms of interplay. All aspects play together like parts of a mobile which move gracefully within a state of balance.
There can be positive and negative expressions of a distinctive feature. For example the shadow side of the analyst might be the critic, who is analytical with judgment. When the opinion of good or bad are allowed to take form, perception begins to muddle. Power and control issues arise. The ego begins to flourish. When perception is untainted by judgment, awareness can be more easily maintained in the present moment. It is the objective viewpoint that illuminates Truth.
An effective technique for placing the mind in a state of objectivity is to look at your own life as if it were someone else's story. We are all familiar with many archetypal patterns, but tend to recognize them more easily in others than in ourselves. We know them from fairy tales, history, films and theater. Imagine the people and circumstances in your life as the characters and plot of an epic tale, intriguing and complex. This is best done in a relaxed, meditative state. You may begin to notice the roles of a hero (the knight), an antagonist (the destroyer), a child (the innocent), a victim, a trickster, an angel, a clown (comic relief), a magician, and others. Detach from the emotions and struggles as you have experienced them personally and watch yourself and others simply playing their parts. It may shed a new light on your life.
Tidbits of knowledge and wisdom that I brought back from the Yoga and Ayurveda Conference in Palm Springs:
*An ayurvedic meal is balanced by including all six tastes in the foods prepared - sweet, sour, salty, pungent (hot), bitter and astringent. This is a different approach than the Western model of the food pyramid, made of basic food groups. I find it very practical and simple to apply.
If these enemies are destroyed, there will be no harm done.
Judging Mind vs Witness Mind
We can go to a movie and watch suspense, tragedy, drama, all kinds of intensely emotional events, and sit relatively calmly in our seats and call it entertainment. We even pay for it. When the same kinds of events occur in our so-called “real” lives, to ourselves, our friends and families, we call it stress. The practice of developing the “witness self” is honing our skills to watch the drama of our lives with detachment at the same time we are participating in it.
The judging mind places a “good” or “bad” value on everything we perceive. Often our stress is exacerbated by the uncertainty of the future. We wonder how long or how much we can endure the bad stuff that's happening. Yet as movie critics we would praise the script that keeps us guessing and then endows us with the gift of the unexpected.
Even comedy contains elements of tragedy. What's funny about slapstick? We laugh at people getting hurt. In the world of “toons” slapstick is taken to unreal extremes. We laugh at absurd violence and invite children to view with us. Comedians and satirists have defined their art as “tragedy plus time”. Time heals wounds, and healing transforms perception. Or perhaps transformed perception produces healing. Or maybe they are just simultaneous occurrences. At any rate, there would be nothing to laugh about if nothing went “wrong.”
The judging mind is the default mode of our thinking. It has been programmed into us and therefore requires quite a bit of uninstalling to overcome. Why do we want to overcome it? It can be the source of suffering to believe that life or any part of it is bad. That is not to say it isn't painful, difficult, or tragic, but we don't have to put a negative value on difficult experiences.
I've been enthralled with the current Harry Potter series and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. On the surface these stories may appear to be about good vs evil. That would be perspective of the judging mind. The witness mind can see the metaphors that abound in these tales.
Both heroes in these stories suffer danger, uncertainty, and loss that go on and on. The more they suffer, the more their resolve must grow. Their strength and hidden powers are intrinsic, but not invulnerable. Harry and Frodo have mentors and loyal friends to accompany them on their journey. Both need the support of their allies to fulfill their own destinies, even though they ultimately face their challenges alone. Both possess magical tools that have been bestowed upon them. These are tools that warn them when danger is near or shield them from it, blades or spells that can disarm their enemies, garments that give them protection when worn. Within each hero is the potential to move toward the light or the darkness.
We are meant to be the heroes of our own screenplays, not to allow ourselves to become powerless victims of the plot. Yoga puts us in touch with our mentors, our allies, and our magical tools when we see clearly. Judgement clouds perception.
During yoga practice we have an opportunity to replace judgement with objectivity. The first step is to avoid looking sideways. What another can do or not do does not need to be a reference point for your own ability. There is something your body would like to tell you that has nothing to do with anyone else. It is only about your experience in your body.
The second step is to improve and expand your vocabulary. If you're not going to allow the mind to use the lazy descriptions of “that feels good” or “that hurts” you will need to come up with some other adjectives. How about tight, loose, soft, hard, heavy, light, confusing, different, warm, burning, cold, unbalanced, wobbly, disconnected, whole, steady, still, dynamic, wet, dry, slippery, sticky, electrical, sharp, etc.
The third step is to understand, love and respect the person in the body that you are witnessing, as your most beloved. This is not ego or vanity. It is true self-esteem.
under your nose
The Traffic Helicopter
Life is full of paradox and unexpected turns. In our Wednesday evening meditation group we have been listening to recordings of Erich Schiffman, a well respected yoga instructor and author of Moving into Stillness . He presents the following story for your consideration.
Imagine yourself driving down a long road in wide open spaces. You can see for many miles, but in the far distance the road curves and leaves your vision. The road you're on is the shortest and quickest path to your destination, but suddenly a thought pops into your mind to turn off the main road and go the long way. That not being logical, you decide to stay the course you're on. What you can't see, is that there is an accident blocking the road just around the curve. If you were to turn on your car radio, you might tune in to the traffic helicopter above, from which the path around the turn is clearly seen. The job of the helicopter pilot is to tell you that the detour off the main road is actually the shortest and quickest path to your destination now.
The thought that popped into your head was a clue to the fact that you are already tuned in to the helicopter pilot. If you turn the radio on, the reception might be clearer. Then you may choose which road to take. Do you trust only what your eyes can see? Will you follow the guidance from above?
This image is intended to remind you to listen. Sometimes we're too busy talking to hear. Sometimes we hear, but ignore. Sometimes we don't like the message. Maybe we hope it's wrong. After all, there are many thoughts bouncing around in our heads. How do we know if the message is true? Doubt and fear undermine the process. But the process is part of our nature. We are designed for this type of communication. Erich suggests practicing using this kind of guidance with small, everyday decisions, like "What shirt should I wear?" "What shall I eat?" It is wise to start out small and allow yourself to grow gradually. That is the design of life.
You might entertain yourself by counting how many little decisions you can relinquish to inner guidance in a day, in a week. Then notice how many are inconsequential, or do some make a difference? There is no "control" group here, so who knows what difference it would have made if you wore the yellow shirt. But pay attention to unexpected coincidences. A coincidence signals some kind of connection. Yoga is all about The Connection.
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