Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Constant and Determined Practice

"According to him (Patanjali) abhyasa (constant and determined practice) and vairagya (freedom from desires) make the mind calm and tranquil. He defines abhyasa as effort of long duration, without interruption, performed with devotion, which creates a firm foundation."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, second half of the 55th paragraph of the Introduction.

For me, the concept of 'Abhyasa' or 'constant and determined practice' means staying with myself at all times. This practice means that I am not abandoning myself and the reality of my situation in favor of what I think.

Years ago, when I saw Eckhart Tolle speak at the Congress Theater, here in Chicago, there was a long delay before Mr. Tolle came on stage. Then he came up to the podium and didn't say anything for a long time. He looked at us. When he started to speak, he asked if we had been waiting to meditate. This got some laughs. And then he said that we really should have already been doing it. So I tried to understand. There is this unspoken thing about us, I think, we tend to want to be told what to do. And actually I am of two minds when it comes to the message of the moment I just described. A part of me thought at the time that we had all paid to hear something from him, so we were most certainly waiting for him to guide an experience for us, and rightly so--this is how these things work. And another part of me, more firmly established today, sees something in that observation that I perceive in the actions and words of Mr. Tolle. It has to do with the concept of practice that is most meaningful to me.

Practice, like a yoga practice, can be a set schedule. This person practices yoga three times per week by going to classes is an example. Or perhaps someone else practices for about an hour every morning before breakfast using videos or podcasts for inspiration. And another practices using a book or by discerning what the body needs today. All of these examples are about a discreet amount of time set aside, apart from the flow of life to practice.

Another way to look at practice is as a commitment to conscious living at all times. This is a herculean-style of practice. This is big-time. This is real life.

So the way I see it is that Mr. Tolle was gently and playfully suggesting that what he was talking about isn't something we do only at a special event like a talk or discreet practice times, but something we might be doing all the time.

Constant practice.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Namaste_Heather said...

I LOVE this! In my life right now, this is it. Constant practice. Life throws so much at you . . . how do you stay mindful through all of it. What a great post.

YogaforCynics said...

I guess one way of looking at practicing yoga is that you're actually using yoga to practice the rest of your life...or something...

A Green Spell said...

Totally beautiful. I am trying more and more to live in this mind space.

Unknown said...

this post speaks to my commitment to the practice of yoga...and to myself. As the great thinker of our time...YODA said,
“Do or do not... there is no try.”
Thanks, Brooks. Very inspirational

Anonymous said...

Sounds similar to things my teacher has said before. If you're at a loose end, then use that time to your advantage! So whenever I remember in those downtimes, I use a mantra or follow my breathing or focus on my body posture. Something like that. Yoga is not meant to be separate from life, but intertwined and ongoing :)

Carrie said...

for me yoga is a way of life

Anahita said...

"staying within myself at all times" is a perfect definition, I think. It's about being truly yogic not just about mindless asana sequences. And yet, it's a fine balance, is it not? :)