Monday, September 22, 2014
FROM ITS BEGINNINGS to the present moment, the core position of yoga is a sense of people being fundamentally good. And this goodness is not just “good,” but essentially joyous and radiant, involving the experience of bliss at “heart center” or core being. Accordingly, happiness and joy are envisioned as already present and inherent within--not as something one had to seek from external sources.
This core position of goodness and radiance is well expressed in yoga practice in the near universal usage of the term “namaste” and its inherent meaning:
The light within me bows to the light within you,
And when we come together in that light, we are one.
With this term, we acknowledge this inherent light—this sense of goodness and grace—in everyone and everything and in every force or action, and it takes us further, to yoke or bind us to everything as inseparable.
However, the presence of inherent goodness does not automatically guarantee happiness or joy. Essentially yoga emerges to uncover this goodness. The primary contribution was attention to the breath that could lead to steadying the mind that then could transcend obstacles or “sheaths” obscuring this goodness that we have created. In yoga practice, everyone can touch this inherent goodness within oneself. It is experienced physically and emotionally in various intensities of happiness and joy, going from simple coolness of inhalation on the lips or relaxation of release to the experience of deep emotive and integrative bliss. These radiant experiences that occur in yoga are not simply mental assumptions. Yoga affects neuro-chemistry.
Be it breathing or postural work or sound, yoga practice offers a freedom of discipline that provokes spontaneous physical and emotional and contemplative experiences of joy. And repetition and consistency of yoga practice can transform these spontaneous experiences of joy into regular if not permanent attributes such as a sense of humor, gratitude, peace and harmony, and expanded sense of beauty, grace, sacredness, integration, compassion and transcendence.
Yoga practice extends into everyday life to facilitate experiences of happiness and joy. Compassion and “Doing good things” are “right actions” that are a flowering of practice that aspires to reduce suffering (either directly or indirectly by carelessness or mindlessness). Right action produces personal and societal and ecological happiness and joy. There is also an interest in finding and creating beauty that produces joy. In many everyday experiences—finding beauty in a mountaintop or ocean view or flower in the garden or soft rainfall, or lost in creativity or helping—one loses track of time and ‘I” disappears and the goodness with its bliss lives in those moments as an authentic happiness. And gradually, by steadying the mind, one’s sense of beauty and wonder and sacredness is expanded, including even unpleasant experiences because of what they teach and how they “initiate” and therefore strengthen us.
No matter how much time is put into yoga, a quest for an imagined personal state of pure bliss can be a barrier to happiness. As foundational yoga philosopher Patanjali suggested in his Yoga Sutras, grace and even joy can be encountered by accepting “shadows & warts” as a wonderful realization of his niyama of santosha or “contentment” that surrenders to and takes refuge in the miracle of life-as-it-is.
Should yoga become an ongoing pathway, practice will offer joyous freshness in the mystery and opportunity for discovery that lies in the many turns that lie just ahead.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Lance Kinseth, Self As Landscape 1 (detail), 2014
THERE IS AN unbreakable space within us. It is not in our physical heart, but it is at the heart of each of us. It is a center-point. We are always there, but it goes unrecognized most of the time.
There is not door or wall. When we deepen enough, but still easily, casually, not pushing, we arrive. There are no sheaths that surround it other than the ones that we have contrived.
Upon arrival at what wears the appearance of a tiny little heart box, we discover that, paradoxically, it is not inside. There is here.
It is without scale, not bounded, unsized. And when we find that it is our homeland and where we have never ceased living, we optimize our life. And our daily actions might begin to mirror what we discover here. And what we discover there is not clarity. We enter this way of living in uncertainly.
There are no words and the terrain is unwritten, and yet there is language here. Coming alive here, our everyday transforms into the mystery that it is, and we hear languages that are the moreness of ourselves—the longer reach of ourselves that designs us and expresses us—inseparable, and here, our sensing unleashes:
I must go out—the greenery is dense
with memories, they follow me with their gaze.
They can’t be seen, they merge completely into
the background, true chameleons.
They are so close that I can hear them breathe
though the birdsong is deafening.
Tomas Transtromer, from “Memories Look At Me,"
The Great Enigma
We can lean back into this unbreakable quality. We appear and we disappear and yet we endure.