Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Sunday, March 20, 2022
Reflecting Daily Life in Practice of Asana:
Getting Ourselves Out of the Way to Listen
There is much that can be learned about daily life through the experience of practicing asana. And today I would like to share something that I was reflecting on just this morning as the asana class began. I had been thinking about the participants of the class, the topic of expanding the way we “read”, which we were discussing among some gurubai the previous night as we met for a Study in Practice Book Club, and also how sharing a certain issue I’ve been facing up against within myself and trying to work on might relate and be of some use. And perhaps I am also, in part, encouraged by the timely material I was working on in the editing process for Pranavadipa, our online monthly publication, which, in the upcoming edition, will be a Testimony written by Satya, a disciple in Japan, about her experience and practice of meditation.
Not that long ago it was pointed out to me that it would be good for me to focus on practicing “being humble.” Now, this is not the first time that I have been pointed towards this practice, but perhaps I had been overlooking it, or not clear on how to approach it. Anyway, what was shared with me as an important aspect of it is “listening.” And on the particular occasion that this was pointed out to me, well it just so happens that I had not been listening well because I was instead getting caught in my mind’s reaction to what I was hearing. If I’m honest, I think I thought I was listening, but having this pointed out made me have to check myself. What really is listening? How does one listen?
I suppose I can say that when I see a lack of listening in others I can easily identify it, and just like I was reminded, it’s true that the one who is not listening is the one who misses out. But isn’t it always the case that it’s so much easier to see these kinds of issues outside of ourselves than to see them unfolding right within us?! Anyway, I’m sure we can all identify that when in conversation with someone else, when we think we are listening, or even the same goes for when we are reading, whether in a noisy or in a quiet way, the mind can have a lot to say. It has its opinions, it is processing according to its experiences and prior knowledge and views that have developed through those experiences, it wants to assert itself, feel that it understands, or bring up a further point, etc, etc…and sooner or later what we thought we were listening to has come to be neatly fit into our own mind’s world, all the while giving us the illusion that we have listened and understood. Certainly, the mind has various reasons or motives that can come in the way of listening, which I’ve been observing in myself, but that will have to be a conversation for another time.
The bottom line is, for myself, I decided that the first thing I would do just to make some ground for gaining clarity, was to just be quiet. There’s no need for me to say anything, I don’t need to express my opinion, I don’t need to jump to a conclusion, but just simply sit with whatever I am hearing and try to take it in without fitting it into my own mind’s existing story. There’s not a lot more I have to say about this at the moment—this was just a place to begin.
However, that being said, as I was reflecting this morning, the practice of asana and the experience of how it goes, started to reveal an important clue, yet again. This too, is just like practice of asana!
Oftentimes, when it comes to the practice of asana, we can get in to a wave of the mind that approaches it from the notion: “I’m going to do this asana” or “I’m going to make the form of this asana.” But in asana, there is nothing to “do” and there is no form to “make.” From what I experience, asana is nothing like that at all! Asana is not something that needs to be “done” or “made.” Asana is already there, regardless of us. And rather, asana is about using these few ingredients that we have been given—simple instructions, focus on the breath, etc—to bring ourselves to align with the asana. Then, the asana starts to reveal, taking care of itself by itself, in spite of us. But to align ourselves to the asana, there is something we need to let go of, in other words, I feel we need to get ourselves out of the way—and “what gets in the way” can include tensing the body too much as we make efforts to “do the pose,” that can include various concerns and beliefs of the mind, that can include being self-conscious and all that goes along with that…there’s a lot that can get in the way and make us block ourselves from aligning with and coming to get to know the practice of asana itself that Shri Mahayogi so graciously teaches us.
Another way of saying it is, perhaps in the same vein of listening, in order to not lose the opportunity to learn or come to understand something that is not already in the small realm of our minds’ experiences, something that we are lucky enough to have come before us, it’s important to try to quiet ourselves and get our minds out of the way, so that we can try to align and come to understand whatever it is that is being presented to us. It seems that there are many things that are trying to be shown to us all the time, but, just like with asana, we are the ones who need to shift something in ourselves in order to hear and be able to receive that which is being shown, otherwise we just continue to keep ourselves blocked.
Anandamali often reminds us of one of Shri Mahayogi’s most basic teachings: “The Truth must first be heard, then contemplated, then meditated upon.”
What does it mean for the Truth to be heard? What does it really mean to listen and what is required of us in order to make ourselves able to listen? As Anandamali has pointed out to us today, “listen” is such a basic word that we hear from the time we are young children, yet it may be so common that we can easily take for granted or assume we understand what it means or how to do it. Or like me, slip under the impression that we are doing it already. Perhaps, given that this is one of the first and foremost teachings of Shri Mahayogi and a prerequisite for passing to the gate of Yoga, it is an area where we can all step back to and start to reexamine. Indeed, this also relates to something that Anandamali was recently bringing to our attention. Which is that, in the traditional or classical approach, when one is really wanting to learn something, already the mind is prepared to go to great lengths to first find where it can be learned, and then further, to set aside its own prior notions and understandings without objection, all to make way for coming to align with that which is being sought out to learn and know—that is listening.
And finally, there is one last thing I would like to mention today. It’s a topic that keeps coming up in multiple conversations about a variety of subjects…as if it is being highlighted to me no matter which way I look, like a bright neon flashing sign begging me to pay attention.
Patience, it’s great value, and the importance of cultivating it. I’m sharing it with you now, because I certainly suspect that it is an important message to listen to and another clue for us to follow, whether for developing the ability to listen in daily life situations or for developing the practice of asana. Very often, we are all reminded—be it directly through scriptures or through the Testimonies of various brother and sister gurubai—of the importance of consistent and continuous practice, whatever that practice may be. Perhaps “patience” is an important tool in dealing with our minds as we train ourselves in all varieties of life situations towards “action without expectation of any result.”
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