Last week we examined how reflecting upon our experience, when done with clarity and wisdom, can be a valuable tool in better understanding how all the circumstances of the past have led us to the present. This makes it possible to turn our gaze forward, look down the road ahead, and (hopefully) choose actions and make decisions that will lead us to our ultimate goal, whatever that may be. In our classes this past week we focused on poses that contain the shape of the Dhanura, Sanskrit for Bow: Dhanurasana, Bow Pose; Urdhva Dhanurasana, Upward Facing Bow Pose; Bhekhasana, Frog pose, and Natarajasana, the pose of Shiva, Lord of the Dance. All of these poses are deep backbends with a discernable bow-like shape; and can be an ideal metaphor for the well -known Yoga Sutra II.46: Sthira Sukham Asanam. Translated by B.K.S. Iyengar, “Asana is perfect firmness of body, steadiness of intelligence and benevolence of spirit.” A more rudimentary translations of this Sutra could be “The poses are done with the perfect balance of effort and ease.”
A bow is an instrument that launches and propels an arrow toward a target. Asana, with much practice and dedication, propels and guides us toward the state of Yoga. Like the poses, in order to be an effective tool, a bow must have the perfect balance of “effort and ease”. If strung too tightly, the string will break; if strung too loosely, there will not be enough tension for the arrow to remain aloft. This balance of flexibility and firmness in the instrument itself is much like the instrument that is the body in asana. The archer wielding the bow stands firmly, must be grounded in the earth, have his body aligned in the correct way, must draw the arrow back strongly but steadily, and must direct a steady and focused gaze toward the target then release the arrow to take flight toward its mark. The Yoga practitioner too, must be grounded in the earth (that advancement in the practice does not become egocentric), have his body aligned in the correct way (that he does not inadvertently cause injury), must have a steady but focused gaze ( to keep the mind focused and steady), and then release all attachment to the outcome of his efforts.
Now that we understand the mechanics of aim through metaphor, the question becomes, “What is it that you are aiming for?” Perhaps more broadly put, “Where are you headed?” Is the path you have carved out in your life thus far leading you toward that place where you want to end up? Are you clear about what that is? There is much discussion in Yoga and Metaphysical Thought about Dharma, Purpose, Life Assignment…these terms are interchangeable and refer to a deeper inquiry and understanding of why we have come to this life. Do you know what that would looks and feels like, and what it would take to get there? Is that what is at your center? Just as the arrow, at a certain point, will land somewhere determined by the cacophony of circumstances just discussed, we too will “land” where the amalgam of our choices and experiences have brought us. That is why its so important to know where we want to end up so we can make the right choices and take the correctly targeted actions to get us there. Many of us, at one time or another, have asked ourselves, “How on earth did I get here??” The answer can likely be found rooted in a lack of awareness and in decisions that might not have been mindful or conscious. This is why we practice. Yoga and Meditation are meant to clear away the cloudiness of thought that impedes our ability to make intelligent decisions and take actions informed by discernment . To create enough flexibility in both body and mind such that if a change of direction is needed, we can be fluid and move toward a better path instead of being stuck and cling to what is not working. To have enough steadiness of thought and stability of emotion to endure challenges when they arise. To keep your aim steadily on the target so when distractions arise, and they inevitably will, you will not be distracted from your Purpose…and eventually reach it.