Life experiences are made into ornaments.. .. things that we glorify and hold on to.. things that we attach to for self esteem and identity.
As a teacher of yoga is it my responsibility to smash the ornaments.. or is the class room a place where students learn to put the ornament on the shelf, and, on occasion, when they observe themselves polishing it, to have a jolly good laugh and to smile with compassion?
Personally, I believe it is my responsibility to facilitate a space where students come to re-cognise themselves – to learn to reflect on their actions and the outcomes of the actions. My students though, I suspect feel that sometimes I smash their ornaments, or at least shake the shelf upon which they rest. Some cry with relief and others in grief as they have invested years of their lives in beliefs that ultimately are stories, that they told themselves about who they must be to be loved.
It is an ethical issue for me, that I understand the role of teacher and student.
It is always good to remind ourselves that when we attend classes, we are not paying for Yoga, because Yoga Is.. Yoga is not a commodity. Payment for classes covers the cost of having someone who has walked the path of practice for a long time, available to share what they have learnt. A teacher of yoga, teaches the practices of Abhyasa and Vairagya: Discipline and Renunciation. These practices develop clarity of perception. Over time practice equips the body/mind/breath instrument such that it is an instrument capable of meditation. Stillness of mind is how we open the path to walk in the power of our own presence. Practice gives us the opportunity to steady the mind upon an object; to then evidence the condition or state of mind; then practice becomes an instrument we use to pause or silence the mind. As the mind, as we know it, witnesses the pause between the rise and fall of thoughts it, the small self mind learns its greatness: the vast intangible reservoir of unimaginable beauty that is Life.
I sit within the Iyengar tradition and practice Raja yoga.. the Royal path: twining of head (Jnana/intention), heart (Bhakti/devotion) and hand (Karma/action/service). Practice teaches that a huge obstacle to peace and living a meaningful life is that I/we make experiences into ornaments.
Once we learn to stop just polishing our ornaments, practice becomes an instrument for transformation. The mind arrives into a state of "pause". The postures function to change the chemistry of the body and the nervous systems, making experience conducive to meditation. As we step our toe into this process, practice functions as an instrument: we go to our mat because we practice encountering ourselves within situations (asana); we study ourselves in these situations and develop skills that help us get clear. Practice teaches us how to put down the 'ornaments' (experiences that prop up the ego). If we don't have a practice - a process of putting down the ornaments that we have made out of our experiences - life will most certainly throw them to the ground where they smash into a thousand pieces. We are not who we think we are and life will keep asking that we learn this lesson. Life can only be lived in moment.. each moment what is asked of us, can we engage clearly; can we act rather than re-act? We are being asked to feel, to become present at increasing levels of subtlety.
Mind is trained through practice to function as dharmendriya.. we practice to locate ourselves in the here and now of life. To become present. In this way mind functions as a sense organ. Just as the nose smells, and the ears hear, mind locates.. to locate ourselves in the embodiment, in each moment of experience, is to align with peace. We can live with a clear conscience when our actions arise from presence.
If you are interested in linking asana practice with the study of Yoga philosophy you will enjoy working with Polly on retreat. Follow this link to Anama Cara Studio our retreat center in Woodgate Qld.
When you give yourself a retreat experience you start to discover how your effort get in the way of living a peaceful life.
Yoga is the lay persons neuroscience - Yogis have known for centuries that there are layers of mental activity that can be harnessed and directed. When attention becomes concentration and concentration establishes a pause between the rise and fall of thoughts, we arrive into a state known as meditation. The interconnections between the layers of consciousness create the conditions for wisdom.. it arises in the pause, in the interruption of habitual thought.
“As soon as there is stopping, there is happiness. There is peace. When we stop like that, it looks as if nothing is happening, but in fact everything is happening. You are deeply established in the present moment, and you touch your cosmic body. You touch eternity. There is no more restlessness, no more seeking.” Thich Nhat Hanh