11 Jul Life is Mundane
Isn’t life boring? I mean, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes something unusual happens, planned or unplanned, and things are exciting and new for a while. But have you ever noticed that even when you go on vacation, for instance, things are still basically normal? You wake up, brush your teeth, get dressed, find something to eat, sit around, look around, walk around, find something to eat again, all the way through to dinner and teeth and sleep.
It’s not so bad, really. It’s actually quite supportive, the predictability. When challenge hits and you’ve got to go through it, your routine serves as a touchstone that keeps you grounded and sensing life in a comforting way. The sun rises again in the morning.
What’s the meaning of this?!
Sometimes I’m struck by the mundanity. Like, why is this even a thing, this repetitive nonsense day after day. Mustn’t there be something else to it? What’s the meaning in it all? Why?
There’s a yoga niyama this reminds me of. The niyamas are ways to act in your personal life to live a yogic lifestyle.
Sauca is the one I have in mind, which means purity. When I first learned what it traditionally means, I was upset. It means disgust in the body. How awful!
But dig a little deeper, and what the wise yogis were trying to get across is this: do not forget that no matter how many times you clean yourself, you still get dirty. That beneath the polish of your skin and your soapy freshness lives your gross insides, the constituents of gore. See a beautiful person standing in a field and you’re drawn to look. See a dead body rotting out there and you are repulsed.
As humans, we are bound to both of these things. Do not get caught up in the former and fear not the latter. Memento mori, but in a daily, mundane sort of way. You’re going to have to keep brushing your teeth forever. Until…you know.
Another, less macabre niyama I’m reminded of is santosha, or contentment. Whether it’s doing the dishes or exploring Machu Picchu, cultivate an attitude of contentment. It’s not saying to just be content as if it’s easy. We’re told to actively try for it. Cultivate it. Tend to it.
So first we’re told to remember purity (sauca) in that it’s a constant effort and basically impossible, then we’re told that we must practice finding contentment in that, and the other vicissitudes of life.
Tapas, svadhyaya, Isvara pranidhana
For your reference, and because the niyamas are helpful, pithy little gems, the remaining three, in order, are as follows.
Tapas: self-discipline. Practice, practice, practice. Mundane much of the time. But necessary if we’re to find any sort of emotional consistency in the disgust/contentment effort.
Svadhyaya: self-study. Study spiritual texts, which are generally about the human condition, that is to say, about you. And what’s greater than you. Which brings me to…
Isvara Pranidhana: Surrender to the bigness of it all. The God part, or the Universe part, or the Nature part. Remember to put down your attempts at control when it’s apparent it’s out of your hands.
There you have it, one of the many ancient Top 5 listicles from the yoga tradition. I hope it helps you as it helps me, if not as hard and fast rules to live by, as a reminder that we’re all human and it’s always going to be up and down and mostly kind of uneventful and guess what? It’s always been that way for us humans. There’s nothing wrong with this, and in fact there are ways to work with it. That’s what yoga is for, anyway.