Sometimes it feels unreal, coming out of savasana. I roll the mat, get out of the room and am swept into the current of the day. The mat, though, is a different experience. Within its boundaries, there is space and time. Today’s thought stayed with me for most of the day.
That (BRAHMAN), the Light-of-all lights, is said to be beyond darkness; (It is) Knowledge, the Object-of-Knowledge, seated in the hearts of all, to be reached by Knowledge.
– Translation by Swami Chinmayananda
Swamiji begins his commentary on this shloka by saying- “Brahman, the illuminator in all, is the One Consciousness by which everything is known intellectually, realized intuitively, and experienced spiritually.” The different touch points in this short verse paint the entire cosmos within and without. As always, the clarity and beauty of the words of masters never fails to fill me with awe.
The Gayatri mantra is an invocation to the same illuminator who resides within. In his commentary, Sri Shankaracharya speaks about meditating on the source of illumination of the Sun. His brief explanation provides many facets for contemplation on the one light that lights all. It is no coincidence that we speak of the realized ones as enlightened or illumined. Guruji’s books also use Light in their titles…
न तत्र सूर्यो भाति न चन्द्रतारकं नेमा विध्युतो भान्ति कुतोऽयमग्नि:।
The sacred texts and commentaries take their time to seep in- Intellectually, Intuitively and Spiritually. Yogasana is also like that. The head and the heart, culminating in the union of both to transcend.
Many years ago, Anna and Amma would invite swamijis for a meal after their discourses in the neighbourhood temple. It would be an elaborate affair with different dishes prepared keeping ‘madi‘and all the other strict injunctions about feeding brahmins. Anna (my father-in-law) was a devout man who followed all the traditions of his caste. In the last few years before he passed away, the nature of observances became simplified. Post his demise, it tapered to very little at home. The legacy of age old rituals died with him. The observances are still marked but most of it happens outside of home. It’s the age of outsourcing.
Yesterday was a small peep back into those years. Not so long ago and yet a lifetime away. My husband’s yoga teacher and his colleagues accepted our invite to share a meal. It took both of us back to those early days of our marriage when his parents did the same. Of course, back then, the women folk ate after all the men did. In our times, we eat together. The spirit is the same, gratitude for an opportunity to serve. We are because of our mothers, fathers and teachers. The trinity of divinity in human form…
The annual function at the Institute kicked off this evening with a talk by one of the senior teachers. He took us down a beautiful visual history of yoga through art forms across the length and breadth of the country since ages past. Besides validating the existence of yogasana since centuries, it was a treat to experience the ecstasy of the anonymous artisans. It is impossible to make art of such beauty without bhakti. That explains why the themes of paintings, murals, sculptures etc. were almost always to do with the divine. With such overwhelming bhava, where was the need to assert ones’a authorship? The creator was joyous to be the instrument of expression. There was no need for copyright or assertion of intellectual rights. After all, who really sees the murthy hidden within the stone? Who teases the music out of silent instruments? Who makes the limbs move in dance? Who brings words to life? Who really types this post? Not I, not i…
Not a coincidence, since I don’t believe in those anymore- I saw one of the images displayed this evening on IG with a little detail on the story around it.
In humble gratitude to all my teachers, eternal and mortal.
Today’s home practice ended with Supta Baddakonasana and it was still. I was reminded of something I had read a long time ago.
“Silence is not the absence of sound, it is the absence of thought.”
The asanas I chose today were very basic and with props since I wasn’t feeling too well. It was interesting to watch where the breath was taking place in various asanas. There was no coordination or control on that aspect of the pose. While not jagged or laboured, it was doing its own thing. Finally, in Supta Baddakonasana, it settled into a rhythm so much so that I felt I was not breathing at all!
There was a brief moment of nothingness which vanished the moment I became aware of the quietness of my breath. It was a pause when I realized that I wasn’t breathing. As a pose, Supta Baddakonasana is an expansive one with length and breadth. A longish stay in it automatically lets the body relax and go quieter. The more time I stay in a supported pose, the more I start to hear. No wonder the phrase, ‘listen to your body’. But, what is the language the elements speak?
Sometimes there are periods of silence, a heavy silence of the mind. The words don’t flow. The thoughts stay inert. Tamas. It’s been a while since the guna has been sitting inside. Below is an entry I had started more than a month ago. It doesn’t seem that odd now to see how long I’ve ‘sat’ on this.
2nd Dec 2016
Tamas is heavy, dark, dull, sluggish, reluctant to move and so on. Almost all negative connotations. Yet, it is very much a part of the trigunas, swirling in constant rearrangement. The endeavour in Spiritual practices is to sublimate tamas to sattva and then go beyond the gunas.
Lately, the pages have been opening to the gunas and tamas cropped up a few times. It got me thinking about the purpose of the heavy guna. Perhaps, its manifestation is what I see in my mental makeup lately. I notice that food is one of the easiest ways to change the composition of the gunas. Movement is harder but that’s another thing that works. I’ve been getting plenty of movement with back to back runs but not the mindful kind that energises. The two classes sandwiched between the runs during the week are intense and my legs are heavy. Tamasic. I do have the tools to change the composition but tamas plays its devious role, preventing restorative action. It’s a vicious circle, one that is unfamiliar in recent times.
The gunas provide the answer for why. It appears simple on the surface and at times sounds like excuses. But, below the apparent simplicity lies a detailed map of existence. What would the planet be if there was no tamas? Imagine the ground beneath in constant flux or just beams of light.
Guna means rope or that which binds. The strength of a rope is dependent on the twisting of the strands. In balance, it is sturdy. The fluctuations start when the strands are not twisted equally.
In the past few weeks, I have been feeling the tug of heaviness. It crept up slowly and before I knew it, took over my life. Inertia, apathy, lethargy make it difficult to do anything beyond the absolute essentials. On the outside, I still get by but I miss the lightness and agility of my mind. Despite knowing what to do, I remain ignorant and unable to change at present. It seems like a herculean task to get back on track.
The only saving grace is the tiny bit of reading that happens in the morning. Asana practice is also erratic but strangely, the poses look better now and feel more stable. Even when I don’t practice, I still check if ardha chandrasana happens or try repeating the trikonasana actions while waiting in the kitchen. It’s not by fluke but for real when I can stay steady for a bit. Does that count? Perhaps not but for a little while, I feel good. The body tingles with life coursing through.
This morning’s reading was on karma yog and the answer was literally handed to me. Action is the magic word. So, action it was today. A quick trip to the flower market to buy some flowers, coffee with a dear friend, a productive day at work, a short run, an inversion practice, writing, chores and reading.
Some of my observations from these past few weeks.
Ever since I got back to using deos which happened during my travelling and never got off, I started to get PMS symptoms again. Just a couple of days off and the tenderness has reduced dramatically.
Knocking off the sugar from my coffee today seemed to have lifted the fog in my head.
My food habits also got out of it’s settled rhythm and never been quite the same. I was eating more than I needed due to various reasons. I stopped being firm in refusing what I didn’t want.
Compared to a few months back, there has been more engagement with people too. It can be draining if I haven’t taken care of all aspects of my self.
I need study, regular and intensive study to keep going. Just a line or two doesn’t suffice.
It takes a long while of small changes to build a new habit yet disruption is rapid.
This is a post I didn’t want to put up but it is part of the experience as well. Perhaps in sharing about my struggles, I may find the freedom to endeavour again. Somewhere, the tenacious runner in me digs in her heels to fall seven times but get up, eight. Tamas needs tapas.