What do you mean by Savasana .. a student asked me this after having finished her first class with me. It got me thinking how much I assume that everyone knows this. And how much else I might be assuming and taking for granted.
I explained to her what Savasana is and why we do that at the end of class. And what one as a student is suppose to be doing in Savasana.
Sometimes in class I explain it in a bit of a dramatic way. That Savasana, or as we call it in English corpse pose, is meaning the ‘death of life as we know it’. The end of the practice, the end of life as we knew it up to that point.
“The moment of surrender is not when life is over. It´s when it begins.” –Marianne Williamson
The practice of surrender invites us to be active participants in our life, totally present and fluid with each moment, while appreciating the magnitude and mystery of what we are participating in.
It is as if we are dancing, and our dance partner is life. Each morning when you wake up you get a new invitation, to participate, to dance. We don´t get to lead, nor do we drag our feet behind. As a dance partner to life, we are asked to be vulnerable and undefended, and yet so present that we can follow the next move, wherever the leading step takes us, adding our own style as we go (sorry, dance, of course).
Life knows what to do better than we do. Our task is simply to let go and receive each moment with an open heart, and then dance skillfully with it.
The author of the book “The Yamas & Niyamas” talks about boxes for making this comparison, but for whatever reason, I have the “Russian dolls”, coming to mind instead, and for some, they use the image of an onion. Regardless of which image works for you, this guideline of Svadhyaya, or self-study, is about realizing that we all have different “layers” that makes us, well, us. And that this guideline is about getting to know ourselves, by understanding the “boxes” we are packaged in.
The yogis teach that we, at our core, are divine consciousness. But because of our upbringing, our experiences in life, and our belief systems, we have packed ourselves into these “boxes”. These boxes are things like how we identify ourselves, what we believe to be true, our preferences and dislikes, our fears and imagination.
We suffer, the yogis tell us, because we forget who we are. We think we are the boxes, and forget that we are really the Divine “hiding” inside.
Maybe I´m not the only one thinking about food when hearing the word “tapas”?! And indeed, it is the same word. In Sanskrit this word literally means “heat”. And in English the most common way to describe it is “self-discipline”, but one could also translate it as spiritual effort, change, or transformation, which might be more “enjoyable” or at least appealing for me. Transformation has for me more of a positive meaning. But as so often with both the yamas and the niyamas, this is no walk in the park, so to say.
Tapas has the sense of “cooking” ourselves in the fire of discipline to transform ourselves into something else.
Tapas is the day to day choice to burn non-supportive habits of the body and mind, choosing to forsake momentary pleasures for future rewards.
“Contentment makes poor men rich. Discontent makes rich men poor” – Benjamin Franklin
In general most of us are pretty bad at being content with what we have. We always want more, more and, then some more. Society is constantly feeding us with advertising about all the things we need to have to be happy, to show that we have succeeded, or to simply look good. The trends are changing fast and you better keep up with the latest trends so that you can prove you´re not a failure… or, is there another way?!
This guideline reminds us that we have the power within us. And that when we look outwards for fulfillment we hand over that power to something, or someone else, and that will always disappoint us and keep contentment at least one step (if not several steps) out of reach.
As long as we think satisfaction comes from an external source we can never be content.
With this we have now left the five yamas, and take the plunge into the five niyamas. As a reminder or summary if you so will, one can say that the yamas are “restraints”, or ethical practices, while the niyamas are “observances” or daily practices.
Saucha invites us to purify our bodies, our thoughts,
and our words.
Through the purification, both the physical and the mental, we become less heavy, and less burdened. As we purify ourselves from toxins, distractions, illusions, and clutter, we are more able to become pure in our relationship with each moment.
How to become pure? How do we purify ourselves? The short answer is that the steps to cleanse and purify ourselves will look different to each and every one of us. There are numerous ways to “purify the body”. It doesn’t have to be particularly complicated or weird.
Whatever form the purification takes, it always begins with an intention to “lighten the load” that we are carrying.
The last of the five yamas is a bit of a personal favorite, maybe it´s because I´m not too sentimental with stuff. I find it fairly easy to let go of things, and I believe that I´m not too attached to stuff in general.
In the book that I´ve been using to base my classes on, called “The Yamas & Niyamas” by Deborah Adele, she uses the comparison of aparigraha to our breath. And encourages us to “trust life like we trust the breath”.
If we could take in all the nourishment of the moment and then let it go fully, trusting that more nourishment will come?
Besides the interpretation of nonpossessiveness, one can also think of it as nonattachment, nongreed, nonclinging and nongrasping. Or put slightly differently, but as I´ve chosen to put in writing in one of my tattoos: “let it go”. But of course, as with so many of these guidelines, it´s a lot easier said than actually done. Cause it is so easy to want (and expect) the same satisfaction, the same acknowledgment, the same fulfillment from certain things over and over again. Continue reading “Aparigraha: Nonpossessiveness”
To understand the concept of “nonexcess” perhaps it can make sense to look at the opposite first, when we are in excess, when we are “over-doing” it, whatever it might be. There are a number of different things that we can overdo, some of us are perhaps overdoing one thing, some of us are overdoing more than just one. We can be overdoing food (top ranking of foods that we often overdo are sugar, salt and/or caffeine, strangely enough, not that many people seem to be overdoing lettuce), exercise, entertainment, sleep, sex, material possessions, alcohol and on and on.
In yogic thought, there is a moment in time when we reach the perfect limit of what we are engaged in. It is this moment of “just enough” that we need to recognize.
If we take food as an example, we gain energy and nutrition from the food that we eat, up to a certain point. When we pass this point, and continue eating, the food is not bringing any more energy, instead we begin to feel tired, drained. The nutrition from the food becomes excessive, and either we simply get rid of it through bowel-movement, or it is being stored as “energy-reserve” (meaning fat) in our body.
Stuff does not get any easier. This is a challenging one for sure, and I think that we are stealing much more often than we might think we are, and no, I´m not accusing you of stealing things from friends´ houses, or shoplifting. For instance I am referring to all those times we steal the “spotlight” from our friends, or the people we randomly are having conversations with. When we “take over”, and the conversation all of a sudden is about us, instead of the person who was talking. Or perhaps we steal from others by simply not paying attention to them, when we might feel that looking down into our phone is more important than the person in front of us.
In all the instances where we steal, we have made the situation about us, not about the other. Whatever words have or haven´t come out of our mouth, the intent has been to serve ourselves, not the other.
I personally love the invitation to “be a forklift”, to work on always be lifting people up. To more often ask ourselves does the other person feel uplifted and lighter because they have been spending time with us? Have we brightened their day, by taking a moment from focusing on ourselves, to instead focus on them?
When we have laid the foundation with the first of the Yamas, nonviolence, it is time to continue to build and add another layer. The second of these guidelines is the practice of truthfulness. And just like with Ahimsa, there is so much more to it, than first meets the eye.
Living our truth goes deeper than “simply” not telling lies. And we very much need to pair our truthfulness with the compassion of Ahimsa so that we are not beginning to use the truth as some kind of personal weapon, going around telling everyone “the truth”, and justifying it with “I am simply telling the truth”.
Backing up a bit though, and pondering about lies, and the reason we might have, or at least that we are telling ourselves that we have, to tell a lie. As Carl Jung writes, “A lie would make no sense unless the truth was felt to be dangerous.” Why do we lie? Are we afraid to hurt someone´s feelings or afraid if we told the truth we would not be liked or admired anymore?