So let's see- what is going on.... I had a great weekend home teaching in Austin. I was pretty tired from the festivities of The Anusara-Inspired Teacher's Gathering but by the end of the weekend I felt rested and back in my stride a bit. The Immersion group here continues to inspire and impress me with their capacity and studentship. They worked so hard on so many levels. And yet, even as I write that sentence, I am aware that "hard" may not be the best adjective to describe what I saw. They worked deeply. Yes, there was a physical effort for the asana but they were also so willing to explore their inner landscape and to open up and share how the teachings were taking hold inside of them.
A few months back I hosted Manorama to teach a course on the Bhagavad Gita in the Teacher Training Program in Corpus Christi. I was, as always, struck deeply by her and her teachings. (More on that later as I plan to compile and comment some of my notes from that soon but suffice it to say that I think she is a total badass on every level and she is totally my cup of tea as a teacher- strong, loving, funny, smart, compassionate, uncompromising, soft, strict, etc.)
Anyway, one thing she said that weekend was that the job of the student was to "get inside the teachings, not to defend against them." I thought this was so great. Obviously, we are not talking here about blind faith or accepting everything at face value just because it "comes from the tradition." Hopefully, it's obvious by now that I am a fan of discernment, discrimination and conscious engagement of the teachings.
So that being said and assumed, her point really hit home with me. When we engage a text like the Gita or Patanjali's Sutras or any of our source texts, it is easy to react to the language, the terminology, and the uncompromising demands they make and, without even realizing it, defend ourselves against them. Her instruction or invitation, was to find a way into them instead. Often that "way in" involved honestly acknowledging what words created reaction inside us and why.
For instance, there is a lot written about "self-control" in the Gita. And anyone who has been through some therapy or some 12-step work or has a introduction to spiritual concepts like "Let Go and Let God" often sees "control" as a negative thing. And so the text uses a word that triggers a certain response within us and if we are unaware of that trigger we are defending against the text before we even know it and missing a chance to benefit from the Teaching.
If, instead, we pay attention to our mind and its reactions, we get to ask a few deeper questions like "How is the text using that word?" and "Is the yogic application the same as the modern vernacular or common usage of the word?" What, for instance, does self-control mean from the perspective of the Gita? How, from a yogic perspective, is self-control absolutely necessary and beneficial? When we ask those questions, we being to find a way into the text.
Same with the Sutras where Pantajali outlines our "afflictions" and it can be so easy to recoil away from some of its language because- well, let's face it-- who among us likes to see ourself as afflicted? It can trigger a whole host of associative feelings that were not intended at all. We may feel criticized, ashamed, depressed, defensive and so forth. But that text, like I always say, is a "just that facts" kind-of -explanation and has no interested in bolstering our self-esteem or making us feel better about our lives or anything like that. Nope, its more about laying out what we are going to face when we set out to experience samadhi and dive into our inner lives. Lee used to say, "forewarned is forewarned" and the sutras are saying, "be ready- you are going to met some obstacles and afflictions within yourself!"
Another very cool teaching Manorama gave about The Gita was that "This is your story." And if we accept that premise when reading the Gita, we get to ask ourselves a very useful question as we study: "In what way is this my story?" In what way am I sitting on the battlefield of my inner life facing a choice that seems to have no easy way through it? In what way am I a warrior of great integrity battling with the forces of darkness and doubt and having to rely only on my duty, my connection to Spirit and my values to guide me? And so on. Truth be told, we are every person on that battlefield, as Mandy reminded us via Douglas Brooks' teachings.
I think that is the thing I love about the traditional teachings like The Gita. They are so real and applicable. There is this new-age idea that if we are ourselves and if we are authentic "everything is going to work out great." And sure, on some ultimate level, that is totally true. And, of course, The Gita speaks to this also reminding us time and again that the Self cannot be injured, killed or abolished and so on so do not worry. But the Gita also reminds us that here on earth, while we are in bodies, and living our lives as humans, when we set out to be ourselves, to live authentically and in alignment with our dharma, we are going to be on a battlefield and there are going to be times when we must act in ways that are not easy, that will create pain and that it may not always "work out" right away. The truth is that me walking around in my authenticity is going to rub against you walking around in yours and we are going to have sort that out from time to time. Its naive to think otherwise, in fact.
So- enough on that for now. We had a great Immersion weekend and I am still processing things from it and the week up in the mountains. And what better way to process things than through the lens of The Bhagavad Gita?