Many shades of white
Symbolically the New Year seems to be our one opportunity to start over, to begin again, to have a white canvas. But what if every day we wake up was a blank canvas? What if every breath we take was an opportunity to begin again? What if every shade of white was contained within each single shade? What if we could come to accept that one is all and all is one? What if we find acceptance in the fact that life is not one set thing but that with every breath we have the opportunity to be, to exist with all our 'shades'?
Well guess what we can!
Taking time to pause, to ponder, to wait, to accept. The endless outward spiral of searching for something to give us a new better beginning, or something to fulfill us, is an illusion that creates suffering. It’s an illusion that keeps us from pausing and accepting that we have to power to begin again with every breath. It’s only in stillness that we can connect with acceptance of this moment, and use it to begin again whenever we want. Sometimes what we ask for is already in our lives, it’s perhaps disguised as something else. The practice of yoga asana in conjunction with breathing opens up the space for us to access this infinite space of possibilities. Learning to control the breath helps us to stop when a wave of mental chatter takes over and unable us to accept that we hold all that we need within. This stopping of the mental chatter is a conscious choice to begin again.
The yoga sutras of Patanjali open up with ‘Hatha Yoganusasanam’ which means now begins the practice of yoga. I love this sutra because it’s an eternal truth, it’s true for every passing moment of life, independent of the circumstance. Now is the time to begin.
The first time I ever assisted my Guru in Mysore, Sharath Jois, I was very nervous. I would wake up extra early at 2 am (two hours before practice) to sit and meditate so that when I walked into the room I could remind myself with every breath that my intention in the room transcended any relationship or human interaction, the intention was love. Every time I would walk over to a student to give support I would remind myself ‘I am here because of my love to the practice, to teaching and my devotion to being a student forever.’ At the end of the month of assisting I set up a meeting with Sharath to ask him if there was anything specific I should walk away with, or that I ‘wasnt doing right’. Meetings with the Guru are always a very special event, there is always this feeling of wanting to say the right thing, make the right pauses, speak the right amount of words; the outcome is always the opposite of what you walk in thinking it will be. That morning I put on a nicely colored, Indian Doti style shirt, walked down to the temple bought red and white flowers wrapped in banana leaf, and walked to the Shala to wait for my turn. When I was called to walk in I bowed down as I entered the room, handed him the flower offering and sat down by his desk. I looked straight into his eyes and paused for a second to remind myself I was breathing and proceed to ask him if he wanted me to know anything after this month of assisting. There was some silence as he looked at his screen, as if none of my words have been spoken, then finally he lifted his gaze from his computer screen, looked straight back at me and said something I will never forget: “So much love is there. That is very good. Don't worry” he smiled really big kept some silence, then ended with “So you keep giving love….that is all.” He shrugged and made a face that made me understand that was it, so I thanked him, feeling like I had forgotten why I had even gone in there, feeling like all was one, like there was no separation between him, me, the lineage, the students, new york, india….it was all just one. It’s hard to describe how or why those words made me feel this way, but in that instance I understood an important part of yoga, of what we seek to understand through it, and what it is to be born in the form of humans…and that is to love. It so happens that I practice and teach this yoga and this is how I found it, but in that instance I understood that yoga or no yoga we are all here to find love. To end separation and to become all to become one with love. To accept that we are love.
Acceptance…the action to receive or undertake something offered. May this year be filled with acceptance.
I’ll leave you with a wonderful passage from the Mundaka Upanishads:
Imperishable is the Lord of Love.
As from a blazing fire thousands of sparks
Leap forth, so millions of beings arise
From the Lord of Love and return to him.
The Lord of Love is above name and form.
He is present in all and transcends all.
Unborn, without body and without mind,
From him comes every body and mind.
He is the source of space, air, fire, water,
And the earth that holds us all.
Fire is his head, the sun and moon his eyes,
The heavens his ears, the scriptures his voice,
The air his breath, the universe his heart,
And the earth his footrest. The Lord of Love
Is the innermost Self of all.
From him come all the seas and the mountains,
The rivers and the plants that support life.
As the innermost Self of all, he dwells
Within the cavern of the heart.
The Lord of Love is the one Self of all.
He is detached work, spiritual wisdom,
And immortality. Realize the Self
Hidden in the heart, and cut asunder
The knot of ignorance here and now.
Bright but hidden, the Self dwells in the heart.
Everything that moves, breathes, opens, and closes
Lives in the Self. He is the source of love
And may be known through love but not through thought.
He is the goal of life. Attain this goal!
The shining Self dwells hidden in the heart.
Everything in the cosmos, great and small,
Lives in the Self. He is the source of life,
Truth beyond the transience of this world.
He is the goal of life. Attain this goal!
Take the great bow of the sacred scriptures,
Place on it the arrow of devotion;
Then draw the bowstring of meditation
And aim at the target, the Lord of Love.
The mantram is the bow, the aspirant
Is the arrow, and the Lord the target.
Now draw the bowstring of meditation,
And hitting the target be one with him.