I also would like to mention that if you are in the Philadelphia area, Sunday, August 28th, the Ashtanga Yoga School of Philadelphia will be having its opening party. I will be teaching a special class in the late morning and then a potluck will follow.
Today’s post deals with the idea of Samskara and how our daily practice is a pressure cooker and an avenue to change these past patterns.
Yoga Sutra 1:18
Another form of thorough knowledge is preceded by resolute practice to completely cease identification with the contents of the mind. As a result, only subliminal impressions remain and their residue has no impact on the mind.
Make the connection, the crystal clear connection between Samskara, a latent impression or conditioned groove that perpetuates ignorance (Avidya) or illusion (Maya)…and how these translate into the body, into your movement and postural patterns. To become aware of alignment and to adjust your movement and postures according to alignment principles helps you neutralize Samskaras. It helps you replace ignorance and blindness with knowledge and insight.
Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita that only one in thousands reaches him. It is too easy to remain steeped in Maya, to fail to wake up, to remain unconscious playing habituated roles, dead ending. Never seeing through the veil. What a diligence, a fierce, committed, sustained effort is necessary to see through your patterns. It is a major step to even want to see through, to face your automatic reactions, the nature of which is automatically deficient, unoriginal, painful and ignorant.
The ignorance EXTENDS to the body-that’s the point-you can move ignorantly. Ignorance is not confined to behavioral or emotional thinking, failure in relationships, or in love. Maya and Avidya extend to physical movement. Your asana practice can provide a perfect microcosm that shows the impossibility of your predicament. Asana practice can show you how entrenched your conditional patterns are, how difficult it is to change even a little bit, and in the end how unwilling we are to be deeply hurled in the nitty gritty process of real change.
We often practice as though we are not interested in being bothered with the details of our ignorance. We have better things to do–like catch our heels in Kapo or land our set of drop backs for the day. We don’t want to be bothered with how we achieve our posture, we are more interested in simply achieving it in any manner that gets results. Deep asana practice requires a high degree of what I call Hanuman like energy– or animal intelligence that is coupled with human self awareness and reflection. Hanuman is famous for being a nearly unconquerable warrior, for his magnificent strength and agility but also for his learning, diplomacy and erudition. Working for true alignment during your unfolding practice requires you to inhabit the body in an intuitive, animal like way, with reflection and awareness.
To some extent developing your asana practice means developing your ability to handle power and force. The depth of asana is partially determined by how energy is set in motion and how much energy is within you in the posture. Distraction, pain, extra weight, unawareness, sudden bouts of lethargy, depression, all serve to dampen the energy that goes into play in an asana. All manners of diversions share the characteristic of dampening life force–Do you see that? To be truly engaged in life, living your dreams, putting your self, your creativity, your love on the line takes tremendous energy.
You have to be able to manage those levels of energy–going into a depression, or eating, or day dreaming about a different life, or thousands of other diversions give you an escape value. If you go and have a beer or smoke a joint or dip into the pint of B and J’s, you are temporarily relieved but that relief is not really relief. Because a large source of our panic, desperation, anxiety, loneliness, and unhappiness comes from not attaining the full capacity of our life force.
You can learn to enlarge your capacity to enjoy, process, and transform large amounts of energy within yourself. Do you really need to divert and dampen your energy with old often repeated patterns? Isn’t time to really observe, really feel, go through fear, and allow more love to enter into your world? That is what practice is ultimately for so why not let it do its work? Stop interfering, stop standing in the way, let the fire in, the challenge, the risk, let your love in and let it come out.
The practice is there in front of you each day, now do what is necessary to really do it. Do all the advance preparation, arrange your life so that you show up at your best, ready to dive into that special world. That world of posture, breath, sequence of intense concentration and exertion. You’ve had at least glimpses of what is there for you, now is the time.