Some things or all things?
What is health-care?
Some things or all things?
What is health-care?
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.
On the face of it Sutra 2.29 seems like a straightforward list of “ashtanga” the 8 limbs of Yoga:
For an overview of Yoga it seems to be in the middle of nowhere – but it’s actually strategically placed:
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.
How does this reflect on your practice? Are you practicing asana or Yoga?
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:
Samkhya then goes on to describe a process of evolution from which our “current universe” arises:
It seems that Ashtanga is a process that retraces the path set out by Samkhya:
|Yama & Niyama||Subtle Elements||Our external and internal attitudes are in relationship to a physical universe.|
|Asana & Pranayama||Sensing||Initial practices are designed to create an awareness of the workings of the senses.|
|Pratyahara||Mind||Until there is an awareness that can tell tell apart the workings of mind from what the sense report through it.|
|Dharana||Separation||When the mind has become aware of its inner workings it can begin to focus clearly (without distractions)|
|Dhyana||Intelligent Will||It can experience a sense of disintermediated connection with a higher intelligence.|
|Samadhi||Gunas||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.
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An article I recently published on Tapas & Relationships continued to reverberate within me for days after I published it. I was particularly caught up with Sutra 2.31 which seems to describes a relationship between the first two practices on the ashtanga list – Yama & Niyama.
Sutra 2.29 (second chapter, sutra 29) is a list of 8 disciplines which make up the art of Yoga:
People sometimes speak of this as a “ladder” – which seems to suggests that Meditation (Dhyana) is a higher practice then Attitude towards others (Yama) or that Samadhi is the “highest achievement” of Yoga. I don’t think this is right, I think it is an incorrect interpretation, I think it blinds people from what Yoga is and I think it gives birth to incorrect views and false promises.
I believe that Sutra 2.31 offers a key to a better understanding of the relationship between the 8 practices of Yoga.
This post started with an image I had from a long time ago about ship-rudders. I did some research into it and came across the idea of “Trim-tabs”:
“Trim tabs are small surfaces connected to the trailing edge of a larger control surface on a boat or aircraft, used to control the trim of the controls…”
Source: Wikipeda: Trim Tabs
My memory of it was related to ships where a smaller rudder (trim tab) is attached to the huge rudder that actually navigates the ship. Ship steering is controlled by moving the small rudder which then moves the large/main rudder. I couldn’t find a good ship-rudder image but I did find the same mechanism on airplanes. You can see how they work in this diagram. Small surfaces are used to activate and stabilize the larger surfaces. The smaller surfaces are refined controls for the larger surfaces.
This is what it looks like on an actual airplane:
What caught my attention about this Sutra was not the text itself but a commentary on it by TKV Desikachar:
“We cannot begin with such attitudes. If we adopt them abruptly we cannot sustain them. We can always find excuses for not maintaining them. But if we seek to identify the reasons why we hold contrary views, isolate the obstacles that permit such views and our attitudes will gradually change. The obstacles will give way and our behavior toward others and our environment will change for the better”.
Life demands engagement, it creates friction (Tapas) with many people. That is where the practice of Yama comes into play. It’s easier to take on a pleasant facade when you are on Yoga retreat with like-hearted people in a supportive environment then it is in a traffic jam when you are late for a meeting at work with people who annoy you. Yet being stuck in traffic on your way to somewhere you don’t want to be with people you don’t want to see is the more typical state of of life – and that is where Yama is practiced.
Yama is a practice of living an engaged life – it is about navigating truthfully, honestly, moderately, considerably and appropriately when it seems least possible. It’s like trying to fly a plane through hammering cross-winds and the stick is shaking in your hand violently. You may be able to keep a steady course for a while – but eventually you will tire out. The alternative is a refined system of steering – a trim tab to stabilize your flight.
This is what Sutra 2.31 suggests. If you are having trouble navigating in Yama (your relationship to others) examine your relationship towards yourself. Your attitudes towards yourself can stabilize your attitudes towards others. You can never really stop “navigating through life” – but the ride doesn’t have to be so bumpy. Use your attitudes towards yourself to stabilize your flight and to do so with less effort.
The Yoga Sutra is known for it’s conciseness and sparing use of words. It is an “economically efficient” text – it packs a lot into as little as words as possible. What if Sutra 2.31 is not just about the relationship between Yama and Niyama? What it is a formula that applies to all 8 limbs:
It’s easy to misread this list and to conclude that one should start with, for example, a subtle practice like meditation. This is not true. To use a refined control you must first experience the limitations of the gross controls. You cannot, for example, experience or appreciate the subtle qualities of Pranayama without first practicing Asana. At some point you may feel that asana has become repetitive and boring and not really affecting you. That is when you may find motivation and appreciation for breathing practices.
Ashtanga seems to describe a system of trim-tabs. As you advance in your practices you gain access and learn to appreciate subtler qualities. As you master subtle qualities you may call upon them to make your passage through life smoother and easier.
It would seem that the “highest achievement” of Yoga is not Samadhi (some theoretical state of bliss) but Yama (traffic on the way to work). Samadhi is merely a subtle tool for steering through life. It is a bumpy ride through life that sets us on a path of disocvery that leads to Samadhi. It is a smoother ride through life that makes it possible for us to appreciate it’s quality.
The term “trim-tab” was coined by one Buckminster Fuller:
“Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary — the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab.
It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go.”
So I said, call me Trim Tab.