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Archive for September, 2013

Patanjali tells us in chapter 1 of the yoga sutra that abhyasa, continuous applied effort, coupled with vairagya, the willingness to observe experience without getting caught in reactivity to it, will lead to freedom from suffering.

Similarly in Buddhism, the fourth of the divine loving abodes, upeksha, translates as equanimity and is derived from the latin word aequanimitus (aequus ‘equal’ + animus ‘mind’). The balanced heart feels pleasure without grasping and clinging, feels the unpleasant without resisting, condemning or hating and it stays open to neutral experience with presence.

Our asana practice offers a good opportunity to recognize where, when and how we get caught in or swept away by reactivity and to observe our attachment to results.

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The practice: In Tadasana with arms extended overhead try holding the pose for several minutes and watch what happens. After a few breaths sensations start to build in the upper body including the arms, shoulders, neck and chest. As you focus your attention on what is happening over your whole body, you may notice that you are tensing your jaw, clenching your fists, and tightening your gut. The invitation is to soften to whatever extent is possible each time you notice tension in some area. A moment later you may notice that you have started tensing again in some area and you soften, relax and let go to whatever degree possible. Sometimes we encounter pockets of resistance where relaxation is not possible. Our practice is to accept the sensations of tension and observe them while maintaining a relaxed state of presence. With kindness and gentleness we give them permission to dance their dance, to flow as they wish through our bodies. We intentionally create equanimity by maintaining a continuous relaxed state over the whole body as sensations (pleasant, unpleasant, strong, subtle, physical, emotional) wash through.

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