Everything is Consciousness - Caitanyam Atma - (Shiva Sutra 1.1) Or - like it said in my catechism when I was a kid - "Everything is God and God is Everywhere".
But - in the midst of the Absolute - foaming up out of it - the relative arises. The relative is hierarchical and full of difference. To whit:
Yesterday I had great talks with 2 Yoga teacher friends. Both are senior and certified practitioners and long-time teachers. Both are really rooted in their practice and study.
One of my friends is a devotional type.....a Bhakti for sure, whose core practice is chanting and Puja.This friend is almost 70, has a solid asana practice and does not have any attitude that I've ever heard her express that her path is the best way. It's just her path. Her age is a big factor in this inclusive perspective. She has grown into it.
My other friend is really insistent about asana and has a slightly militaristic tone about it - like we should all be warriors of asana. This friend is 39. It's an over-simplification, but for the sake of this post I'll say that her path is more the path of action or karma yoga.
(I am a pretty even mix of Karma and Bhakti. I love the devotional practices and chanting and so on - and I always have. And I am also a very physical type and always have been....in asana and in my work as a body worker, and in my propensity for movement (hiking, biking, swimming, etc). My weaker link is in the intellectual study - the path of Jnana Yoga. And consequently it is no surprise that I have signed on for such a long haul of study with Paul Muller Ortega. That has been a deep dive into my mind for sure. Just what I need to strengthen where I'm weak).
Anyway - given my orientation as "body-woman" (my family teases me with that title) it kind of surprised me to realize that I had begun to feel annoyed with the fundamentalist tone of my "adamant-about-asana" friend. I've told her so. And I'll tell her again. We have that kind of honesty in our friendship.
Age is part of the point I'm making in this post. This friend of mine who is 39 has a central practice of and passion for Asana. And that is fine. I get that. I respect that. But it seems to me that she has gotten a little fundamentalist - like EVERY Yoga practitioner who is worth their salt (or sweat) should be doing lots of it, with great vigor and fire and frequency, if they are really on the path.
Well......OK. I do think we go to sleep in our bodies. And just working our comfort zone in our asana practice is a way of forgetting. Not having a "map" that we can access for our inner body, or back body, or subtle body (not to mention our musculo-skeletal body) is a form of sleep. An asana practice that takes one to one's edge - out of one's comfort zone - is important and is a way of self-remembrance. I agree. I just think my friend loses sight of the fact that it is not the only way or the best way. It is the best way for her for now and it will change over the years in ways hat she can't really know ahead of time.
I remember Raobert Svoboda saying that the "big" asana poses in hatha Yoga can be a distraction. Can be....that's a key phrase. He didn't say they are a big distraction. It depends....on things like age and so on.
Which leads me to another point. We don't know what we don't know. When I was 40 or so I think I must have sounded a lot like my friend and nobody could tell me different. "Body Woman knows best!" But now I am in my mid-50's and although I do have a strong asana practice, I no longer have the same perspective and orientation to asana. It is different - and it is still a source of animation and awakening.
So - still I know that I don't know what I don't know. It hope for the great good fortune of a long life - because of the simple fact that getting old will teach me a lot of that which I can't know until I get there. (I remember thinking I could & did know. I remember counseling a client in my Chinese Medicine and body work practice to do something that I assured her would only take 10 minutes a day. She looked at me sharply and said, " My dear, you have NO IDEA how many
10- minute things we old people are counseled to do in any given day." )
Everything is Consciousness - All way lead to God - in the end. Judging from my Yogini friend in her late 60's and from wise elders I know or have known, it seems that as life goes along we grow into a more inclusive perspective. On the way to that perspective is a proliferation of difference - the relative world in all it's colors and flavors, full of difference.
I like the following story of difference in the yoga-myth world:
Gorakshanatha – founder of Hatha Yoga – came to Karnataka, a state in India that is home to deep devotional practices of chanting. Gorakshana had attained the Vajra power (or siddhi) of diamond body through his long practice of Hatha and Alchemy. He was adamant about the practice of hatha Yoga and not surpsisingly he had an adamantine body to go with his adamant perspective.
Gorakshanatha challenged the leader of Karnatika – Bhasavanna -(a Bhakta or devotional Yogi) to a contest.
Bhasavanna was given he first "turn". He struck Gorakshana with a sword and nothing happened. Then it was Gorakshana’s turn. Gorakshana’s sword went right through the Bhasavanna – and also nothing happened. Bhasavanna body had been transmuted to pure consciousness– through the power of devotion.