February 6, 2012

A Taste of the Yoga Sutras, Part 2. ~ Camella Nair

As part of her work connecting yoga and food, Camella Nair has created a 12 week course that pairs Patanjali’s yoga sutras with the everyday life activity of feeding the body.  In this series for elephant journal, Camella provides readers with a short version of what she addresses more deeply in her course.

Lesson 2   2:2   Samadhi-bhavana-arthah klesa-tanu-karana-arthas-ca

The Practice of Kriya Yoga attenuates the obstacles and promotes Samadhi

A wise man said that all paths lead to the same goal and that the only difference between us is the time it will take and our experiences along the way.

When the penny drops on that concept it really does rock our universe so that we really cannot look at life in the same way ever again. It is sometimes referred to as a second birthing, one of a more spiritual nature. We wake up and recognize we are actually not the center of the universe after all but just a small cog in a rather big wheel. Like a wheel that keeps on turning, everything in matter keeps on changing and this change is really the only thing that we can be sure of.

Spirit or consciousness is the only ‘thing’ that is unchanging and does not have any agenda or conditional requirements. It is no-thing if you can get your head around that.

But what does consciousness look like? And how can we know what that is?

To discover that we need to prepare ourselves for a mystical voyage, but for this trip we don’t need a suitcase and a passport … or do we?

Our previous life experiences map out the direction we chose to go in for this lifetime before we were even born, and we could consider that all those life experiences from the past are contained within our individual ‘suitcase’ (mind) as a series of interpreted experiences.

Wow that would surely impose a hefty excess baggage fine!

Imagine every memory, every experience, and even the ones we don’t want to think about, all stuffed inside the suitcase of our mind. We may think that they are ‘out of sight and out of mind’ but that is just our inability to recognize that, just because we don’t see them does not mean that they are not having an effect upon our subconscious mind, and therefore our life.  The sadhana or spiritual discipline could be looking at areas in our life where we are confused, overwhelmed, or out of balance, so that we may become clear.

Clarity of mind is something that can be developed with self-discipline and self-awareness. We looked at this concept in the first lesson (sutra 2:1) where Patanjali tells us in a nutshell what Kriya Yoga is all about. (self-discipline, self-study and attunement to indwelling reality)When we understand that symbols have an effect upon our mind (remember the lemon from lesson 1?) we know that we just have to change the symbols within our mind to open and expand our consciousness and find clarity.

Let’s take a step back for a moment to remind ourselves what main obstacle is in the way of us attaining Samadhi or self-revelation.

We are! Or rather our ego sense of self is. We could see this false sense of self as a sticky web that we have woven about our true higher Self. This higher Self is typically incubated so far away from our waking consciousness that our interpretation of what we see in the mirror is distorted and this affects how we relate to life circumstances and people generally.

I am a mother, teacher, American for example.

Our astral suitcase gets heavier and heavier so that it tips the scales from ever being able to ‘take off’ in a conscious spiritual direction. But being ‘grounded’ for a while before we prepare ourselves to take off is not a bad thing. It gives us time to develop the patience necessary to prepare ourselves for our soul journey. It is no longer an option to be on the runway of life and have to turn back because one of the engines has failed.

As we take a look at deepening our yoga practice and extend it off of the mat, it can be overwhelming. What should I do first? Be a better person, protect the environment, teach my kids the value of life, and understand yoga philosophy? My goodness! Enough pressure to get back on the yoga mat again and stay there mystically speaking.

Don’t worry, we really can make progress off of the yoga mat and I think it begins with finding clarity of purpose. And in that clarity, we realize it’s not about saving the planet or the spouse or the kids, but about finding the sweetness in life.

To get a better understanding of the sweetness, we can relate this philosophy to the principles within Ayurveda (the sister science of yoga)

Recently I was looking at some spines in a yoga workshop with my asana teacher Kim Schwartz and noticing the differences between a vata, pitta and kapha spine.(ayurvedic  constitutions), seeing that actually the kapha spine is the most healthy model. Kapha can be thought of for now as sweetness, and so we need to bring some sweetness into our lives to help us find enough clarity to progress on our path.

Our sweet tooth can be satiated in many ways and the healthiest approach would depend upon our constitution. Here are some very general examples but you can research more online or in books for your specific constitution and imbalance if you know it.

Vata type ( thin bones, wiry frame, scattered mind) could find sweetness in taking some  grains like basmati rice and oats, nuts and dairy products like raw cow’s milk, yoghurt and ghee as well as brown sugar, honey or dates.

Pitta type (medium bones, medium frame, opinionated mind) could find sweetnesss in taking in a medium amount of grains such as basmati rice, oats, coconut or pumpkin seeds, butter , milk and maple syrup

Kapha type (large bones, large frame, gentle mind) probably only need a little sweetness found in cornmeal, rye cereals and udon noodles, sunflower seeds, ghee and raw honey.

The sweet (rasa) taste is the heaviest and moistest of all six tastes and so it really helps us to feel satiated. The journey ahead may be arduous and long and we absolutely need to feel that it is ok to be where we are now. Everyone, I was taught is really doing the best that they possibly can with the horizon of awareness that they currently have.

Let’s get to the passport that I mentioned earlier on. It’s a strange world that we live in that creates boundaries but nonetheless, it is our passport that allows us the freedom to move about the world. Just like the border control agents that scrutinize our passport as we go through customs, it is important to understand some of the Sanskrit words in these sutras because they don’t really have a directly translatable English equivalent.

Kriya comes from the root ‘Kri ‘which is the same root for karma. A Kriya is a volitional, conscious, spiritual,engaged action. We could think of our Kriya passport as a monitoring system or an account of what we are currently doing. Just like a passport we keep it somewhere safe before we leave on our trip, and when we get there, yet it is essential whilst we are traveling.

Clarity;   what are you doing to find clarity in your life? Yoga asana, meditation, being in nature and journaling might be examples.

Sweetness: what are you doing to bring sweetness or sense of satiation into your life so that you don’t get easily discouraged? You could look at many areas here including what foods you are taking in that fall into the sweet category.  An excess could indicate trying to find satiation outside of yourself due to feeling “unsatisfactoryness” or dukha (Patanjali mentions this later on). Being more patient and non-judgmental are good attributes to develop.

The wise man may tell us that our experiences along the way and the time it takes are individual but isn’t that everything?

We really are not here to suffer but to enjoy life to the fullest and be content knowing that we are moving in the right direction. If we have clarity and sweetness in our life we can be sure of that.

Prepared for elephant journal by Lorin Arnold

Camella Nair is an ordained Swami in the Kriya Yoga tradition and has been practicing yoga since she was 17. She has written two books on yoga as well as an online course on the yoga sutras which is part philosophy and part cooking (http://www.cookingtheyogasutras.com/). She lives with her two teenage sons in Northern California.

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