My reasons for practicing and studying the philosophies of Yoga, Vedanta, and Buddhism have constantly changed bit by bit over the past 13 years or so. The basic trend seems to be from the micro to the macro. Micro – initially working on all the tiny approachable self fixes in hopes of constantly evolving (or devolving) into (or back to) the best version of me I can unearth. Macro – As I become more refined and find more inner strength, I can then begin to become the most useful to both my immediate environment and eventually a broader and broader environment. More and more I am associating WHAT I am trying to become and HOW I am trying to be in this world with the Mahayana definition of Bodhisattva. Now, by no means am I calling myself one, but it is my ultimate goal to pursue this particular ideal. A couple of quick definitions…
-person whom has attained a certain level of enlightenment, has found nirvana (freedom from existence/reincarnation) who postpones it to return and help others.
-“For as long as space endures
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I too abide
To dispel the misery of the world.” -Santideva
- …the bodhisattva as a person who already has a considerable degree of enlightenment and seeks to use their wisdom to help other sentient beings to become liberated.
As I said earlier, this was not my initial intention. I just wanted to start out with the ego based micro fixes, i.e. asana based practice with goals of flexibility, strength, relaxation, and well, ego. I loved becoming great at the poses and looking great in them. I loved what the yoga was doing to my body and still do. Something however started to change over the years. The asana benefits just seemed a bit hollow in comparison to the mental and emotional benefits I was starting to notice. This led me to delve much deeper into history and philosophy of not only hatha yoga, but down into its roots of Vedanta as well as Buddhism. Moving from the micro/the self to the macro; the global spiritual betterment of us all. This is something I try to work on in every breath of every day. Practicing, preparing, getting better. I want to be effective. I want to be powerful. I want to be happy and utterly satisfied. Then I try to design my physical existence around these fundamental concepts.
Recently I found myself again face to face with death and dying, and it is the inspiration for all that I am presently babbling about here. Whilst horseback riding on a beach in Santa Barbara, a group of us came upon a woman yelling and waving by the water. To make a long story short, we pulled a dead 64 year old man out of the water, I administered CPR, and a minute later he began breathing again. I recently got a very much awaited call that he is basically ok! One huge aspect of this encounter that is sticking with me is how prepared and sure I felt in this situation. This is not a testament to me, but more to the training I have pursued in my life. A strange part of me hopes that I am there when bad things happen because I want to be there, helping, effective, powerful, making a positive difference when things may be at their bleakest.
The bodhisattva in me has come to relish hardship and challenge as the greatest learning experience in this lifetime and as eventually one of my main reasons for being here. I am studying the physical, spiritual, and emotional boundaries of my personal existence in an effort to become as useful to the world around me as possible in both the best and the worst of times. Even more oddly, part of me feels that if I had a choice of something bad happening to me or “you”, I would have it happen to me as I feel like I am not only prepared for it but willing to except it and use it to learn from. The bodhisattva concept really feels right to me personally and is a concept I draw a lot of strength and purpose from. The yoga asana practice has allowed me to practice trying to relax and focus in both the easiest and the hardest or least liked postures. Yoga is simply a controlled environment practice, that I am finding more and more everyday helps me to focus and relax in both the easiest and the hardest of times. This yoga stuff seems to be working!
The above is really more of a very personal mission statement to myself more than anything else. However, it does beg the question to us all… what is YOUR mission statement? Not just what you are trying to do this year, but what is your purpose for being here? What ripples can you leave when you are gone? Are you doing what you want to do? Are you acting/behaving the way you want? Its not about what we “deserve” (i hate that word) or what we have been handed. It is about what you envision and what you need to do to get there. Life is short and will most likely be shorter than we expect. There is a great buddhist concept that I find as more of an inspiration than defeatist or morbid. House on Fire – Many of us will go through life concerned only with material things and immediate pleasures not realizing we are living in a house on fire. All our houses are going to burn down at some point. It is as if we all secretly believe we might be the only one to make it through without dying. Im going to die. It could happen in 5 minutes. I constantly ask myself, “If I died right now, would I have any regrets or things I wish I should have gotten to?” Personally I feel at present that the only thing I would miss is getting to share more time with my wife.
Make a list. Get the list done. Clear up anything with other people that weighs on you. The house is on fire and there should be some urgency to LIVE! Love and appreciate all of you out there! Have a great weekend!