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What If?–Part II

Yesterday I asked about setting an intention to be blissful in every thing we do for a day. Having the intention is a good start (I might not even have thought of such an intention without my yoga practice). What I really want is to be able to manifest that intention. For me, I know that it is important for me to live more consciously and with more subtle discrimination (viveka) if I am to come close to living such intention.
A rare few live in bliss without effort. For the rest of us, that is why we have the practices. So we can practice moving into and resting in bliss.

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Giant Grasshopper from Outer Space (and Maya)

The camera may not lie, but it certainly, like our own perception of things relative to that of others, have a distorted or unique perspective. One of the essential principles of the yoga world view is that of maya or illusion. In classical yoga, everything in the world is illusion; the only thing that is real is Atman–ultimate consciousness or god. In the tantric world view, the role of maya is more complicated. It essentially boils down to the idea that we are under an illusion when we think of the world and divinity as separate, and that this illusion of separation leads to a suffering of the individual spirit. Whether one hold with either of these world views or not, it is always true that thinking our limited perception is the only truth will likely lead to discord, misunderstanding, and strife.

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A Key to a Steady Home Practice (Letting Go of Preconceived Notions)

One of the things most likely to keep us from having a steady home practice (whether asana or meditation or both) is being unable to live up to our own expectations or preconceived notions of what is a proper or good home practice.  If we think that we need to do a certain amount for an established length of time or that we have to feel fit enough to do a particular range or poses than inevitably we will be challenged in practicing regularly in a busy life.

It is good to have a set time and place for our practice and to try and practice for a length of time that will foster the growth and balance in ourselves that we seek from our practice.  To stay steady, though, we have to be flexible with our expectations.  When we are sick or injured or exhausted, it will be appropriate to do restoratives or a gentle practice rather than a more vigorous one, even if we are accustomed to doing more advanced asana.  If we are pressed for time, even if we like to spend 45 minutes to an hour in the morning, perhaps we will do 25 minutes.  If we usually meditate in a special place in the house, but we have to leave for the airport at 6am, we can find a quiet moment to breathe for three minutes before we leave the house and then meditate on the plane.

This morning, for example, I knew that the only opportunity to have a walk would be early morning because the electricians are coming for more work towards installing the solar panels.  Having a walk on days I am working at home is critical for my ability to sit at my desk and concentrate.  Instead of doing my usual 45-60 minutes of practice, which gives me time for some asana and pranayama before sitting for meditation followed by savasana, I chose to sit for 25 minutes and then go for a walk.  I will practice more this evening when I am off work.

Once we give ourselves permission to be flexible about how much to practice and what, then it will be easier to stick to practicing.  I think it is far more important to practice several times a week than to have a practice that is thorough and “by the book” but is only done sporadically.  What are your challenges in developing a steady practice?  If you have a steady practice, what has helped you stick to it?  Have your expectations about what a practice should be interfered with your practicing?

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Shiva Nataraja

This murti of Nataraja has been in the window of a store near where I work for at least 20 years. I often walk past is and just as often stop to admire it. I have never really considered taking it home, lovely as it is. The murti is simply too large for any of my rooms. I have mentioned its needing a home to a couple of different friends, who were looking for large murtis of Nataraja, over the past few months, but none have followed through.

Today, when I was walking past it on a lunchtime walk to the bank, I noticed a “commercial property for rent” sign in the window. I will miss having this resplendent image in my work neighborhood, but not enough to buy it and bring it home. I decided, though, to take a photograph. I know the owner only very casually, but well enough to know he is retiring, rather than being driven out by rising rental costs or the recession. The neighborhood has gotten trendier since Nataraja first appeared in the window. Nataraja might be replaced with a delicious restaurant or a fabulous store purveying things that entice me. Or the space could stay vacant or be used for something that holds no interest for me whatsoever.

Nataraja–lord of the dance of concealment and revelation, of dissolution and manifestation–is dancing here. The murti will be sold or transported away when the shop closes and will physically be gone.

I will have my memories of the image, a photograph I took with my BlackBerry, and will have had a sweet opportunity to observe the lord of the dance dancing away his own image.

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