I caught up with a work colleague the other day who was dabbling in Mindfulness practice last time we spoke some months ago. I asked her how it was going. She looked vaguely guilty and said she hadn’t kept it up because there was no motivation, no way of tracking her progress or knowing if she was doing it successfully. We both laughed – even as she was saying the words, she knows that all this is beside the point, it’s almost anti-Mindfulness.
I suggested various motivational tricks in case they were what she was after, but actually I had a lot of sympathy for her attitude. I’m the first to admit I’m a very goal-oriented person. I like tangible results and a sense that my efforts are yielding something. This clearly makes sadhana something of a challenge! Sure, I can measure progress in asana ability if I want to or I could target the length of time for sitting practice as some proxy of engagement with meditation. But none of that’s really the point and I know it. I’m trying to cultivate another way of being, one that consciously doesn’t involve getting anywhere.
The Thought for the Day slot on Radio 4 this morning was about the energies people put into devotional practices even when (or especially when) there’s no-one to see them. It’s all just done in praise of god. I’m less familiar with this as a Christian notion than I am with Krishna’s advice in the Bhagavad Gita about giving up the fruits of one’s actions. I’m still grappling with the notion of god (definitely the small ‘g’ helps for now…!) but I do try to set an intention in each practice in some way that makes it less about what I want and what I achieve and more about what presents itself to me if I allow myself the experience. Some small step towards isvara pranidhana maybe?
So I got really (unyogically) irritated with Hubby recently when he suggested that I said ‘namaste’ after class only to my regular teacher and not to any of the (more junior) teachers I take class with. So not true. And I was hurt as much as irritated I think. In fact, though he’s not there to see it — and nor is anyone else — I offer a bow at home on my own to Yoga. Bowing to the teacher in class is just a more obvious or direct form of a general attitude of respect and often of awe. If the teacher is acting less as an ego-driven individual and more as a conduit of teachings, I should respect that teaching in all its forms. Even when there’s no physical teacher to guide me. Even when there’s no-one to see.
Or I’d say especially when there’s no-one to see. Because then I’m doing it because I mean it, not because it’s a classroom convention.