Sunday, June 21, 2009

Offering the Fruits

“The Bhagavad Gita also gives other explanations of the term yoga and lays stress upon Karma Yoga (Yoga by action). It is said: ‘Work alone is your privilege, never the fruits thereof. Never let the fruits of action be your motive; and never cease to work. Work in the name of the Lord, abandoning selfish desires. Be not affected by success or failure. This equipoise is called Yoga.’”
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, sixth paragraph of the Introduction.

As an American, I was taught to value the pursuit of pleasure above all other experiences. It’s my God-given right. If it bothers someone else… So what? Right? What’s “mine” is mine! If I enjoy a product when that product’s production poisons other people and the animals and the environment, is that okay? Is it okay to eat factory-farmed animals? (See the movie, Food, Inc.  for more info about this industry. Beautifully produced movie with shocking revelations about how our food is produced. It also shows consumer choices making positive changes. Playing now at Landmark's Century Centre in Chicago.)

As I ponder: ‘Work alone is your privilege, never the fruits thereof.’ I realize that when I am focused on the fruits of my labor, I am primarily concerned with my belly, my pride, my security. My focus is on what can I get right now: instant gratification. I see my fruits, and I want them now! Focus on the fruits also leads to greed. If I want “fruits”—like money, sex, power, and food—I’m only looking for those rewards, without concern for anything beyond myself. And I want more for me!

Another perspective of work is to consider how what one does will affect one’s future self and future people. The things we do today will affect people we haven’t met yet. And when we are acting, taking into account our best understanding of how what we do affects others (including our future selves) we can do better things. Let’s create a beautiful healthy world, starting with our own bodies! Let’s create a loving compassionate world by listening to the concerns of others, and our own inner challenges! Lets do what we can do to make the world a better place!

The yoga of action is called Karma Yoga. It is doing things in line with that aspect of your self that cares. Sadly, we learn to turn that off when we get hurt. The path of yoga includes caring, even if that sense of your self has been so deeply buried that it must be excavated with special tools—yogic tools, heart tools. It is courageous to care. It takes the dedication of a warrior/warrior goddess to be true to one’s heart.

So this is where the art of writing almost fails. I am doing something now by writing this and sharing these thoughts. It comes from a sense of caring about the subject of yoga, and caring about communicating beyond my personal mindscape. I also believe that the seeds of positive change start inside, and when these seeds start to germinate there is an opportunity/privlidge/necessity to take these beautiful little seedlings into your hands and to plant them into the earth. It is time to take the positive change that you have imagined, and to make it real.

This is where I want to do better. I feel like I witness hundreds of deaths a day when I dream a happy dream about what would make life better, and dismiss it for something I “have” to do, or something I’m just used to doing. This is an old habit from the days when I used to feel powerless, but now I know that I can change my own life. And when I do there IS a larger effect. What I do for myself affects others. When I’m able to hear my own pains, I am able to be present to hear those of others. And this really helps. So I see my work as the work of a healer. And as I learn to heal myself I learn to help beyond myself.


Anonymous said...

Inspirational. It doesn't matter how much I think I know about this stuff; a fresh perspective and/or a re reading of the same material brings me back to an opening, an understanding on a deeper level and/or an "oh yeah, do I remember to practice this?". Thanks for your sharing. - Steve Richardson

YogaforCynics said...

I remember a few years ago being at a concert with a friend. We were yacking it up before the music started and then, when the performer came on stage and began singing a rather quiet song, my friend saw no reason to stop yacking it up. Everyone started shooting annoyed looks in our direction, and I pointed out that she was keeping the people around us from enjoying the music. She got immediately indignant, saying "I paid for my ticket!" And that really does seem to be the consumerist mind-set: if you pay your hard-earned cash, you can do whatever you want. This same friend told me, at different times, about her parents, who apparently raised her with a sense that they owed her nothing, including love or kindness, and that she'd better be grateful for anything she did get from them. She would complain about that to me, but I don't think she ever really explored how that kind of treatment had affected her, turning her into the kind of person who felt no need to be considerate of the people around her, unless there was something to be gained by it (she ended up quieting down at the concert when I told her that I was bothered--seeing that more of an exchange of commodities: her quiet for my continued friendship). Anyway, this is what your post brought to my mind...

Also, I love your photo at the top--what a great place for a Warrior pose!

RB said...

This idea of karmic action really resonates. Now that I have free time, I've decided to offer my services to friends to run errands, etc.

I've also apprenticed myself to my old yoga teacher to help her with the studio. For a while I was doubting whether these were productive things, but this post reminded me that kindness to others helps us grow.