What kind of effort is needed to make this effortless?March 1, 2019
There is a saying we use in yoga to describe the power of the mind: “Wherever attention goes, prana flows.” Rachael recently shared a quote by John Tarrant Roshi “Attention is the most basic form of love.” There is something about our power of attention, our ability to behold an aspect of oneself or someone else, that can heal and transform us mutually. It arguably may be the only aspect of our conscious lives where we can exhibit personal agency, the power of choice.
Recently, my five year old daughter has brought forth some heavy topics to me. I am provoked, often confused, and I don’t know yet what is the right thing to say or do. You can insert here your spouse, co-worker, friend, aging parent, whoever is close enough to touch your heart and twist your gut. I hear my internal voice scream “What do you want me to DO?” not necessarily aimed at her, perhaps the universe.
A few years ago I was turned on to Zen teacher Bernie Glassman’s practice of bearing witness. In his book Bearing Witness: A Zen Master’s Lessons in Making Peace, he writes
“If we’re ready to live… life without fixed ideas or answers, then we are ready to bear witness to every situation, no matter how difficult, painful or offensive it is. Out of that process of bearing witness the right action of making peace, of healing, arises.”
What inspires me about this practice is that it does not negate future action or speech, but opens up space be fully devoted and attentive, without an agenda to fix or manipulate. This is love. This is steady support. This is human. In the Yogasutra of Patañjali, it is written:
Yoga citta vṛtti nirodha. tadā draṣhṭuḥ svarūpe avasthānam.
Translation: Yoga is the calming of reactivity in the mind. When this occurs, our true nature is revealed.
– Sutras 1.2 and 1.3
Whether you’re face-to-face in a realtime relationship, sitting in contemplative meditation, or exploring sensations of the body through a yoga posture, the offering is to honour and encourage your capacity to bear witness, to resist the temptation of impulse, to trust that the truth can only be revealed from a place of clarity, and to know that clarity takes time to become established.
Feel the smooth or jagged edges of the breath, the period of your heartbeat, the dance of thoughts leaping from the lesser known parts of the mind. And in the other’s eyes, the request to know this is happening for me. For now, behold. That is enough.
Karen and Chris