The beauty of a dedicated asana practice is reflected around the world these days, as millions of Yoga practitioners are so committed to evolving their practice. Though personal reasons for this vary from person to person, the result is the same….beauty, the body becomes an art form. The body, as it is in asana, is a result of focus, commitment, and restraint…all of which, are characteristics and disciplines of engaging with the practice and fully bringing it to life.
In my experience of leading practitioners through the series of the First Two Limbs of Yoga (the Yamas and Niyamas), a common response I receive is “Oh yes, I know those already”. I question though, if knowing them already, means having the ability to list them and define them…pretty ABC. But this is so very different from living them and establishing a living relationship with them. Anyone who has developed an active, committed relationship with their asana practice will relate to this. As a balanced comparison to Asana, I wonder, if so many Yoga practitioners truly “know” the first two limbs of Yoga, wouldn’t our world be growing increasingly beautiful (like asana)…collectively, wouldn’t we be moving closer to respect, integrity, and authenticity, rather than further away from it?
Like a student of mine recently said, “we don’t even know we’re not practicing them”…we’ve somehow come to think that being able to memorize the list is the equivalent of knowing, of understanding, and of developing. Engaging with the yamas and niyamas requires the same attributes that we’re so willing to put toward the development of our asana practice, so why do we offer such an elusive commitment, such a vague defensiveness when mentioning a practice of ethics, and applying the same dedication to them?
As we know, the Yamas themselves are restraints…an aspect of ourselves we’re willing to bring forward in our physical practice, but it seems a cringeworthy prospect when we consider restraining our behaviours. What is the discomfort in even thinking about that? I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s because we know they will evolve who we are in the world; likewise, we fear that restraint means a loss of freedom; and, similarly, we fear the inner discomfort that can come full-on when we face ourselves from a new perspective. The truth is, that our inner misalignments are our own, which means we do have the power to align them…but we have to believe in that power to do so. We have to believe that we can remain on an even keel while our ego experiences (sometimes huge) discomfort. Same as with those asanas we “perfect”. But when it comes to our emotional selves, somehow we’re less willing to fall down, we want to protect ourselves from that. But it’s necessary to fall emotionally. There is no other way to get back up.
Power is not something we’re generally taught about; and sadly, the power we’re shown “out in the world” is that of dominance, overbearance, and of a misuse of power that has become acceptable. Yet the power to override our coarser selves is a beautiful inner space indeed. The thing about power (the beautiful power), is that it’s a trait we are introduced to and come to know FROM doing something we’re not so certain about. It’s not the other way around. It’s far less likely that we’ll feel power first and doubtful action second. Waiting until we’re comfortable to grow can often mean we never get around to it. So we need to rely on a lot of courage and compassion. Mostly, jumping in and swimming around IS the way to find our feet, to establish that power that encourages us to try other things that we’re nervous about. So it’s about self-belief, and can we trust ourselves to ride out the storm? Can we trust ourselves with learning as we go? I read somewhere about the headlights on a car only see as far as the next bend in the road…and this is such a blessing to come to terms with in our own lives. The light will shine on our path as we step forward…even if that’s a very shaky step indeed. So, for all those who say they know the First Two Limbs of Yoga, I encourage you to truly take a second look at that within yourselves…you might come back with the same response, or, you might find you’ve memorized a list.--Lettersinyoga
Non-attachment does not mean that we don’t care, in fact it means we care more deeply. It’s our concept of what “caring” is that needs review. We often associate “caring” from an attached frame of reference, whereas the ideal “caring” is freedom. Non-attachment leads us to truly value what is presently in our lives and experience, letting go of the need to acquire more…this is where freedom lies. Non-attachment means that we have the capacity to let things go from our lives when the time is right…if and when that time comes.
Everything in life is given from God and it will go back to God when it’s time. What is given, we are to care for, appreciate, love and nourish while it’s with us, yet have the capacity to let it go when it is no longer required in our life. And it’s not up to us to determine when this is. When the time comes to let go, we will know in our inner most being, but it’s the struggle with the thinking mind that turns it into agony. Holding on to anything beyond its time, or to something that was never meant to be ours in the first place, is toxic, and we do feel that when we listen deeply. So you see, it’s not that our inner intelligence isn’t there, it’s that we pin that against our egoic desires and create struggle for ourselves.
What is wonderful about this (agonizing) non-attachment, is that our discernment evolves from such a practice, we begin to prioritize what is of value, and it’s this that means we care more deeply…because we value what remains. We become less consumed in the maintenance that is required in a lifestyle of grasping…grasping at things that really only become distraction. Refining our focus toward what we value means we will nourish it and tend to it, with the added respect of knowing when it’s time to give it back to Life. We begin to hear when Life is asking for it back for the fulfillment of its purpose, but also for the fulfillment of yours. The practice of Brahmacharya begins to define our practice of Aparigraha, likewise Vairagya; which in turn deepens our commitment to Brahmacharya. This is where the deep capacity for caring and love is found.
We’re then left facing Trust, and how do we deal with Trust within ourselves and in our concept of the life we’re living? Are we willing to let go of what we think our life should be yet live it from our best selves? There is a phenomenal amount of Trust involved in this which really comes down to our willingness to let go of Control. You see how we break it down here, don’t you? When we feel it’s more important to grasp at things and hold on to those things, being distracted by those things, then we’re letting our ego run the show, we’re telling it that it’s in command over our deeper intelligence. And when we begin to shift that dynamic toward listening to and trusting our inner wisdom, the relationship with the ego will kick back, and do we have the willingness to ride that out? Determination even? We deserve to not be maintaining a life (of grasping) that wasn’t meant for us….we deserve to experience those people and things that are truly meant for us in this lifetime. This is then, a life of value, a life on purpose, and a life worth cherishing. It flips our experience from a life of “mine” to a life of “what is meant for my purpose to be fulfilled”? So, we practice Aparigraha without expectation of what the outcome will be. The discernment of the practice develops the ability to let go.---www.lettersinyoga.com
image credit: "woman to woman" Trizworld Gallery