alert to contact
The other day I was walking down Main Street in Venice, on my way to catch a few waves at one of my favorite spots. A woman glides onto the sidewalk right in front of me, emerging from a nearby studio, aglow in the way that only comes from a great yoga class. Prana was radiating from every pore. She was embodied, balanced within herself, and at the same time, witnessing from somewhere beyond the body. She paused and looked around at the brilliant California afternoon, taking it all in with delight and welcoming.
I recognize this state because I have experienced it thousands of times, and I perceive it constantly in the people I practice with. We’ll chant in Sanskrit, and at first, it is just saying some weird nonsense syllable; then for a moment, we become the sound, become the hum. We’ll flow through asanas, and initially, there is some awkwardness as the body finds the pose, then we go beyond being in a posture, we become the flow. We pay attention to the breath in pranayama, and at first, there is separation. I am focusing on the breath. Then we merge, and for a flash, become the prana. We lie down in shavasana, and at first it is, whew, then lots of thoughts, then somehow for a moment something dissolves, and there is just the witness. Just a sense of the subject, the one who is witnessing.
Life seems to be an asana flow of separation and union on many dimensions.
over the decades. Go practice asana, pranayama, meditation, shavasana, and then emerge an hour later renewed and ready for life.
She just spent 90 minutes or so tuning in to the flow of prana in her breath and muscles, then lay in shavasana for a few minutes, savoring. Now the motions of everyday life seem like an extension of the flow of asana.
often practicing yoga often takes me there. It happened in my first meditation and consistently over past 40 years.
Brides look this way, and surfers stepping out of the ocean. Drenched in the ocean of love. There is a subtle shift in perception. Something is added. A sense of communion. I am me, I am witnessing. But it is not just a cold witnessing. Not just mindfulness. There is a spark of something.
One of the sacred functions of yoga is to prepare us for action. In the famous passage from the Bhagavad Gita (2, 48), Krishna says to Arjuna: Yogastah kuru karmani. Established in yoga, yogastah (also spelled yogasthah), perform actions, kuru karmani.
It is interesting to look at yoga as tending to a series of relationships. In asana, we give attention to our tissues and joints, and in pranayam, to the flow of breath. When we practice, we bring our attention to and intimate with the elements of life. intimate communion with life’s essence.
This is Sutra 83 of The Radiance Sutras, a dharana on contact:
Everyone knows, there is me,
And then there are all these others.
This is common to all.
Lovers know, there is me,
And the source of this me
Is ever mysterious.
Each contact with another
Is a spark of the Divine.
Lovers move through this world
Awake to intimacy,
Each touch a revelation
Never to be repeated.
grāhyagrāhakasaṃvittiḥ sāmānyā sarvadehinām |
yogināṃ tu viśeṣo ‘sti sambandhe sāvadhānatā ||
Subjects and objects and bonding, Oh My!
grahya – that which is grasped, objects; grahaka – the perceiver, grasper, the subject; samvittih – awareness, consciousness; samanya – common, in common; sarva dehinam – in everyone; yoginam – yogis, those who practice yoga; visheshah - differentiation, distinction; asti – there is; sambandhe - with regards to relationships, connections, bonds; savadhanata – attentive, alert, mindful, heedful, careful.
Most literal translation: “Object-subject consciousness is common to everyone. Yogis are exquisitely alert and attentive to this relationship.”
The first time I read this, in 1968, it sailed over my head. Maybe I absorbed it diretly through my skin. This is something that happens as a side-effect of a good practice. It is not something you do as you walk around.
Then I thought it was boring. Too abstract. But the practice – we are all always doing the practice in some form, or, NOT doing it. Not paying attention.
Swami Lakshman Joo “The contact of objectivity and subjectivity in yogis is divine. They remain fully aware in each and every act of this daily routine of life.”
Alert to the texture of each relationship, each bond.
The practice is not specific to any situation, we are called to notice the subject-object relationship itself.
The play and interplay of separation and union.
practice pages: meditation by dr. Lorin Roche