Inward and Outward Going Thoughts and Infinite Being: Six Precepts from Prashant
|vyutthana nirodha samskaryoh abhibhava pradurbhavau nirodhaksana cittanvayah nirodhaparinamah|
|Study of the silent moments between rising and restraining subliminal impressions is the transformation of consciousness towards restraint (nirodha parinamah). (I)
The state of restraint, nirodha, is when there is disappearance of outgoing [i.e. worldly] samskaras and the appearance of restraining samskaras. These emerge in the mind at the moment of restraint. (B)
The other day I was reading some of Geeta’s remarks from the 2003 convention in Perth, Australia about ingoing and outgoing thoughts. She mentioned that impulse that each of us has to have some time alone or quiet space. She said that “is as essential as food “ for sustaining who we are. We all have a natural tendency toward inward going thought, but we are so quickly distracted from that experience. “oh I am getting ready to practice, but there’s the phone.” Or “let me just write that one email” or “I’ll just check in on Facebook first.” or “write my blog.” Part of practice is learning to make that inward going mind more stable and cultured. We need to learn to expand our comfort level with inwardness.
Being in Pune is, in many ways, a challenge for the inward going impulse. There are so many distraction in the external environment, but that the same time, it becomes all the more clear how much we need to cultivate our ability to experience and sustain inward going mind.
I was thinking today that the change from the first month to the second month is like inward and outward going thoughts expanded several fold. We achieved a kind of inward being by staying here for a month. Particularly that last pranayama week of June was so peaceful. Some outward going thoughts (or people) had left and some of us remained. Also, because we weren’t leaving or outward going ourselves, there was more comfort and steadiness (maybe not effortless effort) in the ongoing act of being here.
Or so I thought, but now there’s this huge new incoming set of people and thoughts and distractions that cause my (and I think, our, experience of being here is more outward going than it was a week ago. Right now, the second month is wearing a bit on both of us. While I’m glad we are here in that I know I would have not felt ready to leave and I do want to have the experience of staying, there’s a new tendency to be outward or forward in my thinking (only 20 days until we leave to go home).
Having just read that article and having the additional challenge of a rather crowded practice space, I’ve been very intentionally trying to stay inward in my own practice experience. For example, I find that if I’m in the practice room reasonably right after class, I can be less distracted as it fills up than if I come into an already packed room. I also find that as it grows more and more noise and crowded, I do lose my ability to maintain and when that is completely lost, I may as well come out of the hall (just like I should come out of a pose when I can’t keep the integrity of the action).
The other thing I’m noticing during my numerous outward going moments is that I make a shocking number of judgments about people I don’t know simply based on their poses and how they are in their relationship with space and with others overall. People really do seem aggressive in their work and in their holding of space and props and mindless in their ability to disregard rules about props and wall use (or even trying to take pictures of Guruji). Sometimes it bothers me that Iyengar teacher project personality traits onto your pose (that’s your ego doing the pose or your front groin is in the darkness of ignorance), but as I’ve been here I have started to see peoples bodies somewhat differently, more in those terms, maybe because I have a limited context for interaction other than the asana class and the asana hall.
It reminded me of a couple teacher trainings back with Eddy Marks in Dallas. Randy was working on integrating a philosophical point from the sutras into his teaching (in six minutes…). So he picked sthira sukham asanam (SSA) and Anantasana. He said Anantasana just “Screams” SSA. At some point, we gave each other feedback and I said that I thought SSA wasn’t the type of thing that screamed at you. Eddy thought about it for a moment, and acknowledged my point, but then he said that we did not want to squelch Randy’s personal expression of philosophy and then he went onto say, sometimes things like that or their absence of them literally scream at you. Anyway, it was a good learning moment for me. So, either this seeing of personality in the body of another is a complete product of the projection of my outward going mind or something in a person is screaming in a way that I don’t usually see (or hear).
Prashant talked about that mixing of the senses early in in class today. He gave the example of listening to a beautiful piece of music. Technically, we don’t need our eyes to accomplish that but how might we learn to use our sight to enhance our hearing, that way of thinking is moving from component to communal thinking. Actually, he didn’t use the word communal, some other c word that I’m not remembering right now.
Prashant seemed to take a few steps back today and tried to get us to think about some of the basic concepts of building a deeper awareness.
Precept One: Cultivate the ability to work only in a physical way, then work in a more “yogic” way, a more coordinated way, a way more integrated with the dynamics of the breath, and see what the difference is. Be able to move between those different modes of doing and see the value added to the more yogic way. But, he didn’t say only work one way. Work both ways to understand the difference. End of lesson one. Our homework: go do that.
Precept Two: Somewhere understand the difference between parts working as parts or components and when parts are working in relationship to other parts or in relationship to the context. For example, learn to feel when the leg is working just for the leg and when the leg is working for the spine. See that sitting up straight while reading or doing intellectual work is different and has a different purpose and effect than when in the gym and when in prayer. Sitting up straight is useful in all those contexts but it is not the same act of sitting up straight and if we bring the straight spine of a good thinking experience to the straight spine of contemplating God we might miss the “emotionality” of the experience of prayer.
Precept Three: Learn to expand the domain of the relationship between parts. Prashant had Raya and Uday come up to the front of the room and he talked about their friendship and how they might get along well here at RIMYI or at Vashali but when they encountered a situation that made them feel uncomfortable in their relationship, they might part ways, and that would show the limits of the friendship. This went on for a while and was pretty funny. He also talked about if we only meet a friend in a bar, but never go to movies or to a lecture or to a dharma talk with that person, that shows the limit of the relationship.
The implied message at first seemed to be that it was better to find relationships with people that expand all the domains of experience and I think that’s part of it (by the way, Aristotle talks about three different types of friendship, utility, pleasure, and the good). He, Aristotle, goes onto say that friendships of the good are rare because genuinely good people are rare and Prashant made a related point. He said the point is not to try out every sort of relationality in our relationships (We are not meant to be a beggar on the street and a cook, and a banker and a lawyer all in one lifetime), that would be a sort of dangerous and crazy way to live.
But that we should apply this sort of relationality to our poses. Are there poses we are not friendly with? Are we clasping our hands in Marichyasana one in friendship with each other or with grasping or tenuous tension? We might understand how the legs and the arms help the spine in Trikonasana, but do we have that same friendliness with Vashisthasana?
To paraphrase Wittgenstein, the limit (of our exploration of) our language (of poses) is the limit of our world.
Precept Four: Expand the range of your ability to practice the precepts of Prashant.
We did actually do Vashisthasana, by the way. We were in AMS and then he said, those that can do, Vashistansana, do it go ahead get the toe. He then asked us to consider how we were doing it, were we just struggling to balance and where was the mind there? He asked us honestly to consider how often we do it and when we do it, what is our mindset? Are we doing it to have the photo taken or are we doing it as part of the regular aspect of our practice as another day, another dog pose?
At this point, he address the “criticism: he faces that he does not teach so many poses. That he is somehow letting down the legacy of Iyengar yoga because all he teaches are “basic” poses. He said he is teaching us the principles by which we should approach every pose and that it is our work to learn to apply those principles in all that we can do. I was reminded at several junctures about Patricia’s use of this phrase, “that’s your work.”
Precept Five: Don’t just practice the pose as the pose. Practice the pose in relation to other poses. Prashant actually talked about how he would practice a pose when he was first learning a pose. He didn’t just do Vashistasana once in a while, but once he was taught it , he did it every day. Beyond that, he put it ( or Vira 3, another example he gave) in combination with all sorts of poses. Not just on balancing days, but learn by doing a pose with forward bends, and with twists, and with backbends. What is the relationality of the pose with other poses? He also talked about this relationality earlier with the work of the arms and the legs on the spine. Can we bring our awareness of how the organs of action work in Parsva Utthita Hasta Padangustasana to Trikonasana, while we are in Trikonasana?
Precept Six. Don’t be a hard worker. Sure there are problems with being lazy and lazy people cause all sorts of trouble for the world. And I don’t think he’s denying the necessity of work and that there’s lots of work to be done. But he said, “Hard workers create agony for the world.” Wow. What a concept. we are so cultured to think of hard work as good as what we drive to be in our culture of doing, of achieving etc. He’s right on a personal level That drive can be agonizing. There’s no rest for the weary… but creating agony for the world. I’d never really about that. What is the world like because it is filled with hard workers? What should we be instead? How would the world be as a result?
Differently put, how do we practice in such a way that our effort becomes effortless and the infinite being within is reached?
|2.47||prayatna saithilya ananta samapattibhyam|
|Perfection in an asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite being within is reached. (I)
[Such posture should be attained] by the relaxation of effort and by absorption in the infinite. (B)
Posted by Anne-Marie Schultz