Saturday, December 26, 2009

Reflective Beauty

"As a breeze ruffles the surface of a lake and distorts the images reflected therein, so also the chitta vrtti disturb the peace of mind. The still waters of a lake reflect the beauty around it. When the mind is still, the beauty of the Self is seen reflected in it. The yogi stills his mind by constant study and by freeing himself from desires. The eight stages of Yoga teach him the way."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 30th paragraph of the Introduction.

Mental noise (chitta vrtti) distracts us from seeing the beauty naturally inherent in the life situation. Merely turning away from the noise might not be adequate, denial or turning to a fantasy of peace can be counterproductive. I think peace is possible, even inevitable depending on your timeline... But doing "spiritual" things and imagining peace can lead someone away from reality instead of towards it. It depends on the person. I definitely benefit from meditation, but don't resonate with over-the-top spiritual language. One time, really early in the morning, a teacher asked a class I was taking to imagine blue light lifting the spine or something--it just didn't connect for me. A person can also get a bit lost in a spiritual high. I ask myself: do I want to make a nice life here? The answer is yes--and not only in my fantasy of myself but somehow registering in the content of what I do in my days. And certainly I have so much to be thankful for that is a real part of my life, right now.

Is peace connected with a person's earthly life, or is peace only existing in the imaginary realm? I think peace is something we can bring to the world. But, I am wondering if some people believe that peace is only a nice concept. If this is true--that peace is only an idea--then it makes sense that if we want to experience peace that we will have to get away from here, even escape. Ahhh, spiritual escapism...

I feel certain that in the long run this approach to peace will cause more disturbance in the mind--chitta vrtti.

Maybe a person's life, imperfect as it may be, can provide a little dock to walk out on and catch a glimpse (or more) of this reflective peace of mind. It can be a work in progress, and as a person's yoga practice and understanding grows stronger, so might the pathway get sturdier and the vision clarify.

Yours in yoga,

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


RB said...

I also like connecting that quote with the idea of the world as your's not that the disturbances aren't there...but instead of waves they are ripples, and we just watch them, and live them.

Even in the chaos of New York, I find that if I take a meditative attitude, ie "Aren't these people pushing each other interesting," or just observing my own (even aggravated!) responses, I feel better.

It's the "you are not your thoughts" idea.

Mr Soul said...

Decades ago, when I'd read a couple books on Zen and was getting interested for the first time in Eastern philosophy, I had a girlfriend who shared that interest, as well as other interests, so we sat around listening crankin' up the tunes, smoking pot, dropping acid and talking about Buddhism. Then, as time went by, I pretty much got off that path (temporarily, as it turned out) and went off to be an intellectual, while she got very seriously into studying and practicing Buddhism. Now, however, I get the impression that, despite giving years of her life to it, she's pretty much dropped it, and seems to be mostly interested in pot, booze, and any other diversions she can find without the distraction of following any particular discipline. I sometimes feel discouraged thinking of her, but, then, I remember the endless arguments we used to have about what all that Zen stuff added up to--where I tended to be interested in the compassion aspect, and generally held a view far closer to Thich Nhat Hanh's idea of socially engaged Buddhism, to her the ideal always seemed to be to get to a point where she could "nonattach" in the sense of saying goodbye to having to deal with other people (her idols all appeared to be the kinds of Zen masters who disappeared forever into the mountains). And, though she certainly studied lots of stuff that contradicted it, I don't think she ever lost that ideal of escape; nor, for that matter, did she ever stop doing drugs or drinking for any significant amount of time (even managing to find pot growing wild near the Himalayan hut where she lived for a time). Thus, I think she followed the Buddhist path until she realized that, when it came to escaping reality, it really wasn't any more effective than booze and drugs...and, ultimately, not-escaping wasn't what she was interested in at all.

Certainly, I can't say I've been immune to the siren call of escape, myself. In fact, she might say that I've been at least as bad in that respect as she, and she might be right. Still, I am trying to differentiate the "spiritual highs" which can leave me somewhat deflated and confused once I've come down, with a real sense of peace...not that they're bad, necessarily, but they shouldn't be confused for what they're not (particularly since then I simply end up judging the rest of my life against them, creating a whole new destructive dualism, and all the more discontent).