One day, you stumble upon a telescope.
It looks grubby and old, but it is brass and the lenses are in good condition so it will likely clean up nicely. You make it a personal project and get started cleaning it up. You polish it until it is gleaming, you notice there are a few dents but nothing much to worry about. The lenses are grubby and you take some lens cleaner to them and make them sparkle too.
The telescope is your new pride and joy. You love it. It gleams and you enjoy keeping it golden and shiny. You keep the lenses clean and you enjoy it when others ask about your telescope. When they ask how you manage to make it so shiny and keep it in such great shape, you love to tell them about the techniques you use to polish it without finger marks and how you buff it and dust it daily. They admire it too and consider doing something similar.
But what is missing here? This beautiful instrument is now in fact more beautiful than before, but it is still a telescope. For all the polishing and shining, the cleaning and the taking pride in keeping it gleaming. It is still an instrument. And an instrument ultimately has a greater purpose.
It affords a different view from our day-to-day view that is so easy to overlook. The view that has been there all along once the lenses were clean enough to see.
We love our things, we love to work to improve them and gain satisfaction from the progress and developments we make. However ultimately the shiny brasswork is a non-essential bonus.
We sometimes approach our yoga practice in the same way. We hone our body, we become accomplished in our postures and do things we never thought we would be able to do. There is wonderful value in this and it makes use feel great and can be a lifeline in an unstable world. We refine our breath and become closer to our embodied selves and find a calm we never knew before. We make our minds attentive and focused and able to stay with objects of attention for longer than before. But then what...
The view that we can find by using the instrument for what it was intended, whether we have done all of our polishing and shining, has been there all along waiting to be seen.
The ancient Yoga Sutra of Patanjali capture this idea beautifully up front, right at the beginning.
Yoga is the containment of the minds movements
(Yoga Sutra. Chapter 1. Verse 2)
So that... our perception and awareness can rest in its own essential nature
(Yoga Sutra. Chapter 1. Verse 3)
The mind containment isn't the ultimate point, it helps us recognise it.
It makes it easier to see and notice, and a certain amount of focus and experience here helps. It brings its own benefits which can be delightful - but don't stop there.
Once we have this, what remains for us to notice?
What has been here all along that we have been overlooking by focusing on the 'every-day'?
What we are seeking in our yoga practice, can't be found anywhere but right here. It is already available and present. We don't need to polish the brass to find it.
Don't forget to find that amongst your practices.
Founder of YogaSpace,
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