why I did not post an entry about the sixth anniversary of the war in Iraq? I obviously care deeply about the need to end the war and to address the tragic aftermath at home and abroad. So why choose not to mark an anniversary? Why instead of marking a dire anniversary, celebrate spring? Sometimes, by celebrating something small in the midst of a crisis, we can give ourselves the grounding and energy to work harder to bring more light and to seek to end needless suffering.
Paul Muller-Ortega, who teaches philosophy and meditation from similar roots to those that inform Anusara yoga, spoke yesterday of the differences between the path of the renunciate and the path of the householder. He strongly stated that neither path was better. What he suggested, though, was that a householder will better flourish practicing yoga designed for the householder rather than attempting to practice renunciate techniques, while still staying in the householder path.
What does this mean? I think it means that we become unhappy and conflicted if we try attempt the practices of the path of complete non-attachment and transcendence of body and mind while we are still very much staying in society and responsible for family, work, and citizenship. The tantric, householder path, including that of the Shaivite tradition of Kashmir and Abhinavagupta, offers practices that enable one to live liberated in society, instead of suggesting that the only way to true liberation is to reject and transcend work, family, and community. In yoga terms, the householder path is one that realizes moksha (liberation), through ardha (physical and material well-being), kama (love/relationship), and dharma (right work/path) rather than by transcending them.
Taking the householder path does not mean just indulging. It still requires sensitivity, dedication, discrimination, and alignment. I think it may be even harder than renunciation. I know it is easier for me to just stay alone and practice, for example, than to bring yoga off my mat to how I work, consume, relate to others, and participate in society. The householder path, though, is the one for me.
After teaching my classes this morning at Willow Street, I will be studying with Paul Muller-Ortega, who is leading a workshop on tantric philosophy and meditation today and tomorrow. It will be good to study, to learn, to meditate with direction. To be able to teach, it is essential for me to study.
Magnolias in bloom, cherry trees turning dark pink on their way to pale pink. The great unveiling that is spring in DC has begun! Sri!
Last year, some romaine lettuce must have bolted. I have baby romaine lettuce coming up everywhere. Having reverted to the wild, it is quite bitter. It is also taking up a fair amount of space, so to be able to plant more appealing things (new herbs and greens) I will be pulling it up. It has become, in essence, a weed. Later in the year, I’ll also have a surfeit of volunteer epazote and purslane, which many would pull as weeds. Those, I actively encourage, eating young the ones that come up over and over again through the bricks and confining in containers a few others to grow larger and to reseed.
Even though it is too bitter to be palatable raw, the now “weed” romaine tastes fine cooked as a tender green. So it does not get discarded. I just won’t make myself eat it in its bitter form as the salad green that it is “supposed” to be. Instead, since it is nourishing and tasty as a cooked green, it is a welcome early addition to the garden.
Just I have challenges and tribulations from whatever is my overall plan for the garden, I have my share of aches, pains, challenges, and disappointments, in life and in my yoga practice. The question is how to discriminate (viveka) among those that are poisonous, those that are bitter, and those that can be made nourishing and sweet, through the cooking of understanding, practice, and effort.
Yesterday, for the first time this year, there was more daylight than darkness. Today, it will be warm and sunny. Notice if the light and warmth brighten your mood. Then try to observe just where and how you are shifted so that when things seem dark and gloomy, you can find the place within yourself that responds to light and dark and invite in your own light to shift. This is a power of meditation.
My gardening friends have been commiserating and worrying about the abnormally dry weather. For the past couple of days, we have all been concerned that this storm has brought so little needed rain, although we are grateful to get whatever rain comes. Other acquaintances were complaining yesterday that it still wasn’t sunny. When I mentioned drought conditions, they had not noticed. If they noticed once it was pointed out, they suggested reasons why for them personally, it would still be a better thing for it to be a sunny day. Part of the reason I garden is to keep me connected with the rhythms of the seasons and the weather. If we do not grow our own food and depend on the fruits of our labors, nor are taught the relationship between the weather and our survival, there is no reason to know it. We become disconnected from nature and from the earth.
For me, connection to the earth deepens my connection to myself and to spirit. How can we know ourselves if we do not know how the earth nourishes us and how we relate to the earth? How can we recognize the light within ourselves, if we are disconnected from nature? At the same time, the practice of yoga, with its inward questing (antar-vimarsha — the quest to touch or reveal the true Self), by revealing to us the subtle energies and knowledge of the relationship of body and mind, can lead us back to yearning for a deeper understanding of the world around us and for a healthier relationship between the give and take between us and the earth. We can thus reach spirit both by being more aware of the outside and seeing where we are disconnected in our practice off the mat and by reaching inward using our spiritual practice (the Anusara principles are designed to be a pulsation of reaching outward and inward for an ever growing expansion and understanding of mind and spirit) and then knowing the outside is not aligned and needs to be shifted. All this is the process of vimarsha, like a little more rain in the drought to nourish and encourage the unfolding of spring.
This morning, woken by the purring cat from an anxious dream in which I was not doing enough to make things better (I am not making this up), my first thoughts were of escalating war in Afghanistan and deepening economic crisis at home. It felt almost strange and abstract to be worrying about these things from my warm comfortable bed.
I think worrying can have a positive place in our lives. If we just get worried or anxious about things and get trapped in not doing or growing or reaching (both inward and outward) for a sense of connection and spirit, then worrying will cloak or limit us. If we recognize worries as showing us limitations, then we can use them to grow and change and spur us to action.
After the 25 tattvas describing the physical world and our being and understanding of the world that correspond in both the classical and Kashmir Shaivist systems, are Kashmir Shaivism’s six kanchukas — cloakings or coverings. The kanchukas are niyati (limitation of place), kaala (limitation of time), raaga ( attachment), vidya (limitation of knowledge), kalaa (limitation of action), maya (illusion of individuality/manifestation).
From a tantric perspective, experiencing ourselves as thinking, individual beings in the manifest world, constrained by time and space, only binds us if we think that is all we are. If we get completely entangled in these constraints, then our sense of spirit is cloaked, just as if we get stuck in worrying, instead of using worries as a spur to work for change, we become miserable.
I meditate and practice asana, as taught by my teachers, to reveal the restraints of physical being as only part of my being. Spiritual practice can serve to enable us to experience freedom of heart and mind, to bathe in the bliss of the essence of ourselves that is universal and unconstrained by the limitations of individual manifestation. The point of these practices not to escape our individual selves or to gratify them (that would still be “cloaked”), but to find the strength and stability to serve better and to work for a world in which all beings have an equal chance to seek the spirit and experience the bliss of connection.
Join in the call for a friendlier, healthier planet by participating in Earth Hour by dimming your lights on March 28th (and before and after when you can).
A few years ago — just before the Al Gore movie came out — I went to a talk and movie about what we can do about global warming. A Nepalese attorney who had been working on a case before the World Court that related to saving the snows of the Himalayas (good luck), said something that fully resonated with me. He said he did not understand why Americans turn on electric lights on a sunny day. I think about that every time I see a light on at the same time as bright daylight is coming through the window. If I have the power to turn off the light (or not turn it on in the first place), I choose to do so.