Friday, February 12, 2010

Devotion, Absorption, Dissolution

"Of even mind, capable of bearing hardship, wishing to perfect the work, speaking gently, moderate in all circumstances, such is the average seeker. Recognising these qualities, the Guru teaches him Laya Yoga, which gives liberation. (Laya means devotion, absorption or dissolution.)"
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 52nd paragraph of the Introduction.

I am thinking of "liberation" here as referring to freedom from aspects of ourselves that are controlled by unconscious forces, sometimes referred to as "latent impressions". A latent impression (samskara) is a remnant of past experience that colors a person's perception of the current moment, and affects how someone responds now. Particularly harmful are the impressions left by psychological wounding.

For example if a father of a daughter can't give love, this leaves an impression on the daughter (or son, of course!). When the daughter was sick he bought her a magazine. When the daughter cried he left the room to go watch TV, or if she cried in the passenger side of the car he pretended not to see. When she was a teenager and came to him when he was a single parent and he satisfied himself by giving her money and stifled her speech with 'here's twenty bucks. now I'm going to get back to me and what I want to do.' All of these kinds of actions created deep impressions inside the daughter.

And how about if the father also said, "I love you," fairly regularly. Might this not skew the daughters understanding of love? It might. Might it also affect how she perceives men? It might...

This is an example of how a latent impression might get laid down in someone. It happens bit by bit with little things that happen all the time that teach about how things are. Let's say that the daughter in the above example has grown up. Eventually these interactions with Dad fade into the background and are not even consciously remembered by the daughter. But forgotten is not gone in this case. This woman finds herself simultaneously strongly desirous and highly resentful when it comes to the men in her life. She could feel pathetic, unworthy and super-needy at times. And none of these qualities are helpful if her aim is to be in a healthy relationship with a man. But the main point here is that these qualities (pathetic, unworthy and super-needy) are uncontrolled out-picturing from the latent impressions that were built into her during her childhood experience with Dad.

Yoga offers a solution for people who are living similarly to the above story with qualities that have been learned and forgotten through the normal process of life. These latent impressions keep a person trapped in a smaller version of themself, and prevent them from seeing clearly. For example the woman in the above story may never feel comfortable for long in a relationship with the man of her dreams until she can somehow heal her daddy-stuff that is taking her on an emotional hayride when it comes to her dealings with men.

Who is living your life? Is it you or your past impressions?

A Yogic Solution:
Devotion, Absorption, and Dissolution.

In Yoga there can be experiences of total Absorption and bliss. These experiences of a yogic high help someone by temporarily removing them from their pain. The woman in the above example might feel great relief from a yoga class, but she would probably find that the effects eventually wear off, leaving her in the "pathetic, frustrated and lonely" state once again. Nothing has changed deeply at this point, except for the fact that she has now experienced herself feeling SO GREAT. This might give her the hope that she was lacking before she found YOGA.

Devotion to ones Yoga is key to keep someone practicing, otherwise there is a whole world of distraction, for sure! Also Devotion to the knowledge that life doesn't always feel this heavy is helpful when one is in a rough spot. The memory of the experience of Absorption can serve as a helpful reminder to KEEP AT IT. Devotion to IT, or that which feeds you (I'm not talking about food here, but spiritual nourishment) is key to moving forward in daily life. So Devotion is the Yogic Process as seen from the perspective of daily life. We still live a daily life with all of the usual stuff, it just becomes infused with something good: YOGA! And Yogic Absorption is Blissful Removal from a sometimes toxic experience.

Dissolution is the dismantling of the latent impressions that hold us back from complete freedom in life. So there is a meeting point between Absorption and Devotion. Absorption is being completely in IT. Devotion is standing just outside and honoring space for IT. And Dissolution is the process of dismantling the unconscious hold of the latent impressions and moving more freely through life's experience, here someone is connected to IT yet also in the personal soul-space enough to release what is not true, personally. It's like a spiritual balancing point. When you're here the only thing you can do is watch it go. It's not a process that is under our conscious control. Dissolution breaks the unconscious bonds that unresolved woundedness fosters. So the woman in the story would be very fortunate to break the connection between love with a man and not getting emotional needs met. This is a self-defeating connection and it is false. Just because a girl has a father who connects love with material giving does not mean that all men operate in this way. So I conclude that the hurt caused from this early relationship does not have to apply to all future relationships with men. But, of course there is also an inner dynamic that is not so rational as a mind that might feel smart about figuring this one out. And Dissolution operates at the level of the irrational inner dynamic that controls our actions much of the time.


Elize said...

Dear Brooks,
This post has touched me deeply... and inspiring many ponderings, reflections & insights, I thank you for that. I am beginning to understand better the power of devoted practice... it has taken years, and will probably take many more... Much strength to you.

YogaforCynics said...

Very interesting post, Brooks...

As indicated in my comments on the yoga "buzz" a little while ago, I tend to get caught up in the absorption...though, as you point out, that does give hope and encourages continuing along the path, as well as preventing sinking into despair...just to know that it's possible not to feel bad. Actually, this is similar to the reason I really don't regret my early drug use--experiences, as they let me know I didn't always have to be sunk in misery. And, of course, part of the beauty of having such experiences through yoga is that it's happening through something that's good for me, rather than a drug which does harm. At the same time, like a drug, that wonderful absorption can feel like an end in itself, an escape, possibly preventing me from doing the deeper work that needs doing...