Yoga allowed me to see more clearly.
I didn’t even know how distorted my vision had been.
For all of us, yoga has the capacity to clear the lens through which we are seeing. We become lucid. How we see and what we see becomes beneficial to humanity. In fact, the Rishis, whose visions were lucid and timeless, were called the Seers. From their clear-vision (clairvoyance) the Upanishads – or divine poems – arose. (Rishikesh, the birth place of yoga, is named for the Seers.)
First, consider this:
How we’re now seeing may not be recommended (though we might not know this).
Our mental conditioning is so deeply patterned, we are often trying to see Life and Yoga through our Western lenses.
If we do this, we will continue seeing things the way our Western minds do. Through our mental conditioning.
A hint about conditioning:
we’ll know we’re in conditioning when there’s a sense of dichotomy, with people, perspectives, and goals.
(Yoga doesn’t translate as Dichotomy. It translates as To Yoke, to bring things together, unity.)
With people, dichotomy shows up as the sense of self and other. This has deeply infiltrated our conditioning and our history for hundreds of years. (This causes the sort of in-fighting that is painfully evident all around us, and has been.) With this dualistic thinking, hierarchy is woven into our cultural tapestry, and lives within us. We raise some people up, we diminish others. We raise up aspects of ourselves. We hope to hide other aspects. We dehumanize and de-spiritualize. Our ‘Self’ easily becomes a commodity. Others become resources to be acquired or discarded. Aspects of ourselves that we feel will keep us safe are prioritized in order to move toward the goals of our conditioning. We present these aspects to the world in an effort to acquire more love and belonging. Aspects of ourselves that we fear could cause alienation, rejection, loss of inclusion, or loss of place/status/position are suppressed.
We lose sight of the indwelling, shining, awakened, clear heart. Those bright beings in whom we feel this shining (today and in history) weren’t especially endowed with this grace. They simply weren’t blocking it with conditioning.
(read on for how this inspires me about the eclipse!)
Be Awake, Anthony de Mello
“If it is love that you truly desire then set out at once on the task of seeing, take it seriously and look at someone you dislike and really see your prejudice. Look at someone you cling to or something you cling to and really see the suffering, the futility, the unfreedom of clinging and look long and lovingly at human faces and human behavior. Take some time out to gaze into the wonder of Nature, the flight of a bird, a flower in bloom, the dry leaf crumbling to dust, the flow of a river, the rising of the moon, a silhouette of a mountain against the sky. And as you do this the hard, protective shell around your heart will soften and melt and your heart will come alive in sensitivity and responsiveness. The darkness in your eyes will be dispelled and your vision will become clear and penetrating, and you will know at last what love is.”
Dichotomy in perspectives shows up in black and white thinking: Good and Bad.Desirable and Non-desirable, Right and wrong, Past and Future, Forever and Never. When we live with these orientations, we create the conditions for suffering;craving and aversion, grasping and resistance. We are unable to see clearly. We collapse into false perceptions of ourselves and others. People and events become a product rather than a process. (I am [this way]. You are [that way]. I am [good] when I do this. I am [bad] when I do that. This [always] happens to me. That will [never] change. You are [worthy]. You are [not worthy].
We lose sight of the actual bio-psycho-physiological reality that we are all a process unfolding, emerging, dissolving, rising, and fading. We are in process. There is no “period’ at the end of this sentence. There is no one decimal point on the timeline of our life that we can hold on to. It is fundamentally all ephemeral, ever-changing, and ever-fresh. At times, our conditioning, our darkness, will obscure our radiance. At other times, our radiance may shine through. It may seem spontaneous, yet there are interpersonal brain processes occurring that light this up. Understanding this is the path of awakening.
*The Blind See, Anthony de Mello
“Your attachments: You will inevitably look for what fosters or threatens them and turn a blind eye to the rest. You won’t be interested in the rest.
Your fears: This is what fears do; they irresistibly rivet your attention on to some things to the exclusion of others. You falsely think that your fears protect you, your beliefs have made you what you are and your attachments make your life exciting and secure. You fail to see that they are actually a screen between you and life’s symphony.
It is quite impossible, of course, to be fully conscious of every note in life’s symphony. But if your spirit becomes unclogged and your senses open you will begin to perceive things as they really are and to interact with reality and you will be entranced by the harmonies of the universe. Then you will understand what God is, for you will at last know what love is. “
We don’t actually need to be goal-oriented in a dichotomous way (as we are here in the West), through striving, competing, winning or failing, gaining or losing. So many mystics have pointed to the process of profoundly deep relaxation, about ourselves and life. This is a path to realize the flourishing of the inner intelligence trying to make its way through us. However, the number of mystics is far fewer than the numbers of sales people (points of view, products, goals, destinations, dogmas, paradigms…). All of these “products” slip through our fingers in the flowing nature of life.
We lose sight of our instincts for collaboration, camaraderie, companionship, and compassion.
We lose sight of that immensity which is benevolently, non-divisively, non-judgmentally trying to care for us as an aspect of the divine natural world. When we separate ourselves from this, we create the conditions for suffering: ignorance, ego, craving, aversion, and fear (the kleshas).
Why Does the Eclipse Inspire Me?
A Time to Understand Darkness.
A Time to See That Which Has Been Shining All Along.
Feel the larger pulse of life, in you, surrounding you.
Remember that this vision is emerging not as a single moment in time, but through a flow of continuous moments.
Before the moon begins to obscure the sun, feel your body.
Notice any sensations of anticipation.
(Perhaps delight, while you await an auspicious event.)
As the moon begins to obscure the sun, feel your body again.
An object is about to move in between you and a source of immense radiance.
This object is neither good nor bad. It is impersonal.
It is not doing something to you.
The moon has no ill-will. No good will.
(Perhaps, as the mystics say, none of what has happened to you has been a personal attack. Perhaps it has been the continued, sad lineage of human ignorance.)
Relax your body and mind. Soften.
Observe without anticipation or expectation.
Observe without grasping.
You are not in charge of the timing. You can’t slow it down.
You can’t halt it.You can’t speed it up.
You can be present with it moment-to-moment, as its ephemeral nature is going by.
(Perhaps, as the mystics say, freedom is “nothing to hold on to”.)
As the moon further centers itself over the sun and darkness comes, feel your body again.
Feel yourself experiencing this while millions of others simultaneously pause in silent awe, in darkness.
Darkness has obscured our radiance throughout history.
(What power there would be in collectively sensing this!)
Conditioning has blocked our clear seeing.
Its residue is in our bodies. Its patterns have become convincing by repetition.
We’ve passed this on through generations.
(Perhaps, as the mystics say, freedom is “experiencing what is**”.)
(**Even though human darkness existed before we were born, it is still our responsibility to understand it. It is our awakening to recognize when darkness is moving in us, when it is blocking our ability to see clearly. May we not be distracted by denying, blaming, separating, polarizing.)
As the moon obscures the sun, feel your body again.
Feel your body’s response to the darkness. Imagine the distance between you and the moon. The moon and the sun beyond it.
An enormous stretch of time occurred before you were born, before you read these words. Another infinitely enormous stretch of time will go on after this eclipse and beyond your life span.
How would you like to live while you’re here? How might awe in the face of darkness (ignorance, ill-will, conditioning, separateness) shift your relationship to it?
As the moon begins to shift out of the sun’s center, feel your body again.
What happens in you as the darkness, the halo, and the artistry unfolds?
What happens in you as the radiance returns?
In these moments, fleeting and precious as they are, feel your body again.
Remember, our planet is moving through space. We’re revolving. We are not standing still!
This is a contributing element to the entire process.
With deep respect for the difficulties that darkness reveals to us, we ask “How shall we now evolve?” “What revolution is needed?”
As the radiance of the sun shines again, unobscured by the moon, feel your body again.
This radiance, too, is impersonal. It is not singularly choosing you to shine upon. Nor is it excluding any one.
It is also finite (its life span may be beyond that which any of us can imagine, but remembering this finite nature can increase our gratitude for its existence today).
Journal Questions for the Eclipse:
Second road sign: Be Careful! Dropping Your Narrative Can Scare You (or Others)
This may be perplexing to you (about yourself or someone else)… even when offered the chance to give up our conditioning and rest in the love and belonging that wants us to know itself through us*. We may become more attached to the narrative we’ve been telling ourselves. We may become timid, cowardly, or aggressive,. In the presence of awe, sometimes we tremble yet it is also in us that we can dwell in awe.
*As once the winged energy of delight
by Rainer Maria Rilke
English version by Stephen Mitchell
As once the winged energy of delight
carried you over childhood’s dark abysses,
now beyond your own life build the great
arch of unimagined bridges.
Wonders happen if we can succeed
in passing through the harshest danger;
but only in a bright and purely granted
achievement can we realize the wonder.
To work with Things in the indescribable
relationship is not too hard for us;
the pattern grows more intricate and subtle,
and being swept along is not enough.
Take your practiced powers and stretch them out
until they span the chasm between two
contradictions… For the god
wants to know himself in you.