Thursday, January 14, 2010

Contented and Tranquil




"Avirati: This is the tremendous craving for sensory objects after they have been consciously abandoned, which is so hard to restrain. Without being attached to the objects of sense, the yogi learns to enjoy them with the aid of the senses which are completely under his control. By the practice of pratyahara he wins freedom from attachment and emancipation from desire and becomes content and tranquil."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 39th paragraph of the Introduction.

Sensuality is a distraction on the Path of Yoga. When the mind is consumed with objects of sense, there isn't room for spiritual awareness. Pratyahara, or withdrawing your attention from the senses, can offer a window toward living more deeply and authentically. If we are only propelled by our sense impulses alone, we are purely biological, almost like meat-based robots. And I know that there are those among us who believe that this is just how it is. However, I think that this inquiry leads into interesting territory, so I choose to take it further. I believe that I am more than my biology. I am also my psychology, and my spirituality. And I am somewhat undefined, for all my specificity.

When we regularly practice yoga or meditation, where we commit to a posture and commit to a length of time in that posture we can learn to be less reactive to stimulus in the environment. This is a helpful skill, even though it might not make sense when seen in a certain way. Response to stimulus is helpful for survival. Let's say I am under attack so I run, either physically or psychologically, and this response offers the potential to escape and possibly survive the attack. However if our responses are "trigger happy" then we might find ourselves overreacting, and constantly distracted and afraid. Yoga practice offers a school where we can learn about ourselves and how we run and try to escape challenging situations. It also offers a place where we can learn to be centered and calm in the midst of distracting stimulus. And the way to do this is to go inward and practice.


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4 comments:

Christine Claire Reed said...

YES!

This post reminds me of a Thomas Merton quote, and I paraphrase, "We are not made for pleasure, but we are made for Joy."

And he's not saying there should be NO pleasure, just that seeking pleasure alone demeans us. Good stuff.

Grace said...

I like the quote that Christine shared by Merton--I think that says it very well.

It does seem to come down to (if you want to simplify) "trigger happy" resposes, as you put it, and conscious enjoyment.

I get a little uncomfortable when people say things like "Sensuality is a distraction on the Path of Yoga." I don't think sensuality is bad or unconcious; to me the word "sensuality" means conciousness, a slowing down to really engage and be one with what you're doing. But that might just be my definition. Words can be loaded with different meanings, that we know.

Nicole said...

I have been thinking about that a lot because I find myself so easily distracted, my mind always wondering as I have just started practicing yoga regularly again.

I believe that the practice of detachment from constant sense stimulation also helps our relationships. We tend to react immediately to a phrase someone uses, a little act or omission. Often we don't think through our history with that person and all the contrary evidence we have that could negate our immediate assumption that triggers the reaction... Our emotions immediately jump in based on what we hear. Often criticism would probably not hit us so bluntly if we had the capacity to meditate on it before deciding what we think about it.

laughingyogini said...

"Avirati: This is the tremendous craving for sensory objects after they have been consciously abandoned, which is so hard to restrain. Without being attached to the objects of sense, the yogi learns to enjoy them with the aid of the senses which are completely under his control. By the practice of pratyahara he wins freedom from attachment and emancipation from desire and becomes content and tranquil."

This post explains very well WHY we practice yoga and meditation.
The coupling of sensuality with freedom is an amazing path to liberation.

Thanks Brooks for such a thoughtful discussion.
And thanks Christine. Your Merton quotation underscores Brooks' points beautifully.

I am so glad you are both in my life.