Essential Tools: Safety & Un-Safety
Trust creates peace.
My tea fortune instructed my contemplation this morning. It said: ‘Trust creates peace.’ After reading it, I started thinking how in yogic practice I’ve learned to ground in both safety and un-safety. I know it sounds funny, but as I sat there considering it I realized that both aspects were important for my yogic development. To establish safety, I had to work with concepts and teachings that made sense to me. One way I did this was to engage movements or sounds that were familiar to me.
The word ‘Yoga’ means union with Self. And the relationship you have with your self is of primary importance within yogic practice. Remember yogic teachings are not only aimed at unifying you with your individual self, they are interested in our complete understanding, transformation and union with our universal Self. The question is always ultimately the same: How do I do this?
How do I understand my Self?
Sometimes I linger on statements that I’ve heard repeated. One that comes to mind in the context of the tea fortune is “All Relationships are built on trust.” Relationships… I’ve certainly experienced the blessings associated with trust within a relationship and the sadness, fear and dissolution associated with its absence. In yogic practice we begin by developing a true and real relationship with our self/Self.
Here is the process:
When we engage the familiar through yogic practice, we are building a foundation of trust with our self. Trust builds closeness in any relationship. Having a close and trusting relationship with your self provides a sense of inner peace and ease. Inner peace and ease, offers us a kind of space and grounding that we will need in order to be open enough to connect with our cosmic Self.
For example, in the practice of asana, if I move my leg then root down into it as I fold forward in such a way that I may have done before, or in a way that is not wholly foreign to me, I gain greater awareness of my leg, torso and breath, through that movement. With repetition of the movement, this awareness I experience starts to become a familiar concept. The more we bring our self to this experience as we repeat it the more it builds resonance and connection between our physical and mental bodies.
Connection offers us ease and from ease a sense of spacious awareness rises. It is kind of inner strength, born of practice, which blossoms into trust between the body and self. As the fortune above aptly says, trust creates peace. I define peace as being content in beingness. Asana is a practice for building trust between one’s body and spirit. When we build trust, over time, the feeling of contentment arises within. Feeling content or peaceful prepares you to experience the mysterious unknown Self.
Hi-Ya! Bruce Lee Weigh’s In:
John Little, in his book called The Warrior Within, talks about Bruce Lee and his philosophical understanding of gung fu as a way of life, says:
“There is a strong impulse in the Western mind to instantly identify or compartmentalize everything we encounter by placing things into convenient categories. Typically these categories come down to just two subheadings, Safe and Unsafe. Those things which we are, to a certain degree, familiar with are placed under the former heading, and the different, unknown, or foreign are instantly placed under the later. The end result of such a practice is that we often find ourselves far too busy labeling and standing outside of life to actually take part in it or, at least, to enjoy it to any great degree. In short, we lack the grander perspective that is gung fu.”
We could supplant the word Yoga for gung fu here and arrive at the same meaning.
Little goes on to say, that it was the essence of philosophy that Bruce sought and the martial arts were simply the route he chose to express it.
Martial arts was Bruce Lee’s vehicle much like the asanas, meditation, breath awareness are the vehicle for the Indian yogis. But the vehicle for what? These practices are the conduit for a genuine entry to the mystical life.
The Value of Unsafety:
Once we build trust, safety and resonance with our self, we are ready to work more deeply with un-safety. What I mean by ‘un-safety’ is similar to what John Little spoke about above with regards to Bruce Lee’s philosophy. Un-safety means things we have never thought of coming in contact with concepts that are wholly unfamiliar to us. The notion of a vast limitless Self is not something most of us regularly relate with. But that is what we want to do, evolve our capacity to be with the notion of the vast limitless, pure Self, or what feels un-safe or unfamiliar. We want to work to expand our threshold for what is unfamiliar and thereby grow our capacity to be with Self. We can do this by reminding our self that it won’t be familiar, or feel normal but that it is safe to connect with what we are beyond the body and mind.
One time, a student came for her lesson and said to me, “I did what you said in our last lesson. I practiced feeling what I am beyond the mind. But… (she leaned in looking over her shoulder as if to whisper in my ear) what is beyond the mind?” I smiled, knowing full well my answer would produce more questions. ‘What is beyond the mind?” I repeated so she could hear her own question, “You are beyond the mind.” She heard my words and though she wasn’t able to fully integrate them yet she felt their import. We both sat there together quietly.
What I am saying is: Our experience of wholeness lies within our own grasp. We will realize it by being with both what feels safe and the unsafe. The more we work with the two the more we will ferry ourselves to the shores of real wholeness. Our capacity to be open and develop intimacy with self, while also connecting with our Supreme Self and unifying into the state called Yoga becomes our living reality.
© 2014 Luminous Soul/Sanskrit Studies & Manorama