We are living in a modern world. Are we living with a lot of ignorance to it? What is the state at play here? Can we impact change through a world that lives through government policy and leadership without values in line with humanity and the planets wellbeing at large and through a mentality that is rooted in tradition that possibly no longer serves us? What is the reality anyway?
I have so much going around and around in my head this week. It is incredible in fact, the amount of hours that I could spend (and do spend) talking amongst my community and friends that share in views around climate change, spirituality, health, wellbeing, consumption, the housing crisis, economy and so on and on and on, the things that I spend my waking days and sleep considering. It is both empowering and exhausting. Is this the yogis life, is this mine, is it yours?! This is a life of contemplation and the need to find clarity - but what arises in this?…
Yesterday (Monday 12th november 2018) I was a part of Rising Up Extinction Rebellion Samba Road Block If you click on the link here, this media coverage isn’t really what happened (well it did happen) but not in such a direct or violent way. The focus definitely was not for the 5 seconds that this article focuses on. What it was about was Non violent action. Taking action in a way that is initiating change. It is about no longer reeling and talking and talking about stuff, be it climate change or what you are gonna have for tea… its about rebelling and rising up to take action. now. We as activists in this action are considered to be radical…
In yoga… desikachar says “the world exists to set us free”.
If you wait… trust in time all will be fine?
The word Radical is coming up for me a lot currently. What is radical… it comes from the latin word Radix which means Root.
“Any radical act must get down to the root of things, which often lies below the surface, is hidden from view, taken for granted, yet is ultimately essential for existence.” - Radical Embrace.
After taking part in Extinction Rebellion yesterday, having seen the media coverage that portrayed it as this moment of fight. I rushed prioritised the action. I rushed to my next action of grabbing my children from school, to then embracing a dinner with the man himself ‘eco spiritual Warrior’ leader of the Samba, at my house, watching our children play so beautifully for hours, as we discussed lifes trials and tribulations and watched the media coverage appear online and marvelled in the perceptions of the truth and the impact taking action has.
This all came off of the back of a weekend of nesting in my new home, homemaking, seeing other friends and dinners, to learning some deep anatomy and hands on teaching focused on the nervous system, the action of Fight or Flight. It is all interrelated. How it’s left me feeling is both… like ‘fight’ and like ‘flight’. I feel fully the conflict of life interplaying. As I embrace the trusting, loving, knowing ‘radical’ (rooted) acts of my innate being to take part in change making, I feel the grounding flow to root, home-make and earth with the love of friends and community all around, I also feel the dissatisfaction and the need to stand up, fight harder and also flee the small self and have found myself getting a bit spiky within myself as I watch myself meeting the edges that spike me, push my buttons and make me question what this world is all about. Again.
I like having the conversations that awaken and inspire this thinking and taking action, I then also watch in myself how I then spin out about how much contributions I am making to this world and I need to find the root again to stay very present in it.
I started writing this blog last night and then felt myself tiring just as the thoughts themselves, how unsettled and how muddled the mind had become, almost overnight, in an instance. I needed to let the mind settle to carry on…
I set my alarm for 5.30am to wake up and carry on in the hope I would have slept, rested and awaken with the clarity and contentment i was hoping for. But that too felt forced, as my alarm went off, I discovered my daughter had come in to my bed, positioned herself between my alarm clock and me, snuggled, I opted to cuddle her embrace and re-prioritise the action of writing, until the space came again. That space is now. the contentment was not yet there, yet I sought further clarity through the return to my studies. I created space to write. To take action in sharing all this gobble with you.
Writing is my action here in this moment, to share thoughts and to raise awareness of this discontentment and chaos of the mind that arises through taking action and awakening to change making. we have our yoga practice to find the roots we need to find the peace that serves us.
Radicalism is about much more than pushing against the norm. It is about ‘seeing’ believing’ ‘passion’ and not just ‘accepting’ things that you disbelieve in, just because someone else says so. You can be a follower, a leader or you can come together and find the power in the collective. It is here where I felt my heart sing yesterday. As we created road blocks in Bristol, I felt totally warmed and exactly present in the right place and time, as those that had also arrived, prioritised and took action to take time out of their day to do this, had actually created space in themselves to breathe the space of thought in to all other beings. it was a deep feeling of peace, harmlessness and non-judgement, even for the resistance that we felt from some of the bristol community affected by our action in one way or another.
I returned back to reading my texts of yogic thought to help contextualise my thoughts and feelings around all this upheaval of my mind and body today, that ultimately action will bring.
Can we follow through this unease or do we get overwhelm, what are our beliefs and what is arising?
Action leaves traces!
My dreams were so disrupted by my thoughts and the storms last night, by the busy and digesting mind… I dreamt of not quite being able to make it to my commitments and watched myself becoming the standby as another being stepped in and took over. In a superficial and disconnected way, I felt a frustration as I just watched it happen. This was a reflection of what I feel on a wider scale. Watching the world destruction and devastation at play. Feeling the inability to create as much change as we need. Hearing on the radio about Teresa May’s meetings about the Euopean union and feeling sooooooo much like this is one massive charade, letting the clowns parade around us and we just watch them do so. of course, i then see and as i write, know, that this is me being trapped in the story… the story my mind faculties create and the drama we are manifesting in our perceived reality.
Yet….. its important to add in that so many incredible folks are trying. They are striving, they are living through total engagement to not just stand by and watch. But to take direct action.
Action. (I bring gratitude to my incredible community, lifestyle and the roof over my head as i have the privilege to take time to reflect on what action to take in each and every moment. When I feel in survival mode, I realise that I am nowhere near needing to survive as much as most others are).
‘sometime we don’t see things as they are and act out of misunderstanding’.
Duhkha: the result of those who seek.
I am incredibly cautious around duhkha and it is the duhkha that has awoken in me. This arises out of desire for something to be different. Those who are seeking clarity, can often find duhkha arise often, and at great strength.
“dust that lands on the skin is harmless, but if only a tiny particle gets into the eye, it is very painful.”
This is saying that someone who is searching for clarity, becomes sensitive because the eyes must be open, even if what is seen is unpleasant. someone searching and seeing sees things often long before others who are not trying to find the clarity. This develops a special insight and a sensitivity that is particular. It is positive to have this, but it can be a struggle developing this level of sensitivity. Those that develop this may begin to see more suffering and more knowing awareness to what brings happiness or sorrow. This is fully discussed in Desikachar’s ‘Heart of Yoga’.
It is very helpful to remind ourselves of this, me in particular, as I have always had a hyper sensitivity to reality as we see with the eyes. It has been a gift and a struggle for as long as I can remember. But now, through my practice of yoga, I learn to ‘see’, to understand this as a gift that many of us have the capacity to use for the benefit of all beings.
It is the 3 movements of the mind known as the Gunas - Rajas, Tamas and Sattva - that in Yoga we suggest causes Duhkha to arise.
Rajas is fire, it is what causes us to act! Stillness is hard when the mind is here, in constant activity and a mode of restlessness.
Tamas is the direct opposite - it is fixed, immobile and heavy.
Sattva is insight - clear and transparent, where neither of the other two states predominate.
So in yoga, we are looking to reduce the two states of rajas and tamas so we can find this Sattvic state.
So if duhkha arises - how can we take action to find this Sattva?
The first step is to understand that something is not ‘right'. Well this language of the word right, doesn’t feel to be quite the correct word to use. Something dosen’t feel to be ok, if there is unease. This can be described as needing to avoid particular habits, grasping to do something destructive perhaps that veers us from our natural state of being. Basically, taking action or having thoughts that are not quite ‘us’, that feel to be taking us out of our natural state and in to something that could be perceived as not contributing to our wellbeing in a positive way.
We may not know what action to take but we have become aware that an action needs to be taken, perhaps?!
In the Yoga Sutra 2:27, Patanjali discusses seven states of consciousness that tell us a bit more of our state. I found these columns that help to break it down, without me writing a long paragraph of explanation, followed by a quote below, helpful to explain…
sprouted or individualized consciousness
attentive or one-pointed consciousness
fissured or rent consciousness
ripe or pure consciousness
Vyasa (One of the traditional and most cited commentators of the Yoga Sutras)
the knowable is known
that which should be discarded is discarded
the attainable is attained
what must be done is done
the aim to be reached is reached
“Commenting on this sutra, Vyasa makes a point of dismantling widespread confusion about yogis and their achievements. Long before Patanjali, and up to this day, poorly informed spiritual enthusiasts have been fantasizing about high-caliber yogis sitting in caves with their eyes closed, completely unconcerned with the outside world. Contrary to this stereotype, Vyasa calls the accomplished yogi kushala, one who is skillful. A yogi is skillful, for she knows the true nature of the world; the true nature of her body, mind, and senses; and the true nature of her core being. A yogi is free from all illusions, including the illusion of expecting more than what this world can offer. At the same time, a yogi is able to identify the wonderful gifts contained in the body, mind, and senses, as well as in the phenomenal world. Therefore, a yogi is able to discern, decide, and act in the light of her prajna*. Because she is operating at the level of pure and penetrating wisdom of inner reality, she is confident about the appropriateness of her actions and their consequences.
While living in the world, a yogi is as active as—if not more active than—anyone else, we could say. The only difference is that the actions of an accomplished yogi are free from doubt and fear, whereas our actions are contaminated by them. An accomplished yogi is comfortable while performing actions and equally comfortable when refraining from action. A yogi’s accomplishment is characterized by freedom, not by action or the absence of it.”
*prajna = intuitive wisdom.
It is important then and helpful to me, as a practicing yogi (not a perfect enlightened one) to remind myself of the mind faculties. We call these ‘movements’/ ‘activities’ or vrtti, for which there are 5.
Pramana - the direct perception through our senses.
Viparyaya - incorrect understanding.
Vikalpa - the power of the imagination, the knowledge and or understanding based on ideas and not material reality or the present.
Nidra - dreamless sleep.
Smrti - memory which is a stored experience/ activity.
These 5 faculties of the mind work together, with the exception of nidra, to be IN ACTION very second of everyday!
They determine how much Duhkha is present in us all. Dreams arise from the combination of these coming together and depending on the dreams effects, can also cause us Duhkha.
Viveka is a word that is used to describe being able to see both sides. to be able to see what we are and what we are not, to discriminate.
Discrimination is key!
Our minds often decide where we direct our attention, because it has been conditioned to do so. This same conditioning that continues to take the same direction time and time again is known to be Samskara. Samskara is the sum total of all our actions, that conditions us to behave in a certain way again and again. This can be both positive and negative.
So in our yoga, we attempt to create new!!!!! samskara that breaks old conditioning. We do this through challenging ourselves in our asana practice, forming new ‘movements’ when new behaviour patterns become stronger, older ones begin to have less life force, creating change and new beginnings! This is parivrtti, translating to ‘movement’ ‘around’. This is change making to create the power to see and redirect yourself in a new direction for positive change!
Without this being guided by our Purusha, our mind decides and we all know that the mind is a loyal servant but a terrible master.
So we could say that life, through yoga, is about re-direct-ion, to set us free!
I like to think of this and rename it…
Radical Direct Action.
It is happening yogis, the moment you step on the mat. You don’t have to be stomping the streets of Bristol and non-violently protesting for climate change, you just need to take action in doing yoga to find this radicalism, and the freedom that comes as you do, in this world, now.
Yoga is both the movement towards and the arrival at a point. It is also avidya ‘ignorance’ that brings duhkha in its many forms. So why not begin to educate, embody and radicalise your experience of being in this world?! This is purusha, something deep within us that is really able to recognise the true nature of all things, including the fact that they are in a state of constant change. But purusha is also cloaked with the same veil of avidya that covers the mind. Avidya both influences our action and the results of our action, which we will have to confront sooner or later. From a yogic point of view, everything is real, there is no illusion.
So when we take the various meanings of yoga, they all have something in common… the idea that something changes.
It requires no prerequisites that must be fulfilled before we set out on this path. One way that avidya is expressed in through the ego ‘i am right’. Identifying completely with something that could change! The other ways are:
raga - desire to have something
dvesa - refusing things and having feelings of hatred
abhinivesa or fear - afraid of death we cling to life.
So to rid ourselves of avidya is that, finding the peace within when we see the truth, when we reach a level of awareness that is higher than the mortal and everyday understanding. It is the place of satisfaction that can not be kept and grasped, it is the freedom from feeling and judgement, the centre of this is purusha.
This week I am going to share with you a blessing of a Spiritual Warrior class, inspired from the Jivamukti tradition and take this flow in to our embodied presence for change making, action taking and the removal of the Duhkha arising to find the peace within.
Lets take direct Action, no matter what arises and use our yoga practice to find the peace within.
Rebel. Stay Radical and stay rooted!