Sometimes you just don’t know where the path will lead, for example what if you could go into your kitchen and find the moon? Maybe you can but more on that later.
For the path to unfold in this way what is required is allowing, not to be confused with a passive state of inaction, this kind of allowing requires us to be fully awake, to listen to our deepest knowing and follow it up with right action. In 2010 I signed up for a workshop - I had no idea to where it would lead. The workshop was entitled “The Art of Adjusting” and was lead by Matthew Sanford. Fast forward ten years and it turns out I will have made countless trips to Minnesota to keep studying with Matthew and his team at Mind Body Solutions. His pioneering work and devotion to humanity has become more interwoven in every breath I take than I could ever imagine.
The deepest knowing does not come from text books, there is no app (despite what some may try to have us believe) and we cannot Google for answers, this kind of knowing takes stillness and the courage to feel. I say that with full knowing that this is not the easiest path to follow, I began my Yoga practice as an analytical, classically trained student of philosophy exploring existential philosophy from the safety of my A4 notepad - what I didn’t realise in 2010 was that I was about to be thrown into living it.
You will have heard me reference Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras in class, they are a collection of 196 aphorisms exploring the path to enlightenment through Yoga, they are essentially the roadmap to something essentially indescribable. They are fascinating to explore and the depth of meaning that can be packed into a few words never ceases to amaze me. Each time you look more is revealed, but that is the magic, because it is not about words on a page - it is about the ability of the reader to see, to get still and quiet enough to listen which is exactly what we are being asked to do in our practice and in life. The power of the sutras is in the dynamic between you and the words; as the power of the pose is in your relationship to it; as the parts of the pose only come alive in relationship to each other and so on - can you feel the depth of the rabbit holes we are being invited to fall down?
One of the first and most profound things I learned with Matthew is that in order to truly be with people, to be in dynamic, you need to take a good look at yourself first so as to avoid the pitfall of projecting your own suffering on to others. We all have suffering, admittedly it comes in all shapes and sizes, all colours and textures, but there is no one of us who has not felt the sting of losing someone or something precious, who has not felt the knock to our sense of self from something we never saw coming. And so begins the lived work of the Yoga sutra:
1. अथ मोगानशु ासनभ ॥१॥
The Sutras are written in Sanskrit which is a devotional language, ‘Atha’ means now, when we explore the sutras we learn that the first word of each holds the most weight so consider for a moment the weight of the first word of the first Sutra - Now - in essence it is all there, in that utterance - Now - this moment. However because this is Sanskrit there are more layers, more depth to the moment - ‘Atha’ also signifies that we are asking for a blessing, opening the doors to be supported on this journey. The full aphorism means - Now, with prayers for divine blessing, begins our exploration of Yoga.
So we have begun.
So we must proceed.
2. मोगणित्तवणृ त्तणनयोध् ॥ २॥
yogah chittavritti nirodhah
Yoga is the stilling of fluctuations in consciousness
Or getting out of our own way for long enough that we can drop into the deep knowing, there is already enough work here for several lifetimes.
Glennon Doyle in her book “Untamed” says:
“How to Know:
Moment of uncertainty arises.
Breathe, turn inward, sink.
Feel around for the Knowing.
Do the thing it nudges you toward.
Let it stand. (Don’t explain.)
(For the rest of your life; continue to shorten the gap between the Knowing and the doing.)”
She too is living it, as we all are - you do not need to be locked away in an ivory tower of academia or living the life of a hermit in the mountains - as I mentioned before maybe you can simply go into your own kitchen and find the moon, which brings me to this weeks practice - Kitchen Asana.
It is easy to avoid practice because we don’t feel we know enough of we don’t feel we have the right props, if we are to believe the images in the media Yoga can only be practiced in beautifully maintained, pristine, minimalist spaces - not true! - Yoga is for living ‘Now’ in whatever state we find ourselves in this moment. Kitchen Asana (practicing using the kitchen counter, the kitchen chair, the kitchen table etc) is a study in working with what you have got and letting it support you, in surrendering to the truth that in this moment you are enough and have everything you need to step forward on the path.
I leave you today with last words from Annie Hickman, long time student of Mind Body Solutions. read more at the student blog:
In this time of uncertainty I have no wish to add to the noise in this world. I leave these writings for those I have shared Yoga with, so our community may continue and flourish - as ever take what you need and leave the rest...