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A moment of silence please today for the worlds loss of the beloved BKS Iyengar. "Discover what does not die, and the illusion of death is unmasked. That is the conquest of death." –BKS Iyengar (1918 - 2014) ॐ
“…the Real Self is dangerous: dangerous for the established church, dangerous for the state, dangerous for the crowd, dangerous for tradition, because once a man knows his real self, he becomes an individual.”
"There is nothing wrong with shedding tears for ones we love, but we must know for whom they are shared–for the loss of those who remain and not for those who have departed." –BKS Iyengar
Please take a moment of silence today for the worlds loss of the beloved BKS Iyengar(1918-2014).
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” –Anaïs Nin.
Two years ago, my adventurous, soul-seeking self took a pilgrimage to India. This was my second time to the the sub-continent of contradiction and sensory overload. The first time twirled me around and spat me back out in America after three weeks, smelling like incense, with a pocket full of rupees, and turmeric stains smeared on all of my belongings. The large bag of turmeric, which I smuggled home for future culinary pursuits, exploded in my bag on the 17-hour plane ride. India quickly taught me the meaning of the “cosmic joke.” Despite my misfortune, I was not deterred by my yellowed belongings, nor was I by my lingering digestive problems that haunted me for months.
As a gemini, who has little tolerance for complacency, I returned to India a year later. This time, I left with what I coined “a no-plan-plan.” A “no-plan-plan” was absolutely nonsensical to my American-Jewish family, as was the thought of me spending up to a year in the exotic land of India (of all places). When I broke the news to my grandmother that there were, indeed, no Jewish delis in Delhi, I was sent on my way with less than a blessing. Like many soul-searching westerners, who had paved the trail before me, I travelled with the intention of “finding myself.” However, I had a very vague idea of what this actually meant.
India has a divine way of guiding you to where you need to be; it teaches you to surrender to the lila, or the cosmic dance of life; to the inexplicable; the horrific; and the divinity that resides in everything and everyone. Soon after I arrived, I danced my way to Dharamsala, India; the home of His Holiness, The Dalai Lama; where I started working as a journalist for a Tibetan refugee publication. During my time there, I had the privilege of attending darshan with the Dalai Lama, at his temple in McLeod Ganj. In one particular dharma talk, he spoke about the importance of maintaining a beginner’s mind, and told the following fable from the time of the Buddha:
Once upon a time, a clever king invited several people blind from birth to visit his palace. He brought out an elephant and asked them to touch it and then describe what the elephant was like. The blind man who rubbed its legs said that the elephant was like the pillars of a house. The man who stroked its tail said they elephant was like a feather duster. The person who touched its ears said it was like a winnowing basket, and the man who touched its stomach said it was like a round barrel. The person who rubbed its head said the elephant was like a large earthenware jar, and the person who touched its tusk said the elephant was like a stick. When they sat down to discuss what the elephant was like, no one could agree with anyone else, and a very heated argument arose.
“Bhikkhus, what you see and hear compromises only a small part of reality. If you take it to be the whole of reality, you will end up having a distorted picture. A person on the path must keep a humble, open heart, acknowledging that his understanding is incomplete. We should devote constant effort to study more deeply in order to make progress on the path. A follower of the Way must remain open-minded, understanding that attachment to present views as if they were absolute truth will only prevent us from realizing the truth. Humility and open-mindedness are the two conditions necessary for making progress on the path.”
I tucked this well-known fable into my back pocket, as I was not fully ready to recognize the true meaning behind it. What does it mean to have a beginner’s mind? I wrote this question on the first page of my journal, and I looked at it every day for months. I thought about this question as I meditated in silence for ten days; I thought about it as I trekked the highest mountain passes of the Himalayas; I thought about it as I met siddhas, or divine beings; I thought about it as I watched deceased bodies float in the holy Ganga river in Varanasi; I thought about it as I completed my first 200-hour yoga teacher training; and I thought about it in every moment I learned something new, which fortunately coincided with every breath. Yet, I still didn’t have the answer.
My ego was still inextricably linked to my accomplishments and what those accomplishments meant to the outside world. I wanted everyone back home to know that I was on a spiritual quest, that I was studying yoga, that I was a strong woman traveling solo, that I was constantly meeting and seeking my edge, and that I was eccentric beyond measure. What I was completely blind to at the time, was that my ego was barricading my personal growth.
As most India travel stories go, I found myself severely ill from a bacterial infection. Only then, when my ego burned in the agni (fire) of my own body temperature—of my own karma–did I realize that I must surrender my attachments to my present views and my image to have a beginner’s mind. Agni doesn’t always form from the involuntary act of a fever or illness and usually takes great will to ignite; however, we need that spark of fire and determination, or tapas, to purify the body and mind to prepare for an act of surrender.
In The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali describes this act of surrender as Ishvara Pranidhana. Ishvara is a Sanskrit word that translates as supreme, or personal, God. Pranidhana means to devote, dedicate, or surrender. In the practice of Ishvara Pranidhana, if we are able to completely surrender our individual ego identities to God (our higher self), we will attain the identity of God, or Atman. The act of surrendering our ego—letting go of all we think we know—is not a one time or easy fix. We must do it again and again as we are presented with new information, teachings and wisdom. The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know; it’s the imperative of learning.
A beginner’s mind contains the mutual relationship of tapas(purification) and svadhyaya, a means of self-reflection through which we come to a deeper level of self-awareness and self-understanding. By cleansing the mind and body, tapas makes us fit for svadhyaya; by examining ourselves, svadhyaya helps us to understand exactly where we should direct our practices of purification. In our relationship between purification, self-examination and surrender, we create the space and tenacity to learn, grow and evolve.
I am confronted with my own ego every time I learn something new that contradicts what I think I already know. This is extremely prevalent in the world of yoga. There are many lineages of yoga and countless ideas of how something should be, look or feel. Often, I replace new ideas for old ones, and sometimes, I prefer my old concepts over newly learned concepts as my truth—my dharma; the choice is the seeker’s. What’s important, is to view each person we meet as a teacher—as a mirror that reflects our own light—to remain an open heart and mind to the wisdom they share, and to recognize that our capacity to learn is never full.
“We explore duality to better understand and find deeper Union we all so seek. Through our body, breath, our thought we are merely tuning the instrument of our soul for greater awareness of our relationship to all.” –Yogi Casino
/// Come share your practice with yogicasino today this SUNDAY/MOONDAY at TRIO YOGAMiami 6PM. Also, checkout our new Saturday 6PM class . Find out more here.