The first day I arrived at the Himalayan Institute I saw two beautiful caterpillars walking cross my path, one black with a vibrant red stripe, a holly bear caterpillar, the other silvery grey, shimmering in the morning sun. I don’t recall having ever seen caterpillars like these and I thought, they are not only beautiful when they transform into butterflies but also sensuously slithering, undulating along the way to their destiny.
The days are shortening and I am home in Trieste. I find that between jet lag and old ideas though I’m happy to be where I am there’s still a fair amount of wishing and wanting to be somebody… other than who I am. I feel once again like the caterpillar but now not so much longing to become a butterfly as to weave a cocoon to let the transformational cells within work to reveal the next form . I am inching my way along the road me towards what I hope is my Dharma, my life’s path, certainly guided along the path created by Karma, my actions and reactions. It continues to be a constant sorting out, weaving threads together while at the same time snipping off loose ends or strands that tie me to my past.
Neti neti, not this not that- No-Where is home till I’m at home inside myself.
The sutras say that with discernment we begin to distinguish what is real from what is unreal. In the changing tides of feelings this is a challenge. Feelings may not be facts but they certainly feel real. And reacting to the changing circumstances of one’s life with grace is not always , in my own experience graceful. I seem to flounder around with same ole same ole more than I’d like given the amount of time I’ve been practicing Yoga . I continue to see the Beginner’s mind in the enthusiasm to explore but also as though I keep walking the same ground. This can feel discouraging.
Once again I apply the principles of observation, witnessing the scene in the latest drama, or comedy… or soap opera that I call my life. Now maybe there’s a bit of the root of the problem there the My of life. “Oh my,” she cried in dismay, “here I am again, again.” Well, recycling garbage may be a good thing but it does take energy and discernment not to get caught up in the muck.
“It’s a rainy day I cry, the sun will never shine again. A bright and sunny day I smile, now I feel content.” What’s wrong with this picture? People show up for class or call me for privates, I’m a good teacher. People disappear and I feel concern that I have somehow mistakenly not given them what they needed instead of holding fast to the principle that my job is to give people tools so that they no longer need me. In other words, making it all about ‘me’. Many years ago I learned that if I am not teaching from my ego I am happy to share with whoever is there or even to practice alone but the ego is a fragile thing needing, it seems constant care and attention so as not to feel diminished but also not to feed upon itself. And so with trust and a certain amount of trepidation I find that I am still on my own little wheel spinning tales.
We seek in Yoga, to diminish the power of Asmita, ego, and to expand our experience of that which is eternal? There is the promise ( sutra 1.16) , “Drgdarsana saktyoh ekatmata iva asmita” , When there is no longer false-identification , confusing the nature of the seer or Self with the nature of the instrument of perception, the ‘seeker’ will no longer be disturbed by the distracting and ever-changing influences within and around .” I wish I had more equanimity but recently I was taught other than , “This too shall pass,” that even Dukha, the suffering of change , is part of the divine. In other words to quote the Bard, “There is no good or bad but thinking makes it so.” Dukha, has the literal meaning of bad axel hole, so the wheel falters or doesn’t turn smoothly. It’s opposite is Sukha, which we’ve seen means sweet and can also be the sweetness of acceptance that as long as we are human we will continue to see through a veil rather than seeing the true self. My looking glass is still a bit cloudy and prone to showing false images or asking “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all.” In other words, old ideas and images die hard but when I stop looking for and start looking with , behind my eyes the light shines and I can see a new horizon and the promise of Yoga, “Freedom from the bonds of self.” The caterpillar cannot fly but it is a beautiful thing just as it is . When it is time to transform it does, and not a minute sooner. For now I’m back to the Second Sutra, Yogah Citta Vritti Nirodha, citta all that is mutable in human beings and vṛitti , thoughts rippling on the surface which distort the view of the depths of the still , tranquil sea of Nirodha,when one is no longer the sea or the waves or that which rides the waves but everything… and nothing. Turns out that the wooly bear is an Isabella Moth when it matures. So much for butterfly stories, but sprouting wings all the same.
Until I reach the state of Nirodha, I will practice compassion for my humanity and ride the waves of change with a certain “Yi ha, oh my oh my oh my….” till I get to “OM” and there to coin a variation on an old phrase, “Om is where the heart is.”