Friday, March 25, 2011
Copyright Lance Kinseth, Illuminating Way/Eido, 2011
AN OVERRIDING GOAL of body-mind practices such as yoga involves integration and/or harmony between the innermost aspects of oneself with the universal. The origin of yoga can be traced back literately to the very oldest of these scriptures, the Rig Veda, which speaks about ‘yoking the mind’ to the ‘highest truth’ and similarly, in the Brihadyogiyajnavalkyasmriti [Ch.2, V.49], “to the union of Jiva (individual consciousness) with Brahma (universal consciousness)” [Yogacharya, www.discover-yoga-online.com/yoga-definitions.html].
More than body practice of keeping the body fit and supple, body-mind practices such as yoga involve, as Judith Lasater notes a gradual transformation of “ ‘good’ dis-identification with a false identification” [judithlasater.com]. When this occurs, “body-mind” practices consciously open an additional, larger dimension—that of spirit. “Spirit” is an inclusive term with many meanings, but uniformly references an experience of connection between events as well as the inseparability of events. In more personal terms, body-mind-spirit involves a sense of self-growth, moving from a real yet limited identity of self as internal and separate and stronger to an identity of one’s nature as beyond self, transpersonal, and interwoven with all of one’s experiences. Developing inseparability is not something that we have to do, but rather is a natural state to which we can bring our awareness. And “yoking” individual consciousness with universal consciousness is not just an aesthetic practice, but rather a practical path to optimal health.
The core experience of “spirit” is not finally something “ghostly” or ethereal, but rather, ecological. In Western scientific understanding, the spring blossom is the consequence of the tilt of the whole Earth toward the sun. The smallest flower petal and each tree leaf and each human life is an expression of the universal. Even the sun is a dust speck that expresses the ongoing creation of the universe.
In First Nation through post-industrial spiritual practices, this Western ecological sense of inseparability is intuitively encapsulated in phrases such as “ A seed is a star” [paraphrased from Dogon culture] and “The whole world is a single flower” [e.g., Seung Sahn, The Whole World Is A Single Flower. Boston: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1992]. Accordingly, we are admonished to open the spiritual dimension in everyday life--to listen “to the talk of the flower” [Zenkei Shibayama, A Flower Does Not Talk. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1970, p. 205].
Typically, attention to the nature of existence and to a transforming and expanding sense of identity is approached as aesthetic insight that can seem distant from our everyday life. However, this is a practical insight that applies to concrete, everyday reality. Real, solid, concrete, everyday health occurs as a result of being inside a larger circle of inclusion and support, and not just as something inside one’s body. Optimal health involves consciousness of this larger identity to then “optimize” everyday experience by making it be in congruence with this larger reality.
The physical calmness and larger time-space of restorative yoga offers an opportunity to touch this heart meaning of the term “yoga.” The centrality of relaxation and quietness in restorative yoga and relaxing for longer periods of time may enhance our attention to listening to the body and environment of practice to then optimize a holistic widening, broadening, and deepening of our sense of ourselves.