Day 256 – Today, Rolf explains how pranayama relates to yoga. He describes how the four limbs of yoga (yamas, niyamas, asana, and pranayama) through tapas (action) help deliver us to presence. In this previous reading year (a.k.a. the “first” time I read the book), I worked to establish a daily asana practice and studied the yamas and niyamas. I concentrated on physical practice and applying yamas and niyamas on the mat (and hopefully, off the mat). Similarly, Rolf instructs: “The asana simultaneously teach us to stay with the matter at hand, while deconstructing the personality flaws that induced us to hide out in our imaginations in the first place.”
I am up early today, having had the sort of first-day-of-school dreams which many teachers have. It’s Meet the Teacher tonight. As such, I began my morning routine a little early, popped in a dharma talk, appropriately called: “3 a.m. and Thinking” with Kusala Bhikshu, who presents the idea that we, humans, are like the raw file of a picture taken rather than the jpg, the photo after filters are applied. The raw file, he relates, is big, say 16 mb, while the jpg is 5 mb–it contains less information and it is changed. The speaker describes how he woke up thinking that humans were like this: we are raw files who filter our world through our egos and get the jpg, just the way we want to see it.
When I sat to practice a brief meditation utilizing pranayama, I did as Rolf suggested, asking myself: “What is my experience of myself?” I am this. I am that. In meditation, I am not pulled between the two. In pranayama, I just am. The breath ebbs and flows. It just is. Just as Kusala Bhikshu teaches that meditations helps us return to our “raw” selves over shorter periods of stillness and contemplation, Rolf also describes this experience found through practice, writing: “It is learning to live in the moment, from the heart, in the light of our spirit. It is not about the retreating from or shunning the stress and responsibilities of everyday life. Rather it is the practice of embracing our reality with all our heart.”
There is no “but, but but…” Moving through life, just as it is, just as I am, thinking at 3 a.m. because that’s what the mind does. There is no “but, but, but…”