Sunday, January 27, 2013

Vinyasa Yoga Book Club - Lasater #3

As a yoga teacher I tend to say things like "let go of the judging mind" during class. Yet, as a yoga student, I question this very statement. "Why do we seek to rise above the judging mind?   How can one live without judgment?"!

When I posed this question to my husband (who also happens to be a lawyer) he suggested we start with a definition of terms:

  • Judgement is the arrival at a conclusion by observing and examining evidence from an external perspective or as a disinterested observer while
  • Discernment requires immersing yourself in the experience and allowing the conclusion to come to your through the experience.  

Indeed, Ms. Lasater tells us that “the power of discrimination helps us better understand the nature of reality”.  Judgement actually shields our ability to have a direct experience with reality - yet our ability to know the truth demands our direct experience with reality.  

Here’s an example.  Have you ever dumped out a gallon of milk because the expiration date had passed, but never actually tasted the milk to be sure?  Who wants to taste sour milk, right?  If you threw out the milk - you judged by examining external evidence that the milk had expired - yet you really didn’t know it was.  In order to discern the milk is expired, you gotta drink it.  Our fear of drinking sour milk - or rather our fear of pain - keeps up judging.  

The ancient yogis understood this dilemma and created an entire system to help overcome this fear.  The system included meditation, chanting, postures, eating habits, and so on.  

Yet in order to even begin any one of these practices to overcome fear and shed the judging mind, one must have faith that these tools can, indeed, work.  Without this faith, you’ll never practice enough to overcome this fear.  

Essentially yoga demands a huge leap of faith.

Once you discover faith, one must practice each method with what Patanjali describes as “a steady and comfortable seat.” Sthira-sukham asanam.  Yoga has evolved to mean many things to many people.  Without discerning for yourself, you won’t know which method you need today.  You must step into the fire and have your own direct experience with reality to find out.  

Once we are able to overcome the judging mind, does the whole world change? Nope.

It’s the same mind.  It’s the same universe.  It’s the same person with the same story.  All that changes from your steady practice is your perspective.  Doesn’t sounds so glamorous, eh?  

Well consider this, enlightenment itself is a radical change in perspective.  

Ms. Lasater further suggests that “with our willingness to have perspective, not only do we increase our ability to distinguish the important from the unimportant, we also increase our capacity for compassion toward ourselves and others.  By paying attention to how we lose perspective about the little things … we can create a a bit of opening our perspective to accommodate the more important things.”


A suggestion for practice:

Chanting is the most primitive form of music and is one tool used by yogis to change our perspective.  Music clearly can change one’s mood - with just a few notes a song can send you on an emotional ride into the past.  Music can lift you up or sink you down, bring tears or laughter.  Music is like medicine, and when applied skillfully has the potential to remove fear and help us find that enlightened perspective we all seek.

The Sanskrit language was created to resonate deeply within the human body.  Skillful mediators and practitioners of the day created Sanskrit as a medicinal language.  Chapter 4 offers one of my favorite threads from the Sutras - sthira-sukham asanam or “the posture should be steady and comfortable (or, as I like to say, joyful).” Yoga Sutra 2:46

Take a few moments to chant this thread or sutra - maybe for a minute or two.  Then pause and feel it’s effects on the mind and body.  When is it important for you in your life to strike this balance between effort and ease?

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