Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Not knowing and being OK with that

In yoga inquiry there is often no hard and fast answer. Where should I be feeling it in this asana?  Where is my Muladhara chakra? What should my asana look like? As teachers we should not and indeed, if honest, cannot give the student the answer to such questions. This is a conundrum for the student who really likes to have a definitive answer.
Where should I feel this? I don't know, where do you feel it?
Photo credit: Still from David Garrigues Asana Kitchen
Upa Vista Konasana on You Tub

Travel has a way of getting you out of your comfort zone, into confusion. And out of all of that comes growth and new understandings. It throws a light on the culture we are visiting, but that then reflects right back on the home culture and then on being human itself. We never know what insights will come. We just travel, experience and later reflect.

Upon my return from India last month a friend asked if I would be writing about the experience, and I responded that I had to let it all settle and filter through first. It's happening.

Being home all the stuff of life and work begins to happen. Now though it is all filtered through the screen of the travel experience.

As Westerners we seem to want definitive answers to everything. And of course we are also very swayed by the findings of Western scientific method. Which is great, my western mind just loves it when there is a definitive answer to something.  Having lived a few decades I also have been around long enough to know that there are fields where science had definitive answers yesterday that turned out to be not so definitive at all. Woops! For instance, what we once understood to be the "best diet" (low fat) is now challenged by new research, and we are all confused!

That might be annoying if we are sincerely trying to eat in the most healthy way, and how dare they change their minds, and what is the right answer anyway?

But confusion is great. Fabulous.
Confusion precedes growth.

As Westerners we are also very keen to manipulate nature whenever we want to achieve a desired outcome. When I am in the garden I will pull and hack away at anything I didn't invite or didn't want to grow that big or in that place.  And if something is in the way of the new scheme, then it goes.  Call me heartless!

My Indian husband is much less inclined to rip things out, like when we were extending the house, he was very upset when a mature hibiscus that was under the footprint of the extension, was ripped out.

And I have to say, while there are many examples of cruelty in India, in a deep cultural sense there is a cultural disposition not to kill. For example, instead of culling stray dogs, they tolerate them roaming in packs, howling at night, and posing a threat to their wellbeing. I've seen trees literally growing through buildings, trunks and roots inserting themselves into walls. In the west the tree just wouldn't be tolerated long enough for it to become an integral part of the building.

Yoga grew first in an Indian context, so when reflecting on Indian culture it can become a reflection on our experience of yoga too, perhaps there are insights here. The very first thing Patanjali would have us observe is ahimsa, not harming. So I need to reflect on what my weeding and hacking in the garden is really all about, in the light of ahimsa. Should I let the sword fern crowd out, choke and hide the other plants I lovingly put there, or accept living in a honeysuckle jungle? Because to control them requires harming some kind of life.

You can see what is happening though can't you. My western mind wants definitive answers. I want to know. I want a definition. I am thinking I don't know enough because these confusions and conundrums are present. Limited knowing, hello!

If we move this onto the mat, if I am confused, and I am asking, where should I be feeling this (asana, chakra, kosha), what should I be looking like, where should my hand be in this asana, I am looking for definition where perhaps there is none.

Rather, we need to let go of a need to know definitive answers to everything, to recognise the kanchuka of limited knowing, turn the other way and follow it home, simply explore and uncover, what is.