The first two days, including the Solstice, of the Anusara Grand Gathering were bright and blue and sunny and pleasantly cool in the morning and warm in the afternoon–“perfect” New England summer days. The third morning dawned cloudy. By the time the morning session was underway, a pleasant drizzle had turned into a deluge. Rain started coming in from the sides where the tent was open, and then the roof started leaking. The clouds were sufficiently dense that the light was no more than at dawn or dusk. It was getting pretty dark and wet in the tent. At one point, after having told stories about rain being regarded as blessings in Hindu rituals and exhorting us in surya namaskar to jump forward and splash in a puddle like a kid, John said, “I would turn the lights on, but there aren’t any lights to turn on. So this is perfect!”
One of the conundrums in explaining the philosophical principle of purna, which means “perfect” or “fullness” is reconciling it with the evident fact that our divine perfection or fullness aside, we are still working to shift and realign our minds and bodies through the practices. The divine consciousness, which is everything, say the yogis, is utterly perfect as it is and completely full (or fully empty and thus all potential, depending on how you look at it). We are told that we (and all of being) are the divine consciousness manifest and then given a slew of techniques and instruction to help us change ourselves.
If we are completely perfect and full, what is the point of learning all the technique and seeking to expand and shift our bodies and minds? The yoga teachings say that we forget that we are this fullness and perfection, and it is our forgetting that leads to suffering (which is different than pain, but discussing that distinction will have to wait for another blog entry). The practices are not to perfect or improve us, but rather to shift our alignment (mind and body) so that we remember the perfection of ourselves as spirit. When we remember, we are better able to recognize the perfection in ourselves, other people, beings, things, or events, even what we find challenging or difficult. From this space of recognition, in my experience, we naturally become happier and more generous of spirit.
I think that moment at the Anusara Grand Gathering is a perfect (word choice intentional) illustration of the apparent dichotomy of seeking change and appreciation of the perfection of every moment. If there had been lights to turn on, John would have turned on the lights so that we could have observed the alignment better during the demonstrations and he and the assistants could have seen the students more easily. The universe did not have it in store for us to have a light-filled dry day; we were getting a wet and dark one whether we liked it or not. Having no lights to turn on, John reminded us in a light-hearted way that the teachings and practices would invite us to fully embrace and enjoy the weather we got and practice space we had (while staff were busily making alternative arrangements for classes later in the day), getting the most out of it. I thought it was pretty fun to practice in the cool rain, though it’s easy for me to say since I and my things stayed dry, and the rain was a welcome respite from the worsening drought in the DC area.