Firestarter: Fanning the Flames of Freedom
If you have ever watched Survivor you know that rubbing two sticks together is not the best way to make fire. What seems to work better is to have one stick that moves back and forth while the other one is held steady on the ground. The friction between the two sticks allows for a transformation of kinetic energy into heat which, if given fuel (dry grass), while produce fire. As Jeff Probst always says, fire represents your life in this game.
In Tantric yoga traditions the universe is imagined as a unified whole that manifests itself through two poles that appear to be opposites. These poles are Shiva and Shakti. Shakti is the movement, creativity, dynamism, and energy of the world. Shiva is the ever-stable, static conscious awareness of the world. Shakti is the seen. Shiva is the seer. We are both the seer and the seen. We grow, change, and move in the world. And we are aware of that growth, change, and movement.
Yoga is friction. Though it predates the flourishing of Tantric traditions in India, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali also advocates for a friction-based yoga practice. In sutra 1.12 Patanjali says yoga (which he defines as bring the whirling of the thinking mind to a stop) comes about though practice (abhyasa) and non-attachment (vairagya). Practice is what you DO. Non-attachment is what you ARE. You cannot become attached to your practice and start to identify yourself with it. If your practice is dancing, you must always let go of the idea of being a dancer. If your practice is writing, let go of being a writer. If your practice is asana, recognize that you are not the body that struggles and succeeds with those poses.
Non-attachment is the ability to shift out of 1st and 2nd person perspectives and hold the bodymind complex that we call our "selves" as an object of awareness. It is not "my practice" anymore than this is "my air" or "my sky." Yoga practice is simply one of the many ways that the universe is moving. The stretching and re-aligning of our bodies is experienced as a microcosmic expression of the expansion and contraction of galaxies in cosmic space. Simply put, it is not all about you.
Now practice is all about you. It is something you do consistently for an extended period of time. It is the learning, changing, and growing that excites and energizes every practitioner of yoga. It can be something simple like learning and practicing a new way of sitting, standing or walking or it could be something subtle and complex like pranayama (extending the breath).
These two, awareness and movement, create friction. The friction generated by the movement of Shakti and the stability of Shiva can be used to ignite a transformative fire - but it requires fuel. Our habits, patterns, neuroses, and tendencies are the dried grass we but on those red-hot embers of yoga. We burn though our old ways of thinking, moving, and living. The light of the fire illuminates even more fuel. We become ever more self-conscious and ever more bold in how hot and bright that fire may burn. We burn our way to freedom.
Stay present, always grounded in the awareness that we simply ARE. Here we are. We did not choose this. We didn't make it. We never decided to be born. We did not choose to suffer (despite what cheap new-age philosophies attempt to sell us). We are a part of something much bigger than ourselves that will continue for long after we are gone. Be awake to that.
But don't stop moving. Don't stop learning and growing and experiencing your self and the world. Experience the fullest range of motion that you can. Experience the fullest breath you can. Experience the fullness of your emotions. And do it everyday. You do not have to practice asanas everyday. You can if you like. You can do anything you want. But practice something. Fuel the transformative fire of yoga and share your warmth and light. The world could use it.