The brainy, thoughtful mind is surprised by yoga. Like thunder surprises, rattling your insides and shocking you little. It is surprised by revelation. The revelation is that spirituality turns out to be a fleshy, cellular, fully human thing, rather than a rarefied or ephemeral experience. When we speak of anything noble, progressive, certainly anything related to spirit or ethics or personality, our language and concepts veer off into the abstract. We speak of enlightenment, oneness, Truth, and transcendence. We look for the patterns that bind things, and the illusion of difference and separation. Turns out this isn’t the way. It is neither whole nor humble enough to be the way.
We tend to forget how human we are. Yoga remembers us back into it.
We tend to think that ultimatums and understanding will ultimately be things happening in the brain. I happen to think this is wrong. I’ve happened to experience it as wrong. There are hundreds of things I have ‘understood’ in my life, but been unable to reconcile with my heart or my body. Real truth, I mean, doesn’t become true unless and until it is felt across the whole field of the human body: you are perfect where you are, you have everything you need; every human being deserves love and respect; your troubles will not destroy you are the kinds of deep truths I mean. I understood them for a very long time. I believed them. I admired people who espoused such ideas, and voted and studied and participated along those lines. But it was not until I began the practice of yoga that I felt these things, and knew them as solid truths in my lotusing heart.
It turns out, actually, that ‘intellegence’, ‘memory’, ‘thought’, and ‘belief’ are things that are actually stored in the muscles and sinews. Emotions are impulses of energy and intellegence. Intelligence comes rippling through the nerves, sole upward. Some yogic philosophies, and ideas about the Central Nervous System, suggest that the brain and the spine are actually much more closely linked than common knowledge has it. There are other studies that show the cells of the heart to be similar in structure and function to the cells of the brain, using a very similar kind of ‘neural pathway’ to create things like thoughts, habits, and paradigms. As I see it, the whole of our humanity, from our lungs to our fascia, is the seat of any real intelligence, not the brain. And that we spend most of our lives deeply asleep, completely unaware, or at best dismissing the body knowledge as crude, non-complex, and unwise.
Living out of our heads and thinking we know a thing is very much like reading a book about a foreign country and thinking we’ll never have to go there, we know everything there is to know. It’s a distortion and an arrogance. And it is terribly shallow and flat.
Even as we lay there, in savasana, even as we move our arms into mudras and focus on our breath, the fall back tendency is one of ‘thinking’ about it, not ‘feeling’ it. ‘Feeling’ is a thing we’ve forgotten how to do.
Say that yoga, that linking joining or coital wholeness union breathiness, is a direct linking of our awareness with with wider field of the human. With the bones, the posture, the inflating and deflating lungs. It is a linking of the aware ‘self’ with the cells and flickering impulses, the vibrations of sound and air, the stuff that actually is in the world and in us. Yoga is a sweet linkage of the aware self with the rythems of life.
When we join those things with feeling and experience, rather than a thinking about it kind of way, we touch on the pulse itself. Our ‘aware’ self glimpses a different consciousness, the observer observing the awareness. Our ‘whole’ self rings with the vibrations happening across the koshas, down deep in the cells and mitochondria, and far out into the depth of sky or ocean.
Strange. The word emotion means ‘to move’. It is energy in motion. It is a willingness to feel the full of emotions that makes us most alive.
And it is under the burning emotional intensity that things like faith are born. Thought will never, ever get us there in the way that deep emotive connection and intuition does. Love isn’t a fact, but a movement. And reverence is very pale as a set of principals, but provocative as a stirring in the blood.
To be human is to have a body. To have a body is to be the field across which time, emotions, illnesses and lifestories take place. There is some use for unifying theories, great sweeping notions of oneness and transcendence. There is a truth there. But in order for that truth to mean anything, it has to also revere the absolutely particular, unique, wild cell movement of individuation. Spiritual ideas, and brainy ways of being, point us to abstractions and ideals, the processes of change. In Hindu myth, this would be the principal of Shiva: who is, the all in all, the absolute.
True knowing such a thing, though, is not a disparaging of the material world, nor of the human body, nor of the myriad manifestations of the ‘one’. Indeed, yoga teaches and gives the experience of the opposite idea: Oneness and Unity and Absolute are absolutely vaccous concepts until one turns inward and down to feel the depths of manifested millions. “Star” or “planet” are indeed beautiful, stunning ideas that dwarf our everyday habits. But “Star” and “planet” are themselves dwarfed by the reality of billions of stars, across billions of miles, the actual physical happening of the cosmos, and of the flickering intelligence happening between lung and air, earth and foot, eyelash and snow.
Shakti, bride and feminine principal of Shiva, is the goddess, earthy, embodied piece. She is playful, ruthless, flighty. She is the particular, where Shiva is the Absolute. The particular is where we are born. It is our names, the fact of our headaches or stubbed toes. She is the practice of beginning where you are, and staying there. Shakti is what art, shouts, children are made of. Shiva is the idea of a heaven. Shakti is the fact that the heavens already exist.