This weekend we visited Hannah’s grandparents for a family birthday. We’d opted to sleep over on a sofa bed. We were both slightly nervous about this as the grandad has a penchant for ancient clocks – some of which chime every 15 minutes and strike on the hour. (You’d be amazed by how much you didn’t know about time keeping.) Fortunately the 6 or 7 clocks were easily disabled for the purpose of sleeping.
Now I don’t have much experience of spending time with people in their 80s due to early deaths and a somewhat dysfunctional family background so spending time with Hannah’s gps is still quite a novel experience and I’m enjoying getting to know them.
There is a real sense with them that they are in their last few years and it got me thinking about my own life and how I would prepare for that which we all face (and I’m not referring to taxes here.)
I guess my lack of experience with older people has left me with a sort of naivety that old equals wise… and if you’ve been on the planet a long time you’re likely to know a lot more than someone who’s been around less. After all that’s the message I got from my parents when I was a child. Respect your elders – because they’ve been through more than you have and are therefore wiser.
I can see that this may be useful, even true, when trying to instill a sense of respectful perspective in a child – when nearly everyone is older than them. Obviously with a little of my own learned perspective I know that older definitely does not equal wiser, yet I couldn’t help but pop out the question on our Sunday walk today “What is important in life?”
There were a few answers but the one that caught in my ears was “Show an interest in others, not just yourself.” Naturally the question was returned to me and my reply was “Yoga”. Now one could quite quickly jump to the conclusion that spending 2 hours a day 6 days a week practicing Yoga in varying states of meditative self absorption could be construed as being a rather self centered thing to do.
In a way I think that it is, but I also think it isn’t. Patanjalim’s Yoga sutra states in the second sloka of the first chapter on Samadhi “Yoga chitta vrtti nirodah” – Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind. So physical asana practice is not exercise. Of course I know that it is but at the same time it’s not. It’s like calling a raindrop the ocean – both are water.
Daily practice mirrors our lives – each day we are born at dawn with the rising sun, grow, breathe, struggle, fight, love, fear and surrender again and again. The final surrender is our own death which we ritually repeat with Shavasana the corpse pose. We let go of all the triumphs and tribulations of our practice and are absorbed back into true divine nature.
I believe the other great challenge of Yoga or life is how we live off the mat. These equate to the first 2 limbs of the 8 limbs or Ashtanga of Patanjalim’s Yoga Sutra – yama and niyama. In simple terms we apply the yamas and niyamas to ourselves in our asana practice first. Teaching ourselves with the kind persistent training of our physical body and our thoughts. I’m going to end with these wise words by a great Yogi as you probably get my drift and we all have other things to be getting on with!
“Be the change that you want to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi.
As you can tell it’s been a rather thought provoking weekend!