I took a yoga class today and the teacher talked about how we are each: an archer, aiming for what we want to become; an arrow, the thing that is moving towards the target; and the target, that which we are aiming at becoming. I’ve always found this idea beautiful. The tension between the three subjects and the unity of them feels true to my experience of transformation. In honor of this metaphor, I’m going to write three posts that will focus on how to embody each aspect of this classic spiritual triptych.
So I haven’t posted in a few days 14 to be exact and I am working on a response to a great question asked of me, but it won’t be ready today so instead I give to you, one answer from my Yoga School application. I know it’s kind of cheating, but I think it was illuminating for me to read what I wrote here and I hope that it helps you as well. I think it applies to almost any situation we find ourselves in that asks us to be a student.
What are 3 aspects of being a student of yoga that are important, and why?
1. It’s important to watch the mind that grasps for achievement – The western mind can be, by virtue of the society in which it was raised, a bit competitive. I know that I have had the competition bug in me and that it can come out no matter what I do. This can happen in yoga just as much as anything else. I want to have perfect form, I want to be more flexible than others, etc. etc. There is nothing wrong with wanting to study and practice with skill, because without any determination I would drop any practice as soon as it got hard. What I have found is that I must expect to lose myself in the effort, rather than gain a new sense of self through it.
2. It is important to let go of preferences – I think this is true in all aspects of life, but especially when being a student. Each of us can get a certain idea in their head, about how things should happen. The mind believes that if it can think about something enough and set up a model it will prevent suffering and death. In truth these ideas are what lead to suffering in the first place. I know that when I set my preferences and opinions aside and become open to what is happening, that I learn more about myself and any practice I engage in. Holding my preferences lightly and also respecting my own boundaries allows me to stay in the realm of learning with my whole heart. This is a practice I engage in at all times, but I think is essential to keep in mind when studying yoga.
3. Remembering to be present in the body – Meditation, zazen, yoga and many other similar practices are often thought to practices of the mind, but they are practices primarily of the body, or more correctly the mind body. I have a tendency, born of my study of western philosophy, to think of the mind and body as separate. I often tend towards the superiority of the mind over the body, a sort of mind over matter attitude. This way of thinking is not right view. The mind and the body are not two things. To hold the mind and the body upright are holding one thing together. I think I always have to remind myself to be present in the body rather than to try to think my way through something.