Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Best to Stay

So on Friday night Manorama's lecture was to begin at 6:30 but she was there around 6:10 and a large majority of the group was already there and so she was trying not to start. She was asking a few gentle questions and The Teaching was beginning to pour forth from her and several times she said, "I guess we should wait..." And she really did try to wait. She really did. But it had already started. She knew, we knew it and so by 6:20 or so she announced, "I am just going to go ahead and start...people who come in can just join us where we are. I must keep moving. It is my nature. Best to stay with one's nature."

So that was a great teaching really. She didn't spend a lot of time going into it or giving a commentary about it but this is a big consideration for me. She said, yes, we should study our nature and learn about it but really, we are not going to be able to stray too far from it nor should we spend a lot of energy trying. I love this teaching.

I think The New Age/Modern Cultural Paradigm overlay on yoga gives a lot of us the impression that yoga will make us somehow different that who we are. One day, we unconsciously assume, we will morph into some kind of saint. We will be some wise person in white flowing robes who exudes compassion, love, sweetness, never hurts another person's feelings and never spills tea on themselves or comes late to an appointment and so on. "Being yogic" is somehow synonymous with this idea of psychological/personality perfection and innocuous goodness that even gets thrown around and used against ourselves and one another. ("Wow, that yoga teacher asked me to pay for the classes I owe, not very yogic..." or "Oh, well, she sure is intense, not very yogic....." or "Wow, well doesn't he have a temper I guess he is not very yogic...." or "that class was hard, not very yogic or relaxing"... or "I am not very patient, I am so un-yogic..." or whatever....)

And my point is the whatever because it is an ever-changing stream because this is not really a true or examined yogic standard it is the voice of the downward spiral of self criticism dressing up and using un-examined, unrealistic and inaccurate yogic ideals to further its case.

Now, the truth is, yoga has made some of us "different". But that difference, I think, is actually the clearing away of those things that are other than our nature. (And of course there is the burning away of the seeds of samskaras but that is a slightly different discussion for another time.)

So, for instance, yoga can help us clear away our anger so we are more compassionate but our true nature was compassionate to begin with. But if we are intense, yoga will probably not make us less so. It could helps us channel it well and toward the Highest. If we are clear and precise, it will not make us otherwise. If we are passionate and dynamic we will not "yoga" ourselves out of those traits. If we like pretty, shiny things, we are probably always going to like pretty, shiny things but we can learn to see them for what they are. If we like delicious food and drink, yoga will not decrease our enjoyment of those things in life- it will actually open the door to greater enjoyment- but we might learn that sensory gratification is only what it is and we might become less dependent on it. And if we are sweet-tempered and patient, well lucky for us, these qualities, too, get to stay!

And yoga can help us develop skills and practices and outlooks in areas that can bolster aspects of our nature that do not serve our hearts highest aims. For instance, certain types will simply not be inclined toward activity. The type will not fundamentally change but appreciation for the benefits of movement can be cultivated and become established in our practice. Those of us who love movement can learn to appreciate the benefits of those practices that balance us and quiet us and in that way we can appear to change but one must ask if that is really a change of one's nature or a good set of skills.

Carlos Pomeda mentioned this in his talk in Tucson about the history of yoga in India and the fact that there have always been many valid approaches in that culture. ("If we begin with the assumption that Reality is too vast to be captured by any one system, then it clears the way to different darshans (viewpoints)." Something like that.) He said that the idea of types is central to the Indian way of thinking and so one would engage a spiritual path that was compatible with one's nature. If you are a devotional type find a bhakti path not an intellectual one. And so on. Really, we do not have to push the river to practice yoga or turn it into some huge self-improvement project. We can align with where we fit, ride the ride and allow that path to cultivate us and to align us optimally.

Several times Manorama mentioned her Guru's definition of yoga- "Yoga is that state where you are missing nothing." Yoga practices, then are those practices that help us gain access to that state. "Being yogic" is not about an ongoing litany of ways we are not being enough- "good enough, smart enough, skilled enough, flexible enough, strong enough, disciplined enough, compassionate enough, insightful enough, etc etc. etc. (blah, blah, blah.) Being Yogic is the recognition and expereince of Fullness. Of Enough. It is being established in our nature.

Enough already. Have a good one.


Terri said...

I'm loving this thread of teaching that you are sharing here, as I always do. This is great stuff!! Thanks so much!!

mandy eubanks said...

Great Post. We are what we are, perfectly flawed. I know that seeing our flaws is not the point but since we, or I, see things in contrast I intend to see my limitations up against my talents as just a part of my wholeness. Helps me to not attempt to rid myself of my nature that is not what i consider "my best" but rather to be more skillful in times where my nature is expressing it's limited side through careful and compassionate choices. The last year I have rather enjoyed my "dark" side, it visits me monthly. I'm learning to not apologize for my nature during that time, or try to fix myself, but rather be more thoughtful and make choices that leave me feeling nurtured and loved. Thanks for letting me share!

Marcia Tullous said...

Hello Christina!

Thank you. I love this topic and conversation. A pure feeling of wholeness after my first class is what pulled me on this path. It didn't even matter that I had no idea what I was doing or that I felt so shaky and weak. I remember that, but that part makes me giggle. What I remember most is, for once, feeling settled, at ease, at peace with myself and my life. Moving and resting does that for me, that combination gives me that feeling of togetherness.

Love to You,

Svetha said...

Great read, Christina. The practice of yoga contains a great neutralizing power where you are satiated within so that you can give back out and that to me, is the great balance found in nature.

Dale said...

My yoga is also not about reaching enlightenment. And it isn't even about becoming non-flawed. Ultimately, I practice to have fun. And that might be the purpose of the universe. Not necessarily fun in a shallow way, but yoga is not shallow either. Fun can include satisfaction, joy, elation, relief, and humor. Fun might also include making a universe in which to play hide & seek with yourself, or making a race of folks to become friends with.

And I agree with folks - these practices help me shine up the parts of me that I like (like being strong or patient), and maybe get a handle on some parts that I am not so fond of (like having a toothache or acting arrogantly).

But I find that the tools do not change me, only enable me.

There is a useful theory that you can become like something or someone by acting like them - you can become kind by acting kind. This makes for good neighbors, of course :-), but my theology is that our actions flow outward, from our heart, not that our characteristics flow inward, from our habits or actions. So I do not think that practicing non-violence toward myself in asana will make me less violent in life. But I think that once my heart becomes non-violent, my practice will give me better tools for implementing non-violence.

Interesting post - thanks!!