Steep in Your Yoga.
You can’t make tea by dipping a tea bag in hot water. It has to steep first, for some time. Then, the essence of the tea leaves and the water become inseparable. Just as the strength of tea is proportional to how long the leaves are steeped in hot water, the strength of yoga is proportional to how long you sit with the intensity of your practice.
As beginners, we are exposed to new knowledge, and get acquainted with the superficial aspects of the practice. We hear words, but they are simply representations of what lies at the causal realm.We must first steep ourselves in the knowledge we obtain—experience it fully—before the wisdom of our practice becomes inseparable from our being.
In order for knowledge to work for us, we must apply it to experience.
We often hear and repeat aphorisms as they relate to a given situation, but when those situations actually happen to us, we are forced to move from a representation of knowledge into experiencing that knowledge in the causal realm. Superficial knowledge prepares us for a method of understanding an experience should we encounter it. Then our understanding moves us deeper as we witness this knowledge in the causal and experiential realms.
We are told “The candle flame is hot,” but until we hold a finger above the flame, and feel the heat on our skin, we’ve only understood a representation of that knowledge. After burning our finger, we have experienced the candle. The flame is hot. It can burn.
When we gain experiential knowledge of a candle flame, and become accustomed to using candles frequently, we become steeped in the knowledge that, “The candle flame is hot.” This leads to knowledge of proper wick length, safe candle holders, appropriate candle placement, etc. This is a very rudimentary example.
At the physical level, movement through such layers of knowledge can happen quickly. We have many effective learning tools:
But deeper, more complicated philosophical knowledge is different. We may hear and even convey knowledge without ever having experienced the first causal layer of it. Or we may feel that we have experienced the full spectrum of knowledge when we have only scratched the surface. Being steeped in even the most simplistic things can lead to deeper understanding.
For example, a very helpful piece of experiential knowledge that comes from yoga practice is an awareness of the breath. Most teachers remind their students to “stay with the breath” or “focus on your breath” or simply “breathe.” When such a simple cue is followed over time, students learn to keep their mind in a place of inner calm by remaining aware of the breath—that remaining with the breath and keeping your awareness inside is knowledge in action both on and off the mat. Such a simple aspect of yoga then becomes inseparable from one’s practice and eventually one’s day-to-day living and the student moves into a higher level of understanding.
Even when knowledge becomes familiar, newness can continue to unfold. I encourage every student of yoga to sit with something they know extremely well. Investigate it with a childlike curiosity. Allow it to feel new to you, and experience it for the first time again.
Steep in the waters of your practice.
Scott Kilpatrick is a Senior IT Systems Engineer by day and a certified RYT 200 teacher at night. Steeped in the knowledge of meditation, pranayama and yin yoga, Scott credits yoga and meditation as the secret to his career success. He considers the exploration of one’s own being to be the single most important aspect of life. Scott is a dedicated father, husband and yogi, and when time permits an avid kayaker and freelance writer. You can find more of his work on his blog,www.thoughtsonyoga.com.
Editor: James Carpenter
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