i am

A few days ago, I was out early and saw a barefoot runner in the rain. The image stayed with me until I got back home and sat sipping my coffee. There sprung a few lines as I sat in the balcony full of the moment.

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Fast forward to today, my reading was focused on the Bhagwad Geeta 13:25. Part of the commentary in that shloka spoke about vichara and my mind went to the sutra that talks about vitarka, vichara, ananda and asmita. So, I did what any good student would do and opened up my books. 🙂 I now see the value in memorising and why the Indian system of study has always been heavy on rote learning.

If I had to take it step by step, it would begin with the Geeta shloka that goes, “Some, by meditation, behold the Self in the Self by the Self; others by the “YOGA-OF-KNOWLEDGE” (by SANKHYA YOGA); and others by KARMA YOGA.

The Yog Sutra reads as “Practice and detachment develop four types of samadhi: self-analysis, synthesis, bliss and the experience of pure being.”

For ease of use, I have stuck to the translations by Swami Chinmayananda and B.K.S.Iyengar respectively.

The sutra looks deceptively simple but is like waves upon waves of brilliance. It is the culmination of the previous 5 sutras beginning with Abhyasa vairagyabhyam tannirodhah (1:12). The commentaries have been pretty extensive on this one and this tasting is just that, a tasting. There are so many layers packed into its wisdom. All I sense now is an intuitive sense of light and I hope it will reveal itself. It’s interesting that the first pada is Samadhi pada and it weaves around the theme of abhyasa and vairagyam be it in the means, effects or obstacles.

It’s interesting how the four stages of samadhi are not just progressive but also integrative. It is clear in the kosas, one enveloping the other or the overlapping elements, gross and subtle or then the construct of the embodiment and all its systems. Progressive in it’s faculty of making available only what one is ready for and integrative in that we already have all that we need to behold the Self within.

My instinctive reaction to anything to do with samadhi is that it is way off my league, I’m most comfortable being a mridu student. And yet, there are moments, like in today’s limitless savasana when there is only space. The frailties of body and mind do not exist there. But, it doesn’t happen often and a day like today feels like a benediction. Outwardly, things are in flux with Amma recovering slowly from a surgery and a limbo in all other areas of life. I haven’t been able to get to class and even home practice was in shambles with hospital duty but I could manage a little today. I don’t know about tomorrow. For now, I am grateful for yoga through study. There is a yoga for everyone.

Hari Om

 

 

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Maitri, Karuna, Mudita, Upeksha

I’ve been loathe to write here for a couple of reasons, one of them being a big shift in life and the other a hesitation to jump to hasty conclusions. Suffice to say, my readings have taken on a more practical colour as I seem to receive messages that are congruent. It is easy to latch on to what I perceive as signs so I just observe and record.

One of my anchors through my yoga journey has been Sutra 1:33 and I’ve always looked at just the four attitudes of maitri, karuna, mudita and upeksha. I didn’t quite spend time on the remaining part of the Sutra. I didn’t look at the phala of the attitudes or the occasions to practise the habits.

It seemed like a good idea to explore the different interpretations of this aphorism and I pulled out all the commentaries I had with me. Each of them threw the spotlight on a different portion of the sutra.

Chitta prasadanam as opposed to chitta vikshepa from Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by B.K.S. Iyengar

Bhavanata versus Abhyasata from Light on Vyasa Bhashya by Prashant Iyengar

Upeksha as equanimity in meaning versus the common translation as indifference from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Edwin F. Bryant

The four attitudes as a representation of parinama chitta and kutastha chitta from Core of the Yoga Sutras by B.K.S. Iyengar

All in all, a very illuminating morning of study. In the commentaries by Guruji and Prashantji, I found the approach is more lateral and explorative while the one by Edwin Bryant is more direct and translative. I took back something from both and know that I will come back for more. It remains my favourite sutra and perhaps the one I would retain if I could choose but one. As an ordinary woman, it offers me the potential to soar even as it shows me how to be in this world but not of it.

Closer to my experience, I discovered that even while I thought I was failing, there was the solidity of practice (not so much asana as the study of the texts and their contemplation). It gave me the strength I needed to go through a very difficult patch and maintain a sense of steadiness even as there was upheaval, mental and emotional. I received courage to stand in tadasana in my life even as the ground below me trembled.

I remain indebted to the teachings of the ancient ones as well as the Gurus in my heart and all those who have shared their journeys generously.

Hari Om

Prodigal Daughter

Returning Home…

It feels like I’m crawling on all fours to my home, the place that offers unconditional and no-nonsense acceptance. It has been a very trying period mentally, emotionally and spiritually and the analogy of a rudderless boat would be pretty apt here.

I’m sitting in the big hall, waiting for a new year to begin. I missed the start last Friday as I was too broken to make it. Today, I’ve willed myself to be here knowing fully well that a gap of nearly 3 weeks without practice will mean a lot of relearning. What is that the Sutras say… Atha Yoganushasanam

Hari Om

Srishti-Sthithi-Laya

The branch droops low

Heavy with Gulmohurs

Their reds bursting

In fiery passion

The old woman

Passes by

Stooped in age

Burnt in grey

The koels sing

Songs of mangoes

As they invade

Summer days

The old man

Twitches and turns

Blinks and drools

Spitting gibberish

A leaf dies

Even as one births

And another yellows

Srishti-Sthithi-Laya

Tremorless Yoga

I’ve come to my favourite chapter in the Bhagawad Gita, the one that always gives me goosebumps, perhaps a reflection of my true inclinations.

Verse 7 jumped out at me with its commentary and it made me look up other translations. Nothing matched the piercing sharpness of this one which found echoes in the usual definitions of yoga.

“He, who in truth knows these manifold manifestations of My being (Macrocosm), and (this) YOGA-power of Mine (Microcosm), becomes established in the ‘tremorless-YOGA’; there is no doubt about it.”

None spoke of tremorless yoga, they spoke about peace or yoga but not this particular rendition of ‘tremorless’ yoga. The footnote mentions the usual two shlokas defining yoga as well as third not commonly heard. They are

2:48- Samatwam Yoga Uchyate

2:50- Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam

6:23- Dukha-samyoga-viyogam Yogasamjnitam

In the meanwhile, I’m going to stay and play with the word vikampena, tremorless. A little lingering on the word conjures up a couple of images, the first of which is an earthquake and the second nervous debility. Both occurrences leave devastation in their wake and cannot be anything but unsteady and uncomfortable. In both cases, there needs a settling first of the instability before repair and reconstruction is possible.

Isn’t the disturbance of the mind nothing short than a seismic occurrence and in the case of chronic nervous dysfunction, a series of rumblings. How can one build on a shaky ground? It needs levelling, settling, making foundations that resist and a structure that absorbs without crumbling down. A lot like the basics of asana. I’m looking forward to a beginners class in addition to the therapy class, come June. A couple of fellow students didn’t understand why I didn’t ask for my earlier Intermediate class but this is what I want. To start again. All over again, an experience of rebuilding from ground zero.

The previous verses open the symbolism of the Seven Seers and Four Ancients as the material and efficient causes of the macrocosmic and microcosmic worlds. The personification of many deities, sages and other beings obscured the depth of their mystic significances and they remain hidden in plain sight until we are graced with the Guru’s blessings.

I’ve been struggling in my practice, no longer a sadhana since it is not sharp and unwavering. This too is a phase of learning, despair, doubt and the stoicism all part of a lesson beyond the initial excitement of the journey. I was lucky to have a good, long run of discovery. I reckon right about now is probably time for the first Sutra😊

In the meanwhile, the Gayatri has revealed the peace of ‘Om’, the pranava and it’s a far more fuller experience than before. It reminded me of a story I read somewhere. The devas went to Brahma and asked him to enlighten them and he gave them the Vedas, they thought it was too hard. He then gave them the Gayatri Manyra which also was too much. So he told them to meditate on the vyahritis but they found that was also very difficult. He then initiated them into Om and that was enough. I don’t recollect where I read it or perhaps it was a talk. I’ll edit this post when I find out.

The world around me continues to spin in much agony and I found myself incapable of the necessary detachment. I sought answers in the divine song and the culminating verses of the previous chapter provided solace.

As always, I remain grateful for Gurus who are present through their words, long after they have passed on. They are the devas I offer pranams to in my heart.

Hari Om

Note- Translations quoted are from the Commentary by Swami Chinmayananda on the Holy Geeta.

Creative destruction

Today’s pose was kāla bhairavāsana, the one that I gravitated towards before the invocation. This latching on to an image started rather unconsciously but I’m enjoying discovering the names of various asanas. I didn’t know the name of this one that caught my attention until I looked it up in the Light on Yoga copy at home. As an asana, it seems wildly improbable that I would get around to that level of proficiency.

Kāla Bhairava conjures an image of a large cosmic force that ruthlessly destroys everything, like the fires that lay waste a land. After the embers die down and the rain showers its blessings, new beginnings manifest. Destruction as part of creation although it seems separate. The wheel, commonly used to denote the imagery of time captures its velocity beautifully. The quick descent towards the nadir and the slow plod to the zenith. It’s also interesting how the fearsome also finds a place in the devotee’s heart. There is no fear but worship, even if it is only to propitiate the deity.

Today I was taught how to modify standing poses to actively work on the knee. It was quite revealing as to how I am so attached to the cues of a pose. Since, the asanas were targeted towards a specific area, I was told to let go of others but it was hard to do that. A baby step but being able to work with trikonasana and ardha chandrasana like that for some time was exhilarating even if it was rather sweaty. The variety of props and the ways they were used today was at once simple and ingenious. Much pushing and turning happened until I could feel an evenness for a brief bit on the inner and outer legs. It made me think of Sage Ashtavakra who was born crooked, there’s an asana named after him too. He is commonly depicted as flat footed, knock kneed, bow legged with a hump. His arms also appear crooked in some images. Excepting the hump and the now not so visible hunch, that could be me. Perhaps not so exaggerated as the pictures but really the same. That sage was an enlightened master, this crooked student still needs the carpentry of bricks and belts.

In gratitude