Monday, June 22, 2015

The Inner Sanctum

Within a church or temple, the inner sanctum is a private, sacred and secret place. It is safe and protected.

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty
-Psalm 91:1, King James Version. Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty -New International Version.

Let the yogi engage himself in yoga, remaining in a secret place by himself, with thought and self subdued, free from hope and greed.  In a pure place, established on a fixed seat of his own, neither very much raised or very low…he should restrain his mind and concentrate it on Me, and sit down engaged in devotion, regarding Me as his final goal -Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 6.

Teachers of spiritual traditions love metaphor as a teaching tool, and many describe the human body as a temple (eg. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?).

Yoga is both a physical and a spiritual tradition. The breath work, physical postures and meditation in yoga lead us deep into our inner sanctum. In Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, the body is described as an obstacle to be transcended, but in Tantra Yoga, the body is seen as a holy vessel. The well-known Anusara yoga teacher, Christina Sell, authored the book My Body is a Temple: Yoga as a Path to Wholeness as a guide to help people reach their inner shrine through yoga practice.

My yoga practice leads me within, to a secret place where I am safe, at rest and divinely connected.

Even in a group class, practicing collectively, we are traveling on this individual journey to the inner sanctum. The niyama, one half of the ethical teachings of yoga, is a Sanskrit word that translates as "inner culture," in English. Svadhyaya is one of the five niyama, and it means study of the scriptures and of the self. The literal translation of svadhyaya is "one's own reading."

In our practice today, may we turn our attention within and find our inner sanctum, allowing our practice to lead us to that secret resting place where nothing can perturb us, the place where the soul abides.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Jewel of the Moment

How's this for a subversive statement?
Life is not made up of milestones, but of moments. -Rose Kennedy

So often we define our life in terms of accomplishments or failures, lists on a resume, photos in an album...or when a life is over, the contents of an obituary. We reach into the past or future for the contents of our life, yet this is not living. Living is sensing, breathing, giving and receiving, showing up in the here and now.

Each journey consists of many steps, a series of discrete moments. If we're not careful, we can't see the trees for the forest. This is why we turn to practices like mindfulness and yoga, to connect to the fullness, peace and joy we find in the present moment. The quality and very essence of a life is found in the moment. This is the place where the real You and Me reside.

Each moment, each breath, each meal, each conversation, each discrete posture in yoga, all are one-of-a-kind jewels. Each has a different hue, texture and feel. Can you hold all the jewels in your hand? Can you collect them and wear them like a prize around your neck, or a crown on your head? No. You can only hold one jewel at a time in your palm. It is good to dream and plan and indulge in precious memories, but when we cling to the promise of a future reward, agonize over past failures or imagine away the gift of the moment, we're losing our treasure to jewel thieves.

You don't have to dig deep to find a gem. You just have to open your eyes and notice it.

I experienced a vivid example of this truth this morning, when I had this post written and lost all of the text. For some reason, I really like hanging onto the products of any work I do, unless it's cooking, and then I just want to eat it. I don't agonize about preserving a pie for as long as possible, defining my happiness by it. I just eat it, enjoy it, then forget about it. I wish I could do this with other parts of my life. I hang onto things. We all do. When I got up and walked away from my laptop and left my house, I accompanied my son on a field trip to a farm to study vernal pools. That experience was one jewel I held for a short time. I'm not going to dig with greedy fingers and nails to pull it out of the ground and have it set into a ring. It's gone. Now here I sit, enjoying writing. There is always enough in each moment. I am always enough.

I don't want to miss the essence of my well-lived life trying to piece together a collection of milestones, a box of clunky rocks. No one does. We want the real gems. They're ours for the taking.

“My mind then wandered. I thought of this: I thought of how every day each of us experiences a few little moments that have just a bit more resonance than other moments—we hear a word that sticks in our mind—or maybe we have a small experience that pulls us out of ourselves, if only briefly—we share a hotel elevator with a bride in her veils, say, or a stranger gives us a piece of bread to feed to the mallard ducks in the lagoon; a small child starts a conversation with us in a Dairy Queen—or we have an episode like the one I had with the M&M cars back at the Husky station.

And if we were to collect these small moments in a notebook and save them over a period of months we would see certain trends emerge from our collection—certain voices would emerge that have been trying to speak through us. We would realize that we have been having another life altogether; one we didn’t even know was going on inside us. And maybe this other life is more important than the one we think of as being real—this clunky day-to-day world of furniture and noise and metal. So just maybe it is these small silent moments which are the true story-making events of our lives.”
Douglas Coupland, Life After God