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.