curiosity

Ashtanga Mind, Beginner's Mind

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Some of the clearest and most open people I come across within the practice of Ashtanga tend to be new students.  They're filled with the excitement and possibility that the practice engenders in them.  These newer students are ripe with what Patanjali, the author of yoga's source text, The Yoga Sutras, calls vidya. Vidya is a lot like what the Zen monk, Shunryu Suzuki, called the beginner's mind. A beginner's mind is clear, open, alert, receptive and without limits. A beginner's mind isn't fixed in opinions, judgements, or beliefs.  Instead, it's like  an empty vessel for spirit to move through.  It sees from perspectives but isn't fixed in one as if it's "the right" perspective. In the beginning, the practice itself and the experience of what we discover on the mat can be exciting.  When I first began the practice, I was amazed by my capacity to respond to situations that previously might have appeared paralyzing with great calm and clarity.  Just showing up on that mat on a day-in-and-day-out basis began a clearing away of what had been blocking me for years.  I'd been living in an experience of post-traumatic stress for a few years after my brother's suicide without any effective means of working through the painful emotions.  Showing up on that mat everyday forced me to face what I'd been frightened of facing, but once I did, it somehow alleviated the suffering I'd been living with, and I was able to start to feel alive, again.  The practice gave me this direct experience that it was possible to transform avidya to vidya, by learning to be with and not be afraid of painful emotions.

Knowing and Understanding are Booby Prizes

Eventually, though, a sort of pride started to appear because I started to "know" something.  I'd learned and, thus, thought I knew that there was a process to transforming painful emotions.   Knowing anything is a booby prize within yoga.  Knowing is not what we're after.  Whatever we know creates a kind of fixity, and it removes us from the direct experience of discovery.  The experience of yoga is about evoking a profound curiosity to what is right in front of us.  We're awakening the capacity to meet mystery rather than trying to pack it neatly into a box of comprehension.

And when we've dedicated years to the practice, we can't help but understand a lot of things.  That's natural, but being an authority has the potential to steer us away from the experience we had when we first discovered the practice.  So when we start to "know more," we tend to end up boxing ourselves into fixed perspectives, beliefs, opinions, and judgements. When we already know everything there is to know about something, we end up strengthening muscles that we came to practice to let go of.

And so it's critical for all of us who stay with the practice--or any practice for that matter-- over a sustained period of time to be aware of how our approach to it is supporting our evolution or engendering structures of rigidity.  This inflexibility is a natural byproduct of anything we do repeatedly and yet is something we have to be constantly aware of so that it doesn't halt our transformation.  Below are some questions that we might employ to prevent this form of mental tightness from taking form in our practice:

  • How is my practice either growing me
  • How is it keeping me narrow?
  • Where am I caught in being right in my relationships with others?  Where have I shut down?
  • What situations in my life could use my curiosity?
  • What's the feedback the people around me are giving me on a regular basis?  What's the feedback I could take in that would benefit my evolution?

The longer we've been in any tradition the less others will question our authority.  And that can be a pitfall for any progress we hope to make on the path from avidya to vidya.  That's why it is critical for each of us to continue to seek wise counsel and to surround ourselves with people who trust enough to question us, no matter how much we know.  It's also important not to forget that whatever we know, whatever sidhis (powers) we've accrued in and through our practice, that that's not it.  What we're after is not the acquisition of more power or attainment but, instead, letting go, not grasping at anything, and opening so that we, too, can show up on the mat and into our lives as beginners do, with a mind that is limitless, boundless, and clear.

Knowing When to Let Go

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rk_15At some point, all of us face the need to evolve.  It's almost an imperative in spiritual practice that if we are to experience the aliveness of life, we must keep growing.  And sometimes that means letting go of what no longer serves us or that we serve whole heartedly.  If we don't let go, we suffer.  And yet doing so can be grueling.  I wanted to share a teaching from 'The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna' about knowing when to let go.  Ramakrishna was a 19th century, Indian mystic.

When we plant a sapling we put a fence around it so that cattle will not eat it or nobody would accidentally crush it under one's feet.  But when the plant starts growing into a large tree, the fence should be removed and taken away.  If the fence is not removed in time then it might even hinder in the growth of the tree.  The trunk of the tree may even get trapped within the fence.  Moreover, after the sapling turns into a big tree neither can cattle eat it up fully nor can people crush it under their feet accidentally.  Likewise, the tree will drop fruit that will feed the cattle and the people who once threatened its very existence.

Whenever we begin anything new, especially the discipline of spiritual practice, we need to protect the fragility of our endeavor.  When I first started my yoga practice, it took me a few years, but I had to learn the discipline needed to maintain a daily practice of yoga: going to bed early, waking early, eating properly, resting enough, getting enough mental and emotional stimulation, etc.  I needed that discipline in order to grow within my practice.  And I loved it!!!  It fed me deeply.

Spiritual Arrogance

But, after awhile, I started to feel like the fences I'd created for myself only created more rigidity.  I'd find myself judging non-practitioners as "unconscious."  The fragility I'd once felt around my practice gave way to a quality of spiritual arrogance.  A lack of curiosity is  a sure sign for each of us that either we need a new challenge or we need to find a new way into the practice we're committed to. This is where it's critical to remove the fences that once kept our fragility from being devoured.  Distinguishing when it's time to give up or alter the discipline and what exactly to give up is highly individual.  That's where having a good teacher or a community of friends on the journey with us can be extremely helpful.  What is clear, though, is that at some point aspects of the structure stop empowering transformation and, instead, only harden us.

Very few of us have the courage to let go of what no longer serves us, though.  Why?  Because our identities get wrapped up in the external recognition and kudos we receive.  These external boons can be enticing, but they can easily be traps for all of us.  When you're considered 'advanced' in a community and you're identified with your role in it, it can be a sort of identity suicide to let go.   I am not saying that we should completely stop looking to the outside for recognition.  As humans, we long for and need this recognition.  But we're all so starved for it, that we tend to forego our own authentic experience and expression of fulfillment in order to be loved, liked, wanted, admired, needed.  And then we miss the opportunity to live a rich and full life on our own terms.

Knowing When We've Deceived Ourselves

When we're attuned enough to our inner wisdom, however, we know when we're 'b.s.'-ing ourselves.  But when we're not, it can be extremely helpful to have people in our lives that offer us the space of honest communication. If  we don't have this, it can be helpful to empower our inner witnesses, the neutral part of us that is noticing all the time, noticing what we're saying, doing, and experiencing.  That part of us can notice when we're "should-ing on ourselves."  I love this expression.   When we're "should-ing," we say we do what we do not because we love it but because we "should" do it.  That's a good sign that our heart is no longer in it.

The point of all practice is to bring us to the heart of our innate wisdom.  It is not to end up more disciplined.  Paul Meuller-Ortega aptly said, "Eventually as Seekers, we must become Finders."  Knowing when you've discovered an access to your innate wisdom is not  a form of spiritual arrogance.  It's just something that's not empowered within spiritual traditions.  What is empowered is hierarchy.  Tapping into our innate wisdom does not necessarily lend one to becoming recognized in the external sense.  But that it isn't recognized by a community of seekers is not of significance.  What's important is that we not only recognize this indweller that the yogis call the purusa, but that we share it, that we have the courage to give our gift.  That's the part of Ramakrishna's story in which the tree drops fruit for everyone, even the cows and humans who previously threatened its existence.

The point of all spiritual practice is to attune us to our truth, our innate wisdom, and our joy.  This is what the yogis call, Sat-Chit-Ananda.  The point isn't to win in some hierarchical game that all traditions can't help but maintain.  The point is to find access to our inner strength, our magic, and our gifts and to trust them.  I'll end with the following quote from Joseph Campbell, the mythologist who inspired the Star Wars trilogy and who coined the term, "follow your bliss."  In this quote Campbell helps us to not mistake the trees for the forest:

What is important about a lightbulb is not the filament or the glass but the light which these bulbs are to render; and what is important about each of us is not the body and its nerves but the consciousness that shines through them.  And when one lives for that instead of the protection of the bulb, one is in Buddha consciousness. Campbell, Joseph. Myths to Live By. 2011. The Joseph Campbell Foundation (JCF)

 

Five Elements Series Part 4: The Ether Element and Curiosity

Ether is the space from which our consciousness arises.  It, in fact, has no form.  Its essence is emptiness.  And so it is the space that all the elements arise and pass away in.  Because ether has no qualities, it also represents emptiness or the void we all experience at moments and is filled, not through more activity but by quiet and retreat.  For many of us, our yoga practice is the place we go to in order to continue to empty out so that we can connect with the space of the ether element.

Ether is also the element that represents the mind.  After all, the mind has no form and cannot be contained, seen, or experienced on a sensual level.  Thoughts and emotions ride on the substratum of ether element.  Our capacity to experience the qualities of the four other elements is entirely dependent on what we do with our minds and, ultimately, with the ether element.  If we direct our minds, then we are harnessing the power of the ether element.  If we allow the mind to move in a willy-nilly fashion, we have no access to the other elements.

Noticing What Is

The ether element is the same thing as chit.  Essentially, chit is noticing what is.  It’s a kind of looking, listening, feeling, tasting, touching, and intuiting that allows us to see into things but is not obstructed by stories, dramas, or any interpretation whatsoever.  It’s really just noticing what is.  The action of chit, as described in The Yoga Sutras is an active form of observation without interpretation.  When we really get to know things without immediately jumping to conclusions, when we can just notice, we come to know them as they are.

Curiosity

Before we can ever really direct our mind or give space to anything, we have to be curious. Curiosity is a quality of being that is open, available, and full of wonder. It does not assume anything, nor is it attached to anything. It’s free, open, and innocent. It does not needing to make anything happen.

Do you remember what it was like to be a three year old? Three year olds walk around amazed at what’s in front of them. They never stop and think they've got it all figured out.  Once they're done taken a toy apart, they're off to find out something else. A three-year old's curiosity can be an amazing starting ground to approach the practice of yoga.  Without it, our practices become stagnant, rote, and monotonous.

Most of us initially start our yoga practice filled with curiosity.  We start enthralled by what our practice awakens in us. Then we start to think we know something about it.  We have it pegged, labeled, and understood.  We start to think we know how this posture is and how to approach it. We begin interacting with the practice based on history. Then we start to get bored with our practice.  Something that was once super-exciting becomes boring and predictable. What happened?  We stopped being curious. By taking our practices for granted, we numb out to the subtle shifts and changes that are constantly happening in our practices.  We assume we know.

When was the last time you were in wonder about your practice?  When was the last time you experienced something you’ve done a million times, like a posture or a drishti, and were shattered, literally torn apart by it?  That’s where curiosity is born. How do we show up on the mat everyday, curious about something new and wonderful, either in yourself or in the way a movement feels?  When we turn up the volume on our curiosity within our practice, not with the story or the circumstances, but the inner truth of our practice, our ability to apply the ether element grows and expands exponentially.

Exercise #1

As an exercise for acquainting yourself with the ether element, stop reading for a second, close your eyes, and simply listen to the music on this link, noticing what you feel in your body.

While this music is a bit dark and mysterious, which has a mood, just the act of listening has a quality of expansiveness.  That's the quality of ether or space element. The ether element is said to open in the ears.  So we learn about the ether element when, in yoga, pranayama, or meditation practice, we direct our attention to the sound of the breath, to listen both to the gross sounds and the subtle ones.

Exercise #2

Next time you find yourself in a crowded space, spend a few minutes walking around that space.  Spend the first few minutes trying to avoid others.  Notice what that's like.  Next, spend a few minutes stepping into the empty space.  If you try the latter, you'll notice how much the space will open up for you.  We tend to spend our lives defensively avoiding whatever it is that comes at us.  If, instead, we can learn to step into the empty space, into ether element, possibilities begin to open for us.

Exercise #3

Take a field trip to a few venues, like a library, a hotel lobby, the waiting area in an emergency room,  or an airport bar. Notice the way the space feels is it: angry, frustrated, joyful, board, at peace, anxious? What else you notice about the environment? What is the buzz in the space? Notice where the energy is in the room and how it shifts as people arrive or depart. Write down your impressions. Then try listening with your eyes closed. Notice how that changes things?

Exercise #4

While you're in your yoga practice, notice the spaces in the practice:

  • the space between the inhale and exhale, the exhale and the inhale
  • the space that is created in the body after you come out of a posture
  • the various spaces where you practice and how the spaces effect your practice.
  • the space between the feet and hands as they touch the floor
  • the space behind you, to your sides, and in front of you

Notice how placing your attention on the space alters your experience of your practice?  How does it change things?  How does it open things up?  What is newly open to you as you place your awareness on these places.

Five Element Series

This is one part in a nine-part series that explores the five elements and its application to yoga practice. Be sure to check out the other posts!

 

 

Five Elements Series Part 2: Getting Unstuck

We all face discomfort on the mat, whether in the body, emotionally, or in the mind.  As soon as we have the sense that something is askew, we can’t help but say, "I don't like this feeling.” Or, “I don't want to have this feeling.”  And it is so subtle when it happens.  It is usually just a split second.  There's a very subtle part of our awareness that is constantly asking, "Is this pleasure?  Or is this discomfort?"  And if it's discomfort, then we immediately need to do something about it.  The time between noticing pleasure and discomfort is so subtle and elusive that we are rarely responsive.  Mainly we are reactive to these sensations, especially those that do not feel good. There's a saying in yoga that suffering can be the doorway to wisdom.  And so our discomfort, pain, hurt, and, even anger can be used as an access point into truth.  If we will stay with the experience--not necessarily the thoughts about the experience, but the direct experience of what's occurring--then what tends to unfold is deeper insight and learning.  But the lessons won't emerge until we apply a quality of curiosity and presence to whatever is arising, from moment to moment.

Getting Unstuck

And I say, moment-to-moment, because what happens is that all experience is constantly in a flux.  It's constantly changing. There isn't one fixed experience we have.  While some feeling states last for extended periods of time, if we apply consciousness, we'll notice that they're constantly shifting.  That is, they're not fixed.  Even in this moment, what you felt 30 seconds ago doesn't correspond to what's occurring, now. And so by being in the now, we end up noticing a constant flux, a constant change. Applying this quality of present moment consciousness unsticks us.  What keeps us stuck is that we identify ourselves in fixed modes, like "I am an intense person;" or "I'm a Capricorn;" or "I'm a materialist;" or "I am a vegetarian."

When we begin to notice the qualities of the five elements that arise in the body and throughout our experience of life, we start to develop the visceral experience that nothing we experience out in the world is, in fact, is fixed, static, or eternal.  So, for example, we may experience a lot of fire in one moment.  In that moment we might feel anger, frustration, and warm, hot, or burning sensations in the body.  Many of us have a hard time being with these feelings.  They're uncomfortable.  But if we apply a quality of curiosity to them, if we stay with our experience long enough without looking to express or repress the feelings that come up, we'll notice them morph into another element.  Maybe we'll experience some water element; we may be become sad, weepy, heavy, and maybe even tearful.  It isn't that the elements follow an orderliness, but they do shift from moment-to-moment.

Asmita

The elemental approach is useful in that when we get a feeling we are either uncomfortable with or simply cannot be with, we can disentangle ourselves from the "I don't want" response, which leads to more "I don't want."  Patanjali's notion of asmita, which is commonly translated as ego, is really an excessive sense of I or me.  Two things comprise this false and excessive sense of I or me: the parts that cling to pleasure (raga) and the parts that avoid pain or discomfort (dvesa).  Instead of being led around by the asmita, the five elements give a different lens to simply see what it is that we experience. While all personal experience can never be truly objective, the elements do give a quality of neutrality.  As a result, they take us out of the propensity to think that whatever we are experiencing is either right or wrong.  They take us out of the land of raga, dvesa, and asmmita and, instead, put us in touch with curiosity, openness, and discrimation (viveka).

So when we're awake to our discomfort, instead of seeking solutions, we can immediately start to ask, "What am I feeling here?" "Where is it?" "Is there a metaphor in nature I might use to describe it? Is it hot or cold? Heavy or light? Moving or fixed?  Wet or dry?" "What is the primary element here?" "Are there any other elements present?"  And then we can stay with the feelings as they shift by asking, "What am I noticing, now?"  And then after a few moments, we can ask the same question, "What's happening, now?"  Throughout the process if we remain open and curious to whatever shows up, we can begin to unravel and awaken to a deeper experience of wisdom.

Five Element Series

This is one part in a nine-part series that explores the five elements and its application to yoga practice. Be sure to check out the other posts!

  • Part 1—Intro
  • Part 2—Getting Unstuck
  • Part 3—The Five Elements in History
  • Part 4—The Ether Element
  • Part 5—The Air Element
  • Part 6—The Fire Element
  • Part 7—The Water Element
  • Part 8—The Earth Element
  • Part 9-Transformational Breakthroughs

Chit: Noticing What Is

In my previous entry, I discussed Sat-Chit-Ananda, an ancient yogic compound of three Sanskrit roots: sat, chit, and ananda, that describes the qualities of the experience of yoga.  I spent most of that blog entry discussing ananda, which I translated in our everyday language, as "the yum."  By "the yum," I mean that profound experience that something deep inside is fed and, thus, resonates profoundly.  We all have an experience of this from time to time.  It shows up in those moments when life is especially rich, rewarding and poignant.  "The yum" is our truth; it's our essence; it's our raison d'être.  And essentially, I made the case for the idea that "the yum" is what we're after in the practice of yoga.

Eyes Unclouded By Longing

In this entry, I intend to speak about chit, which is really "the doing" of Sat-Chit-Ananda.  It's the action we must take to uncover, and meet "the yum."  Chit is often translated as understanding, comprehending, or the fixing of the mind.  The action that leads to such an outcome is, essentially, observation, the simple act of noticing.

And it's not just any old noticing, it's the kind of noticing that occurs when the "eyes are unclouded by longing." (Tao Te Ching).  It's a kind of looking, listening, feeling, tasting, touching, and intuiting that allows us to see into things but is not obstructed by stories, dramas, or any interpretation whatsoever.  It's really just noticing what is.  The action of chit, as described in The Yoga Sutras is an active form of observation without interpretation.  When we really get to know things without immediately jumping to conclusions, when we can just notice with curiosity, openness, and a quality of freshness, we come to know them as they are.

The Habits of Seeking Relief

We rarely see this sort of observation applied on the geopolitical stage.  Instead of curiosity, what tends to show up amongst enemy nations is distrust, accusation, manipulation, coercion, and combativeness.  At the heart of this form of noticing are human emotions that are difficult to be with discomfort, distrust, and, more often than not, fear.  This doesn't just happen among nations.  It also occurs in our everyday relationships.

A few years ago I was coaching a married couple, who claimed to have "the perfect sex life," but they just couldn't get along.  Both had plenty of justifications as to why the other wasn't being a good husband or wife.  He complained that she was "passive aggressive" and always found ways of deflecting responsibility for their arguments.  She would argue that he was domineering and even, at times, dictatorial. When we first met, the two of them tried to get me to see their respective interpretations of what was wrong with their partner.

She'd say, "I don't want to argue.  I just want to feel the way we felt when we first got together."  He'd rebut with, "I am not trying to start a fight.  Come on, Chad, can't you see how manipulative she is?"  At the point in our conversations when both had uncovered and identified the manipulative games they played with each other, I asked them, "Well, what's here if you're not playing out this psychodrama with each other?" Immediately, the masks came off, and what revealed itself in the space was raw, passion, and it was so palpable in the room, but neither of them could just be with it without reacting to it.

Being With What Is

Part of chit is really the capacity of being with things as they are, without interpretation, reaction, or labeling.  And there's so much we have great difficulty being with.  Like the couple above, a lot of us have a hard time being with our passion.  Instead of just experiencing it, we tend to jump to the conclusion that it means something like, "What does he want from me?" or like, "I don't deserve her."  We also have difficulty being with certain feelings in our bodies, like anxiety, sadness, anger, and even joy.  Before we will ever really let ourselves just feel what's coming up emotionally, we are often already seeking a solution that will get rid of the discomfort.

That's what "following the yuck in order to get to the yum" is all about.  Something occurs, like somebody says something to us that makes us uncomfortable, and then, before we actually give ourselves the space to just experience the pain, we go looking for a way to get rid of it.  We might seek revenge.  We might go and hide. We might go straight for the pint of Haagen Dazs.  This is just habit.  It's the habit of reacting so as not to be with the experience, as it is.

The Body as the Field of Experience

We know the world through our bodies.  All we need to do is slow down enough just to notice what's coming up, what it's feeling, and meet the feelings with curiosity and openness.  But being able to slow down and notice isn't necessarily easy.  That's why we practice daily and why the Yoga Sutras state that when practice is done steadily and for an extended period of time, we develop a solid foundation (1.14).  It takes continuous practice to get the hang of choosing the direct experience through the body over the reactive, interpretive reality that our discursive minds create.  In other words, it takes a lot of clarity and years of practice to be with both the pleasure and discomfort that shows up in our body without seeking gratification.  One of the benefits of daily practice is that we get the hang of being with the initial discomfort when we have to choose something that in the short-run doesn't feel so good but is ultimately for our highest good.

A student came to class today with some tears.  She was sad but proud of herself.  Yesterday, she broke off a relationship with someone who she cared about but didn't see a future with.  As she put it, "the relationship wasn't heading in the direction I wanted it to go.  Breaking it off is really painful, but I know that, in the long run, it's the right thing for me."  Instead of holding on to the relationship for another year or two, she knows that deep down inside, she has to let it go in order to meet someone who really does meet her.  Sometimes being with 'what is' doesn't feel so good.  In the case of our student, it's painful, but, simultaneously, there is a feeling, deeper down that something is "right," that it’s perfectly fine to just be with the discomfort, without having to fix it or resolve it.

By the way, our student is creating the yum in her life simply by being willing to face the pain of breaking off the relationship.  Why?  Because she is creating a sort of congruency between whom she knows she is deep inside and whom she is out in the world.  Creating that harmony sometimes requires being with what we fear the most.  In fact, more often than not, it takes incredible courage to make that leap.

Asana: Directing Our Awareness Toward Ananda

The practice of asana (posture) teaches us both how to be with the discomfort when and how to kinesthetically distinguish when the experience of "the yum" is authentic. In Patanjali's Sutras, "the yum" in asana is described as: sthira sukham asana (2.47), the place in the posture that has the simultaneous qualities of sthira, steadiness, and sukha, comfort.  So when we practice asana, we're developing a feel for ananda.   That's why Pattabhi Jois used to say that Ashtanga Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory.  It's not a passive, intellectual pursuit.  It's active, and it requires the direct experience.

For those of us who practice, we all know it.  Every once in a while we're in a posture, working with the breath a little, refining the alignment, noticing the bandhas, and then all of a sudden there's this deep, resonant feeling of, "Yes," or "Mmm," or "Ahhh," or just emptiness, vast emptiness.  That's the experience of sthira sukham asana.  And it's the experience of ananda.  It's not that superficial pleasure we get when we eat a cookie or drink wine.  It's deeper than that.  There's a sort of profundity, a rightness, a fundamental goodness about that experience.

And it's why Mysore teachers give adjustments in class.  They do it, not because they simply want to force students into a deeper posture, but because they want the student to connect to the deeper resonance that the posture can evoke in the body.  When we get the hang of finding those dual qualities in our physical practice, when we find that sweet spot, we begin to develop the skill for discovering it in our relationships, in our work, and in our lives.

Being at Choice

The funny thing is that the moment we've found that sweet spot, it's gone.  It only occurs in a moment.  So what brought us sthira, steadiness, and sukha, ease, in our asana or in our lives yesterday won't hold up today.  The nature of things is change.  Nothing is constant, so we have to remain flexible, not just in body but in mind, as well.

Part of chit is being aware and open enough to see that we are constantly at choice in how we interpret things.  Usually, we just assume that the way we've interpreted reality is just the way it is and probably the way it will always be.  Consider that your interpretation of this blog would change dramatically if you read it ten years from today or even if you read it one more time.  Yet we have the tendency to think that our interpretation of 'what is' is the way it is, that it's fixed.

But if we will apply chit to an experience and the interpretation of it, we will find two very different domains of reality.  The first is based in the direct experience, which is always here and in the present moment.  The second is rooted in ideas, beliefs, opinions, and judgments, all of which are past oriented. So, for example, as I was practicing this morning, I noticed a lot of heavy and crampy sensations in my back and legs.  That was my direct experience.  I could have interpreted that experience to mean that I was stiff today, certainly quite a lot stiffer than I was yesterday.  Once I made that interpretation, I could have followed that logic and made my stiffness mean something like, "I hate practicing when I am stiff.  I think I'll just skip the rest of the poses I planned to do and go straight to savasana (corpse pose)."

I am at choice only when my awareness is here and now, in the present moment. When I am stuck in my interpretation of what the sensations means, I'm caught in a cascade of decisions, which are all informed by past stories and experiences that have nothing to do with what I am experiencing in the moment.  More often than not, the choices are not appropriate to the situation at hand.  But when I just experience the sensation directly, I am more apt to make choices that are appropriate for that particular situation, choices that bring me back to ananda, to both my truth and to what's needed in the present moment.

Chit-Ananda

It takes incredible patience not to jump straight to conclusions but simply to observe what's here.  Patience is not about waiting without any discomfort.  True patience is really the capacity to wait both with comfort as well as discomfort.  If we will slow down enough and direct our attention to what is here in the present moment without judgment, without labeling, with curiosity, by allowing things to be as they are, we will discover what the well-known and widely respected Ashtanga Yoga teacher, Richard Freeman, calls "the yoga matrix," which he describes as  "the background of unconditional love and absolute support that is the true nature of an open mind" (Freeman, Richard. The Mirror of Yoga: Awakening the Intelligence of Body and Mind. Boston: Tambala Publications. 2010. Print).  This is nothing other than ananda, our truth, our happiness, our wisdom, and the deep, profound sense of the perfection of things.

Sat-Chit-Ananda Series

This is the second part of a four-part series that explores the experience of yoga. Be sure to check out the other posts!