I have a clear memory of our dear teacher Tiwariji when he was preparing for a lecture in France a few years ago. The host had put out an arm chair for him in the middle of the room, right in front of the curious group of students. The arm chair had an unusual shape. The legs were quite short and the cushions big, fluffy and soft. Tiwariji was about to sit down when he misjudged the distance from where he were standing to the seat of the chair and kind of dropped, or fell, into the fluffy cushions with a surprised look on his face. He mumbled quietly to himself: “Experience…”
We experience life.
All day, all the time, the familiar and the new.
As yogis we try to actually be there for the experience and the change. We try to be the neutral observer where there is no labelling of what the particular experience mean to you. Instead just paying attention to how it feels in the body, what it does to the mind, to our emotions and so on. The good and the bad.
I have ideas of what I like and don’t like. It’s for instance easy to like the yoga practice when everything feels good. When the body is rested and responds and the mind leaves you alone for a moment. When every movement is being welcomed by happy arms and legs. When every lift and transition feels like moving through clear water. Weightless. At those times I can do yoga practice forever.
Then at other times I’m there on the mat (I know I’m there physically because I can see my hands in front of me and feel them on the rubber surface) but at the same time the mind acts like it’s an alien to the whole thing. I cannot feel the connection to my moving extremities. It’s like my head is floating like a Helium balloon over the floor, pulled away by the slightest amount of sound or wind. At those moments I might be fighting tiredness, heaviness, doubt, pain and all the rest of it.
I’m working on trying to treat these two moods, or any mood in fact, with the same respect. And I’m amazed by how something so simple as stepping your right foot forward still can be felt and perceived in so many different ways.
Then another memory comes to my mind. It’s from a conversation with one of our other supporting Teacher’s, Steven Smith who has been a sincere Buddhist practitioner within the Theravada Tradition for most of his life. The topic was about discomfort in the seated practices. Something practitioners of meditation experience all the time. His only response was:
“Stay and observe.”
“But it’s so unpleasant…”
“Aha! And what is so bad about unpleasant?”