It’s hot outside. I’m in hot yoga class so it’s hot inside too. I’m lying face down on my mat, in reverse pigeon pose. It always come at the end of class, so I’m tired, and particularly sweaty. Tonight, I am watching balls of sweat slowly dripping from my cheek onto my mat…I’m enjoying watching them because somehow each perfectly formed ball contains a sliver of light, and I enjoy watching this light filled ball of fluid drip slowly from my cheek to the mat.
Amy is my favorite yoga teacher of all time. In a class of 40 people she knows me. She knows my name. She knows if I move my mat from week to week from the back to the front of the classroom. And most importantly to me, she knows when I haven’t been in class, and she asks where I’ve been. Recently it’s because I’ve been traveling. But I just love this about her. She is also a great story teller…we know all about her family, her growing up in a small town in the west, her rugby playing, her dad. So as I’m watching the sweat drip off of my face I’m also listening to Amy.
Now, Amy struggles a lot with her mind…she talks about it often…..tonight is no exception. She’s deep into the “mind mastery” thing, and I can feel the tension start to rise in my body, and I’m wondering if some of the sweat is from not just heat and exertion, but from frustration. I was starting to get hopeful for a moment because Amy was describing how she is ( like me) a purely physical person, and experiences spirituality through the body.Yay! This sounds promising! Go Amy! But then she starts talking about taming the mind ( sigh, from me, drip drip of light filled balls of sweat ), and so we listen to the story of a Buddhist whose name sounds something like Sri Devi….it turns out that Sri Devi likens the mind to an elephant ( I forget why), but that in order to tame the mind you must first do no harm, and second do good works…thats nice! I agree…all good stuff…but how did the wiseman Sri Devi miss the point? Or did we? ( I just googled and I’m not sure I’m spelling his name right, but he might be a Buddhist god ( not sure!) I’m encouraged as Amy goes on to talk about how the body feels when we do no harm and intentionally do good works. Most of us will feel openness, and expansion in the body. Openness and expansion in the body, will lead to openness and expansion in life. This is good! To me, this should be the beginning and the end of the story, and the struggle. The body informs the mind. And perhaps that was what the Buddhist was getting at. But what my dear teacher seems to be missing is this…the mind is inconsequential. It’s the relationship between mind and body that needs to be tamed. The body informs the mind. The mind competes for attention. It wants to rule. It wants to direct our lives ( think ego). I think “mind mastery” is futile. When we give up the desire to control the mind, and live our lives from the body, from body intelligence, the need to control or change the mind will stop.
For a moment or two I think Amy gets it…she’s talking about how when she does good things for other people, when she is in service to others, she feels expansive… her body feels expansive and open…and I want to say yes! follow the bodily sensation….but at the end of class, disappointment flows through my body. My heart sinks, as she says we must be eternally vigilant of our thoughts , our minds…I grab my towel and wipe the sweat off my face, hoping for eternal patience. I feel disappointed, but grateful for my teacher.