The Practice of Being Now
Updated: Feb 28, 2021
My son was home from university during the Christmas holiday period. On the morning of the New Year ’s Eve, for some reason the conversation was focus on his finance, and he started to really worry about the student finance for the next two years. So I gave him a little lecture about budgeting and drinking etc. and left the conversation.
In the afternoon we and another member of the family went for a walk. Despite the lovely coastal walk, he couldn’t stop thinking and talking about this and the rest of us got quite cross with him in the end.
My son is no yogi but, to his credit, he has meditation practice and meditates every day. I pointed this out to him and said why he cannot focus on the present moment instead of being preoccupied with his worries. Then he replied something like ‘I know , but it’s different.’
I thought this is so typical of how our minds operate. We know the principle; we know what we are meant to be doing. We ought to be here and now. But when you are worried/angry/sad about something, it’s different. It’s real. This is a real life.
Patabi Jois, who started modern Ashtanga as it is, used to say ‘Yoga is 1% theory and 99% practice.’ Most Ashtanga students understand this as ‘Yoga is not about studying the theory, but about getting on the mat every day to practise.’ I wonder if this means something a little more.
The word ‘yoga’ in the western vocabulary is almost exclusively to mean Hatha yoga, physical yoga, but in the history of Hindu tradition, the term ‘yoga’ is used more broadly to mean spiritual endeavour for the liberation, moksha. Patabi Jois, being a scholar of yoga philosophy himself, could have meant a little bit more than physical aspect of yoga practice.
Any spiritual endeavour is not about knowing what we should be doing. Not even about being devoted to your meditation, asana or pranayama practice. It’s about practising it in real life. Maybe Patabi Jois was saying that the practice is that we use our yoga and mindfulness training in everyday life situation. Especially when things are difficult.
We know the importance of being mindful. We read about the power of now. Some of us may even have faith. But when life situation happens we have a strong tendency to think ,’This is real, I have to do something about this, namely by worrying myself sick.’ even when there is absolutely nothing we can do about it, instead of living and focusing in the present moment, or leaving it to the will of God.
So back to my son and the New Year’s Eve. He managed to snap out of his worries after everybody got really fed up with him. We spent the night singing Karaoke until we welcomed 2021! (Little did we know what 2021 would bring…)
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