For us all, before clear and pure understanding can be held, the cloudy water must be lovingly tipped out of our cup.
Feeling good originates from the energy flowing freely in you, then the same begins to happen in life. The breath moving unimpeded from the navel accesses your vital energy, while awareness steers the direction of your actions and thoughts.
Holding the point of awareness in the present moment of each situation is a fine path to walk, so fine in fact that in yoga sometimes it is referred to as the Razor’s Edge. Staying with this fine point allows things to flow optimally, making everything very alive and stimulating, ever new, ever changing. Ultimately more unified and more enjoyable. For this to happen the awareness needs to be sharp, alert and present but at the same time be relaxed, steady and comfortable. Ready to act, while at the same time willing to let go. When the mind gets too close to what is happening it becomes tense and hinders the ability for the awareness to spread. Going the other way, too complacent and it easily drifts off into an unconscious state that is not present, feeling a bit bored or disconnected.
Several times I remember talking to my yoga teacher before class and his focus would be on our conversation but he was always aware of who walked through the door. At the time I thought it a little odd that he wouldn’t hesitate to drop our conversation, look up then continue and so on. Later I realised that he was training me to spread my awareness, not getting to close to things and losing sight of the bigger picture.
Unlike mainstream culture, the foundation of spreading the awareness isn’t concerned with getting things right or wrong, instead allowing more space to appreciate the process of learning and improving. It makes sense that in order to sustain something it needs to be comfortable and manageable, from there you can develop it over time without excess pressure. It is a natural progression, just as being able to hold good posture supports sustaining a balanced breath, which in turn allows the mind to remain more present.
Common sense tells us that over doing it in one area leads to neglecting another area. Each situation has a certain amount of slack or elasticity before things start to collapse. Like a circus performer keeping the plates spinning on many sticks, continually having to spread the awareness, tending to all the plates without getting too preoccupied with one particular plate. Finding a rhythm amid the balancing act, allowing the experience to become quite playful. Through awareness of the overall picture, equilibrium is maintained. Aligning with a more realistic approach allows one to get better at playing the game, without identifying with the results of the game.
Widespread today, and amplified through social media, is the importance of external appearance. As with anything it is wonderful to maintain things and have respect for them, as long as you don’t get too close and start to identify with it. This can easily become a trap that over time leaves a person feeling more insecure and needy of attention. One example of this is overdeveloping the outer muscles of the body to present a certain image. Given the nature of muscles is to contract, the larger the muscle the more tension is carried in the body. This restricts the flow of energy, making it harder for the breath to move unimpeded, hindering the expansion of consciousness and awareness. Going the other way, it is important for a person to have a certain amount of strength and stamina to comfortably do what they need to do. The essence of this is in the ability to continually go back to the next breath.
It is lovely that so many people nowadays are wanting to feel alive, sharing in the infinite shapes and movements of their body performing yoga postures. One of the ego’s favourite things to do is to give it a nudge for the sake of an audience. This adds a tricky element, as opening the body too deeply in some areas relative to other areas results in parts collapsing and becoming unstable. This ultimately has a jamming effect on the movement of energy. Thankfully when guided by the ability to sustain a complete, deep breath the tendency to go too far is dissolved, as you begin to experience that nothing looks as good ongoing as feeling good. Having a balanced amount of opening in areas is wonderful, preventing things becoming too rigid and set in their ways, whilst being more able to flow with unexpected changes.
As in life and in yoga, when you can appreciate both sides of the coin a more balanced approach develops and over time this is continually refined. Too much focus on chanting can leave a person a bit airy and dismissive of the practicalities of life. Going the other way a shortage of time in the space of the heart and life becomes a bit dry and superficial, making it hard to accept the other person’s situation.
Excessive time spent in the mind and a person becomes too intellectual, over thinking things, leaving them unable to switch their mind off and let go. Whereas people that can’t use their minds to focus and hold the point often find themselves drifting into a grey area and losing direction.
An over the top amount of seated meditation and you become insular and removed from the point of integration back into the tempo of day to day life. In contrast, an inability to sit still and become familiar with letting go of all the thoughts, makes it hard to have peace from the external world.
Always having to be doing something leaves a person depleted and their mind restless. Alternatively, through a lack of action, procrastination sets in, wasting too much time thinking and talking about doing things.
An extreme amount of talking and socialising results in a lot of energy going out and the breath becoming short. Whereas, not enough socialising and face to face communication can leave a person feeling a little lonely and isolated from life.
While all of these things can assist greatly and enrich a person’s life, the balance point where it can go from an asset to a liability is the essential component. Becoming more conscious of this middle path really leads to more love and respect for one’s self and for life. Less trying to control or preempt what is happening and more breathing and feeling into the present moment. Yoga trains the attention to see what is happening right now! As the intelligence sharpens it becomes easier to honour the truth and reality of the given moment or situation, thus unifying behaviour and thought with ‘what actually is’.
This is a beautiful point, where a person surrenders to the bigger picture of life. Recognising that the Shakti or life force that is in all forms of creation is ultimately responsible for what is happening. Always there to support and guide, keeping us on our toes and even humbling us when required. And realising that in actual fact we are just passengers on the bus, privileged to be given a ride without the pressure of holding the wheel.
In yoga there is a perfect expression that sums this up “chasing the Shakti” (staying with the energy). This involves continually valuing the joy and freedom that lives in the present, appreciating that it is really a futile battle to try to resist the present moment. All the techniques of yoga are there to take you to this point of unity and need to be able to be let go of for the sake of following the Shakti. After all we are only using the techniques to connect with the Shakti or life force, so eventually everything is a state of yoga or union. We experience this every time a class starts and finishes when we chant a couple of Om’s. Everyone’s sound merges together creating one unified sound that is not separate. Ultimately yoga is showing us that all things are merging in OM, universal energy (sound vibration) and intelligence (consciousness).
So what better direction to be moving towards than the point of holding onto the awareness of the present moment. As fine as the Razor’s Edge may sound, don’t be disheartened! Vast is the comforting love and support of those yogis who have walked this path and catalysing is the contact with the yogis who continue to walk this path. Their presence connects a sincere student back to the freedom and understanding that is forever within as the Self.