Slow Down Everyone, We're Moving Too Fast...
I have been in India now for five weeks, and have almost finished a yoga therapist teacher training course. When reflecting on what is the greatest take away from this experience and the most profound teaching I have received, I have concluded that it is simply the need to drastically slow down.
Our teacher, Venkatesh, has hammered home just how important it is to move slowly, and through his teaching I have realised just how insanely rushed most of our modern lives are.
Before coming to India, I had been working hard and rushing around like most other Londoners, and when I arrived here in Mysore and the teachers explained that part of the course criteria was to give up caffeine, somewhere inside I felt a little trepidation at the thought of life without coffee. Though his happiness at receiving it was a great consolation, it was with great reluctance that I handed over a kilo of the finest Allpress coffee beans to my Indian landlord as a gift.
Two days later I was beset by headaches, and the slow dawning realisation that I was exhausted. A range of uncomfortable emotions began to arise that I had not previously been able to access due to the speed of life and the coffee addiction that sustained it. Underneath all the stimulation of London life there had been an unhappiness that only slowing down would allow to emerge. It's easy to buzz of life when you're moving a thousand miles an hour, but when you're forced to slow down and the stimulation is removed what's left are all the unprocessed emotions that had previously not been given the space to surface. Though I'd been meditating and practising yoga daily, I was still somehow moving from a place of restlessness.
Big cities are breeding grounds for the disorder of restlessness. If you've ever flown into a big city from somewhere rural and calm, you will probably have become acutely aware of "the buzz" in the air, and the increased speed that people walk and talk at. This is of course, because we are all affected by each other's consciousness, hence the Buddha's instruction that who you surround yourself with is even more important than meditation practice.
Almost everything in conventional society is pushing us forward as it demonises the enjoyment of the present moment as something unproductive and time wasting. The emphasis, as I wrote in my last blog, is always on growth. Growth has become the priority in every sector of society, and, saddest of all, is the effect this has had on spirituality. 'Spiritual growth' is a very dangerous term if interpreted incorrectly. If used to infer that we are imperfect, or that there is somewhere else we need to be, something more we need to achieve, or some comparative model that we need to live up to before we can relax, then it becomes a huge obstacle to presence.
Santosha (contentment) is the second of the Niyamas (Observances) found in the yoga sutras of Patanjali, and is something currently rarely practised yet urgently needed in our modern lives. When uncomfortable sensations arise, it is now easier than ever to avoid or repress them. We can simply reach for the iPhone, watch Netflix, or read some comforting literature that promises fulfilment will be found in the future. However, contentment is not something that comes in the future, contentment is acceptance of the now, and it is something we can choose to practice only in this moment. It is the realisation that there is actually nowhere else to go, nothing more to do, and the letting go of our attachment to the fruits of our actions. But in order to develop the discernment to experience contentment, we have to slow down, otherwise we simply cannot see clearly. As our teacher Hema wisely puts it, ' when we are restless we need to rest'. When we set our minds on all the things we have done or are going to do over where we are right now, we stop living in our hearts and remain firmly entrapped by the mind. We forget that most of the stuff we are continuously ruminating about actually matters, and we negate the sacredness of the only thing that exists; this present moment.
The paradox here is that in a way there is somewhere to go. Due to the strong conditioning we have been subjected to, there is a need to do the work that will free us from our current predicament. Thus spiritual practices are necessary if we wish to avoid the influences of the status quo and allow our minds and bodies to relax deeply In the now. However, the mistake that I have made and that I observe many of us making is that these practices become a form of somebody training; an addition to our identity which has allowed industries feeding of the current yoga boom to take full advantage of.
If we are really practising yoga, we are, not engaged in a process of becoming, but as Ram Dass often says, we are "in nobody training". That is to say If there is a journey it is one of deconstruction, slowing down, practising letting go, and the acceptance of self; a journey away from a time bound reality and back to the heart. It is not the construction of a new self and the consequent enhancement of the ego.
If we can have this attitude, we can begin to do less and feel more. We can step out of the unhappy crazy rat race, and Planet Earth and all her inhabitants can take a huge sigh of relief to see that these insane humans are finally coming back to an appreciation of their own souls yearning, the exquisiteness of this life, this day, and this present moment. All we need to is slow down and relax, seek humility over self aggrandisement, and simplicity over complexity.
Currently study at Atmavikasa