This is a print I made in Provincetown in August. It is Ursula, but I’m afraid that she might not recognize herself here. I’m a complete novice at printmaking but I was very pleased with this image.
I’ve been thinking about the concept of Isvara pranidhana, the 5th Niyama of Patanjali’s yoga sutras which means, roughly, turning towards god/ light/ energy of the universe.
I know nothing, absolutely nothing. It’s a train wreck. We could be kind and call it beginner’s mind. I get up in the morning and chant the opening mantra, honoring Patanjali and all the teachers who came before me, illuminating the path. But attention and focus are still scattered. It is much easier in the classroom to achieve the meditative precision that a good practice requires. What would it take to achieve that focus in my home practice? What difference would that make in my life? What if I hone in on that instead, clarify what nourishes and detracts from that. Isvara pranidhana might happen of its own accord, like experiencing the body of light on the acupuncture table, finding that clarity.
Angela Jamison writes this on her Insideowl blog:
“Either way, here’s a secret. Even if you experience torrents of compulsive internal talk, your verbal-analytical stream really can grow quiet. Why do you think the ancients bothered with this stuff? Practice can give you a fully functional off-button for the sound of the voices in your head. And not just by accident. There are purifications and techniques that summon stillness.
I’m not sure how many yoga practitioners actually know this. It takes strong concentration, a long attention span, and people who can tell you what to do because they’ve been there. There is not intermediate series. Oh sorry, advanced series. Come on, dear hunters of pigeon, duck and that mythic pair of one-footed-crows. EXCITE ME. Is it not time to get some pose santosha and kick the mainline practice up to the next kosha?”
So there are purifications and techniques that summon stillness, but it requires concentration, attention and a teacher. Angela herself is a dedicated practitioner with what she describes as an above average fascination with asana, so none of this is dismissive of devotion to the physical practice.
Of course. How silly of me. I’ll get to work on that now. Just as soon as I quit a few minor addictions and learn how to focus on my mat, at home alone. It starts with turning off the external distractions during practice, but there are internal distractions aplenty. I am afraid. Afraid to change, afraid of what the cost might be, not sure I want to pay it. But what of the cost of not kicking the mainline practice up to the next kosha? Last year I wrote that the body of light that I envisioned on the acupuncture table would have to wait for now. My excuses grown thin. Here I am chasing the jump through, the elusive binds, the handstand, and all of those things are lovely and worthy goals, but in the long run they are child’s toys. There is larger quarry to hunt.