Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Book Excerpt

Yesterday, Dad posted some of his writing in the comments and I thought I would post a brief section from my manuscript on the topic of asking questions.
The working title of the book is My Body is a Temple, My Heart is the Shrine: Using the Principles of Ansuara Yoga to Build a Temple of the Body, A Life of Practice and a Personal Connection to Grace. This section is well into the book so when you read it you are mising some introductory coments and explanations. However, the basic story is about a visit I made to a particular ashram in India (Yogi Ramsuratkumar 's ashram. He is the my teacher's teacher) that inspired a consideration regarding building a temple. Temple of the body. Life of practice. That sort of thing. Hope you enjoy.
Asking the Right Questions

"I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."—Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, 1903

Yogi Ramsuratkumar knew clearly why he wanted to build his temple. Although his inspiration and intention were set, still he needed land, building plans, permits. He needed a project supervisor and people for work crews before he could commence building. Similarly, those of us who are building a temple of the body, if we desire a successful endeavor, will benefit from planning and from clarifying our agenda. For instance, we will need assistance; we will need to know what the “lay of the land” is before we get going. We can use three basic questions to guide our planning: Why? How? and What? These three questions correspond to the three A’s of Anusara Yoga, which are not only present in every asana, but are present in any endeavor. The three A’s are Attitude, Alignment and Action.

Attitude addresses the domain of intention and willpower—the domain of meaning. It answers the question Why. Alignment is the domain of knowledge, of “know-how.” Having set an intention, having become clear about why we want to apply ourselves to any given endeavor, we must educate ourselves in the techniques that will bring our vision to life. We must learn a skill set, so to speak. And “action is the physical manifestation of will power.”(1) Action refers to those things that we actually do in our lives, in the domain of activity and agency. Obviously, this book is aimed, not at answering these questions for you, but in assisting you in answering them for yourself.

The Problem With Answers
Werner Erhard, the founder of est seminars, is famous for saying that “Understanding is the booby prize.” On a similar note, yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar says that, “Yoga is not an intellectual game, it is a sharing of real experience.” Both of these teachers are pointing to the same idea, I believe, reminding us that simply understanding something is not the same as experiencing the truth firsthand.

Like many of us, when I am too quick to satisfy my intellect, I often truncate the process of real self-inquiry. As soon as my mind “figures something out” or “has an answer,” I stop actively exploring the idea. My mind actually convinces me I know, even though my behaviors and my heart may not be demonstrating that knowledge.
For instance, you have heard, “The body is a temple and therefore we should treat it with love and respect.” Obviously, this statement rings a bell of truth and you may think to yourself, “Yes, that is true. That explains it exactly! I should take better care of myself.” But then in the next hour, or over the next few days, you overeat, you over-consume alcohol, you smoke cigarettes, you ignore your body’s signals of pain in asana practice, you drink too much caffeine, you fail to sleep adequately, you eat foods that are full of chemicals and proven carcinogens, and so on. While the mind “knew the answer” of why you should take care of yourself, the questioning of how to bring that truth to life had ended before the knowledge was integrated into reliable, disciplined action. That deeper inquiry had stopped, and therefore the higher perspective was not realized.
So, while we can see that the intellect is satisfied by answers, the heart is only satisfied by soul searching, trial and error, and by the oftentimes painstaking process of refining oneself. We must be careful not to allow the intellect’s initial satisfaction with answers to seduce us into living only in the fascinating realm of thoughts and ideas. We must continue exploring the questions of the heart, even if the questioning process grows uncomfortable as it asks us to confront unexplored regions within ourselves, or to change our behaviors that no longer serve our movement toward truth.
As we practice, as we build a temple of the body, we must learn to ask meaningful, useful questions about our endeavors. Best is that we do not ask things like, “Why is it so hard?” Instead, we might ask, “How can I keep at the forefront of my mind why this hard work is necessary?” Best that we do not ask, “How can I make this easier?” when we might instead ask, “Is this worth it?” Answers are a function of the questions we ask. If we ask questions about how to grow as practitioners, we will get answers that assist us in deepening our sadhana. If we ask questions about how to be more comfortable along the way, those are the answers we will receive.
Hope to see everyone at 7th Street tonight. We will build on all the basics we started with last week and move into some deeper work wit the shoulders. That is my plan anyway.


Juliet Hewitt said...

Christina --

I just wanted to take a moment to express to you how much I enjoy reading your blog. I am an Anusara-inspired teacher working toward my certification. I use your writings to help me contemplate my own understanding of the Anusara teachings and to spark ideas for themes in my classes. I consider you to be my distance education teacher :). I am currently teaching at City Yoga in Columbia, South Carolina with Stacey Collins. I hope one day to have an opportunity to meet you in person. I read your first book and am looking forward to reading your next book.

Much Love
Juliet Hewitt

Jeremiah Wallace said...

I saw on a Snapple cap yesterday "Well done is better than well said." Obviously you're still writing a book, but the book serves to inform action and choice to act. And I've begun to see over the past few months how an attachment to rules doesn't always serve you. Rules satisfy the intellect and give it a base, but doesn't always allow for the flexibility to explore the heart and find maybe a less defined, but deeper meaning.

Christina Sell said...

Actually the book is all written. It is in John's editorial tema's hands.

The Frosolono Patriarch said...


An extraordinary posting: Well-written, well-thought out, well-organized, well-delivered.

AP2 and I impatiently await publication of the book, which will be another best-seller for you.

AP2 talked this morning with our contact person at the Stacy Group, the leasing/realty agency for resales in Sun City Georgetown. The duplex we're leasing comes complete with everything needed to take up housekeeping - bed linens, dishes, cooking utensils, silverware, vacuum cleaner, etc. That is, we will take only the Fit with us to TX and won't need you or Anzy to drive AP2 from GA to Sun City.

Love and blessings,