I had a short morning practice – standing sequence with mostly forward bends. I Spent the day working on finishing touches on YogaStudies. In the evening I did a second practice. It was one of those rare practices – preparing for and practicing maha-mudhra and then a quality pranayma practice. These are the words I wrote down after the practice
“Liquid electricity, peaceful vitality, physical surrender”
Later I completed the launch sequence for YogaStudies.
I woke up very early at 3am and sleep was lost on me. Enjoyed a few hours of writing. I then did a complete morning practice – felt rejuvenated. By midday I was starting to feel lost and agitated. My appetite was off and everything seemed to shift in unexpected ways. At around 21:00 we left to see a musical show (we rarely go out – this was an opportunity as a friend of mine is in the show and they came to perform not far from where we live). We got back home just pas 01:00 am – I had been up for 22 hours.
Woke up in the early morning hours for an excuciatingly long pee. Went back to bed and managed to find rest until just past 09:00 am. The day went by pleasantly enough – though not very focused – no inclination or energy for practice.
Woke up around my usual hour ~ 06:00am. Went to practice, despite feeling heavy, but heaviness took over. I did a short standing sequence then decided to gift my body with a nice Savasana followed by a meditative journey throughout the body. There’s something happening in the left side of my body. I could sense and connect breath to most places of my body. Yet I couldn’t connect with the left side of my lower back – it felt like a black hole from which sensation cannot escape. There is also a tightness in my left shoulder – but not as “dark” as the lower back area.
I Got up feeling slightly refreshed … looking forward to seeing what the day may bring 🙂
I have a consistent and simple life routine. A Quality practice is one of the most rewarding experiences available to me. When I deviate from my simple routine I get lost – my energy dissipates, I feel heavy and need to wait patiently for it to settle and reassimilate.
Sometimes I think I have a limited experience of life – but most of the time I am greatful for the subtle qualities & richness I have learned to experience and appreciate. There are very few things outside of my intimate bubble that afford me the experience of a Quality practice – so I tend to stay inside my intimate bubble.
Last year I was an amateur at drying leaves, this is year I am still an amateur – but I’ve picked up some local wisdom – so I’m doing this a bit differently. This year I’ve started a bit earlier – getting ahead of the sun and of little creatures with who we share some of our plants. I’ve also gone from hanging thing outside to laying them out inside in a less extreme environment. I also wash them before setting them to dry.
It started today because I’ve spent more time then I usually do (which is a lot anyway) on the computer working on a wonderful website project (more on that soon I hope). I finished my work for today and then wanted to do my evening Yoga practice – but my mind was really all over the place and my energy nervous. So I sat down to watch an episode of Flash Forward (we are late to the game as we live without any broadcast media) – and that was a huge mistake – my energy completely crashed and all I wanted to do was sleep. So it was either surrender or see what I can do. I wondered around pointlessly for a few minutes looking for a way out of the trap I walked into … that’s when drying season opened 🙂
I started with what little mint leaves have grown for us. What they lack for in quantity and size they make for in aroma. Amazing! They will be an excellent decorating-flavor in the tea mix.
Next up was the primary drying objective for this evening – the overflowing lemongrass. I didn’t get a shot of it full grown this time (maybe it will grow again this season and I’ll get that image) – but here’s a sink full of it:
And that’s what was set to dry – that flat pile is about 1 meter long and half a meter wide. We still have a few bags leftover from last season – but I think we’ll indulge in some fresh ones first 🙂
It is so amazing to watch these things grow every year – over and over again – a direct and natural experience of abundance.
Now off to practice 🙂
I’ve been dancing around Sutra 2.29 in two recent articles. The first was “Tapas & Relationships” and just yesterday as I was exploring Sutra 2.31. I didn’t have any intention to write about it until a recent debate began between myself and Bob Weisenberg on the comment thread of one of his Gita Talks posts. The debate broke off after I wrote a length reply that got lost in the commenting system. I will be using this post to pick up the thread. Sorry for the delay Bob.
A Table of Contents
On the face of it Sutra 2.29 seems like a straightforward list of “ashtanga” the 8 limbs of Yoga:
- Yama – your attitude toward your environment.
- Niyama – your attitude toward yourself.
- Asana (physical practices)
- Pranayama (breathing practices)
- Pratyahara (quieting the mind)
- Dharana (focusing the mind)
- Dhyana (meditation)
- Samadhi (integration / being present / clear perception / …)
For an overview of Yoga it seems to be in the middle of nowhere – but it’s actually strategically placed:
- It’s not in the 1st chapter – which is about Samadhi – which, interestingly, is the last item on ashtanga list. If you can relate to and experience what is described in the first chapter – then you don’t need this list. If, like most people, you don’t then the 2nd chapter is there to help you.
- The 2nd chapter is about practice – the things you can do to get to a point where you will be able to take on the 1st chapter.
- The 2nd chapter starts with an explanation of why practice is required – to overcome obstacles. It explains about the different kinds of obstacles and how they effect us.
- Only then, when we have some perspective and understanding about what it is we are trying to do, a system of tools is introduced in Sutra 2.29.
Weight of Practices
A table of contents can be, and in the case of Yoga in the west, is misleading. Let’s have a look at the number of sutras that are dedicated to the topics.
- Yama & Niyama (external and internal attitudes) take up a better part of what remains of the 2nd chapter – 16 sutras.
- Asana (physical practices) is mentioned in 2 sutras and in a 3rd sutra in which it shares a place with breath.
- Pranayama (breathing practices) is mentioned in 4 sutras and shares a 5th in which it shares a place with asana.
- Pratyahara (containment of the senses) is mentioned in the last 3 sutras of the 2nd chapter and serves as a transition into the 3rd chapter.
- Dharana, Dhyanama & Samadhi (which make up the domain of meditation) take up the entire 3rd chapter – 55 sutras.
How does this reflect on your practice? Are you practicing asana or Yoga?
Samkhya Separates – Yoga Integrates
What set me on this path was a parallel I believe exists between this list and the philosophy of Samkhya. Samkhya is one of the ancient philosophies of India and is closely related to Yoga. Samkhya is a practical philosophy based on a number of assumptions:
- There are two ultimate realities: Spirit (Purusa) and Matter (Prakrti).
- The universe had a beginning – a “first movement” or “first cause”.
- The “first movement” is beyond the intellect – so there’s no point in pursuing it intellectualy.
- It is better to work with what is there now – a dynamic universe which arises from Spirit & Matter.
Samkhya then goes on to describe a process of evolution from which our “current universe” arises:
- From a meeting of Spirit & Matter evolved Gunas.
- From a meeting of Spirit & Matter came an Intelligent Will.
- From Intelligence Will evolved Separation and individuation.
- From Separation evolved Mind and thought.
- From thought evolved Sensing.
- From Sensing Qualities evolved the Subtle Elements of Nature.
It seems that Ashtanga is a process that retraces the path set out by Samkhya:
|Yama & Niyama
||Our external and internal attitudes are in relationship to a physical universe.
|Asana & Pranayama
||Initial practices are designed to create an awareness of the workings of the senses.
||Until there is an awareness that can tell tell apart the workings of mind from what the sense report through it.
||When the mind has become aware of its inner workings it can begin to focus clearly (without distractions)
||It can experience a sense of disintermediated connection with a higher intelligence.
||Finally mind is no longer a slave the Gunas
In my experience it is rare to find such a tight, thorough & systemic coupling of philosophy and actionable practice. I have a great respect for it and for my teachers who have introduced it to me in a way that is professional, inspiring, relevant and caring.