The hardest part of practice seems to just getting started; getting through the dross of unnecessary thinking, laziness, unfeelingness, and reactivity. Once past the initial denying forces to practice, one tends to naturally “get in the spirit” and become exhilarated, delighted, and with any luck, even rapturous.
What is used to get through the dross of ordinary life? What does a life of practice call for?
In Yoga sutra 2.1, a threefold outline to the practice of Yoga as a conscious lifestyle is given – ‘Tapaha svadyayaeshvara pranidhana kriyayogaha’ is a transliteration of which there are several different translations.
One way to translate it is:
‘Burning zeal in practice, self study/the study of scriptures, and surrender to the Divine are the threefold aspects of the Yoga of skillful action’. While it is not really possible to effectively talk about one aspect without the other two, this blog is mainly discussing the first aspect of instruction from the sage Patanjali. Tapas is the word used – fiery, intense, joyful, and fervent practice. Being full of zeal and spirit. Enthusiasm!
What is enthusiasm in the context of ‘skillful action’?
The passionate attitude to stop doing that which you know ought not do, and get busy doing that which you know you ought to. I am aware that this is not easy, especially with the self-deluding justification that in a “non-dual” Reality, “there is no thing that ought not be”! Which is True of course – and at the same time when asserted by a mind/body that has habituated self-destructive and other-destructive patterns, it seems like a ‘spiritual blanket’ to cover oneself with rather than to admit the ruthless truth.
What is enthusiasm genuinely expressed? Getting busy doing what I know I ought to
Shows up as:
- doing what is wanted and needed in the situation I find myself
- maintaining a healthy diet
- attending to my intimate relationships
- celebrating the life in and around me through meditation and/or self inquiry
What is neurotic, habituated enthusiasm? Staying busy doing what I know I ought not do
Shows up as:
- frequently calling for attention, “Look at ME!”
- distracting myself daily from doing what is wanted and needed with: substances, stimulations, and behaviors that over-excite the mind/body
- using up all my attention feeding the aspects of my life that break down relationship
- passionately talking within my “ingroup” about all those “outside”; gossiping
- Being unnecessarily proud of myself for doing the right thing; always wanting the credit
What is this ‘skillful action’ in Yoga that we are to be enthusiastic about? Kriya and Karma are two words which the Yoga tradition uses to teach about action. Both words mean ‘action’ though the context in which the action takes place is radically different. One tends to usurp enthusiasm for to keep the human mind/body sleepily habituated and the other serves to leverage enthusiasm for the betterment of self and other.
***The following example is a dramatization and does not reflect the views and opinions of the Lords of Yoga. Let it be known that there is no dignity in the ongoing allowance of verbal, physical, and/or mental/emotional abuse.
Karma is a deep and mostly unknown field of physical, metaphysical, and Universal laws. A simple way to grok it is: ‘Action that necessitates reaction’. Take the example of an intimate couple fighting and one of the two resorts to intense name-calling, “You know-it-all, selfish, pig nosed creep!” The offended party then relieves the tension of that experience with some type of habituated unconscious reaction in the form of words, behavior, ruminating, chronic substance consumption, and the list goes on.
The part of the story I miss when I spend up my intense conviction destroying your opinion of me, ruminating over what you said, and/or having 6 drinks to forget your obviously skewed perspective, is that by unconsciously reacting to the experience the way I have done so many times before, I am setting up the necessity for more action, namely for the same experience to happen again. I know it seems backwards, and with any honest self observation, we can see and feel the truth of this dynamic.
Kriya is a deep and mostly unknown field of physical, metaphysical, and Universal play. A simple way to grok it is: ‘Action that necessitates no reaction’. The same intimate couple is fighting: “You know-it-all, selfish, pig-nosed creep!”, and instead of reacting, the second party refuses to be offended and accesses a passionate interest in what is being said.
Instead of firing back at you with my well rehearsed proof that, “I am none of those things and it is indeed YOU who possess the nose of a pig!”, I relax. I remember that this is a feeling Universe and if I have any chance of extricating myself from the hells created in disconnected projections and murky misperceptions, it will require that I look ardently into what is happening. I might find that what is wanted or needed is sympathy or empathy. I let you know that I to know what it feels like to be in relationship with ‘know-it-all, selfish pig people’. I might even get earnestly interested and ask myself, “how is this true of me?” “what have I done lately that could be perceived as know-it-all, self-ish, and having the nose of a swine behavior?”
What is interesting about this choice in action, is that it not only tends to cut-off the necessity for further slighting and breakdown of the relationship, it seems to be the very fire required to step further into the other aspects of the of the threefold Yoga of ‘skillful action’. Namely self-study and surrender to the Divine.
This is but one example of the fruits of a passionate Yoga practice. There is quite literally no end to the self-improvement and success available when one chooses to enthusiastically engage the path of Yoga as a conscious lifestyle. Time to get started!
By Brent Kuecker: Yogi. Musician. Educator
Join me at Udaya Live, Yoga and Music festival this Summer in Borovets, Bulgaria. Ignite your enthusiasm and joy for life with the ever expanding Udaya family. Share your genuine heart for practice and celebration. Deluxe accommodations, high mountain peaks with rapturous views, farm fresh food, world class Yoga, music, dancing, a conscious celebration of life!