Truth or Consequential Contentment 4

Doing yoga well allows opposites to be dynamically expressed. We inhale and exhale effectively. We have our loving, inhale-oriented, willing, pranic looseness and it doesn’t lead us into self-defeating martyrdom because we also have our forceful, exhale-oriented, willful, apanic strength. Our right brain is allowed to experience a big field of Now, even as our left brain narratively charts a life course. The balance is there. Yoga works. But it also has to play, and while the practices known as the yamas and niyamas may seem to prescribe a left-brain, rule-oriented, patriarchal, male-identified, yang (as opposed to yin) kind of yogic work, they really call for a lot of playfulness. It’s the key, and even though the idea of there being a “key” doesn’t relate well to playfulness, oh, well. Screw it. Screw trying to write playfully about playfulness. It’s too hard. Or maybe I’m being playfully anti-playful. Whatever. Even if having a point is screwing up my playfulness here, this is about the yamas and niyamas. It’s my idea that the five yamas (non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, sexual continence, and non-greediness) should be related to the five niyamas (cleanliness, contentment, discipline, self-study, and surrender) in sequential pairings, and that of the five pairs of practices, the one connecting truth-telling (satya) and contentment (samtosha) requires the most playfulness for things to go well. Again, the idea of a requirement doesn’t go with playfulness, but, again, screw it. Screw it, because we need to tell the truth the way Mark Twain did: playfully. It’s the key because our sense of truth is only relative.
Right? We’re not realized beings, so the truth that we’re accessing is compromised. If it weren’t, according to yogic truth, we’d be recognizing that we are all “pure consciousness.” I’m pure consciousness. You’re pure consciousness. All the people causing all the problems in our lives are pure consciousness and that’s all they really are. So there’s really no point to what Eckhart Tolle refers to as “our story.” It’s only significant in connection with a reality that we’re falsely constructing. But it would also be less than truthful for us to relate to things from the fantastic perspective that we are realized–that we are not just recognizing an idea about the truth, but actually seeing it as our reality. According to Buddhist truth, we are all always already enlightened, but none of the Buddhists I know go around relating to everyone as enlightened beings. They relate to them as people with problems. They relate to them the same way Ashtanga master Richard Freeman relates to people. He says “people are pure-consciousness acting like schmucks.”
And our truth-telling practice does need to be realistic. We need to be truthful in relation to how we’re perceiving reality. Otherwise, we’re not being truthful. But that’s also where samtosha comes into play. Contentment is the key. Humor is also the key. Kidding. But not really. Along with playfulness, and really in connection with playfulness, contentment is the key. It’s the one yogic thing that allows all the other yogic things to happen well. It’s especially the one yogic thing that allows truthfulness to happen because when we take ourselves too seriously it’s hard to tell when we’re being untruthful. Look at Hitler. Has anyone ever taken himself more seriously? No. Has anyone ever been less content? No. So, from a niyama perspective, the problem was obvious. Because his samtosha practice sucked so bad, it was impossible for him to be telling the truth. The two things always are expressed at the same level of consciousness. We know Gandhi’s samtosha practice became an expression of higher-consciousness because his satya practice was happening on that level, and vice-versa. Gandhi was not happy with the way things were in India, but, unlike Hitler, he was personally content. In fact, on a personal level, his contentment grew. It grew and he needed less and less. Contented people only need the necessities of life. Simple clothes, some food, and some water. Gandhi barely needed those things. With real yogic contentment, that’s the way it works. Or rather, that’s the way it works when it’s really about play. Gandhi was playful about spiritual practice and everything else. When he was asked what he thought of Western Civilization, he replied, “I think it would be a very good idea.” Mark Twain said, “Civilization is the limitless multiplications of unnecessary necessities.” I think it’s fair to describe the yamas and niyamas as unnecessary necessities.

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4 thoughts on “Truth or Consequential Contentment

  • Sarah Bobek

    Playfulness as openness allows my analytical mind to cease from engineering poses and surrender to a deeper cognizance of what’s goin on with my body/breath. That being said it’s something I am still working on quite a bit. And, it’s rather nonsensical…. playfulness helps quite my brain-chatter?

  • Angela

    I have found that one of my favorite experiences in my yoga practice is when laughter erupts from that yoga buzz. It’s
    when, it seems, that all seriousness about ones self becomes too ridiculous to fret about any longer. As the sweat rolls down the body and deep release sets in, the spirit is let to come out and play.

  • Scott Miller

    So nicely stated, Angela. How about putting some of your poems and writing up here on the blog? I think that would be great. I’ll email you with the info.