My adorable new neighbor appears in the photo to be outside looking in with me taking a picture from inside looking out. From the perspective of who was in the house and who was standing on the sidewalk, it was of course the was the opposite.
The paradoxical illusion in the photo led me to think about moksha — the yoga concept of liberation.
What I get from the various teachings for my own living practice is that to experience freedom in this embodiment we need to be able simultaneously to be on the inside looking out–from our individual embodiment appreciating a sense of universal connection–and also be on the outside looking in–bringing back to particularized embodied action what spaciousness we learn from practice and study.
In which I encounter some more of the 330 million gods (mas o menos).
(Notes: (1) Hindu philosophy speaks of 330 million gods, i.e. a bigger number than we can actually get our minds around, one for every person, giving room for a complete diversity of belief. While I don’t believe in “God,” I have no problem with the idea of 330 million gods, none more exclusive or correct than any other, with no permission to use of the concept of “God” as justification for murder, physical harm, repression, or suppression of expression because of societal or family of origin privileging any particular belief. (2) “Maya,” which in Sanskrit not Spanish, literally means to measure, is the tattva that is the bridge between the universal and the manifest. The “universal” is immeasurable; what we think of as manifest is always measured in space and time. The distinction between how the tantrikas and other yoga philosophies interpret the concept of maya is for your own research or another day. (3) The number 108 refers to Shiva.)
I have been told more than once that one cannot technically be a true practitioner/believer in the tenets of Kashmir Shaivism without believing in some form of Godhead. As a nontheist who still finds the teachings and practices informative and useful for how best to live, I ask consistently whether that is really true.
I’m sure a purist (religious or academic) would say there’s no anything to the philosophy without being a full believer. But what I think one gets from practices designed to heighten awareness of a divinely connecting universality in the wild diversity of life without a belief that what is universal a priori points to “God” is a recognition that with all that is troubling and difficult and hurtful and evil in this world, the very complexity and outrageousness of being is yet wonderful and inspiring in itself.
In a word, when all else fails, laugh (and create and live) with an ecstatic fatalism.
Painting by Sandra Dooley. Cuba 2014
As I have been getting prepared to travel to Cuba the best way I know how–reading, watching films, and talking to friends and acquaintances who are Cuban or are otherwise connected to Cuba–I have been thinking much about how a titanic clash of ideals impacts real, individual lives.
I may be able to post while there. I may not. I’m sure that if I had more time and my trip was less programmed (as required to get permission to go), I’d be able to find yoga. I think it most likely I will have to practice on my own or with my traveling companion.
When I was walking to work this morning, trying not to get enmeshed in anxiety about the stresses of the day to come, I invited myself to practice gratitude (and not just being grateful for having only first world problems).
I paused to look all about, at the beauty of this lush summer. When I turned around for a 360 degree appreciation, I saw the view following me was as engaging as the view in the direction I was walking.keep looking »