This is my first post as a mom.
Since I've written my last entry, everything's changed, and yet in other ways, nothing's changed: Life is a mystery, the practice is Love, and the path is meeting oneself in all the ways we not only express and reflect Life's joy and meaningfulness, but also how we inadvertently block it, are blind to it, or harden ourselves in reaction to it.
I've been contemplating all the things that interest me to share, and they seem so varied: asana, yoga philosophy, eating for wellness and delight, parenting, living mindfully and consciously. At first glance, it may look disparate, separate. Yet, if we have the experience, the perspective, the darhshan that life is sadhana, spiritual practice, then all is part and parcel of our Yoga.
Yoga is so many things to so many people these days. It can be a workout, a stress-relief tool, an approach to life, a path to wellness, a community support, a vehicle for awakening. And there are also many philosophical approaches to yoga as well. Many of these approaches to yogic spiritual practice are what is considered ascetic or renunciate in nature. Another approach is described as the householder path. I've had the blessing in this life to have teachings in both of these margas, or paths.
For many years (well, fourteen or so), my meditation teachers shared the dharma of the renunciate path with me. And the beginnings of my asana practice were based on a renunciatory foundation as taught by Patanjali. The teachings reminded us as practitioners that what is most real about us is not our body, our mind, our emotions, our thoughts, our dramas. That in fact, these things are most prominently obstacles in our life with respect to experiencing our True Self, our innate Nature, God. And so, the training often focused on releasing ego, training oneself to not get caught up in one's emotions, recognizing and abandoning attachments, and experiencing what is Real, namely, the Absolute/ Buddha Nature/ the Self.
These teachings brought deep meaning to my life. To be in a community that acknowledged the traps of our humanness, that spoke of Spirit, our True Essence, True Unconditional Love, that which is beyond our senses, even beyond our conceptualizations, felt like soul medicine for me. The training was strong and asked much of me, but it taught me powerful discipline, depth, and commitment, beyond what I thought possible.
And yet, after many years of this training approach, much of which was daily, for hours each day, under direct tutelage, I started to lose myself. This was considered a positive because I was releasing the transitory individual aspects of myself. And yet, I felt as if I were losing parts of myself that made me who I was. Instead of feeling more free, I was feeling empty and numb. I had become unable to articulate and even feel emotions. Yes, I did feel less anger, less drama, less separation to the larger pulse of the Universe, and that felt like a gift. And yet I also lost touch with my joy, my intuition, my delight in life. I had a sense that there was something about myself as an individual that had yet to be accessed, and that was worthy of exploration. There was a longing to express who I was as this individual embodied being with as yet unknown gifts or dharmas to bring forth, to uncover, in this lifetime.
As I left these particular practices and approaches, there was a deep fear that my spiritual practice would go flat, plateau, be hollow. But I gave myself a chance to honor this next iteration of what practice might look like. I took some time to deeply listen- to my heart, to the Universe. And my assana and meditation practices started to shift. About a year later, I was introduced to the concept of Yoga as a Path of the Householder. My teacher explained the difference between the path of the renunciate versus that of the householder with a metaphor of a wave and the ocean, the wave being our individual self and the ocean being the Infinite. He said that the renunciate path assists the practitioner in awakening to their True Self by reducing the individual ego structure/wave until it is not able to be differentiated from the ocean. In the householder path, the individual life/wave becomes so full and expanded that it becomes the ocean. Both paths have the intent to assist the student in recognizing one's vastness, one's "ocean-ness." One path seeks to extinguish one's individuality and one seeks to refine and expand it.
At first, this new practice felt similar, insofar as the practice felt deep and rich, and I felt connected to something greater than myself. And yet, the approach felt different. The experience felt different. The teachings from this perspective acknowledged that the mind and body can create suffering, yet taught that instead of tearing down the impediments of the mind and body, there is a path of exploring mind and body as instruments of awakening, that Consciousness and Essence suffuse all things, including mind and physicality. The problem isn't their presence, but our mistaking them for the Whole.
Yoga as Householder Path honors not only the Infinite, but also how we are all different finite expressions of the Infinite. It teaches that from the Infinite, the Non-Differentiated (often taught as the Non-Dual) comes an infinite amount of permutations. And that each of us is a unique expression or aspect of the vastness of possibility. So, instead of tearing down attachments and the binds of relationship (whether to others, to family, to worldly job or goods, or to our body/mind and all its trappings), we practice the yoga of refining, purifying, seeing more clearly, with all of life's infinite ways of waking us up. We practice with what life has given us.
This is tricky business. We have all felt the pain that attachments bring. We have seen the horror of addictions- whether substance abuse or addiction to sex or food or the need to be liked, etc. The path of the householder is to take a deep hard look at ourselves and start to notice where we're caught. The practice is to dive deep into an experience or remembrance or recognition of the Whole. And rather than it being a practice of controlling the outer forms of difference, it becomes a practice of attuning ourselves to something vast and beautiful and healing. And that Whole-ing begins a process of allowing the grasping, the blockages, the resistances to Love to simply let go more. We become more fully ourselves by resting in the depth of our essence, rather than diminishing the outer expression as the only path to experiencing the Transcendent.
So, as I contemplate what this blog will be about, I see that I'm excited to write from a place of celebrating the infinite ways of finding our connecting to Spirit, to Mystery, to Love, to the Divine. Whether it be through deep meditation, food made with love, seeing the spark of life in a child's first giggles, exploring how life's challenges offer opportunities for growth, practicing asana, or any of the other ways I'm looking forward to discovering my voice here, I'm starting to get clearer about what I'm writing about: Life as Yoga. Life as Practice. Yoga as a tool to awaken to our Full Radiance as the best us we can be. I look forward to sharing with you.