Yogini in a Material World (or CS Lewis usually says it better…)

The phrase “material world” takes on new meaning now that I’ve entered back into “normal” life.  I used to think the term referred to consumption and acquisition of possessions.  Now, it means something entirely larger.  For 30 days, I was immersed in the non-physical world for much of the time, my mind out in space (sometimes literally).  Now, I’ve hit back down onto solid ground with a thump.

Shanti placing a "bindi" on my forehead, symbolizing respect for inner guru (or divine teacher), saying "om guru dev", a chant inspiring devotion to god.

“What is reality?” Shanti likes to ask.  We blink at him, wondering what we are supposed to say.

He sometimes smiles, enjoying our confusion for a moment, then expounds upon quantum physics, Patanjali Sutras – style observations.  Namely:

  1. Everything is energy.
  2. Everything we see is tinted by our own perception.  So nothing we perceive around us is purely what it seems to be.
  3. Our thoughts run on a kind of spool, recycling over and over.  We identify with these thoughts, but if we take the time, we begin to notice that we are much more than the spinning, wayward wanderings of our mind.

At Ashram Yoga, we were so focused.  We focused on our breathing, on the sound of our breath, on slight sensations within the body, on mantra, on the colors and clouds behind the eyes when they were closed and on teachings about peace and healing.  Nothing physical held much value (except, of course, for Laszlo…and each other.)

Now in Queenstown (or almost anywhere else for that matter) the opposite holds true.  What we see around us and the chatter of our thoughts make up the substance of our lives.

Pub on the Wharf Commandment: "Thou shalt not pull during the game. 'Tis distasteful and means ye is not paying attention to the rugby."

Being in a sense, a lover of extremes, I proceed from the stillness of ashram life straight into a night at a boozy pub to watch boxing and drink beer with the Kiwis.  A girl vomits behind our table on the way to the loo.  The fighters throw hard punches as we cheer and toast, and super skanky ring girls in leather hot pants attached to handcuffs parade signs around.  A Christchurch local girl tells us that earlier Orlando Bloom mistook her co-worker for Kate Moss, and we order more rounds of drinks.

It’s a fun night.  No judgment – but boozing it up on the town is a distraction.  It’s usually a part of life, here and there, but the true goal is not to allow for distraction.

The goal is to move from the unreal, to the real, like it says in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad:

Asatoma Sat Gamaya
Tamasoma Jyotir Gamaya
Mrityorma Anritam Gamaya  

Lead me from the unreal to the Real
Lead me from the darkness to the Light
Lead me from the temporary to the Eternal 

The question is how to maintain a balance, like it says in the Bible in Romans 12:2 – and be not conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, for your proving what is the will of God — the good, and acceptable, and perfect.

I never understood that verse growing up in the Presbyterian church.  It sounded so weird, and judge-y.  Now I understand that the renewing of my mind is concentration (dharana) and meditation.

I need to be quiet so I can really hear.  (Another childhood Bible verse – Psalm 46:10: Be still and know that I am God.)

CS Lewis says things better.  Here’s his translation of these thoughts, from Til We Have Faces:

When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about joy of words.
I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?
Here’s what CS Lewis wrote in a letter to explain the quote :
The idea was that a human being must become real before it can expect to receive any message from the superhuman; that is, it must be speaking with its own voice (not one of its borrowed voices), expressing its actual desires (not what it imagines that it desires), being for good or ill itself, not any mask, veil, or persona.
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2 thoughts on “Yogini in a Material World (or CS Lewis usually says it better…)

  1. Deep Rebecca deep! I too am back in the ‘real’ world with the first conflict arising yesterday. At dinner time my partner had the brilliant idea of inviting my sister’s family over for dinner. I love my sister and her family – great idea – only the place is a mess, dinner is not yet begun and he is sitting a midst a huge pile of the past year and a half’s mail. Guess who feels pressured and what happened to all that peacefulness? Ah yes the ‘real’ world………..
    Recalling the words of my sister in-law, ‘the big noisy family, we make our bed, and we love it that way’. But somehow the food and wine hold just a little less importance now and sometimes I don’t think I would be lonely at all to be alone. I think I would enjoy the space, freedom and quiet. In the meantime I will take your advise and continue to practice.

    • Hi Liz, Thanks for the update on your life – it is such a challenge to be back in the non-yoga world and still prioritize sadhana. I am glad you are thinking being alone would be nice. I am working on that one too! Probably not until after India, however! =) I will miss your beautiful country – can’t wait to come back and maybe work for a while! Take good care – thinking of you! Becca

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