The Path To Bodhichitta

You start where you are, the practice will meet you there.

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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Monday, August 24, 2009

Off The Mat, Into The World

Been reading a book that I picked up one year ago in Borders, Singapore. It was meant to be my airport book since I was doing quite a bit of travelling at the time. But my travelling companion turned out to be extremely delightful and the book gradually grew dog-eared in my hand-carry. Last week, looking for a good book to sink my teeth into, I dug it up again and decided to begin from scratch. This time I couldn't put it down.

I had never heard of Donna Farhi before, but I bought Bringing Yoga To Life because I liked what I saw in my quick browse. Later on, PDN mentioned her as one of his favourite reads and now, I understand why.

Farhi doesn't embellish. She writes with a simple grace and truth. There are no attempts to be entertaining and no words that require a dictionary. Her writing is clean and profound. And most importantly, it's real. There are no airy concepts that will excite your inner skeptic. And this is why, you will find yourself putting the book down from page to page as you contemplate her words with no small amount of wonder simply because you realise you have gone through exactly what she has described and only now you understand what it was all about.

My copy of Bringing Yoga To Life is not only more dog-eared, it also bears the scars of fervishly underlined sentences. Here are some of my favourites:

Yoga has less to do with standing on our head than standing on our own two feet and that the physical practices of Yoga remain mechanical gymnastics until transmuted by our intention to clarify the mind and open the heart.

Unfortunately, what we want is what we most fear: we yearn for a larger life but we're not so sure we want the consequences.

Whether we're just beginning a Yoga practice or have had an established practice for many years, the form and content of our practice needs to reflect where we are in our lives. If we hold to an immutable ideal of what a Yoga practice should be and an equally unchanging idea of who we think we ought to be, our time on the mat will become a rote exercise in recapitulating who we were or propagating who we might be. If we do not trust who we are in the present, we will forever create a practice for someone who does not exist.

The tendency with learning anything (good or bad) is that once we have our collection of facts, figures, theories and techniques, we start to see ourselves and others through this lens. We may try to fit the people we meet into the box of tricks and treatments that we have learned rather than deduce moment to moment what is actually happening and what is required of us.

If you're looking for a way to take yoga off the mat and into the real world, Farhi is one teacher whose work you should read.


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