Echo From The Cave: 168

Sunday March 13, 2022 NYC

Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Sunday, March 13, 2022

Reflecting Daily Life in Practice of Asana:
Training and Expanding our Awareness, our Concentration, and Ourselves

Today during the asana class, while doing bhujangasana (cobra), the question came up:

What should I prioritize? Maintaining the legs together? Raising higher to bring the navel off the floor? Both are very difficult…should I prioritize both or which one is more important?

The answer was: both.

Then came the hesitation:

But that’s not possible. If I bring the legs together, the upper body comes down, and vice versa, if I raise the upper body the legs don’t stay together. Would it be better to just find a position that I can sustain?

The actuality is, it is important to condition the body to be able to sustain the correct position. A position that can be sustained, yet is not according to the instruction, does not bring benefit to the practitioner. And in practicing this way, there is a danger in forgetting that asana has a greater aim and is a means for preparing ourselves for something further.

Truly, there are times in practice of asana where it can seem to us that the task before us is near impossible. Or at least our minds can react that way and reassuringly tell us “if I just do it like this, that should be enough…at least I’m doing this much”!

Again, the practice of asana gives us a window into the mind and there we may discover that there are many things that we may not be aware of, that we may not be consciously bringing our attention to. As we work to expand our awareness in practice of asana, bringing our minds to sustain concentration and efforts, sometimes on multiple things that we are completely not used to, we are also being given the ground to expand our mind, including our capacity for many things, in other areas too. And we can always expand more, there is always room to grow!

Nowadays, I sit in the position of leading the Asana & Meditation classes regularly. But I am learning with and alongside those who are in the class practicing the asana. Practicing to lead the class is very much also a part of “practice” and “learning.” And I remember that when I first started to practice leading the class, I was quickly shown that there are many things that I need to bring my attention to, simultaneously and sharply—things that I was completely unaware of before. And over time I have been being taught that it’s not enough to focus on only one or a few things, but rather, the capacity, ability and understanding need to always keep expanding, which could be in the direction of wider, quicker, sharper, more depth, etc. The point is, there is always a next step, always room to grow.

When it comes to our daily life circumstances…well, I have to say that building our capacity to bring our awareness to things we were not aware of and sustaining and building our ability to hold concentration there simultaneously seems a lot easier when it comes to asana. But just like in asana, when we are pointed to things that we were not aware of and then need to make conscious efforts to work on them and train ourselves in those areas, it can pose a real challenge for the mind and may even be difficult for the mind to see clearly or know what to do. Recently, for example, a few things were pointed out to me and brought to my attention as areas that I may not be very aware of but need to work on. It was true, my conscious awareness and efforts to cultivate myself in those areas were lacking, and in its own way, somewhere in the background, my mind was probably having a similar shade of the thought that our mind can so reassuringly tell us in asana: “if I just do it like this, that should be enough…at least I’m doing this much.”

Now, just because I can see that there’s a lack, it doesn’t mean that I have clarity or have necessarily resolved anything. Not everything is always clear at once, and not everything comes naturally—that is just how things are sometimes. So in my case, simply I know that I need to train to consciously bring my awareness to things that I was not so aware of before, and from there, try to understand more clearly, make adjustments where I can according to what I learn from the teachings of Yoga, see what happens, try again, and continue in this way. Of course, it goes without saying that this cannot be done by taking attention and conscious efforts away from other areas, but needs to be done in addition to (just like in asana, we can’t sacrifice one instruction to focus on another). Training and expanding ourselves consistently and patiently surely seems to be the necessity.

One thing I feel for certain though, is that everything we do in practice of asana, in other practices of Yoga, in work of the Mission, and through our daily life experiences—all is simultaneously supporting us and giving us the means to work towards expanding ourselves in ways we may not be able to really imagine on our own. And this, most importantly, is important in the preparation of making ourselves into better tools for conveying Yoga and for being able to be of service to others.

~ Sadhya

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