This Mortal Coil

Dear Friends, 

I got nothing today. I’m uninspired. Let me open a Yoga book and see what pops up. 

From my notes in the margins:
*Yoga as a reaction to the practice of manipulating the physical environment for sense gratification e.g. sacrificial offerings for boons

A boon is a thing that is helpful or beneficial. 

Alrighty, if you’re interested read on. 

Way back in the Vedic period, c.1500-500 BCE, ancient people in South Asia were practicing a highly ritualistic form of religion often involving animal sacrifice to the gods in hopes of receiving some very specific outcome (e.g. do xyz in a very specific way and if you get it right and if the gods accept your gift, you’ll bear a son.) 

Yoga was in its infancy at this time and a radical, fringe practice to boot. In fact, Yoga developed in opposition to these dominant beliefs. Yoga is not about doing a specific set of things exactly right in order to get something from the world.

As codified by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras sometime between about 200 BCE and 500 CE, Yoga requires the practitioner to understand that no earthly boon will ever bring lasting pleasure, so let’s be done with these rituals and instead practice to calm the fluctuations of our human minds, reduce our fruitless grappling to manipulate our environments, and get on with the practice of transcending such an anxiety-causing way of life.

I’m sure you’ve heard this one before. It comes from the Christian lexicon in the book of John, c.90 to 100 CE: it’s the whole deal about being in the world but not of the world. It applies here. 

So I took the note: Yoga as a reaction to the practice of manipulating the physical environment for sense gratification

Yoga as an antidote, perhaps, to flailing about trying to get the world around us to give us what we want. As an antidote to consumerism, believing that buying that new thing is going to gratify my senses which is going to finally, finally make me happy. An antidote to taking more and more from the earth in a way that harms the earth and us along with it.

In any case, Yoga as a thing that’s been honed for thousands of years by people dedicated to getting real and getting honest about the human experiences of pleasure and pain and true freedom in this lifetime (or one of the next ones, as the system assumes reincarnation.)

Fundamentally, Yoga is a practice to actively do so the practitioner can experience existential relief and true freedom for themselves one day. True freedom that’s not based on belief. True freedom that’s based on personal experience. Yoga is experiential. Like I said, it’s a practice to actively do. (It’s not all yoga poses, mind you. These are what we do to be comfortable in our bodies so we can hear our minds with less distraction.)

At the end of my classes I’ve started saying to folks “Thank you for practicing Yoga,” because I think Yoga is something important. And as we shuffle towards the end of this mortal coil, I think Yoga is something important worth doing. 

My love to you,