Mystery versus Mastery
A couple of really great questions were asked during the training today. One of them was, “Is it possible to master a yoga pose?” The question arises because we are striving to achieve a certain form with our bodies that is often measured against someone else’s ability. There are certain criteria points that are looked for to ascertain if one is able to progress to the next stage or posture in the Ashtanga sequences.
Take for example the pose Eka Pada Bakasana. This is one of the most challenging of the arm balance poses in the 3rd series to enter into “correctly.” You balance on your hands while resting one knee in the same side armpit and simultaneously lift the opposite leg high above behind creating a counterbalance effect that requires significant strength but more importantly alert proprioceptive awareness. What makes it really challenging is the entry into the pose is from a tripod headstand. So one element of the question regarding this pose is how high does that back leg knee to go in order to be considered a “complete pose?” The evolution of the question turned to “Is it possible to create a perfect pose?”
Tim’s response was, “Perfectionism is a curse.” He also said, “Mastery is a pretty highfalutin thing!” Plenty of giggles were heard after that comment. He continued by stating, “I think it is more about mystery, not mastery.” This was the perfect statement for me to hear today. I really love this. The definition of mystery is something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain. As opposed to mastery which is control or superiority over someone or something. Naturally mastery might seem more appealing because it implies that we are in control and the nature of the mind is to desire permanence in all of our endeavors. Whereas mystery leaves the door open for interpretation which encourages self inquiry to determine ones own experience of what perfect is. This potentially could be a crux in the development of our own yoga practice. I believe that it is positive to have an ideal to strive for initially to encourage us to move beyond our own habit patterns. In the end though it is necessary for us to really probe mystery and or even to surrender to it.
Another question that I enjoyed was, “Is there a connection between physical posture alignment and ‘getting our head straight?’” Tim’s response to this was, “I hope so!” There was laughter all around to that one. He also said, “Typically the personality of the person comes through in the way that they practice.” This might seem obvious but I still found it quite profound. This is where having a teacher can be so beneficial because if the teacher can see this and offer “adjustments” to help transform the practitioners imbalance, one can truly “realign” both physically and mentally.
Tim had mentioned a book by Chogyam Trungpa called “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism.” In it he mentioned how the author describes that there is this phenomenon when we begin to achieve spiritual wisdom that we feel quite enlightened and liberated. Yet because our old habits run deep we then start to build our own samskaras, or “habit patterns,” into our practice and then often become deceived that we have truly evolved. What once seemed like freedom actually becomes a cage. So what is the answer then? Tim’s reply was, “Don’t be a perfectionist!” This is definitely something to think about.