It is hard to let go, really let go. Running was a crutch in many ways. Sure, it made me feel good, it made me feel strong, it made me push beyond what I thought I was capable. Yet, at the core of it is deep seated ahamkara. Pride in one’s effort and the result. The extent of that is apparent when one of my wishes is to be a world class athlete in my next life! Of course, I want to be a devout yoga sadhaka as well but the first instinct is a desire for that which satisfies the ego.

The last few days have been difficult. Pain and its associated mental turmoil. Yesterday, I decided to just stop and let go. Last night as I lay down to sleep with a bolster beneath my knees, it struck me that all the Savasana prompts that kept cropping up lately were a prep for this period in time. My body and mind need the rejuvenation that this asana gives in such abundance. My mind had worked itself into a frenzy and predictably the body grew tense and the heart heavy. I could only see what was denied to me and not what is available. I forgot to bring a spirit of enquiry with me, forgot that pain is a teacher!

Sometimes I wish for the ease that people enjoy in congregational worship. It seems so natural when they get together to do puja, pray or sing. Recently, I was at a church for a wedding and the choir was heavenly. A mix of folks from different cultures across the country, all coming together in beautiful melody. It took me back to my days as a child when I used to be part of a choir. I’ve almost always been a loner, mostly by choice and at times because life would push me back to navigating on my own even when I would attempt being part of a group. This pattern goes way back in my history, around the  early teenage years. I suppose that’s why Eklavya appeals to me. There is something about that Nishada living wild with his guru firmly entrenched in his heart that resounds with me. Often, I think that Guruji in my heart is like how the clay likeness of Dronacharya was for the archer who was probably greater than Arjuna. Eklavya’s story is an anonymous one, hidden in the periphery of civilisation. There is much to learn from his character but that’s a separate reflection. There’s an old post sketching his story in the Mahabharata that I had written a while ago. (click to read

I think of going to a temple on certain days, like today, but then don’t because of the crowd. I prefer to go on quiet days when there is no one. I don’t know the order of worship, nor the offerings to be made. I just sit, seeing the idol until it feels like time to get up, sort of like how I come out of savasana. In my heart, I offer a full prostration but have nothing as an offering except myself. I go empty since nothing is mine. I drop in some money at the box and leave, accepting the prasad. Shivratri is one such day and I have the auspicious one in my heart. 

अचिन्त्यमव्यक्तमनन्तरूपं शिवं प्रशान्तममृतं ब्रह्मयोनिम। तथाऽऽदिमध्यान्तविहीनमेकं विभुं चिदानन्दमरूपमद्भुतम्।।६।। उमासहायं परमेश्वरं प्रभुं त्रिलोचनं नीलकण्ठं प्रशान्तम्। ध्यात्वा मुनिर्गच्छति भूतयोनिं समस्तसाक्षिं तमस: परस्तात् ।।७।। एतस्माज्जायते प्राणो मन: सर्वेन्द्रियाणि च। खं वायुर्ज्योतिराप: पृथिवी विश्वस्य धारिणी।।१५।।

 Translation from the commentary by Swami Chinmayananda

6. The unthinkable, the unmanifest, the One of endless forms, the ever auspicious, the peaceful, the immortal, the origin of the very Creator, the One without a beginning, a middle and an end, the only One, the all-pervading, the Knowledge-Bliss, the formless, and the wonderful.

7.By meditating upon Lord Parameśvara consorted by mother Umā, the highest Lord, the all-powerful, the three eyed, the blue necked and the ever tranquil, a true man of reflection reaches Him, who is the source of all the manifested world, the witness of all and the One who is beyond all darkness.

15. From Him are born the prāna (life), the mind (antahkarana), all the organs (indriyani), the sky (akāsa), the wind (vāyu), the fire (jyotih), the water (āpah) and the earth (prithivi). He is the supporter of everything.

Om Namah Shivaya

Ground Up

Being barefoot for almost the entire day over the last couple of weeks has seen a shift in asana practice. Better grip on the floor, better balance and a certain sinewy strength in my legs. Movements originate more from the proximal joints and there is more space through the legs. There is a slow but definite increase in padding on my soles although it is more visible on the right foot. My toes are better spread out and the soles are open. I feel my feet better and more fully when standing.
Somehow barefoot running doesn’t feel contradictory to an asana practice and the mental conflict about the same is absent. Perhaps it could be that I am just walking barefoot now and so the load is minimal. I guess even when I start to run, it would be very difficult to go against the body’s wisdom for too long. I was lucky to make that mistake early on.
Today’s class was very interesting as our teacher taught us how to begin a home practice. Last Wednesday she had asked us to get notebooks and most of us had our pens and books at the ready. We wrote in upavishta konasana, prasarita padottanasana and a few other asanas which was fun. She gave a few ideas on sequences to practise. As beginners, we just had to stick to the standing poses and practise sirsasana and Sarvangasana. If time was a constraint, we could reduce the variety of standing poses but do the inversions without fail. It’s a good way for me to practise when the weekly sequence seems overwhelming.
The two key takeouts from her suggestions were to
– Find one mistake in each pose and correct that fault.
– Try and increase the range of movement
Body fatigue is one thing which is unusual unless I am running a lot but it’s the mental rebelliousness and flightiness that I find hard to deal with. I missed a few days of asana practice by the book and it didn’t feel good. The few poses I did were not enriching as they were done as stretches. I did not chant the invocation and had no direction. It was more a fear that I did not want to miss doing something. It trickled into my everyday life and I found myself snappier and overwhelmed. The degree of unmanageability has lessened and perhaps it is not visible outside but I know it inside. Lesson learnt. Quality over quantity.
About a year back, I was chatting with my husband and mentioned that maybe over time my voice would improve if I continued practising. Recently, while reciting the invocation to Sage Patanjali, I could feel the change in my Omkara, a distinctive change in the quality of the syllable, more a steady vibration than the voice really. Perhaps it is the inversions, maybe it is the power of the Omkar, maybe it is grounding into the earth (a wild premise but I did notice it after the barefoot experiment, prithvi to akasha?), I do not know. My mind still wanders and I get caught up in the next line to recite and forget to be in the syllable being verbalised. Despite all my shortcomings, there is a different expanded sense of time during that brief chanting.
I’ve been contemplating a regular japa practise for sometime but haven’t been able to commit myself to it on an everyday basis. As of now, it is whenever I feel like it but that is not a practice and for change to take root, it needs the regularity of discipline. The Gayatri and Shiva mantras are familiar. There was a period in my life when I chanted the Mahamritunjaya mantra regularly. Some say it is a corollary to the Gayatri.

Rudraksha Japa Mala

As a deity, Lord Shiva appeals to me with all his symbolism. Householder and ascetic. Terrible and Innocent. Supreme Yogi. Auspiciousness. Perhaps this Shivratri can be a day I commence my japa practice? It is an auspicious day for all spiritual sadhana and maybe just the little push to take that first step? If it be His will…

Adi Guru

Om Namah Shivaya