Modes of Practice
I was taught that there are three modes of Yoga practice: recovery, preservation and intensification. The mode in which you practice depends on where you are, or to be more precise (and within the spirit of this post) where your energy is. When a proper mode of practice is applied Yoga can be highly beneficial, when an improper mode of practice is applied Yoga (no matter how much you practice) can be useless or even (if you practice too much or incorrectly enough) unhealthy.
Most people like the idea of intensification (doing and achieving noticeably more) and choose intensifying practices. However most people do not live lives that are geared for Yogic intensification. Yoga is usually an add-on – and a small one at that. People generally live busy and hectic lives – a lifestyle that agitates energy which leads to an experience of depletion. Some people come to Yoga to find peace, calm and rejuvenation – if the Yoga “works” then they may actually experience something of this nature (though shortly after go back to their cycle of depletion). Some people come to Yoga and simply continue to intensify their agitation by taking on intensifying practices … which do intensify … their agitation.
Many (I am tempted to say most) people practice in an incorrect mode, an error that is usually due to an improper understanding of where they are. They choose to believe a story that naturally fits their world view. In doing so, they inadvertently choose to ignore where they actually are which may challenge their existing world view (which, actually, is the point of Yoga).
Modes of Life
As I was reading and writing about an article this morning it seemed to me that there are parallels that can be drawn between the Yoga model of modes of practice to a broader view of human life. The general consensus is that we, as a human species, currently live in an unhealthy existence. This mode is generally described as a quantative issue … we are consuming more then our eco-system can provide. We are depleting our energy resources, emptying our soils of fertiltity, etc. It’s a pretty fatal view that can be ominous and I find to be rather poisonous to my own consciousness (ie, depressing).
I was wondering what it would be like to transpose the underlying information of this world view onto the Yogic energy-view:
The world is currently in a mode of survival (if you have an urge to argue this point then please stop reading and go away). In a qualitative view our energy crisis is not a shortage of energy but rather inefficient use of energy. I can give an example from our life. At Bhudeva we experience freezing cold -20c winter. We live in an old, by modern standards inefficient, house that we heat with firewood (which we expend quite a bit of energy to attain – we purchase the wood, cut and store it, carry it inside and burn it…). Then, inside this house which we have worked to keep warm, we have a refrigerator in which we keep things cold (when on the other side of the wall, outside the house, it is freezing) by expending more energy (this time using electricity). What if we could find a better way to live with energy?
We have. I would say that the greatest transformative technology that we have put to use so far is our rocket stoves (one, two). We built them ourselves from relatively cheap and available materials, they are extremely efficient at burning wood. I estimate that we use a quarter of the wood that is typically used to heat a village house like ours. We also get more out of the wood since the rocket stoves store warmth for a longer time which means we wake to a warmer room in the morning without burning wood throughout the night. That means that we buy, process and burn much less wood.
Rocket stoves carried us from a cycle of depletion into a more sustainable cycle. We need less trees to be cut down and transported to us, we have less work cutting up, carrying and burning those trees and we produce less pollution that depletes the atmosphere we all share. My energetic body is more calm and less strained – I don’t worry about our wood supply, I work less (and don’t need to work in the freezing cold) and I am warm. I am less occupied with my basic sustenance and have more space in my life. More importantly I have contributed to a similar change in the world itself: I need less, I have more and I pollute less. There is a direct relationship and alignment between my personal energetic body (healthier) and that of the world around me.
When I was in survival mode, sustainability looked like an end game. However once I moved towards/into sustainability I began to sense and even taste that there is more to be had. Sustainability starts to look like a better way of living. From sustainability I could glimpse and start to move into abundance: if I don’t have apples I aspire to plant an apple tree, when an apple tree matures and fruits I realize I have more apples then I could possible consume = abundance.
Lets go back to our story of warmth. Though we haven’t yet built it we have theoretical (to us, practical to others) knowledge that would make it possible, in our climate, to design and build a house that would stay comfortable (a steady 21c) all year long (cool in summer, warm in winter) using freely available solar energy (and no additional energy input!). That same theoretical knowledge makes it possible to build, inside the now-comfortable-all-year-long-house, a “room” that could be used for refrigeration using the freely available winter coolth (and no additional energy input!) for the entire winter and then some (spring, maybe until summer).
Imagine that?! Needing very little wood (that could probably be, for the most part, scavanged) which requires very little work and creates very little pollution. Imagine the personal comfort and freedom (as someone who for most of my life did not cut firewood, I realize this task may be difficult if you haven’t lived with it yourself). Imagine the negligible ecological foot-print of such a house. Imagine similar improvements in other aspects of life. I say “imagine” because I am, it will take a few more years until I can write another post and personally attest to such changes. But already I can see and grasp them, something I could not do two years ago.
I see a relationship between personal modes of Yoga practice and modes of existence:
- Internal disturbance tells an external story of survival.
- Internal health tells an external story of sustainability.
- Internal growth tells an external story of abundance.
And yes, I do mean stories. There doesn’t and likely won’t be a drastic change in our physical world (global warming is a drastic change for us not for the planet!). The same world we now experience as survival can support an experience of abundance – it doesn’t and probably won’t change very much. What can change is something inside.
Live You Now
I wonder if there is a subtle lesson (I hadn’t thought about until writing this post) about a life process … how to live correctly.
I’ve heard Charles Eisenstein say that we are incapable of changing our beliefs – I agree. I believe(!) our beliefs are a kind of residue of life experiences – a kind of accumulated side-effect of life. Beliefs change when life experiences change them. Beliefs change as we encounter things that confirm to or challenge them. If you want to change your beliefs change your life experiences.
There is an example of what I believe (and have argued about) is an incorrect life practice that may illustrate what is in my mind. “Positive thinking” is a broad name that, to me, exemplifies a false attempt to change beliefs. It takes many shapes and forms and finds many expressions in modern-day spirituality. To me it has always felt like a practice of denial – a spiritual trap at best.
If my current experience is of survival then:
- sustainability is either no an option or a heavy burden … literally unsustainable.
- abudance feels like ridiculous utopic thinking.
- acknowledging survival and seeking a way to improve on it may … improve on it. Gradual improvement may eventually open a door to alternatives … sustainable alternatives that make life better.
If my current experience is of sustainability then:
- survival is uninteresting. If I end up there again, I will surely look for a way out, and hopefully find one quickly.
- sustainability … sustains me. Less (but correct) effort carries me through life. Gradual improvement may eventually open a door to an attractive alternative … abundance.
If my current experience is of abundance … mine isn’t so I can’t really say much about this yet. I am getting estabished in sustainable living and I am beginning to glimpse what I can only describe as a magical life of abundance. This, for me, is a radical shift of consciousness.
Live where you and your life are now. False pretenses will entrench you in what is familiar to you, honest living will carry you forward.