For all of you who are spending time at David Life and Sharon Gannon’s house in Woodstock this summer, a little Public Enemy (and Anthrax) to get you primed, ‘cause this is what you are going to hear. To my students, don’t worry, no PE in class, although I can’t promise not to slip in a little Gorilla Biscuits or Minor Threat between Krishna Das cuts (but no Shelter or Youth of Today. Never. Ever.).
Public Enemy and Anthrax, "Bring the Noise"
An advanced practice found deep in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika is Nada Yoga, listening for the unstruck sound. At its most basic, the practice is listening for and attuning to the natural vibratory sound of OM in nature. The problem is, we are constantly assailed by a lot of noise. Some of this noise is external: cars honking during savasana, people talking during class (inside and outside the space), music which does not agree with you, the constant yammer of the instructor, etc. These cause perpetual distraction—the noise is bothersome and we can’t do anything about it so we are bothered further. Soon the focus has shifted from practice to distraction. Other noise is internal. The mind runs wild. I’ve got to do this, that, and the other today, I don’t wanna, I can’t. Usually the negative opinion is the loudest. Sometimes the worst offender is “I can.”
Before the e-mails start coming in, let me explain a bit. I fully agree with every guru, mental health professional, and lifestyle coach that a positive mental attitude equals success and longevity. I often quote Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are correct.” What we have to be watchful of is the origin of “I can.” All too often it comes from the ego, which is what leads us into trouble.
Just because you can, does not mean that you should. Going lower, deeper, faster, more because you can, does not mean it is always the right thing to do. This practice is not a contest.
If practice and detachment are the means to still the fluctuations of the mind (PYS I.12), then discrimination (viveka) is the barometer, the scale against which we measure our practice . In order to establish what is to be practiced and what is to be detached from, we must approach our practice with scientific inquiry (yoga is, after all, a SCIENCE). As we progress in practice we discover that what was once inaccessible has become accessible—contortions, sitting still, holding the breath, some clarity of mind. We have to be vigilant against attaching to and defining our practice by these items. The line of inquiry becomes: Yes I can push up from navasana to headstand. Am I doing it to be awesome, or am I doing it as an offering? Is it moving me toward stillness of the fluctuations of the mind or is it a way to show that my practice is better than yours? I learned a lesson once trying to be awesome and lowering from handstand to chin balance at the encouragement of the teacher. Almost broke my neck. Was it the teacher’s fault? Absolutely not. Mine entirely. Teacher laughed (hence no Shelter or Youth of Today will ever be played in my class). I did not, as Swami Sivananda advises, listen to “the shrill inner voice of [my] soul” which was telling me I was being a dumb a__, rather I was listening to all the noise I was bringing in my quest for awesomeness.
The challenge is to cut through all the noise to be able to hear the true inner voice which will guide you correctly. Initially viveka comes from hindsight. I did this, I injured myself or created further obstacles, therefore it does not work for me and I should not practice in that way. (I have been there with you, when the louder voice then says, well do it again. And the same injury happens). Ask yourself: How do you feel after your practice? Calm? Happy? Looking forward to the next session? Or Tired? Leaden? Aggressive? and ready for the shower?
Think about your practice. Let that inner voice guide you. Your body and mind actually do know what is right for you, if you pay attention, listen, observe, and inquire, you will find the practice which is correct for you.
Student Training Program, Session 1 is coming up soon! Check out the “Student Training” Tab above or contact me for details.