Presence in Practice

From:  Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras:

PYS 1.12:          abhyasa-vairagya-abhyam tan-nirodhah

In Devanagri:      अभ्यासवैराग्याअभ्यां तन्निरोधः

Pronunciation:  abhyāsa-vairāgya-ābhyāṁ tan-nirodhaḥ

Idea:  The fluctuations of the mind cease through the dwelling in yoga and detachment. 

During a recent conversation with a dear friend I became upset and said many regrettable things.  Try as I might to fix it, it cannot be changed.  I’d like to take my words back, but I can’t.  The first of the yoga sutras calls our attention to the moment we turn our attention to yoga.  On one level, the entire text is summarized in that call to the power of our attention.  In practice I found the potency of practice isn’t initially in the focus itself, but in our ability to turn our attention back to our chosen point of focus when it has wandered.  In other words, choosing to turn our attention to practice is a powerful choice. Through our choices our lives are built.  Between each sentence of this paragraph, thoughts of the relationship arises.  Mid thought, I catch myself and return my attention to the sutra about which I intend to write.

As I sit down to write this, the disruption in my relationship haunts me.  In regret I continue to mull the past.  I assess and reassess.  He is not a forgiver; I think.  Neither am I; I think.  My attention flickers to avoiding any place I might run into him.   That would be very inconvenient.  I’m also not sure that it would be the best choice.   I finally decide that it is time to accept that the relationship will never be the same again.  Perhaps, I think at this point, it will be better in some way that I do not understand.  No, perhaps it’s better to avoid.  I grow tired of the fluctuations of my mind and turn my attention to the task at hand.  Writing this post.  My attention turns towards yoga. For a moment only. 

I am attached to what I want this relationship to look like.  To avoid the relationship entirely is to stay attached to what I think it should look like, which, truth be told, was the problem to begin with.  It’s my responsibility to be present to what exists, spaciously.  Not gritting my teeth and enduring, but allowing deep acceptance of how things are, and allowing the transformation that occurs when I get out of my own way enough for the situation to become spacious.

Abhyasa has two flavors   It refers to dwelling in the illuminated consciousness that allows us to see everything clearly and with love (the state of yoga).  It also refers to consistency in practice.  We take aim at a desired state of mind.  We develop spiritual muscle by continuing to turn our attention to the practices which nurture that state of mind, with consistency and discipline.  When I choose to honor my commitment to practice asana (postures) 5 minutes a day, I build spiritual muscle.  When I resist the urge to quit practicing and go have a snack, I build spiritual muscle.  When I forgive myself for skipping practice and show up the next day like I never missed a day, I build spiritual muscle.  Abhyasa, as consistency, is about building spiritual muscle.  In the long run, this is cultivating the strength to live in alignment with our inner truth.  Every time we choose to practice, we are choosing to align with our inner truth rather than external demands.  Through practice, living in our inner truth becomes a lived reality. 

Detachment is a practice of staying aligned with our inner truth, rather than allowing ourselves to be absorbed or repelled by a circumstance, object or person.   As I write this, my attention turns back to the situation with my friend.  The spiritual muscle of Abhyasa provides the strength for me to turn my attention to this article.  As I begin to consider detachment I understand what love would do in the situation.  Before I contemplated detachment, I thought only of what I thought I should do.  But in detachment my heart tells me – Your job now is not just to be present …but to be present in LOVE which is the willingness to be shown what “presence” really is.    Which might just be another way of saying being shown what friendship really is.

Through this we come to know what love really is, and what love really is, yoga really is.

Practice Possibilities;  Honor your commitment to be present in your practice in whatever way you have committed to and for as long as you have committed to practice that way.   Allow love to unfold in your life by exploring the spectrum of avoidance, presence and absorption in your relating this week.  Taking notes will help you remember what transpired.

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