Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Control is the biggest illusion ...

(First posted in February 2013)

The three chapter per week rule is getting even more difficult to follow - not because the chapters are difficult to read, rather, they pack so much information I can’t possibly condense the wisdom into a five minute opening meditation for a vinyasa yoga class. So while we prepared this week by reading chapters 7 (Courage), chapter 8 (Compassion) and chapter 9 (Control) - I chose to leave compassion to the end. Oh, and flipped around the order too.

It was much easier for me to lay the groundwork first by describing control - and how it moves us. Ultimately, true courage is necessary to break down our need for power over our surroundings and to fully surrender to the truth in every moment. While compassion would have neatly fit as a third step - this alone was enough to ponder while practicing our handstands (yup, we did them again - only after full splits). What more could build up that courage muscle!?

Mantra: “Control is the greatest illusion.”

“Our attempt to control may seem like we are engaging with life in fact it blocks us from connecting with others and even ourselves.”

The more we try to control the less we are in control. You may have experienced this intimately in a close relationship, where you just wishes they would do X or say Y. Then everything would be perfect, right? The yoga tradition teaches us that such need for control only separates us from truth. It builds walls rather than inroads and definitely won’t win you any friends.

As a mother I seriously enjoyed Lasater’s “control as illusion” analogy with raising children. She literally states that you can never control your children, and, if you try you will not enjoy it. How many times have you won a battle but felt like you lost the war (with kids or otherwise)? Forcing someone’s hand in any matter will backfire. The same goes for your posture practice on the mat. Force your body into a pose and pay the consequences in pain and injuries later.

Lasater preempts and important question that may arise in the skeptic’s mind, “Where does letting of control and taking responsibility for your life begin?” We must exhibit control in some facet our lives, right? Well yes.  In the final analysis we see we can only control ourselves and even this is difficult to master.

So why do we seek to take control if it only harms us, only separates us from truth? Lasater says that our attempt to take control is our way of “quelling our feelings of being out of control”. Being out of control is the manifestation of tension between what we think and feel. Pulling yourself - or rather forcing yourself toward - only creates the opposite result. Our mind pulls us one way while we emote something else. Lasater further suggests that the body doesn't manipulate, and if the body is telling you something, that’s your truth.

Therefore, if taking control is our way of dealing with feeling is being out of control - or rather a grave tension between what we think and what we feel, then perhaps courage can help us let go?
While that may sound odd - a courageous person takes control, no? Isn’t our vision of courage someone who wields their power over the universe? Not really. Can you picture someone with true courage? Fictitious or not, they most likely desired a change in the world or in themselves and through a harrowing journey came out on the other side stronger and more - compassionate. The authentic hero or heroine necessitates understanding interdependence with the universe, demands compassion. Courage is “equal parts knowing what is possible … and understanding {our} interdependence with the world.” (Oops, ok, so compassion started to slip in!)

Lack of fear doesn't mark true courage rather the ability to discern and take action even in the face if fear defines courage. We can make this leap, when we understand this truth from the Bhagavad Gita “yet, know as indestructible that which this whole world is spread out. No one is able to accomplish the destruction of that which is immutable.”

There is, indeed, no reason to cower hiding from life and duty. In the GIta “Krishna wants Arjuna to forge ahead, trusting in his oneness with God. A connection which the Gita describes as immutable. For Lasater, and indeed for myself, the times she has been the most afraid have been those times when she “felt disconnected from God, from Spirit, from the Universe, from family and friends, and, most important, from [her] own heart.” Lasater urges us to see that courage “cradles your action even though you are afraid.”

“The real hope that we have of positively affecting our lives and our relationships is the process of working with the blocks that prevent us from being in the flow of this very moment. When we do, a magical thing happens. We live in the center of the greatest strength of all: the love that holds the Universe together and that fills our hearts.”

Living fully in each moment is a radical form of courage. And when we live fully in the moment, we indeed surrender to it - without any need to control that moment or the resulting consequences of our actions within that moment.

Mantra: “Living fully in this moment is a radical form of courage.”
Courage Practice Suggestion:
  • “Refuse to tell a lie, even a small one, today. Don’t agree when you don’t. Remember to speak from love and listen with compassion.” 
  • Take a pose you are resistant too (but can perform pieces or all of it safely) and practice it every day for one month. Perhaps splits, handstand, headstand or even warrior pose. You choose, you make the commitment and you watch how your original feelings of fear and inadequacy change as you step into the fire daily. 

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