Transcend that

Transcend that

 

Yoga practice offers methods to transcend duality, as in transcendent meditation for example.

Sounds great. But what does it all mean?

One way to decode this is to consider the concepts of good and evil. Imagine the evil laugh associated with the baddest villains and anti-heroes in films. Evil delights in destruction – in fact, it’s the very essence of destruction.

But it’s also subject to destruction, like everything else. Good – the very essence of growth and creation – is similarly itself subject to growth. Good and bad rise and fall endlessly in their own, self-created patterns. I feel that the yin-yang symbol is a remarkable, stylised graphic representation of the interplay of two.

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Good, bad, and Yoga

It’s common to see examples of wrong being done. For instance, discrimination is still with us, although now in Britain it can be quite subtle. Sadly, it’s not surprising. Humans have made themselves the dominant species. Any creature that feels the need to dominate is not going to stop at being top of the food chain. Subgroups will seek to dominate other subgroups; individuals within groups seize control. Resources like money and land will be, and are, held by a relatively few people.

 

Other animals form social groups lead by individuals. Concentrating power in able members helps the species survive. So is the human condition just a generalised natural social ordering, a healthy and natural thing? Or is it pathology, an illness that has the power to actually destroy us, and our world?

 

Firstly, it’s not surprising that humans take so much. Mammals survived and excelled because their warm bodies allowed them to feed at night. Wasting energy in body heat gave a distinct advantage. Today, wasting energy gives commercial advantages.

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Yoga and the Spiritual Landfill

Many feel the concept of landfill is wrong; tons of rubbish buried for future generations to deal with. We even export rubbish to poorer countries, where people who have no other means to buy food sometimes scavenge it at great personal danger. We get clean air and uncontaminated water by pushing our problem onto others.

 

I was brought up as a Christian and taught of Heaven and Hell. Hell strikes me as “spiritual landfill”, a place of wasted soul resource. As far as I recall, the Bible mentions that the tragedy of Hell can be watched unfolding from Heaven.

 

Yoga speaks of a deeper personal and transpersonal identity that we can connect with, that we are all equally part of. Its nature is “transcendental” because there’s no more differentiation into Heaven and Hell – no more excess good times or burgeoning plenty, and no more picking over the detritus of life for any scrap of value.

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Karma – take only what you need

 

Consider a teenager stealing a bit of alcohol from a bottle at home (some of us can relate to this). He or she might worry that the parents will notice a change in level and top it up with water – only to worry later that it now tastes different, and the theft is still detectable.

 

All actions – even attempts to reverse previous actions – leave traces, and traces result in consequences. This is Karma. Karma Yoga teaches that even our thoughts leave traces – referred to as samskara – that fundamentally affect our entire lives. This is from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad:

 

“You are what your deep, driving desires are. Your desires shape your will. Your will directs your deeds. Your deeds determine your destiny.”

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Do the right thing naturally…samadhi

Do the right thing

Many people enjoy a drink (or something more) to relax. Sober, we can be too rigid with others and ourselves.

But some mornings we wake up regretting the decisions of the previous night. Intoxicated, we can lose those genuinely sensible boundaries.

Yoga teaches that right now is the best combination of all forces, without any modifications. No tough fronting, no destructive laxity, no optimism, no pessimism. But wait…no optimism??!?

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Apocalypse now

Like many people at the moment, I watched a few episodes of “The Walking Dead”. It’s a genuinely cheerless, but very gripping, account of an end of days. I had to stop watching it – it was too guttural for me. But it did make me wonder what “apocalypse” might really mean, and this article describes how that relates (in my world) to a daily Yoga practice.

I do Yoga asana (postures) differently now because I know more. But the way I used to do them wasn’t wrong. Doing it that way lead me to my current setup. My current setup isn’t right; as I change inside, my outward expression changes too. Class by class, practice by practice, I incrementally refine what I do. I approach an “ideal” posture.

Likewise success and mistake interweave to make my life whole and – hopefully – constructive. I work towards my ideal lifestyle. In trouble, I look back to happier times. Somehow, one thing led to another to end me up here… Conversely, when all’s good I can look back at less happy days. Some event, some time seems to be the turning point when things started going right.

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Angels are only human, after all

Angels are only human after all

I have a wonderful, loveable and obedient dog, and I often muse that my relationship with her is like my relationship with my angel (if there are angels, and if I have one).

Why? Because I live in a much bigger world – there’s an order of magnitude between how I perceive things and how she does. EG at breakfast; as I take her manufactured (but nutritious) food out of the cupboard I might be thinking of the oil required to make it, the complex fresh water and sewage system that delivers water to her water bowl and how we are going to pay for all this. She has no idea of any of these concepts.

Then I muse that any angel trying to help me might have similar struggles to do so, relevant to an angels’ environment – but I will never understand and I’ll kind of take it for granted, just like my dog does.

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The Prize

Many people describe the wonderful benefits they’ve had through their Yoga practice – weight loss, injury rehab, cutting stress, and many others. It’s great that there’s so much on offer. I feel that there’s even more, if we keep up the practice, although the biggest prize may not be quite what expected.

Yoga books describe the characteristics of good students. Reading these, we might think we have to change or try to be different, like we’re not quite up to the job. I don’t think this is true; I think that we’re at exactly the right point to start, and that the necessary qualities will develop – if we can stick with the practice. What are the qualities?

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To Try is To Achieve

Human bodies change chemically all the time as mood and activity fluctuate. Body structure changes more slowly, partly from behaviour (eg more/less exercise), partly from persistent chemical effects (eg continuous stress depletes immune function). We’re not just what we eat, but what we think, feel and do as well. My body is my history – every previous moment features in the fabric of my being in some way.

Yoga speaks of annamaya kosha (“anna” – food; the “food body”): an adaptable, physical shroud around a core self. The tradition also describes anandamaya kosha (“ananda” – bliss) deep within, paired with an eternal and indestructible, true self. This intrinsic self is not separated from others or the world at large – it’s in constant union with its image in every other living being. It’s life itself, endless celebrating it’s own spontaneity and diversity.

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My dog and me

People often talk about a soul. But what is it? In truth, does anyone really know? Maybe we can say that there’s a spark of life. It differentiates a dead body from one that was alive a few seconds before.

I have a faithful and loving pet dog. Is her spark of life is equivalent to mine? She behaves very differently to me, but the “soul” that animates her seems just as strong as mine.

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