Perfectly Anomalous by Debbie Farrar
The privatisation of the NHS, new research suggesting that non intervention is just as effective as surgical treatment for some health issues, the debates around the efficacy of pharmaceuticals, the Academisation of the UK school system & the current dubious state of some other long standing institutions in this country (including the British Wheel of Yoga) makes me wonder if we tend to cling to structures that were more relevant to the past than they are to the present? Do we do this out of habit, tradition, nostalgia or fear of change? Maybe an attitude of better the devil you know?
When does a structure that was once useful for growth & health turn into something that is corrupt, unhealthy or restrictive? What turns sukha (good space) into dukha (bad space)?
As always, my thoughts turn to yoga. Are we trying to make yoga look like something we think it should look like or are we allowing it to be an organic growing thing? Is it OK for us to change yoga to suit our interest and our passions? Is it OK for us to be passionate about things if we do yoga? Sometimes it seems like yoga requires us to adopt a kind of spirituality that subdues rather than celebrates our passions. Does being spiritual mean we have to be passive? And whilst we are at it, does being spiritual mean that we have to be quiet? Do we have to accept things without questioning them? That we cannot speak our truth or ask awkward questions? Does this passive accepting idea of spirituality actually have anything to do with yoga? It would seem that way from listening to the accusations of "unyogic" that are flung around the yoga world at anyone who challenges the status quo.
Karma yoga is the yoga of action.
Jnana yoga is the search for truth.
If both of these are pathways to enlightenment, yoga cannot be just about being passive & keeping quiet. Maybe it is an act of karma and jnana yoga to ask questions and speak your truth? Why would anyone object? Psychologists would say that people who try to silence you are consciously or unconsciously attempting to shame or guilt you into remaining quiet. Why might they benefit from your keeping quiet? The answer to that question might reveal their hidden agenda.
This is not to say that they are a bad person for having a hidden agenda. We all have them. Mostly, these hidden agendas are the result of our own unmet needs, and so are hidden even from ourselves. It is hard to work out these things in our own psychology.
I find meditation has been most helpful in unravelling some of these threads, but not all. Sometimes I get fed up of meditating to unravel the depths of my psyche and start to wander into perfection fantasies. Every time I get to a place where I think that I have meditated myself into perfection (its happened a few times) alarm bells ring. Deep down I know somewhere that this is a new fantasy that I am indulging. At these times it is as if there are two voices inside me, the one that says "you have now attained perfection, project a perfect image" and the one that says "get real, perfection is a fantasy!" My short lived, meditation fuelled experiences of self perfection & inner divinity are a fantastical self delusion fuelled by new age sound bites that find their way into yoga, and indeed are often presented as yoga. Quick fix perfection is promised by so many in the world of yoga and it is such an enticing concept to stressed minds that are tired of life being hard work or of searching for enlightenment the hard way. Self delusion is so simple.
However, there is no quick fix and the threads of our self delusion are much harder to unravel if we deny our shadows, and the shadows of the world around us.
When we are operating unconsciously, the mind generally looks for patterns. Patterns are a type of perfection. Patterns help us find our place in the world. They help us navigate the world. They are essential, and so are the habitual behaviours and thought processes that result from our love of patterns. Patterns make us feel comfortable because of the serotonin & dopamine release in the brain because we can then depend on these patterns & relax a little. Noticing anomalies in any system makes us feel uncomfortable, our bodies experience an adrenalin spike, we feel things in our gut or heart. Often this is so uncomfortable that we prefer to ignore anomalies; especially if someone we perceive as being an authority figure suggests that everything is OK. We want everything to be OK so badly that we can easily accept it when someone tells us it is and ignore the uncomfortable feelings that are being generated in our own body. Remember how good it felt when you were a child and your carer told you everything was OK? Those uncomfortable feelings go away don’t they? Sometimes we even switch off our ability to feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately this means we might have switched off our innate ability to detect danger.
Well, now we are adult. Is everything really OK? Really? Its OK that it isn’t! If we are expecting reality to be perfect, we are going to find reality sadly lacking. Its OK that we notice that things are not OK. This third eye thing, ajna, the symbol of the all seeing eye that watches over everything; this represents the part of your brain that detects anomalies. It watches over your whole body, noticing little anomalies in how you are feeling. I experience these as flutters in my gut or heart; manipura & anahata, right? Hence the problem with becoming conscious. At first all you seem to do is notice these anomalies. They are everywhere. You are not in Kansas anymore! You have fallen down the rabbit hole! You have looked behind the curtain and seen how the wizard wields his power! Its so tempting to just pull the curtain closed again because this first stage of awakening is not called paranoid awareness for nothing. This too shall pass (Sutras 1.51?). If you look closely and compassionately at the wizard, you may realise there is no conscious doer, the wizard is just trying to find his own way home too. Unconsciously trying to fulfil in unmet need to be hOMe. “We’re all just walking each otherhome” (Ram Dass) There’s no place like hOMe!
Now you have a choice. Red pill or blue? Do you ignore the wizard, join the emerald people, start believing the wizard’s rhetoric & let him carry on fooling the people who live in the emerald city, who as the colour suggests are continually in anahata? Will that get you hOMe? Or do you expose the truth, free the emerald folk & help the wizard find his own way hOMe? Follow the yellow brick road, manipura? Are you wearing your ruby slippers? Are you grounded in mooladhara? Then you’re ready to follow the yellow brick road.
“To err is human; to forgive is divine.” (Pope). We are all human. It is necessary to acknowledge the anomalies or errors in a system before we can forgive those errors, correct them and improve the system. “If you stop people from objecting, then the system cannot correct itself and will become corrupt.” (Jordan Peterson).