Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sutra 29

sutra 1.29

tatah pratyak cetana adhigamah api antaraya abhava ca

When one practices the mantra OM, consciousness is turned inward and distracting obstacles are removed.

In the days right before my Dad died, I thought there was no way I was capable of dealing with losing him. I know my Mom and siblings felt the same way. I could see the fear and confusion and the periodic wave of denial overtake each of us. My mind in its wild rejection of the truth proceeded to produce all sorts of manic scenarios. One very vivid plan of action involved a total relocation to India and a vow of silence. I thought I could stay there until the pain receded. 

The night my father died I sat in the airport with the cell phone on my lap. Should I call someone to teach my class the next morning?  Should I fly to India? Should I buy a magazine? As I sat there, forlorn with life unfairly bustling around me, I closed my eyes and ears to all that was happening outside. I breathed OM which to me is the same as praying or just saying GOD. And suddenly I remembered reading long ago, that my yoga hero, TKV Desikachar went to teach a yoga class on the day his mother died. He said he did it because he made an obligation to his student. His grief was authentic but so was his responsibility to his student. And from Desikachar I have learned that Yoga is about relationship, so Desikachar taught his class because it was important to honor the yoga.

I came to class that Sunday morning because I owed it to yoga to show up. I knew that my beloved students would have easily forgiven me for not teaching class the morning after my father died. They mostly likely would not have interpreted it as my letting them down, but I wanted to go. I wanted to honor all that yoga is to me, and I wanted to honor my Dad because he would have squinted his eyes approvingly at me, glad I summoned enough poise to go do the work I love.

I also came to class that morning because I could feel the wheel of Yoga turning within me powerfully, as if the OM syllable was a healing reverberation in the cage of my body.  I did not need to run away to India to heal. I felt — I knew — that I would not be consumed by sadness and only because of years of faith to the practice could I now let the yoga do its work on me.  I have known yoga to effect me in countless positive ways in life, but never had I felt the power of it so intensely as I moved with students through the sequence of asana on that morning. We were in relationship through the yoga.

But the greatest power of yoga for me was felt when we chanted together. OM at the beginning and end of class, a circle of sound embraced all the facets of a life lived and the features of death gracefully accepted. We breathed in together-that precious first inhalation of life and we exhaled together that final expiration of the body. The mantra endured beyond the sonic vibration. My heart was entwined with that sound. It was a moment in sound that is paralleled with the memory our childrens birth and the last gentle sigh of my father. In chanting the Pranava Mantra I felt connected to my community, my family, God and myself. I was held in the presence of it all and the distracting obstacle of grief was transformed into a vehicle which carries me through.


Do you think it's possible to focus your mind on a prayer or chant long enough for the wheel of your mind to align with it? 

Have you ever had this experience of feeling calmed by prayer, chanting or singing?
If yes, what is that sound, mantra, chant? And do you practice it?

If no, what is your method of self-soothing and receding from the obstacles of life so that you can reflect quietly?

1 comment:

Michael Banister said...

The practice after your father died was a very sacred practice. i think most of us felt honored that you chose to teach on such a difficult day, as well as connected to and participating in your grieving and healing. All the practices feel sacred to me, but that one especially. Losing oneself in the OM sound, surrounded by other voices and becoming one with them, grounds me and connects me to the universe. Singing can do that too, or listening to certain kinds of music that carry me to a deeper place. A Persian sacred singer named Shahram Nazeri does some beautiful chanting that can do that for me, as do some Baha'i chants that I have heard.