Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"One thing I know..."

Happy Holidays! Please accept the gift of this post.
“I’ll tell you one thing, Franny.  One thing I know. And don’t get upset.  It isn’t anything bad.  But if it’s the religious life you want, you ought to know right now that you’re missing out on every single g_d_ religious action that’s going on around this house.”
~J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zoey. Little, Brown and Co. 1961 p. 196

What a great time of year this is.  The days start getting longer, people are in good moods.  We get to spend time with family.  We give thanks and concentrate our thoughts on others.  We give to charity. We worship.  In short, we are actively engaged in Karma (selfless service) and Bhakti (intense love) Yoga. 

These practices are much more efficient than our Hatha or even Raja Yoga practices.  For Hatha, we need a mat, space, and time to work our bodies and breath into various positions.  This is only a preparation for Raja Yoga, where we still the fluctuations of our mind through intense meditation.  This takes time and, in the beginning at least, solitude. Raja Yoga is also preparation—reaching the goal of Nirvikalpa (or Nirbija) Samadhi, the yogi can operate in the world with no attachment, assisting others to achieve this state (Karma Yoga).

For those of us who have cultivated a disciplined Hatha practice, we must always remember that we are only engaged in preparation; that we do not spend so much time with the means that we forget to work towards the end.  We can become very attached to our practice.  We may define ourselves by our physical abilities: I can jump to handstand, I can drop back into a backbend from standing (this one is most certainly not me!), or I can hold my breath for a very long time.  And if we do define ourselves by and attach to our Hatha practice, we may become distraught when our practice schedule is interrupted.

But we have to accept that we will not save the world or ourselves by standing on our head, jumping back to chaturanga, or bending more than 180° forward.

We have to remember that BOTH practice AND detachment are required to still the mind (PYS I.12).  When we serve others, help others, put others ahead of our selves out of love and without expectation of rewards, we are cultivating detachment.

“…but if you don’t realize that the only thing that counts in the religious life is detachment, I don’t see how you’ll ever even move an inch. Detachment, buddy, and only detachment.” (198)

During this holiday (whatever holiday you celebrate) season, we are blessed with the opportunity to practice detachment.  I’m not giving you a free pass to bag your hatha practice for the next two weeks, but I do encourage you to see all the opportunities that you have to practice every day, every minute. 

At the end of the Season, our practice will be to remember that we don’t have to wait until December to practice selfless service. 

Many thanks to Mr. Salinger, whose character Zooey has offered me inspiration these twenty some years.  Taking spiritual advice and instruction from a literary character?  Why not?  If the door is open, walk through it.

Even more thanks to you, Dear Reader, for accepting these offerings.

Happy Holidays!  May you be blessed with health, happiness, and prosperity!

In Gratitude,

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