Purusartha and the Forest

Day 129 – Today’s reading is on purusartha, or the four aims of life: dharma (active observance of spiritual discipline), artha (creation and maintenance of balance of life on the physical plane), kama (enjoyment of the product of one’s work), and moska (liberation, surrender to the the fruits of our actions to the universe). Rolf teaches us that “yoga gives an outline” toward working toward a “happy, fulfilled life.”
I spent last night, following chauffeuring Harrison (the youngest) around, watching a video on chronic illness, mostly the niggling kind like I seem to experience: leaky gut, medication side-effects, arthritis, hot flashes, etc.). I remember thinking I don’t care too much about the arthritis, if I could just stop the hot flashes. Well, now the hot flashes are better (probably due to the thyroid medicine), but my stomach is always upset. I haven’t worked out in days, but my joints are killing me. Gentle yin feels so good, but I still hurt, and now I am fixated on the pain in the right hip.
As one thing on my physical plane falls out of balance, I experience and reflect upon the imbalances in other parts of my life, noting how discomfort in one lead to discomfort and imbalances in another. Presently, I am reading “Beyond Belief” by Ganga White, whose wisdom adds to this conversation for those of us practicing yoga, especially asana, for decades. We must look at our practice as a process and a journey, not a means to an end. Thus, purusartha is not necessarily an “aim” in the sense of a goal, and yet it is. Ha-tha embraces these paradoxes, which my Western mind sometimes philosophically embrace as dualities.
Although this reading was much more about appreciation of others’ contributions as we give back to ourselves and others than it was about self-care, self-care in the form of spiritual and physical development do play a part in the conversation. Yoga is self-care and purusartha “brings together all the work of this path” as four aims are like the forest, “while the individual limbs of yoga are the trees,” shedding light to the adage that I can’t see the forest for all the trees. Rolf advises to “keep sight of the forest as you immerse yourself in the trees ahead.”

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