Everywhere this week I'm seeing reminders about the Yamas and the Niyamas, the ideas in the Ashtanga Yoga system of the best ways to live your life. I'm not writing a post about them so look them up if interested, or maybe I will write one in the future.
I just listened to a podcast of Sharath which like much of his conference talks is about that way we behave much more than asana. A friend wrote a blog about the Niyamas. They've popped up in many more places in the past three days as well but these are examples from this day in particular. Plus I chant the four padas of the Yoga Sutras almost daily and one verse, the first one of the second pada about Sadhana actually, the one this article is named for, in particular has stuck out and vibrated differently each day when I recite it.
It lists three of the niyamas and states that those three things together determine the yoga of action, or kriya. And those three things are what seem to be most important to me these days, not the asanas, although I do them, not meditation, although I do it within the context of my practice. But those three things. What are they?
Tapas, which is often translated as building the inner fire and that certainly is one aspect of it. But it's so much more. To me it's mostly about the discipline I've cultivated over these 17 years of asana practice. Discipline in that I never not practice, and that doesn't mean I do asana every day. It means that I engage myself spiritually every day. So I have an altar which is formed of mostly Hindu deities on it, although Yoda is there too, and Sharath and a few other things. I sit down in front of it and chant many different mantras in Sanskrit with deep intention. That is what changes things I believe is when the heart get pulled into things. Then your energy goes into it as well and therein lies the tapas or tapah of it. In the ancient scriptures often they would say this sage, or this Asura or whomever did this tapas for 10,000 and gained some boons from the gods. And they were sitting and chanting with strong focus the whole time. Nowadays I think most ashtangis think of their physical asana practice as tapas but don't really know any other thing that it could be, but in ancient times, the discipline of sitting and committing to sit and chant the name of god for thousands and thousands of repititions was really where tapas was. But to me it could be anything you commit to and do daily, possibly at the same time, that really engages you and your energetic focus enough to bring your feeling and emotions into it, and then that transforms you. It can be many other things too, but right now that is what it is to me.
The next ingredient of Kriya Yoga is Svadhyaya, which is often translated as self study. Does that mean studying shit all on your own, with no teacher? It can, but mostly it's not. Sharath mentioned in his book that if your teacher talks about something, say Ganesha, and you don't know anything then you go and find out what that is. That can be svadhyaya. Also study of the self can mean observing yourself when you're doing different things, like your asana practice, like the way you walk to work in the morning, how you feel when you walk through the city streets, or cut through the park on your way to the same place, how do you feel when you eat this, or that, or think this way, or think that way. It's a way of noticing, or rather deepening your awareness of you. This isn't about just blindly following things, it's about studying how they affect you and when you do things with a different mindset, how they are, or maybe if you do something different instead, how you are. All these things, and again, so much more, can be svadhyaya. To me though it's my reading that I do of the Hindu mythologies, that give me so much insight into regular, daily life. It's the observation of my body and mind as I practice my asanas in the morning, or how I feel while I'm doing my morning chanting one time when I light incense, another when I don't light it, and all the different variations I can make of it and how it affects me. It's also maybe even more importantly how I feel when I'm teaching and helping someone in an asana, or noticing that my instincts are telling me to not help them so much today so that they can figure it out through their own efforts, and much more like this. It's being aware.
The final component of Kriya Yoga is Ishvara Pranidhana, which most often is translated a surrender to God. Abraham in the Law of Attraction work that I've studied would call it Allowing. Now to me this means not trying to do the thing, to "make" it happen. But surrendering to the process. Putting your intention out there and then letting God, or the Universe, or whatever you'd like to call it, take care of arranging it in your life. You also have to surrender to the fact that things will usually happen, or get done in your life but often they are not going to happen the way you think they should. That is a big lesson I got from my first trip to India. I was still stuck in this almost OCD way of being that made me think this thing has to happen in this certain way, and then the next thing in that way and even in this order I have derived in my own mind. But everything would get finished just never in the way or order I thought it would. And that drove me crazy! But then it also gave me the opportunity to surrender and allow it to happen as it was going to, rather than having an attachment to how and when, which is a big relief when you let go of that.
Now I don't know how many of you like the idea of surrendering to God, see my last blog post simply entitled God to see what I think of it, but to me God is an okay word and I would use Goddess more often if I remembered to because I am enamoured of thinking of Kali or Lakshmi being the divine being rather than the old school biblical man with a beard sitting in the clouds watching down at us. I also love the effect when you say "oh, thank goddess!" in front of people, especially people in the midwest who've grown up mostly with this idea of God being a man sitting in the clouds. It just fucks with them something awful ahahahahaha, I know, I'm terrible. But I like to use the word God and to me it doesn't just mean God, or Pan, or Ishtar or Shiva or whomever, it means everything. The boulder, the grass, the water, the building, the person, the whatever. Because to me its all God in some form. See I <3 Huckabees, particularly the blanket theory speech by Dustin Hoffman's character, for a great explanation of this.
These three together are very powerful and in the Sutras considered the actions one needs to take to achieve a state of yoga. That thought makes me happy. They are less things to do, then ways to be or live your life and I think I can make them work, they really y make sense to me and are very practical in showing you results within and without.
Think about it in your life, how do you enact these three things? Do you try to do them daily? Is one more important than the other, and why? Do you even think about this stuff enough to give a fuck?!? LOL, maybe not, and should you? Well, that's for you to decide, not for me to lay on you. It's your life, are you living it consciously? Do you live it at all? Or are you simply dead within the context of "being alive" because you technically are? Hmmm...