Saturday, May 3, 2014
New Melleray Abbey
IN 1970, in researching freedom in community, I accompanied my graduate professor George A. Hillery Jr. to New Melleray Abbey. Upon arrival, a monk who greeted us noted that they should have invited Dr. Hillery up last week for a celebration. A brother had died.
Life can be everyday, which is really to say, routine. And yet, life occurs in a vast, very concrete, yet magical context.
To enter this world within the everyday world, the life of the monastery creates a life of disciplined freedom. We typically think of freedom as a “freedom of alternatives”—the opportunity to do anything that we want whenever we want. Dr. Hillery was exploring the presence of “freedom” within discipline.
Body-mind practices that occur in everyday life are often the outcomes of the heritages of monasteries, ashrams, hermitages and martial academies. Such practices carry forward a life of disciplined freedom into everyday life.
However, body-mind practices can morph into more popularized ”watered-down” activities that continue to have more of the taste of the everyday than something profound. The original intent is lost and even distorted. Intensity of workout might become synonymous with sacred.
Body-mind practices such as yoga are more than postural workouts. They are designed to access being-ness more than personality, and to be integrative and connective rather than exclusive. They aspire to dis-identify with egoic self, and to expand identity beyond ego.
Body-mind is not just fitness or even health. Such a transformation can optimize health, but its main objective is to integrate body and mind to touch spirit. For B.K.S. Iyengar, yoga is celebrant and asanas are approached as prayer.
As celebrant, body-mind practice is
· A praise of life,
· Connection with the sacred,
· Assertion of oneness/inclusion,
· Witness to wonder,
· Recognition of the enduring and transcending qualities of living such as compassion and harmony,
· The carrying forward of heritage more than rote mimicry of tradition,
· Deep balance, and
When this occurs, life is celebrant and this can outspread into everyday life.