“A warrior, on the other hand, is a hunter. He calculates everything. That’s control. But once his calculations are over he acts. He lets go. That’s abandon.”
Carlos Castaneda

Journey to Ixtlan

The Morning After

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The morning after I decided not to push myself began with a special quality of practice. Seated postures (forward bends) had a long and soft quality which I usually manage only in evening practices; so was the Pranayama – I was able to practice a soft and refined Nadi Sodhana (which is usually not available to me in the morning). It led into a morning with a pleasant pace. I, again, witnessed, how doing less can sometimes be more.

Then some surprise physical work came my way. I enjoyed the work greatly but I lost track of time and I failed to eat and drink properly. By the time I realized this it was too late. I spent the remainder of the evening with a painful headache and bad digestion. I had to force myself to eat and drink to quiet and replenish my energy, against the wishes of my digestion. I woke up the next morning feeling better but close to the edge. I spent the next day mostly cooking and eating, barely able to focus on anything else. It took until the next morning (a total of 36 hours) to bring my system back to health.

“Living in this hut, free of all anxieties,
one should earnestly practice Yoga as taught by one’s guru”
(Hatha Yoga Pradipika 1.14 – translation by Brian Akers)

These past few days reminded me about a subtle, often overlooked, aspect of the relationship between Yoga and everyday life. People today often come to Yoga for relaxation, for relief from the stresses of life. But originally it was the other way around – a prerequisite for Yoga practice was a life free of anxieties. I spent 36 hours rejuvenating my system to a point where I could effectively practice again.

This  also sheds light on the ideas of practice “on-the-mat” and “off-the-mat”. Usually I touch on this subject in asking how on-the-mat practice can reach out and extend off-the-mat. Here it is encountered the other way around: how can off-the-mat practice effect on-the-mat practice. My relationship with Yoga (as I think is the case with most people) started on-the-mat. I now believe that beyond  a certain point, a practice on-the-mat cannot continue to evolve unless it resonates off-the-mat as well. At one point you will have to make changes in your life, to create conditions for your on-the-mat practice to continue evolving.

Posted in Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Yoga, Yoga & I, Yoga & Life, Yoga Texts | You are welcome to add your comment

Low Down Yoga Sutra – Chapter1: Clarity

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What is Yoga?

  1. Now begins the teaching of how everything comes together
  2. It’s all about the ability to focus steadily on one thing without any distractions
  3. Then that thing appears for what it truly is
  4. Instead of what you want to make it out to be

Activities of the Mind

  1. There are five activities through which you relate to the world around you – each can support or obstruct you
  2. They are:
    • correct understanding (based on what is before you)
    • misunderstanding (based on what you think is before you)
    • imagination (based on what you think with little regard to what is actually there),
    • deep (dreamless) sleep
    • memory (recalling what was once before you)
  3. Correct understanding is based on:
    • what the senses report directly  to you
    • mental processes which you use to make sense of what the senses report
    • what other (trustworthy) people (sources) tell you

    Where you get your understanding is up to you – there are times when direct experience is best and there are times when asking or pausing to think are better.

  4. Misunderstanding is a temporary understanding that expires when it is replaced by a better understanding. You can live your entire life in a satisfying misunderstanding or you can stay open to new experiences in which cases misunderstanding may be a seed that grows into learning.
  5. Imagination is a mental process that sprouts from understanding and goes beyond it – it can stay imaginary and it can evolve into correct understanding – associated with reality. Imagination is a seed from which both  insanity and creativity can grow.
  6. Deep sleep is  a heaviness that overcomes the mind and brings it to rest. Heaviness is great when it helps you to sleep, it can be irritating when you are trying to focus.
  7. Memory is an impression left by experience – ideally it is a clear and true impression, but often it’s not. Memory is tricky because once its there – you have no way of telling where it came from – you can’t tell apart memories of understanding or imagination. Precise memory helps you move forward and build upon past experience – otherwise gaps between what you remember and what actually was, can get in your way.

Practice

  1. There are two things you can do to achieve steadiness and clear perception:
    • Practice, practice and then practice some more
    • Distance yourself from dogmatic opposites such as likes and dislikes, good and bad… this will come to you almost naturally if you practice.
  2. Practice should be something you can sustain consistently and over a long period of time. A teacher can help you find a correct practice.
  3. A practice will be effective if you can really get into, if you are passionate and eager about it.
  4. Such a practice will moderate cravings that lead you away from practice, it will pull you in.

Clarity & Focus

  1. Until eventually you will understand your true nature and will no longer get caught and distracted by it’s constant shifting and changing.
  2. Then when you focus on one thing – you totally get it, you will gain a new and deep perspective that goes beyond anything you’ve known before.  You will feel at one with the object – so much that nothing around you distracts you.
  3. But even then you carry with you your memories – beware,  they can arise and affect you at any time.

Faith & God

  1. Some people are born with the gift of clarity – they don’t need to practice for it.
  2. The rest of us need to have faith that this is possible – and though it may be against the odds it is possible. It takes time.
  3. Intense faith will propel you closer to clarity.
  4. Intensity of faith is different for people. It also changes over time – this change is in our nature. These variations and changes are reflected in the practice.
  5. If you don’t have faith – praying to God, if you are so inclined, may help.
  6. God is not some idealized religious symbol – it is simply that which never misunderstands, is not bound by suffering and therefore always acts based on clear & correct understanding.
  7. This concept of God represents something that is all knowing. Connecting with it is connecting with that knowledge.
  8. God is timeless – an eternal (past, present and future) source of spiritual guidance.
  9. Call God whatever works best for you, just make sure that you can relate to it with respect.
  10. When you do find this timeless, spiritual quality – try to connect with it as often as possible – spend time in its presence.
  11. This will be your practice, and eventually you will find clarity.

Handling Interruptions

  1. You may encounter 9 distracting interruptions on your path to clarity: sickness, lethargy (“stuckness”), doubt, careless action, fatigue, overindulgence, delusions, low motivation and regression.
  2. You can tell that you have been interrupted if you experience any of these symptoms:  disturbed thoughts, negative thoughts, disturbed body (can’t find ease and comfort), and difficult & unsteady breathing.
  3. Practice one thing, just one thing that supports you, practice it regularly.
  4. Practice calming social attitudes(instead of disturbing ones):
    • Be happy (instead of envious) when you encounter happiness in others.
    • Be compassionate (instead of gloating) when you encounter unhappiness in others
    • Be joyful (instead of critical) when you encounter virtue in others.
    • Be calm (instead of angered) when you encounter evil in others.
  5. Practice breathing with an emphasis on holding the breath and long exhalations.
  6. Inquire about the senses. They are your window to the world – control them so that they don’t control you.
  7. Inquire about the nature of life. Is there a bigger picture before me – something that goes beyond me and the things occupying my mind?
  8. Find inspiration. When you can’t find your own way, try to be in the presence of someone who has. Sometimes, just thinking of such an individual can help.
  9. Rest in sleep. Inquire into dreams that may occupy your sleep
  10. Meditate on something that shimmers for you – something you care about.

Clear Perception

  1. Infinity is revealed when clarity is attained – your will have mastery over the infinitesimally small and infinitely vast – everything will submit to your will.
  2. When there are no distractions, your mind can focus completely on one thing. Then gradually, as you sustain this thing in your mind you become totally immersed in it. Your mind becomes like a clear diamond – filled with nothing but reflections of this one thing. This is a gradual process – it doesn’t happen all at once.
  3. At first, your perception is clouded with echoes of past experiences. Their reflections mix together with the reflections of whatever it is you are trying to hold in your mind.
  4. As you sustain your focus, your past experiences will settle down and the mind will become clear. Then it is as if you are not there – there is only clear perception.
  5. This kind of perception can be achieved with anything you choose – gross or subtle.
  6. There is only one thing the mind cannot comprehend – and that is the source of perception. That is the one place the mind cannot go.
  7. Whatever you choose to focus on – that will be the seed – the starting point for this process of evolving perception. You have to have an object that interests you for this to happen. Your interest in it will help you get over any initial distractions you may encounter. Without interest you will not get past them.
  8. When you have experienced such total immersion and pure perception you will experience not only the object of your perception but yourself as well.
  9. Now your experience of knowledge is the absolute truth.
  10. It will be a spontaneous and immediate knowledge. This knowledge is different from anything you have been told or anything your reasoning may have uncovered.
  11. As you practice this kind of immediate and direct perception – it will become a natural experience. It will keep you from reverting to your old habits. It is like a one way train – once you get on, there’s no getting off or turning back.
  12. Eventually the mind reaches a state where there are no more distractions. It remains open, clear and transparent.

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Posted in Yoga, Yoga & I, Yoga Sutra, Yoga Texts | You are welcome to read 2 comments and to add yours

For a Warm Winter

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Yesterday our order of  burning wood for the winter months arrived. It’s a first for me. When the truck left this huge pile was left on the street near our house.

wood01_arriving

Shortly after I started tossing pieces down to our house some kids from across the street came and asked if they could help – which was a great help. Soon other kids appeared and it turned out to be quite a celebration.

wood02_kidsarriving

wood3_tossing

I arranged some bricks that are lying around into a small, closed storage space which I will cover once it’s filled.

wood04_filling

wood05_filling

There is still some work left to place everything inside.

wood06_filling

… and this is Tree!

tree

Posted in Enjoy, inside | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

What is there now?

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Here I am, writing instead of practicing… writing as a practice…

In the book “Cave in the SnowTenzin Palmo (I don’t have the book with me to offer a precise quote) says that you shouldn’t be on the mat unless you are present on the mat. Preoccupations prevent us from being present. The mat is special, it’s a space dedicated to a practice of presence. So if you’re not there – you may as well be somewhere else.

My days that begin with a Yoga practice are different then days that don’t – they are better.  In a similar way, the first asana of a Yoga practice affects the rest of the practice.  Tonight I chose to not get on the mat. The first “asana” in my practice is choice. I did not want to get on the mat. Recognition of that choice triggered an internal dialogue – second guessing myself with a diversity of less & more convincing arguments.

The original choice remained… and I chose to act on it. I feel that had I gone on the mat I would not have been present on it – and the practice would have distracted and agitating – I have tried this many times in the past.

I am now present – writing this with a movie playing in the background. I am present with  my impatience, self doubt & disturbed-energy. Getting on the mat would have been an attempt to escape from this – it probably would have failed. Instead I am:

  1. Doing what I felt like doing – sinking towards sleep with the help of a movie.
  2. Doing something I didn’t expect to do – writing this post.
  3. Looking forward to a fresh morning practice.
  4. Thinking back on the day, trying to see if there is something I would like to try doing differently tomorrow.
  5. … and awaiting an unplanned visit of a friend seeking help with neck pains.

On the mat, off the mat … in the end it all comes together… nicely!

Posted in Yoga, Yoga & I | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

My Eggs

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I live in a small village who’s residents work in agriculture – specifically fruits and eggs. If you approach the village in the late evening hours – when it’s getting dark – you will be greeted by hills covered with stripes of light – these are the chicken coops (the lights are kept on to keep the chickens feeding – which increases egg production).

One of the “perks” of living here is free eggs (and fruits in season)! Whenever I need eggs I help one of the coop-owners collect the eggs (its a daily chore) and in return I get a tray of 30 eggs. They would give them to me anyways – but I prefer this exchange. But “free” has a high price – and I am not at peace with my choice. The chickens are kept in terrible conditions – they are kept 3 or 4 in a small cage with barely enough room to move, industrialized food is supplied automatically – and they live that way for 2 years after which they are replaced and processed for their meat.

But here’s the thing. If I were to setup a small protective coop with two or three free-to-range chickens in it – they would supply enough eggs for two or three families. They are very low maintenance and the cost is practically nothing (you do need to feed them and collect the eggs). I know it’s a naive question – but it’s been with me for some time now – why doesn’t this scale up? Why does this process, when scaled up, compromise so many qualities – which are naturally there in it’s basic nature?

I really do not have the knowledge to answer this. I realize that cities are not planned with space and conditions to have free-ranging chickens. Maybe the problem is the cities? We had 5 or 6 consecutive days of rain in Israel. I live in the north, where it rains much more then in the center area, where my parents live. My parents reported floods and power failures. Here there were no such problems – the land is now a rich dark brown – saturated with water, the plants all seem grateful – the air is cool and clean.

I wonder…

Posted in AltEco, Expanding, inside, outside | You are welcome to add your comment