aka "Does Self-Work" Make you Feel Wrong? (repost from January 2016)
There is a reason I teach hatha yoga. The philosophy contains a fundamental difference that changes everything.
While hatha yoga is often simply described as physical yoga, that doesn't mean that it is not meditation. It is just the order of things that is shifted. For the arising of meditation, hatha sees the physical body as the too-often-missing preliminary to all systems of meditation, AND also the end point and resolution of duality. The fundamental difference in hatha yoga philosophy from most other systems - raja yoga, buddhism, or any form of self-work or religion is that the idea of morality and mental self-discipline and self-control-- is removed.
The idea is that the body and its elements are the lens that we look through and act through. If we clear the body (physical body and nervous system) of past residue, blocks that obstruct the movement of life force, and things that obscure our clear understanding of ourselves - wholeness and balance will be the result and it will naturally create a state of bring WITH self and others in a good way. In other words, morality comes as a result, but cannot be forced. Also, morality, ethics, yama & niyama have more to do with religion than with a person's inner experience of spirituality.
In the introduction to Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Swami Muktibohhananda writes:
"Often we observe that when we try to practise self-control and discipline, we create more mental problems in our mind and personality. If we were to take the statistics of patients in mental hospitals,, we would find that most of them are religious, because self-discipline and self-control split the personality....If harmony is not created in the personality, then self-control and self-discipline will create more conflict than peace of mind"
"Why do you fight with the mind first? You have no power to wrestle with the mind, yet you wrestle with it, thereby creating a pattern of animosity towards yourself" "Self-control and self-discipline should start with the body"
“There are not two minds. There is one mind trying to split itself into two. One mind wants to break the discipline and the other wants to maintain the discipline. You can find this split in everyone” - Hatha Yoga Pradipika
The starting point it to be with yourself, not against yourself. This carries with it the understanding of spirit in EVERYTHING - not some outside thing to achieve or connect to. It is through that harmony of self - specifically, harmony of life force and mind - that leads to the personal evolution of consciousness. Through this, comes a non-duality. There is one self - body, mind, emotions, atma, jivatma, paramatma - all the same. Its just that - out of delusion of being something other than god, we divide them up to start a war - the goal of healing is good, but the unfortunate result of feeling wrong. How would we ever feel wholeness when we are fighting with our experience?
This also brings to what some would call a "new yoga" but I think is really the heart of it. This is the shift from seeing yoga & meditation of caging the monkey mind, and the discrediting of the emotions towards seeing yoga as integration of all of these things. Seeing them as essential. Through tremendous respect of whatever state any part of you is in, the coming back to wholeness and perfection.
From times where I really felt at home in yoga, I remember that the most sacred thing was a feeling of embracing myself as I am and trusting that what I am is exactly what is needed. It may just be something inside of me, or it may be a stronger decoy operating in the evolution of yoga and self-help culture, but I sometimes feel this to be hard to come by. Trying to make myself think differently, feel differently... the beliefs that, if I understood, I would feel better (true, but also, where ever you are is the most essential work). Instead. Do the practice and allow for the states of meditation to arise. Do the practice - don't wait to think or feel differently. Do the practice - through all of the human elements so that you can know that they are all one.
I hope to give this to people. The dance through all the elements and archetypes of life. The poetry and perfect position of the emotions as the are, mind as it is, life as it is - as absolutely perfect. Maybe this is not something that can be said, but rather that arises through doing. But also it is something that must be said. To be willing to do the practice, but to consider that fundamental piece of releasing yourself from mental contortions. To start by being with yourself. To know that, as things clear, they must be breathed in. To balance the life force and the mind and, through full embrace, let consciousness arise.
“If the preparation is perfect, there will be no need to learn meditation from anyone. One fine morning while practicing pranayama your mind will be lifted into a new realm of consciousness” –Hatha Yoga Pradipika