After a rough day at the doctor’s office I come home to an email. Subject: Love your awesome blog! Ok. It wasn’t actually in italics, I just did that for emphasis, because I felt Great with an exclamation point. someone loves my blog. Jason Hughes lists kumaridotcalm.com in Top Blogs to Follow. Here’s the link: http://www.thesewisefeet.com/posture-flexibility-blogs/
Flexibility, the ability or quality of bending without breaking, means lots of things including (but not limited to) tolerance, innovation and adaptability. Yoga asana is bodily flexibility; action, however, is only one of four yogas of the Bhagavad Gita. The others are Raja, Jnana and Bhakti yoga. If you read this blog regularly you might be thinking, “Wait a minute, weren’t there 8 limbs to the Ashtanga ? Fair question.
Imagine the word “yoga” predates lycra crop tops and latex mats. In its original use, in Gita and sutra, in sloka and Sanskrit “yoga” might be translated as: an advaitic (non-dualistic) principle underlying the cosmos, unifying within itself both energy and matter and signifying THE way, or code of behavior, that is in harmony with the natural order. Karma yoga is the yoga of action, deeds. THE way you would act if you understood yoga, i.e. if you understood that everything – across both time and space – is not just related but connected.
The four kinds of yoga represent four pathways into the correct, i.e. effective, way to interpret the world and live life. The good news is you don’t have to follow all four, any one will do.
Think of the four kinds of yoga as four ways people commonly react to Cancer. The Bhakti yoga is the path of devotion. Many, many spiritual people try to cure their Cancer by going straight to prayer. IMHO this can be heady and deep for the person who co-incidently gets better and dangerously depressing to the person who does not. For that reason it is not my path toward equanimity. But I do understand why it appeals to the majority of people.
There’s just no evidence that dying is a sin. Some people with very positive attitudes, courage and pluck nonetheless die. Yes, even from Cancer. I hate the idea or even the suggestion of blaming the victim. Weirdly enough some people with for-shit-attitudes, anger, and exploitive personalities manage to survive just fine. Don’t use prayer as a cure but as a palliative. The point to being mindful should be to increase current quality of life. It should not be wielded as a magic talisman for extending life.
Jnana yoga is the yoga of study/knowledge. Personally I hate to make decisions without information. Yet I find studying Cancer problematic. In the beginning I use the internet where I learn Everything cures Cancer: marijuana, thyme, chamomile, broccoli, sprouts, cauliflower, sunshine, starvation, headstands, vitamin C – I figure I’ll be better in a month. Not. A Jnana yogi studies and discriminates. Knowledge, real knowledge, has to be true whether you know it or not. For example all those people who lived in the middle ages, why didn’t they have Siri? Alexa? Google? Not because the knowledge wasn’t true, only because the knowledge was unknown.
Maybe something does cure Cancer but for now all I have are ratios. If I’m told I have a success rate of 90% that sounds good, right? Imagine 100 women. Five years from now there will be 90, ten will have succumbed to the disease. Let’s make it even better. Let’s say that after surgery excises my tumors I’m at a 95% survival rate, only 5 out of the 100 women are dead in five years. What’s to worry? In a word: Hindsight. These numbers live in hindsight, not in my current reality. Right now I have no way of knowing if I will be one of the lucky ones.
Seriously. If I’m the person who won’t make it, odds don’t matter to me. The odds for me personally are always 100%. If I’m in the majority 90-95 % I have a hundred per cent chance of surviving whether I take tamoxifen or arimidex or chemotherapy or not. If I’m in the minority I have a hundred percent chance of dying. In which case, I take those extra chemicals for nothing. Along with their myriad side effects. The only way to know which group I’m in is to wait five years and see. That’s the big gamble.
You can see why Bhakti is more popular than Jnana or Karma, right? Raja literally means “king” and is usually translated as Energy yoga. In practice this means the yoga of mediation, pranayama, potentialities, thoughts, feelings, emotions, nervous systems, beliefs and things like that. In the yogic belief, energy and matter are the same substance essentially. A wall has the appearance of being solid, but inside it is filled with both energy potential and empty space, believe it or not. This is why the yogis say the world is “maya” or illusion. They don’t mean the wall is fake.
They mean the wall, the air, the stars, the sentient beings are all made of essentially the same stuff. If you knew everything was connected – you wouldn’t litter. You wouldn’t for example ignore your own foot, letting it get dirty and blistered and damaged just because it is “so far away” from you. Right? It’s connected, the same blood, lymph, muscle and fat is connected to the rest of you. In the same way treating the earth as if pollution that happens “over there” will never come back to haunt me is naive. This belief, if you accept it, is what is meant by Yoga – the unifying principle. In addition to unifying matter (my DNA gets left on everything I touch) yoga believes that matter = energy. Quite an insight from the 4th Century BC.
Vedanta is a non-dualistic belief system that everything, yes everything, even black holes – are made of essentially the same stuff. If you can wrap your brain around the idea that everything is connected you are well on your way to seeing why death is not a sin. It’s just another thing that happens. Aversion can be just as problematic as adherence but there’s enough in there to do a whole separate blog.
My point is, and I do have one, is that once you can accept that Death is normal and natural and not even evil – you can turn your attention towards living as best you can. Enjoy yourself. Don’t be afraid to trust yourself. Don’t apologize for having a life. Do what you want with the time you have because time, time is the only thing there’s going to be less of – not more if you know what I mean. And love, as corny as it sounds, love – the attracting force of universe is all what holds us together.
Now y’all play nice.