An hour on my mat to feed my body and mind led to emptying it today. The last practice for the year was inverted and with props. No plan to study or observe, just an instinctive need to go upside down and let go. It left me empty. Nothing inside, nothing coming inside, nothing going outside. Just empty. It stayed that way for a while after I rolled my mat and pottered around the house.
The imaginary division of a year comes to an end today and playing alongwith this creation, I have one prayer- may my sadhana be more intense than it was in the days gone by. Looking back, there have been many shifts, some small, some large, both on and off the mat. My trikonasana definitely looks better today than it did at the start of the year. Yet, today’s pose shows how much dust needs to be lifted before the reflection is without distortion.
All my rooms have books lying around and I ended up picking up a version of the Bhagwata Purana. In the latter portion of the book, there is a story of King Yadu asking an avadhuta who his Guru was. The enlightened one replied he had 24 gurus and proceeded to name them: earth, air, sky, water, fire, moon, sun, pigeon, python, sea, moth, honeybee, elephant and honey thief, deer, fish, the prostitute Pingala, the kurara bird, the child, young girl, arrow maker, serpent, spider and wasp.
There is much to learn from these stories and their symbolism. In times such as ours, it is a boon to have access to these timeless lessons.
It’s been a lacklustre few days with respect to asana practice. Barely anything except a few poses for supporting the odd runs. Reading and writing have also taken a backseat and it’s sheer lethargy that prevents the sharp edge of practice.
However, I have been working on a few strength training exercises to run fast. It’s purely muscular work and something I never did despite being told by experienced runners. I find that I have no strength to do really basic stuff, no bala! That’s why some of the asanas also feel very difficult. Cervical spondylosis was responsible for keeping certain kinds of movements out of my reach but now I find that there have been certain shifts in the body and mind. That changes the playing field.
Rupa, lavanya and bala are qualities that are the measure of the perfect equipment, the body.
As the sutra says, रूपलावण्यबलवज्रसंहननत्वानि कायसंपत् ।।४६।।
Form, grace and strength of body, mind and heart that is like vajra. I am not sure of the meaning of the term, it is used to refer to Indra’s thunderbolt as well as a diamond. The attributes of vajra would be hard, brilliant, sharp, powerful etc. One of the stories in the puranas recounts how the vajra was created from the bones of Sage Dadeechi. It is interesting to note that the powerful weapon of a God came out of a human. That’s the potential for perfection possible in the human embodiment. Of course, the tapas required for that kind of perfection would be beyond what we can imagine.
If I muse on the order of qualities in the context of asana, it makes sense as well. First, we learn the rupa (form/ structure/ framework) of the pose, after which we learn lavanya (grace) in execution of the asana without any agitation. Then we use the bala (strength) to stay, to endure. This will come when the effort becomes effortless. Refined strength. Prayatna Shatilyatha.
The ebbs of practice teach me that there are no excuses not to practice. There is strength that is present within that comes from a much greater power. It seemed fitting to learn arm balances in today’s class. The same palms that join in prayer can also carry the weight of this body. Tadasana in our palms too!
Guruji referenced nature’s manifestations to explain asana and pranayama. Whether the analogy of the central vein of a leaf to our spines or the example of a flower falling to the earth to explain uttanasana, the infinite intelligence of the cosmos coursed through his life and teachings.
Birjoo M and Prashantji spoke at the anniversary celebrations at the institute yesterday. Transformation was one of the themes and exploration the other. Guruji’s dharma was the common thread. In common parlance, dharma is translated as duty but from my readings and understanding, the true essence or nature of a thing/person seems more appropriate. An oft quoted example would be that of the sun’s dharma being to shine on irrespective of the recipients of its brilliance. As Birjoo put it, there is no question of “choosing” where dharma is concerned, no duality. Even Ravana stayed true to his dharma, there could be no other way for him to fulfill his embodiment. There really is no choice. This thought was echoed in my morning reading as well. I no longer consider such occurrences as coincidences, they feel more like a clue to continue the same thread of thought.
“There he comes to be united with the knowledge acquired in his former body and strives more than before for Perfection, O son of the Kurus.
By that very former practice he is borne on inspite of himself. Even he who merely wishes to know YOGA goes beyond the SHABDA BRAHMAN.”
The Bhagwad Geeta 6:43-44
Commentary by Swami Chinmayananda
Prashantji talked about the esoteric aspects of sadhana and urged those present to explore classical yog. Someday, I hope to be able to study from him and Geetaji as well.
What did I take back? I need to stop looking to see.
It is a concept that has been a fairly recent experience in japa sadhana as well. Applying lessons from yogasana to japa and finding that they have many similarities. Each day is different like how the asana varies day to day. The river is never the same…
I’ve stopped taking notes after every class and started to trust the lessons felt in class. It feels more stable to retain the notes within the body rather than outside it. Slowly, I find that there is a spreading sensitivity within that is happening of its own accord. Is this the sound that is heard within? I do not know. At best, I am a feeble student with an average home practice. Many times, I don’t make it to a dedicated asana practice. A love for running requires that I support it differently during heavy mileage periods. Now that, the marathon is done, I am looking foward to get back to the standing poses. They have become good friends who help me find my feet when I have been away from the mat.
Speaking of friends, it was lovely to meet fnyogi on a very special day, Guruji’s birth anniversary. It was like meeting an old friend of many years. It’s amazing how the virtual world has made strong bonds in the real one. Friendships like these have been a blessing of Guruji, uniting complete strangers through a common love for the man and his subject.
May the light that he was, is and will be, bless us always.