Love will arise in your heart when you have no barrier between yourself and another, when you meet and observe people without judging them.—Krishnamurti
Whether consciously or unconsciously, as a society we are obsessed by what and how we present ourselves to the world, whether it’s choosing what clothes to wear, what car to drive or simply minding our language.
For the most part there is function to our choices however we are easily influenced by our external environment (political/social influences/advertising) and as a result we can become lost in form.
Form is what we project outwardly, if we become too outwardly focused our true nature becomes concealed, seemingly lost yet it’s literally within us, within each of us. We continue to seek meaning, direction, answers, quick fixes and validation externally, but truly, everything we need is already within us. By revealing what has been concealed, we gain a truer understanding of our place in the world and how we function within it.
Exploring the concept of foraging, I’ve been enjoying nettle tea and cake which has led me down a new path of what other seasonal plants can be eaten or infused for tea. I was recently introduced to Cleaver tea ( good for metabolism), previously these plants were simply the annoying sticky leaves found on my back after walking anywhere with my son!
When out walking last week, the path and undergrowth were bursting with green lushness, upon closer inspection I noticed it was predominantly nettle and cleaver. I found myself wishing I’d brought gloves, snips and a basket! It made me think how differently I now perceive these plants. When found in our garden they would previously have been considered weeds, something we need to remove or at least keep on top off. It made me think how lost in form we have become and how detached from function we have drifted. Generations ago our gardens served as a source of food and medicine, not neatly mown patches of grass surrounded by structurally designed beds full of flowers and shrubs chosen purely for their aesthetics. Nowhere is form/aesthetics more prominent than on social media. Rather reluctantly, last year I joined the world of Instagram, however I’ve discovered I enjoy sharing photos of what inspires my yoga practice, on and off the mat. What I did reflect on recently was that anyone stumbling across my page
wouldn’t know that I’m a yoga student or teacher unless they took the time to read more than a few posts or check my bio. There simply aren't many photos of a yoga mat let alone a picture of me in a yoga pose! In the world of online yoga, follows/likes, form/aesthetics are very important, which made me question the function of my page! It is and always has been, a conscious decision not to post photos of yoga asanas for the most part. Striving for perfect or challenging form is not the function or purpose of my yoga practice or of the yoga I share. The longer I study and practice yoga the less it has become about the form; whether I can create the shape desired, take a challenging variation or hold it longer is no longer my goal or inspiration. It has become something richer and quieter. It might not look any different from the outside but the inner experience, my perception and therefore its function, is completely different.
My copy of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is well worn and battered, having bought it long before I embarked on Teacher Training or ever teaching. I think I tried to read it cover to cover as quickly as possible when I first bought it, thirsty for knowledge. Naturally it can’t be understood in that way or in one read! It’s a book I dip into and refer to again and again and each time I gain a little deeper insight into its treasure. However my ego often feels it should have a better grasp of it all by now and yet, it was an aha moment this week when I was drawn back to the very first few sutras…. and just like viewing the nettles and cleavers differently, I gained a deeper understanding of the meaning in those first sutras. Sometimes we know things, but then we understand, gaining a much deeper knowledge than we thought was possible.
1.1 Atha yogAnushAsanaM
Now begins an exposition of the sacred art of yoga.
Yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness.
तदा द्रष्टुः स्वरूपेऽवस्थानम्॥३॥
1.3 tadA drashtuH svarUpe&vasthAnaM
Thus the seer dwells in his own nature.
At other times the seer identifies with the fluctuating consciousness.
Sutra 1.1 introduces us to the word Citta. Citta is consciousness, made up of 3 factors: mind, intellect and ego. Citta is the vehicle of observation, attention, aims and reason.
Sutras 1.2 & 1.3 emphasise the need for the mind to become totally still before the pure consciousness can get established in its pure nature.
In Sutra 1.4, Patanjali offers almost a warning that if you do not make the effort to ‘still’ the mind’s fluctuations, then the vrittis (fluctuations caused by the ego and the past impressions) take control of the mind.
The natural tendency of consciousness is to become involved with the object seen, this becomes the seed for diversification of intelligence.
Below are two excerpts from Eknath Easwaran’s beautiful commentary of the Bhagavad Gita:
“Let us imagine citta to be like an optical lens, containing no light of it’s own, but placed directly above a source of pure light, the soul. One face of the lens, facing inwards towards the light, remains clean. We are normally aware of this internal facet of citta only when it speaks to us with the voice of conscience. In daily life however we are very much aware of the upper surface of the lens; facing towards the world and linked to it by the senses and the mind. Worked upon by the desires and fears of turbulent worldly life, it becomes cloudy, opaque, even dirty and scarred and prevents the soul’s light from shining through it. Lacking inner illumination it seeks all the more avidly the artificial lights of the conditioned existence."
“The mind observes the so-called outside world and sees its own structure. It reports that the world consists of a multiplicity of separate objects in a framework of time, space and causality because these are the conditions of perception. In a word, the mind looks at unity and sees diversity; it looks at what is timeless and reports transience. And in fact the precepts of its experience, separateness is real. Our mistake is in taking this for the ultimate reality, like the dreamer thinking that nothing is real except his dream.``
Science tells us that outside us there are only energies of different frequencies and that our brains assemble them into pictures and our minds give them names and meanings
By directing most of our attention and awareness outwardly, we focus on projection. Projection takes us further away from our Self, from our own true nature; the art of concealment.
Through concealment we lose the connection we have with the moment, with nature, with purpose and direction, our being becomes fragmented and shallow.
The power of perception and the power of questioning; why we do what we do, think what we think and feel what we feel. It's in the untangling the web of perception, working towards revealing our true self, our purpose and function, that ultimately we find a deeper connection to our true nature. However, the mind is stubborn, it requires persistent effort, questioning and practice.
Practice, practice, practice, compassion, forgiveness and love.
We often try to project strength and power but this only serves to create separateness and ultimately it conceals love. Love is at the centre, of us and of everything.
The wave is distinct from the ocean only in its form and name, and this form and this name cannot have any separate existence from the wave; they exist only with the wave. The wave may subside, but the same amount of water remains, even if the name and form that were on the wave vanish for ever. (sv III:419) http://yogananda.com
What does this means for our practice this month?
It means coming back to the breath, to the intelligence of the body, being open to question everything and be ready to polish up your inner light!
We'll make use of mudras, mantra and repetition within our practice of pranayama, asana and savasana. Moving from external experience to an internal experience.
Choose Compassion over Comparison
I accept others,
I accept myself,
I am free to be me,
I am free