See?

A good eye...Silver Lake, Los Angeles, 2013. Photo by Kathleen Garces
A good eye…Silver Lake, Los Angeles, 2013. Photo by Kathleen Garces

I like this photo a lot. It looks like a diorama, something staged, but really I know that Kathleen has a good eye for finding meaning in things – which I like very much. Naturally I also like the Charles Bukowski quote, “Find what you love and let it kill you”. Certainly, for an artist this seems to be the myth or romantic idea. It may be an unpopular sentiment to think about yoga this way, but the image spoke to me at this time because I’m always questioning what I am doing and what my motivation is. It can be hard to really “see” things as they are. To see where we actually are. To be honest about what our challenges are at this moment – and not to be distracted by all the usual things – ego, feeling appreciated, the idea of “advancing”, of learning something new.

Apparently Charles Bukowski’s gravestone reads, “Don’t Try“, which he explains as:

You don’t try. That’s very important: not to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It’s like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks you make a pet out of it.

I can read this as prepare yourself, and then wait for the right moment to arise. It’s not sitting idly, but sounds as if the action is swift, when it does happen.

I had a good lesson recently; someone asked me simply,”See?”. I understood that I did in fact see, but I hadn’t trusted or acted on that seeing appropriately. So it is like that bug on the wall, but I didn’t see to either slap it or make friends with it. It’s possible to wait too long. Which, come to think of it, is perhaps a lesson that I’ve had before, however this time it was more clear to me.

I think that in waiting for the right moment to arise we prepare ourselves by seeking to understand who we are. It is impossible to act unless you know who you are and what you want. This is what yoga teaches. It’s possible to practice, even for many years without really knowing who you are. I also think that maintaining a devotional framework in yoga practice is what teaches us who we are. Maybe this is the root of devotion, a questioning of “who am I?” People often assume that I am very devotional, but, in fact I work at it a lot.

I was reflecting recently on how to help students relate to the outward symbols, an altar for example, and I came across Swami Vishnu-devananda’s words, which help a great deal:

For yogis there is no one to thank. That very god you are thanking is within you: you are that God. Because we have not reached that stage yet, we place the Supreme Being as an external object to be worshipped. But when you worship the Supreme Being externally, you should not forget that God is within you. That God is not the astral body, God is not something unique. He is not different from any of the activities that are going on in this world. Nor is He merely a spectator of these acts. He is the performer, the actor, the director, in fact, there is nothing but Him. By Realising, we come to know that God is everything. He is the indweller of all, shining equally within all of us. Sarvam Vasudev Idim – seeing that God in Everybody – that is the best way to thank God, seeing God in all. That is why yogis give thanks by seeing God in everyone; small, tall, king or peasant, sinner or saint, mosquito or moth. All are nothing but Brahman, God. That is the highest state. That is the goal.

So when we look at an altar, there may be various objects, murtis or statues, images of the divine. Each one is actually us. If we choose to worship outwardly a form, we are choosing to take an aspect of ourselves outside and to worship that. And when we look at an altar, what we are really seeing are many possibilities for ourselves represented. All of them positive. And this is seeing.

Altar in Swami Visnu-devananda's cave in Gangotri
Altar in Swami Vishnu-devananda’s cave in Gangotri

Pranams,

jjz

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