Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Friday, April 29th 2022
The Threads of Experience that Weave the Tapestry of Yoga
Learning Yoga, learning about life through Yoga, and learning Yoga through life—the weaving of a tapestry seems to be the image that is best capturing my experience of this at the moment.
In the creation of a tapestry, countless single threads must be woven in and together, every single one of them playing their part in creating the final image that we can see only when stepping back and looking at a distance.
At the start, as we watch the weaver begin to weave the tapestry, it’s unknown what will come of all those threads. As more threads are added in the tapestry, perhaps at first we may start to notice some patterns, but any pictures or images are still undiscernible and we can merely guess at what story the weaver will weave into the tapestry just by looking at those few threads.
As the weaver continues, more and more threads are needed. And as they get added in, the weaver diligently continuing to weave in each and every thread, suddenly we may catch a glimpse of an image and recognize what it is—Ah, that’s a flower, I see it now! How beautiful!
Of course, a tapestry is huge and many things can be depicted there…that little flower is just one small part…but in recognizing it we may be given hope, seeing that all those seemingly messy threads actually can create something beautiful and clearly recognizable. And then, we may also feel inspired to keep the weaver supplied with many threads to continue and to keep patiently watching as the weaver weaves to see what will unfold next, now confident that every thread is important and has its part and that none of the weavers work or the time it takes is in vain.
The learning of Yoga feels just like this, but experiences are the threads and the patterns and images that start to reveal clearly represent the understandings through Yoga that gradually become undeniably clear to us as a result of the build-up of experience.
Shri Mahayogi often speaks about the importance of experience. And Buddha too spoke about the importance of coming to know his teachings through experiencing them. I think this “experience” has been starting to take on more meaning for me than how I perhaps originally perceived it, and it’s becoming more and more clear that every bit of experience in life, small or large, has its own role to play in a much bigger picture.
When some understanding about Yoga becomes more clear, it may seem to come all of the sudden, but I see that actually it is the result of taking in and receiving teachings over what is sometimes a long period of time. When I say taking in and receiving teachings, what I mean could include teachings of Yoga that I hear or read, words from scriptures, observations and things I hear while with senior gurubai, inspirational stories shared with me about other practitioners or about humanity, things I am observing within myself, in situations, in people, various contemplations over time, daily life experiences, choices I make trying to base on Yoga…actually, there can be a lot of content in “taking in and receiving teachings,” at least as long as the mind is aiming towards Yoga. But the point is that all of these become something like the necessary threads of a tapestry. After time, when viewing all interwoven together, something may suddenly become apparent, even it may only be part of the whole picture. As such, I am starting to newly and more clearly see the incredible value that experience holds. Even with something as simple as the practice of a single asana, it feels like the experience of each and every time holds immense value. And even though in practice of asana, we may do the same pose day after day and it may almost become like a habit or routine just done for the sake of doing it and completing the task…but actually each time is valuable, each time is important, and in acknowledging that, even though the reason why or to what end may not be 100% clear yet, I think that it might even change the way the mind approaches the asana each time, and thus the spirit or intention poured into it. The same is probably true for any action, really.
That being said, I think there might be a catch that is important to mention. It has to do with the state of mind. I suppose recently, after the need for examining it was brought to my attention, I have been learning a little more about listening, learning, and the ways (both subtle and not-so-subtle) that I might block myself from doing those things, as well as some keys to help overcome those self-imposed obstacles. And if I summarize some general and important points, what I’m being led to see is that:
- Observation through all the senses, at all times is an important component of learning. Relatively little that is available for us to learn comes through books or direct instruction, but through example, through experience, through action…some of which could at times be completely experimental, and through trying to dive into the space around what is most easily observed to sense where what we observe may come from to begin with.
- It is incredibly difficult to take in any of those observations for consideration in the moment or for later when the mind is consumed in its own world, in its own thoughts, view, and especially in its own self-concern. These are the things that I am seeing from my own experience, that no matter how much we think we are hearing, seeing and taking in, real listening and learning is happening in an extremely limited capacity, if at all, and its very likely that we miss a lot—blind to it, while at the same time blind to the fact that there is anything we’re missing in the first place. At the same time, when the mind is consumed in its own world, in its own thoughts, view, and especially in its own self-concern, it is further difficult to get into action and bring ourselves to “experience” and “gain experience”—there are just too many fears, judgements and emotions that get involved.
Therefore, what I’m sensing is that in order to not only be able to gain more “threads of experience” to be woven into the tapestry, but at the same time, to be able to stand back and look at the tapestry being woven, to allow some images, or understanding, to become crystallized and recognizable, it is ideal to constantly be addressing and pushing the mind out of its little world of limited view and self-concern. Because I think in doing so, then we may actually be able to “take in and receive” much more, even from the most mundane and simple of everyday experiences, and thus have more material of experience at the ready, waiting for the moment when all the little unexpected pieces will suddenly be tied together and reveal some new understanding or clarity about Yoga, about the Truth, about Life.
The “mind of complaint,” and the importance of working to overcome it, is something that Karuna brought to our attention at the end of one of MYM’s Asana & Meditation classes (Echo From the Cave: 178). When it comes to how we experience everyday life, our daily conditions and circumstances, we have a whole slew of categories that we place these experiences in. Some we categorize as good, some as bad, some as important, some as worthless…and so on and so forth. But as I consider this analogy of the tapestry and the incredible value of experience that gives the materials for the tapestry to be woven—for the understanding of Yoga to come as a result—I wonder if we truly start to see value in experience, in going through a process…more so than what we may achieve as a result…if the mind of complaint might all but disappear. In seeing its value within the greater scheme of moving towards the aim of Yoga, towards the aim of living the Truth, the way we perceive outcomes may really transform and there may come to be no space for any such “mind of complaint.”
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