“Silence is the language of God. All else is poor translation.”
A while ago I wrote a first little something about the ineffable quality of the divine wondering what I might do with the notion of union with the divine in my own yoga practice. This is uncomfortable territory for me: I was brought up in a god-less vacuum, and religion is a foreign land full of alien concepts and customs, wrapped up in ‘false-friend’ words (words that I think I know the meaning of, but in a religious context often take on more subtle semantic shades that elude me).
But nonetheless I’m intrigued. Where once I felt theologically disenfranchised and reacted with hostility to anything ‘spiritual’, now I just wonder what I might be missing. As well as the divine being un-describable, I suspect it’s like soap in the bathtub — that the harder you quest after it and try to hold onto it, the more it’s likely to slip from your grasp. I sense this. But I’m an analytical kind of girl, and I don’t like uncertainty. Faith? That might work for some, but not for me. Oh, wait — that’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy isn’t it? If I don’t have faith in anything beyond the small self, I’m unlikely to experience it. So what to do?
Just recently I read a lot of blogs of other yogis’ interpretations of the practice of Ishvara pranidhana, I read an amount about the relationship between Patanjali and Samkhya philosophy and tried to get to grips with dualism vs. non-dualism, I’ve talked with an Anglican priest (the closest theologian of any flavour to hand [thank you, B, if you’re reading]) about the idea of a creator god, and I even have a ‘date’ lined up to attend a Compline service when I’m back in UK (which was sold to me as the closest Anglicanism comes to Mindfulness meditation). I suddenly realise that religion is a fascinating topic and weirdly not one that I’ve ever really thought about, despite knowing it’s of immense importance to millions of people around the world in various ways.
So I’ve asked myself why this is important to me now. Of course for me it began with an intellectual enquiry — why does what seems to be the most important niyama for Pantajali mean nothing to me at all? In my limited view right now, I think what Patanjali was getting at, why Ishvara pranidhana is the most direct way to samadhi, is that it’s the simplest (not to be equated with easiest) way to bypass one’s own petty concerns, to lay the ego aside and practice for some reason other than seeking what yoga can do for you as an individual. So really all my intellectualising and agonising about how Ishvara pranidhana might relate to my understanding of the world and what it might offer to me is a spectacular own goal. That’s the very antithesis of the practice!
I’m still undecided whether it really matters what Patanjali intended. But now in the spirit of ‘letting go’ that I’ve been trying to cultivate recently, I’m putting my ‘quest’ gently, quietly to one side and following Rumi in silence. I suspect it’s time to let all these new ideas settle into whatever pattern they will and to stop stirring them round in my mind. I can’t force any kind of belief, I can’t hurry my understanding, and I certainly can’t find ‘the answer’ in any book. All I can do is keep my heart open and see what happens. Which in itself sounds like a form of ‘surrender’ perhaps…