AYS convention 27, 28 , 29 th of July 2018
My wife Josselyne and myself were delighted to be back in Birmingham after so many years and dumbfouded by the beauty or Woodbrooke and the kindness of its staff.
First class. Friday evening.
The first encounter with the 80 or more participants was with the question : “ why do you think I choose the topic of fear ?”. The way they reacted to this question, with a mix of smiles and of raising of eyebrows in interrogation reassured me of the goodwillingness of everyone, which was confirmed all along.
« Obviously because I am afraid when I have to teach, even after 50 and more years of experience ! »…
Then I went through the first part of of my proposal : to comment and question the strophe (śloka) 40 of the second chapter of the Bhagavad gîtâ.It says that even a little ( alpa) of this support ( dharma), (i.e yoga as a way of life) will protect from great ( mahat) fear (bhaya), too often translated as danger. Fears are innumerable : of death (universal), of endless rebirths (samsāra : hindouism and buddhism), of not being loved, of loosing dear ones and so on… How then be free from fear ?
Unless one is free from fear, life is an endless burden, isn’t it ? In the first part of this second chapter Krishna had insisted upon the fact that nobody is being killed and nobody kills anyone since the essence of all beings is indestructible. This statement cannot allay fear until or unless one has realized it is a fact ; until then it is better neither to doubt nor to believe. As the great master Rûmi stated on his “Book of the Innermost” : “ When there is hope there will be fear, when there is fear, there will be hope !”.
Krishnamurti (First and last freedom, talks, etc.) used to say that one has to face fear, stay with the feelings aroused and see then how it evolves of itself, instead of trying to control or suppress it. Very few people are actually able to do this.
Then Krishna states that the undestructibility of the soul is a view from Samkhyâ and he calls it “samkhyā yoga” and « buddhi yoga ». He proceeds to announce the next teaching which he qualifies as “karma yoga”.
To act with full intent but detached from the consequences. Indeed a wonderful suggestion, However out of reach for most of of us. We do act from a motive, an intention, an hope for results and to educate ourselves differently is hard. However, a way into this could be to become more vigilant when acting so that the interest for the act itself grows and overpass the thoughts about the results. The next minutes were spent in a dialogue with the participants who had quite a few relevant questions.
Second class. Saturday morning.
Yoga is equanimity in action (samatvam). Bh.G I I 43.
How to remain the same when life shakes us?
To learn to stay with « what is » is not how we have been educated. To reject « what is », trying to change it in the direction of our likes ( râga) and in the avoidance of what we dislike (dveṣa) is our usual and natural reaction.
However, in time, our practice give us the ability to stay with most experiences, having realized that we are the space in which the experience takes place, and not the reactions of likes, dislikes and fears to which we are accustomed.
Kṛiṣhna gives here the first definition of yoga as : equanimity when acting.
This started a discussion about how to remain stable in most circumstances. I pointed out that the practice of āsana and/or prānāyāma was leading one to be more and more aware of the bodily feelings, thenceforth less and less perturbated by external changes and more and more able to cope with them appropriately.
Third class. Saturday afternoon.
I taught an abreged version of a standing vinyāsa given by Krishnamacharya to Ramaswami (vidéo on YouTube), called vinyāsa to tadāsana since it is the last āsana of the sequence. Then people found a partner.
One was to practice the vinyāsa and add a posture of her/his choice, dynamic or static for 6 breaths with bahya kumbhaka ( hold after exhale) ; then practice 12 breaths of Śitalī or some other prānāyāma of their choice.
Meanwhile the partner was supposed to observe the “flow”, or “rythm” or “song” of the partner.
Then they would exchange roles and then share their experiences.
I had earlier underlined the foremost importance of rythm in any practice. In the same morning attending a vedic chant class lead by Ranju Roy I had been striken by his explanation about the respective signification of “ ṛtam” , the universal rythm/song and of “satyam” , the individual, therefore limited song or rythm. (Thank you Ranju).
Afterwards I proceeded to explain how important for me it was to check the root etymology of sanscrit words.
Then we came to the statement :” yoga is skill in action”. (Karma kauśalam). I pointed out that the etymology of “ kauśalam” was “ silky” , not skill as it is usually translated, and I insisted upon the fact that wanting to act “perfectly” was bond to create fear, tension and culpability. While to act in a silky way is a path devoid of friction and inner conflict. Such a way of acting will not prematurely damage the immune system and the brain. We ended the workshop with a question for the next and last day :
“When do you feel action most easy and pleasant ?”
Fourth class Sunday morning
« Do you remember Yesterday’s question ? »
I suggest to be in groups of 8 and to give you a number from 1 to 8. Number 8 starts and says what this question lead to. The partners ONLY listen. Then 7 etc. up to 1. Then the 8 people stand up in a circle.
Number 1 suggests/show to the people in the circle an āsana or prānāyāma or some other technique for a duration of 4 breaths or repetitions. Then it is the turn of number 2 and so on until each member has offered something in turn.
Then people sit eyes closed, facing a partner. Both then practiced for 8 breaths : throat inhale, feeling what comes in, hold after inhale, extending their awareness to the partner in front ; throat exhale, feeling what goes out, then hold after exhale, extending their awareness to the partner. A time for sharing with the partner before coming back to the group.
This process went on almost to the end of the time allotted but we could express our thanks and gratitude to each other for having been so intimately connected with each other in this wonderful space, even if it was for a rather short time.