Hello, fellow yogis engaged in self-study!
This week my notes are about the first 4 chapters of Living Your Yoga by Judith Lasater.
Whether we seek something called spirituality, holiness, or enlightenment, the route to it is through our humanness, complete with our strengths and our weaknesses, our successes and our failures….
To practice yoga in the deepest sense is to commit to developing awareness by observing our lives: our thoughts, our words, and our actions.
In order to cultivate spirituality Lasater suggests the strategy of adopting an “abiding practice” in which we combine a pose (an action) with a mantra (a deliberate thought). For example, combine tadasana (mountain pose) and the mantra, “I commit to living my life fully at this moment.” If you have a particular spiritual direction, you can combine an action or asana with a short prayer. This way we bring in mindfulness to our actions. We abide and stay with the act instead of rushing to completion. I am particularly guilty of rushing through tasks I don’t enjoy like washing the dishes or folding laundry. Next time I’ll try to add a mantra and see if that helps me stay in the moment, maybe even appreciate the moment.
Do what you can do fully.
Patanjali describes this as abhayasa, which comes from the Sanskrit roots of abhi and as, and means literally “to apply oneself.” From this viewpoint, all of life is practice. Practice is not about what you get, it is about what you give. Whether you are driven or resistant, the medicine is the same: do what is truly possible with unwavering commitment to giving your self to the moment. Without this intention, practice becomes another task to be completed and it loses its ability to transform. And transformation, or freedom, is the reason for all discipline.
Lasater’s strategy to cultivate discipline involves making a list of things you want to do, choosing one and devoting 15 minutes, every day to that task, whether it is writing a book, meditating, blogging, playing an instrument or sewing. Honor your choice. After you have done this for a month, review yourself. How are you doing? How do you feel?
I unknowingly followed this technique when I started blogging. Small consistent steps. It became a habit, like my childhood journaling. And has led me to be more comfortable with my voice. I also tell myself “I have all the time to do what I want.” This reassurance helps me feel less rushed and behind. Discipline is certainly an area I continue to work through. I find I can focus on one intention at a time. For now, for me, it is writing every day. I would like to add meditation and yoga every day. I save that struggle in discipline for another time, soon.
Letting go involves cultivating perspective, a release of control and expectations.
Patanjali’s “detachment” beckons you to cultivate the willingness to surrender as you go along, right here and now, but not because you despair or are uninterested. On the contrary, detachment requires total engagement. When you allow yourself to see things as they really are, then– and only then– can you love yourself and others without hidden expectations. Detachment is the greatest act of love.
This is a familiar concept in many religions that require a submission to the divine, the relinquishing of the perception of control. When you find yourself struggling, Lasater’s advice for letting go is to shine a spotlight of awareness on the attachment, instead of trying to detach. This attention allows us to loosen our grip and weaken its power over us. Staying in the moment, without control and expectation, is a difficult task. Often when in a group, I will deliberately relinquish control of the situation, whether it be choosing the restaurant or a movie, for me prioritizing being together over asserting my want or authority helps. I try to notice when I want to interrupt a conversation or offer uninvited “help.” Especially as a mom, I find the balance between letting go and active direction difficult.
The grip of self-judgment can be suffocating. Yet, we are all guilty of it. I liked how Lasater explains the compulsion to self-judge as a form of egoism.
….there was no way that I could be harsh towards myself and, at the same time, be compassionate to others. I realized also that the process of silently putting myself down was actually a form of egoism.
If you expect more from yourself than from others, you are saying that you are better than others and , therefore, must perform at a superior level. I do not mean that you should not set goals for yourself. Rather, the quesiton is, how do you react if you cannot meet these goals?
Lasater suggests that as we engage in a difficult task, we tell ourselves “I am attempting something difficult, and I appreciate myself for trying.” This way we release expectations and enjoy the process of learning or trying something new. She has other suggestions too, for example, taking a break from criticizing anyone, including ourselves for an hour a day.
During my day, I try to notice these topics and look for opportunities to use a few of these strategies. None of this is easy or automatic, I suppose that’s why yoga is a practice. A lot of practice.
How did you feel about the first four sections? What resonated with you? What practices do you find most difficult? Are there other strategies that work for you?
Excited to hear your thoughts,