I’m amazed by a lot of things. But the thing that really amazes me is no matter what kind of mood I’m in, no matter hat the world seems to be hitting me with, a long slow concentrated yoga session can really bring me back to earth and make me feel happy and contented with life. It’s true, no matter what kind of tension I walk in with, I walk out feeling completely relaxed.
I was dumped recently. I packed my bags in the morning (there was only a bag to pack) and took them to my new room and then went off to teach a yoga class. I was miserable, questioning everything, confused, sad, broken hearted. There were about six people. It was maybe my fourth studio class and the first of the weeks classes I was doing. It was nice, I took my time, the whole class was relaxing. By the time I finished guiding them thru bodily awareness of sivasana I was completely relaxed and content with everything in life. I left feeling clean and clear.
A bit of confusion and questioning clouded life for a few days, but I wasn’t terribly upset. I knew that I just had to let it go. On the other hand, I also had to have a good look at the questions before I just let them go. But go they did and then an ennui set in after a few more days. I was still practicing the whole time (not teaching much), and my back has gone out again. Problems problems of the mind. I was setting myself apart. Perhaps I always have. We all do this sometimes, some of us more than others, and perhaps all of us in different ways. We believe ourselves different, separate.
Two clues came to me. The first was “The Little Prince” when the Prince meets the fox who wants to be tamed by the little prince. The Fox talks about how he will then set the Little Prince apart from everyone else, he will become special and unique in the foxes heart. There something both beautiful and deadly about this part of the book.
The second clue came to me the next morning after picking up the Yoga Sutras after about four months of being away from them. Book one talks about the goal and the results of yoga. Book two tells you how to practice yoga. I opened it randomly to book two. I have the penguin classic edition translated and commented on by ….
The Sutra was:
Suffering comes about by ignorance, egotism, attachment, aversion and clinging to bodily security. (Book 2 : 3)
The commentary that followed clearly says: “Egotism or obsession with the idea that one is very distinct or different from the other causes suffering, for this overlooks one’s nature as a purusha, which has the basic characteristics in common with all other purushas.” (Shyam Ranganathan, translation and commentary)
It struck me immediately, this sense of setting myself apart. This is very much what my last blog post was about: setting myself apart with a Rebel Yell.
So then, this is what the ego is: the declaration that “I am different.” Not only am I different and unique (special even) from the rest of nature (the rocks the land the plants the animals), I am unique and special (or at least different) than the rest of humanity. Ignorance is the cloud that causes us to announce this to the world, be it in writing or thru selfish action. Ignorance is believing in the beauty and the primacy of the ego (of our difference, our uniqueness).
So, realising that I was both egotistical and ignorant, I went back to my room and began practicing: some surya namaskaras and other dynamic movements with breathing. I was only pushing about 50%; not pushing at all, just flowing nice and easy. Then I did a few things for my back, a nice easy controlled comfortable cobra and a bit of locust the same, then I slipped back into child’s pose, lengthening my spine and breathing gently into it, opening it, massaging it. And then I began pranayama: bellows breath, fire breath, anuloma viloma. Then I sat creating thoughts, looking at them from different angles and then throwing them out. I got entangled and lost a few times but I was able to find my way back quickly. I did a few rounds of mentally doing anuloma viloma, and then I went to my favourite Buddhist meditation: breathing in joy, breathing out joy; breathing in health, breathing out health…. In and out went the good vibes for about five minutes. It was perfect, beautiful, they just kept coming to me.
The ennui disappeared. I’ve been clear again for the day, and much more sociable. Content and happy, nothing to worry about. In other words it’s been a good day. I’m still looking at all the things I do for myself, my attitude about my uniqueness. This chapter when the prince meets the fox is so beautiful and yet so frightening. To be set apart as special not only in the eyes of others, but in our own eyes is somehow essential in human life, but it’s this separation that causes much of the pain and suffering of human life.
So yes, it’s been a good day, but the questioning and confusion isn’t over.
Action in yoga consists of penance, study (of the Vedas and the self) and surrendering to Ishvara (the lord). [Yoga Sutra. Book 2: 1 Shyam Ranganathan, translation and commentary]