Unicorns

Sutra scholar on campus this week. Came in from Chicago to be with us and his presentation tonight was equal parts light and heavy. We are talking universal consciousness, after all. At the end of the talk I asked him about manifesting and why we manifest trees that are green and flowers that are yellow and so on. His first response is that the green I manifest is different than the green someone else manifests. I prodded further and said ok well if we are the universal consciousness and out of nothing comes something, then I could manifest a unicorn if I wanted to! He said yes but there would be two unicorns, the one I manifested and also the one that would manifest itself when it’s optimal manifesting potential presented itself in that unicorns life journey. Woah.

After the talk, I chatted with him about how the universal mind manifests itself all the time, in moments we have come to label as “coincidence”. He agreed and shared some of his experiences of tapping into the universal mind and I shared my experiences of running around in chaos and wonderment yelling “The universe is so silly!!!“.

As I left for the evening, just as my hand touched the door handle, I heard this elder sutra scholar call out after me: “Don’t forget to bring your unicorn to class tomorrow.”

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Taylor Swift, I got what you need, girl. Don’t even sweat it.

Tswift. Girl. You need to pick up a copy of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, stat. And maybe do some yoga.

You see, he had it all figured out: why we should be practicing yoga as a holistic and comprehensive approach to life, what are the five categories that all pain can be filed under, where pain comes from and why we experience it, AND (here’s the best part) he details how to avoid pain in the future. That would mean no more breakup songs for you, Taylor. fin. And wouldn’t that be nice?

The first few slokas of Chapter Two in the Sutras deal with what is yoga and why we should practice it. Yoga is most commonly defined as “union”; the union between the individual soul and the universal soul or consciousness. too much hippie jargon? Yoga is the union of two things that have been separated. The practice of yoga involves self-study, training and purifying the senses, and releasing into the creative consciousness. I know this is a lot to take in Taylor, so we will leave that introduction as it is. Let’s get to the good stuff.
Patanjali says that by practicing yoga, we can reach ultimate enlightenment and become free from the afflictions which obstruct the mind from attaining steadiness. Here’s where knowledge is dropped, so start taking notes, Tay.
There are five causes of pain (kleshas):

1. Ignorance about the true nature of things
2. I-ness, egoism, feeling of individuality (when really, we are all the same)
3. Attachment or addiction to pleasure
4. Aversion
5. Fear of death, the desire to cling to life

Only five root causes of all pain? Man, that’s not bad! Patanjali goes on to explain that these causes of pain can occur within four stages:

1. Dormant (you wouldn’t even know they were there)
2. Mild
3. Showing signs in an oscillating state (sometimes you feel the pain, sometimes you don’t)
4. Active and producing thoughts or actions to various degrees (…the stage that is responsible for the world hearing about your breakups on the radio)

Ignorance is called out as the root pain that for all the other kinds of pain we experience. If we uproot our ignorance of the true nature of things, we are getting somewhere. Uprooting however, has to start at the top of the tree, with fear of death, and work it’s way down to ignorance.

Lets talk about ignorance for a hot second. Ignorance is of four types:

1. Mistaking that which is transient as eternal
2. Mistaking that which is impure for pure
3. Mistaking that which is sadness for happiness
4. Mistaking non-self for self

When living in Northern Virginia a few years ago, I would fight ignorance all the time. Literally, fight. Not like a superhero or anything…more like come up against it. The drinking scene, for instance, with which I have finally made peace with. Drinking and everything that bugged me about the people I found at bars was all rooted in the 3rd kind of ignorance: mistaking sadness for happiness. Let that sink in.
Ignorance is a kind of psychosis. It causes duality, a divine illusion. I know firsthand, Taylor, and I’m going to school you break up songs.
There is one situation in my life that has illustrated all four forms of ignorance in a seemingly never ending cycle. You’ll get down with this, Taylor. It was a guy who I dated for some time, someone I knew intimately. Our relationship was volatile and right out of one of your songs, Tswift. The relationship had good moments which developed into raga, one of the five causes of pain. That is, there started a liking that accompanied the experience of pleasure (raga). True to Patanjali’s sloka, the association of the memory of an object and the pleasure experienced began to form. and when there is an object of pleasure, the mind will run after it, wishing to experience it again and again. I couldn’t stay away. My mind wanted to be with him all the time, to experience pleasure all the time.
Then the next sutra set in: dwesha. Dwesha is the repulsion that accompanies pain; it’s the aversion that follows suffering or sadness. These moments came when long nights of drinking ended in fighting, or after finding out about times in our relationship when he was with another girl.
We would fight, break up, then make up. Repeat x forever. Lots of couples do this, regardless of how painful it is (read: abusive mentally or even physically). Even MORE songs are written about the addition than breaking up. You know, where someone is someone else’s drug and you’ve got withdrawal, and rehab, and falling off the bandwagon and jumping back on. That’s how it was. why? Many times, we both heard “stay away from each other”, “they are trouble”, and “why do you keep doing this?”
Here’s why, here is the ultimate answer: pleasure and pain are two sides to the same coin. Your mind seeks out to relive these moments of pleasure, forever bonded to innumerable people or things that will cause pain. They bind us to lower levels of consciousness; as long as they are there, the mind cannot be free.

Osho said in his book on meditation that only one step is needed to free the mind, to see clearly. “But we go in a circle and the one step is always missed…the one step that can bring you to the center.” Every morning, I take one step onto my yoga mat and I feel closer to the center.

Hope this helps, Tswift. Oh, and Taylor…you hit the nail right on the head with that catchy little tune “We are never ever getting back together“.
Video: We are never ever getting back together

A risky move

This may be a risky move. This post may not bode well with some who come across it. And that’s ok. It is more important for me to express myself than to keep silent when improvement can be made. Honestly and often, I am sharing my own battles and triumphs simply because it helps to write them down. It also seems to solidify the experience by sharing it with others. There are wonderful moments when, sometimes, others can learn valuable lessons the easy way, via “testimony”…
This is 2013, people! Get your mind right! Ain’t nobody got time for pacifism. We all must churn and wrestle around with old paradigms so we can come out of it better for the experience. In doing so, we can help the evolution of our creative and collective consciousness.

So. We have had yoga philosophy class everyday for two weeks now. We are studying Patanjali’s yoga sutras. Trying to summarize the vast knowledge contained in the sutras is like trying to cram your size 8 foot into a size 7 heel. It ain’t gunna happen. But a few doctors who wrote the book Super Science of Yoga did a fantastic job. First, they describe yoga as being a completely comprehensive process, rendering the entire human experience in terms of consciousness. (Taking note here that yoga is much much more than sweating out last nights hangover in your lululemon capris while Rihanna blasts that we are all diamonds in the sky).
Yoga has eight limbs: cleansing exercises, pranayama {breathing}, asana {poses in lululemon capris}, meditation, pratyahara {withdrawal from sensory organs; Catholics read as thou shalt not covet}, samadhi {ultimate goal of enlightenment, to see your true self, to transcend the physical world; Catholics read as gettin into Heaven}, yama {ethical principles, followed physically, orally, and mentally; Catholics read as 10 commandments}, and finally a continuation of yama, niyama {the rules and regulations to be followed by all}. Unlike almost every other process we have available (psychology, the modern medical field, various religions, etc.), yoga is the only completely comprehensive study. At no point does yoga have a “well, it’s now time for faith to kick in” moment. This was an issue I found very difficult to comprehend growing up, and it wasn’t limited to the teachings of the Catholic church, although that’s what bothered me the most.
As a child, I was surrounded by priests, nuns, and teachers who all responded the same way when I asked a question that didn’t have a clean, logical answer: “You have to have faith”. What that means is very simple: the wonderfully manicured sidewalks of these institutions eventually begin to crumble and then, ultimately, trail off into territory of BIG, DEEP ideas {like consciousness, the soul, why are we here, where do we go, and who is this god person, anyway?}. Yoga answers all of these on the grounds of consciousness; and I mean ALL of it. Physical health, life, death, creation, mental/physical illness/health… Ok, now we are all on the same page about yoga. Lets get back to the sutras:

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali succinctly outlines the art and science of Yoga meditation for Self-Realization. It is a process of systematically encountering, examining, and transcending each of the various gross and subtle levels of false identity in the mind field, until the jewel of the true Self comes shining through.

This text is similar to the Bible, but with a lot less ambiguous sonnet-like passages and more to the point revelations. The yoga sutras lay all the cards on the table and no one is left out. No question turned away or left unanswered. everything you ever wanted to know, ever wanted to improve about yourself, every bad habit you wanted to shake…it’s all there with an answer and a solution. Right. So, with that giant ball of knowledge being dropped everyday, for an hour, starting at 11AM, I react like this:

20130216-083930.jpg I ask every question I have because I don’t want to miss any detail or misinterpret anything. Mostly, everyone else sits quietly, patiently and I feel bad for holding up progress. But then, we break for lunch, and I feel confused. As we sit around for lunch, I can overhear, “Oh, the sutras are so easy.” Then in the same breath, I hear: “oh man, what I would do for a beer right now, or a massage right now, or {insert distraction}”. It appears that, for some, the sutras aren’t sinking in at all.
Maybe it is a lack of understanding the relevance of yoga philosophy. Teacher training is not about briefly learning the sutras in order to be tested on them, only to leave that knowledge behind here in Rishikesh. You cannot be a yoga teacher without a sound understanding of what these sutras are saying. Furthermore, imparting this knowledge to your students is essential.

Yoga isn’t about tight pants and vegan cookies. It’s a total way of life.