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Season 1 - Episode 9

Yoga and Beauty

55 min - Talk


May we play on this stage of life wholeheartedly, exploring the gifts of consciousness and the senses with courage and presence, so that we may honor the beauty of this world and leave it better than we found it.  James gives a talk on how yoga helps us perceive the beauty of the world and of our true essence. We learn about the kleshas (poisons) and how they get in the way of us seeing the vast beauty of our existence, how modern life can anesthetize us and keep us from enjoying the full spectrum of experiences and emotions life has to offer (rasas and sthayibhavas), and that yoga’s solution is a heartfelt presence, receptivity, awareness, and gratitude to all that we may encounter throughout our lives.

Please find attached several pdfs to which James refers in this class, and here are audio and video recordings of James singing the opening song, Sri Radha Krpa Kataksa Stava Raja.

What You'll Need: No props needed

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Apr 19, 2021
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Hello, welcome to Yoga Now, the final session of this first season of eight programs. And today I'm going to speak about yoga and beauty and what I will refer to as asthesia. First I will sing an invocation to Ganesha and to the Gurus. And then we will dive in. Namaste, so today I would like to speak about the theme of yoga and beauty.

Now, this world that we are blessed enough to be born into and on is a very beautiful place. There is tremendous beauty in nature, in the sky, on the earth, all around. One way that yoga can be described is as a darshana, which means a way of singing. Yoga is a system of philosophy, it's a practical method, it's a school. But in the Sanskrit, schools of philosophy and practical methods are known also as darshanas, as ways of seeing, as ways of interacting with that which we perceive and experience.

And in yoga, in the yoga sutra, the classic distillation from Maharishi Patanjali, in which he encodes in the very condensed, concise sutra form, all of the foundation teachings of yoga, it's very striking. When Patanjali defines yoga right at the beginning of his work, he says, Yoga is the nirodha, which we could say, we could speak about this sutra for more than we have, more than the hour we have today, but very briefly, nirodha we could say means checking. The movements of our awareness. Chitta, being our awareness. So yoga is that state in which all of the movements, the pulsations, the cyclings, the dynamic patterns and configurations of our awareness, when that field of our awareness is brought within our conscious awareness, when it becomes checked, when we notice it, apprehend it and bring it into balance, that is the state of yoga. And then in the next sutra, Patanjali says something very striking. He says, of the seer, of the witness, of our essential conscious essence, means establishment in its true form, in its essential nature. Sva-rupe. Rupa in Sanskrit means form. Sva-rupa, own form, essential form.

Sva-rupe in its own form, in its essential form. So when we come into yoga, we experience our conscious essence in its true essential form. But rupa does not just denote form. Rupa also denotes beauty or beautiful form. So yes, at the primary denotation level, rupa means form, something that can be seen or perceived, but it also has the very strong and immediate connective association of that which is beautiful to behold. So sometimes you might meet somebody who is called rupa or rupesh, the Lord, rupeshwara or rupeshwari, the Lord or Lordess of form, but you could also say that that name denotes, it's the name of Sva, it denotes that person who is the Lord of beauty. So when, according to Patanjali, the very foundation description of yoga in the yoga sutras, yoga is a state of balance in which our awareness is clear when our sight, our vision is able to perceive through to the essence of reality. No more veiled, no more shrouded, no more confused, no more distorted, but when we can actually see reality in its essence, there is the idea. Then we will see a stunning beauty. A beauty so stunning, it arrests us, grabs and gathers all the powers of our awareness and brings them into that state of fullness and cohesion in which we are able to actually apprehend our deeper essence. So according to Patanjali, yoga is a state in which we will perceive great tremendous beauty, the great tremendous beauty of our essential nature, of our true form, of our true essence. And it's not just there, it's not just Patanjali. What does Krishna say in the Bhagavad Gita when he defines yoga? His initial definition is samatva. Yoga is samatvam. The tva, suffix means having the quality of, sama, evenness, harmony. So when things are together in an even way, in a way where all the parts are complementary, is this not beautiful? When things all line up in cohesion, when all the strings of the guitar are tuned beautifully, even if one does not know how to play the guitar, this is one thing that's beautiful about this instrument, if your friend who does know how to play the guitar very well has tuned it beautifully, gives you the guitar, say strum it. You don't know how to play the guitar, you strum it and what sound emerges. Beauty, it is a gorgeous sound, because there is the samma, the even relationship between all the strings and so then resounds this beautiful harmonious sound. Samatvam yoga ucchati. Yoga is said to be a state of harmony, of balance, of cohesion, of congruence, or we might say of beauty. When we bring ourselves into that congruent, well-tuned state, just like the guitar, when the strings are all perfectly tuned, even a complete novice can make a beautiful sound with that instrument. Violin's a bit different, but the guitar, if it's perfectly tuned, just strumming those six strings will give you this lovely resonant sound. Similarly, when anything is brought into that cohesive, well-tuned state, when we bring ourselves into a cohesive well-tuned state, is it not true that we experience a more beautiful experience?

And in that cohesive, congruent, balanced, integrated well-tuned state, what does Krishna then go on to describe yoga as? He says, yoga karmasukhaoshalam. Yoga is skillfulness in the things that we do. This balance, this cohesion, this congruence is the platform then for skillfulness, minimum effort, maximum result. This is yoga, efficiency, or skillfulness. And I would say too, this is also a description of something that is very beautiful. When, for example, one sees a great master at work, is it not a sight to behold? In the realm of athletics, for example, or dance, you know, you see a great dancer and they make it look easy. I don't know if you ever saw the film White Nights. Mikhail Baryshnikov was the lead role and I can't remember how many pirouettes he does, but it's more than 10. He makes it look easy, but is it easy to do 10 pirouettes? It's not easy, but he makes it look easy and it's a thing of beauty to behold. If you see, for example, my grandmother used to very much enjoy watching tennis and she had her favourites, but among her favourites was Roger Federer because he makes it look easy. How does he make it look easy? Minimum effort, maximum result. He's doing it in a very skilful way. And when we are able to act with that skilfulness, it brings a graceful quality to our actions. It brings a beauty to our actions. I had one time, a very beautiful experience, when I lived in Thailand many years ago. I came home from a kirtan and I could not get into the place I was staying. It was a recently built building and apparently during the construction, sometimes big winds had come through the building with all the windows open during the construction and some of the doors had banged really, really hard and had damaged the walls. So I get home and I cannot get into the apartment. It was my friend who was the landlord and landlady. They called for what they call in Thai. My Thai intonation, it's a tonal language, may not be spot on here, so please excuse me if that's the case, but they called for the Kun Chang. Now Chang, there's many Changs in Thai depending on the tonality, but it means the skilled man. And the skilled man arrived on the scene and the skilled, it was actually the next morning, I'd gone and stayed in another place that they had nearby overnight. The skilled man arrived with a small little case and I thought how's he going to fix the door with what he's got in there and it was his little toolkit, but the man was so skilled. So he had a plane, he had a little saw, he had a few tools, but watching this man work, it was such a thing of beauty and it so happened that later that day I was going to give a class on Karma Yoga, on skillful action. So that's why I know I'm going to talk about this afternoon, because from this little toolbox, he didn't have advice, he didn't have any big tools, but he managed to do, he had to cut a hole in the door and then remove the door and fit a new door and plane that to size, but he did it all so efficiently and I was just watching kind of in awe and wonder, so crisp, so tidy, so efficient was his work and in a matter of minutes he'd done a task which if it had been left to me it would have taken me all day at least. It was a beautiful thing to behold. When we give ourselves permission to be fully present, we can learn how to do things more skillfully and this can pave the way for mastery and when we're able to do something with mastery it can become this beautiful thing to behold. It can also become a beautiful and nourishing thing to experience. So sometimes I have a friend who is an absolute master woodworker and I know that he finds tremendous satisfaction in his work because the exercise of this craft that he has dedicated himself to has become not just a source of pleasure and beauty for the people who watch it and benefit from the beautiful objects he fashions but also in the doing of it, in the deploying of the capacities of his senses and his body with skill, it gives rise to this beautiful experience. And we could say this is really the one of the descriptions of the recipe for yoga practice.

Returning to the yoga sutra shortly after his initial definition of yoga potentially defines yoga practice and he defines practice as the effort, the yatna, the effort to foster steadiness. So yoga practice is an effort and Bhutanji says and moreover this effort is long-term, uninterrupted, attended to with real presence and a spirit of dedication and devotion and commitment then it will become firmly rooted, well grounded and the consequence of that type of practice potentially tells us is that the practitioner becomes thirstless, no longer thirsty for things that we have previously experienced or that we've just heard about. So who is not thirsty in the world? The person who is full and so one of the layers of instruction we can read into the sutra here is that yoga practice means practicing fullness, practicing doing whatever we are doing beautifully. These days people talk about this word mindful or mindfulness has become quite a trendy word but I would say it's interesting because to do something mindfully often means to do it sensfully, bodyfully, beautifully, consciously and this is yoga practice to do whatever we are doing with all of our self to make the action its own reward by making the moment its own fullness, its own completion. When I give myself permission to be fully into this moment then I can give myself fully to whatever I'm doing and kind of leave aside any space for potential regret. If I know that I was doing it fully then even if it doesn't work out as well as I might hope even if with hindsight I look back and say I could have done it differently I'll still have a certain be able to rest easy because I know well at least I did it wholly and when I do something fully I also give myself more chance to learn and so it's like I can draw out the beautiful learning opportunity of that moment. Now another thing about beauty is that sometimes when we see something very very beautiful what does it do to us? It's like it stops us, it arrests our attention and then it grabs and gathers our attention and what then happens it's like it pulls us into the present moment so sometimes people have glimpses of yogic absorption of samadhi when we are struck by the beauty of nature for example. One word that people sometimes use to describe something or somebody or something that's created that is very very beautiful is it's stunning.

It stuns us, it stops us and pulls us more fully into the present but I would suggest that there's this interesting relationship between presence and beauty. When we are struck by something very very beautiful it pulls us forcefully into the present but I would suggest also that if we cultivate presence we will gain for ourselves greater access to the beauty that is actually always all around if we care to make ourselves available to relish and experience it. So one idea in yoga is that we want to cultivate presence. Presence is the foundation and when we cultivate this presence we will actually able to experience more of the beauty of life. Of course we will experience more of the whole spectrum of life not just the beautiful things but we will be able to experience more of the beautiful things as well. We might experience difficult things but we'll also be able to relish more of the richness that is actually available. Now the people who gave us the yoga teachings they are referred to as rishis meaning people who saw people were able to see clearly and they gave us these teachings that are sometimes referred to as veda or vidyas that which was revealed to their clear sightedness to their clear awareness and the rishis gave us the yoga darshana. As I mentioned already darshana means a perspective a way of seeing. Now when we're a human being the sense power of sight is particularly important. We're very visual beings we have these relatively let's say keen eyes and visual impressions are very important for us. In order to navigate the world skillfully a perspective a point of view is very helpful sometimes it's very necessary but yoga reminds us sometimes our perspective and our point of view can get clouded shrouded veiled dulled colored dyed dyed by our conditioned ideas and by our false beliefs. And so I'd like to do now is just very briefly bring up an image on the screen which shows us the clashers these things that can block our view of seeing clearly. The clashers describe what happens to our clear sightedness according to the great rishis of the yoga tradition.

So at the top of the sheet you can see perhaps it says satya ritta bhrihat so satya means real true existing ritta means rhythm or right and bhrihat means vast. There is the ultimate reality is real satya and the reality that we experience in is pulsating but it's pulsating in this cosmic harmony this cosmic rhythm and it's part of this vastness and when we're able to see fully we can see and recognize that underlying vastness. But what happens here we are in nature a creature who was born and we have this relatively tenuous or fragile bodily vehicle this bodily vehicle which is endowed with these miraculous sense powers but which nonetheless does not enable us to see the whole picture of reality and the whole vehicle and all the sense powers they are made of the changing stuff of nature is this true this body yes it displays a certain continuity but it's always changing and we know even if we sometimes forget or let it lapse from our awareness that everything that is born will die every day i said last week every day the dawn brings a blessing to whatever is still growing towards the sun but every day we die a little as well every morning is a rebirth a loaded old cells have died it's happening all the time but basically we get identified with change and limitation and with our eyes powerful tools though they are they have their limits we can only see a tiny tiny gazillionth of the spectrum of all that is out there in reality and so what happens and this is illustrated on the sheet we are subject to avidya ignorance there is much that there is much that we are ignorant of in that whole vastness of that which really is and because we are not seeing the whole picture what happens a smita we get a false sense of identity we get a false sense of who we are a limited sense of who we are and we feel a sense of lack because this feeling limited it doesn't quite strike the deepest chord in our heart of hearts that somewhere deep deep down knows that we are part of this infinite vastness and so as long as we're identified with change and limitation we do tend to feel whether we're particularly aware of it or not some sense of lack and with this sense of lack comes a type of insecurity and so what do we do we seek to comfort ourselves and to make less tenuous that sense of identity and so then what happens we go into raga and dvesha raga basically means these are the experiences that follow pleasant and unpleasant experiences so experience something pleasant oh i like this and then i get raga i want more of it so it's like desire craving and dvesha when i have an unpleasant experience i want to avoid it so i start to get identified with my likes dislikes preferences the ideas i like and agree with the ideas i don't like and find unpalatable and i create a sense of identity which is limited i'm looking for comfort and support and solidity and dependability towards ephemeral ephemeral things that are always changing so what happens to my sense of security or my sense of insecurity it gets amplified and so then apini viesha which basically means the fear of death and the fear of change they're clinging to life and they're clinging to the status quo that gets amplified and the yoga sutra outlines this these are the things that get in the way of us seeing the vast beauty of our underlying essence and the rishis of the yoga system they told us these clashes they are part of the deal they're part of the game so what do we need to do we need to practice looking in ways that reach beyond our habitual ways of looking in other words we need to actually cultivate a clearer darshana we need to try to refine polish clean if you like and expand our perspective in the yoga method one of the foundations for yoga practice is referred to as dharana which basically means concentration or concentrated awareness so those clashers and all these different ideas that flip through and across our consciousness and through our awareness what's the effect of that it's like it pulls our awareness here and there it's like our awareness gets spread thin it gets dissipated our power gets diluted we become disempowered and our true capacity to see is diluted and so in the yogic method dharana concentrated focused awareness is absolutely foundational for internal meditation practice that is the foundation of course there are other foundations such as asana such as the smooth easy circulation of the breath the whole ashtanga method is we could say is foundational but the idea is that when the body can sit steady and easy when the energy can flow easily when yama niyama when our ways of inter interfacing and relating with ourselves others in our environment are such that they are conducive to harmony then it becomes much easier to let the powers of our senses pratyahara gather inwards so they can help us see more keenly through the depths of who we are with that concentrated awareness dharana but concentrated awareness is not just the foundation for subtle internal practices i would suggest it is also the foundation for all of our active practices in the world note the sonic similarity between the word dharana concentration and dharama dharama yogic action the action which helps sustain the well-being of the whole all this too requires concentrated awareness it requires commitment because it's very easy for the powers of our awareness to become as it were i was going to say misguided to to be overly influenced by ideas that we may adhere to that might not really be helping us or might not really be serving our real higher interests so the yogic masters they told us that when you are a human being you are endowed with these amazing capacities so i'd like to display on the screen now a second sheet on this sheet um you can download the pdf later i'm sure and peruse it more leisurely but one thing you can see here these tatvas or gunners these are constituents of our being as an individual or potentially individual human being i say potentially individual because what is an individual an entity that is no longer subject to division and some of the constituent parts that are very important for yoga practice well they're all very important because yoga doesn't leave anything out it's about gathering all the parts into cohesion togetherness but are the indriyaha and the indriya you can see on the sheet of the gyanindriyaha and the karmindriyaha the sense powers of perception and the sense powers of action and in sanskrit they're known as indriyaha and this relates to the word indra who is the king of the celestials the king of heaven in other words these indriyaha are divine powers because they help us divine they help us perceive they help us see and they can help us see through to that depth of ourselves that is beyond birth and death if we can manage to bring them into yogic togetherness so we can draw on their capacity that that is so much greater than the sum of the parts these indriyaha they are great powers and they reside within this kingdom of the field of our miraculous body born b-o-r-n-e conscious vehicle yoga tells us that each of us is the sovereign of this field and in this field of our realm there are these very powerful factions of the indriya so sometimes i'm not particularly into motor vehicles but i remember when i was a boy one of my friends who was interested in cars would speak about how much horsepower the vehicle had there's you know however many hundreds of horses under the bonnet as we say in england or as under the hood as i think is said in american english how many horses are under this hood yeah the sense powers is it true they're powerful yeah they can pull us in so many different directions so i i wrote a poem a couple of years ago a men's weekend i was on and one line was speaking at well i was speaking about the powers of our minds and our senses i said these senses can guide you they can lead and inspire you they'll do as you train them so take care who you serve so the idea is our senses they have a guiding power if for example we're out foraging in the wild or we're foraging in the refrigerator and our sense power of smell can alert us maybe last week that item was very very full of nutritional potential and now it's gone bad so i'm not going to eat it so my sense can guide me my senses can also inspire me but they could also mislead me so it all depends how we train them now one way that the senses are sometimes referred to in the indian system is as horses these powerful beings so i'm not a horseman but i have some friends who work with horses a lot and one thing that they all say to me is the best way to train a horse is with a loving presence when we bring loving presence into our relationship with the horse we can build up this rapport we can build up this trust some people over the years have trained horses with force and coercion and what they have found is that when it really comes down to the difficult situation the horse that's been trained like that will falter and will give up and will not really care whereas the horse that has been trained with loving presence will really stay with you through the challenging times same with our sense powers we cannot bully them if we identify a sensual or sensory tendency that is not particularly helpful for us perhaps there's something we like to eat a little bit too much if we try to bully the sense and we're very negative and down on ourselves it's not going to work out very well in the long term but instead can we invite the sense power into a subtler more refined richer experience so it learns that actually it's better off displaying its power in a more subtle refined way and so this brings us to what i would like to talk about under the banner of aesthesia because appetite grows by what it feeds on when there's an old saying why have cotton when you can have silk yeah um there was actually when i was a boy there was a i grew up in england and there were in england there are lots of these things called chocolate bars or maybe you call them candy bars in the states and one was called the galaxy what a name galaxy and the the the tag line for the galaxy bar was why have cotton when you can have silk the idea that once you taste this chocolate you won't want any other one whether that's true or not i don't know but you get the idea yeah it's like once you taste something really really fantastic then you're not so swayed by the approximation or the surrogate once you taste the real thing then those imitations are no longer so alluring and i would suggest that in the world that we live in the business of aesthesia is very challenging is very challenging so what do i mean by aesthesia if some dictionaries contain this word and they describe it as the normal capacity to experience sensation which is a very interesting definition because what is normal does such a thing exist what is natural but beyond the normal capacity to experience sensation when i'm talking about aesthesia i'm also talking about the capacity to experience beauty in the context of appetite growing by what it feeds on and the senses things that are trained and that have grown up in a context that i would say is quite anesthetizing what would really be our normal capacity to sense in a world before radio programs were programming us to think a certain way before television was telling us what vision is real and imposing onto our minds a picture of reality that is charitably speaking very very partial what would be our normal capacity to sense before our senses got so captured by the pixelated image now when i was i mentioned my grandmother earlier today and i was at a very close relationship with her she died a couple of years ago and there was a song that i became aware of through my grandma which was quite well known in england when before i was born but um the song was a person a man singing about a woman who'd captured his heart when he saw her doing the laundry now this may sound quaint or strange but i have seen people doing the laundry i lived in thailand and i lived in india i've seen people doing the laundry at the river and it's a thing of great beauty but and this song is an old song when people were doing the laundry by hand like man this is how my grandma grew up doing all the manual work of the house by hand she was a very very strong woman um and this song goes it was it goes something like this i might not have it exact but it says it was on a monday morning when i beheld my darling she looked so sweet and charming in every single way she looked so fine and nimble washing all her linen oh dashing away with the smoothing eye and she's stolen my heart away so he sees her ironing and as he sees her beautiful form and her beautiful face and the grace that which with which she irons the uh linen she steals his heart away and i thought of a uh 21st 21st century what's the word degraded version of this song and it's like let me it was on a monday morning when i beheld my device it's not so much to look at but still it holds my gaze it's pixelated images they capture all my senses i'm twiddling my thumb on my smartphone screen i'm scrolling the day away and even worse i'm twiddling my thumb on my smartphone screen i'm scrolling my life away what a situation is there not some truth in this i note from myself i noticed that that if i stray into the realm of the device i can notice my awareness does get more dissipated and i feel less whole i feel less well i have had the opportunity in my life to spend long periods away from devices and i really noticed the difference and i think this is something that we you know we're all this is part of reality now so how can we navigate it as skillfully as possible but i think it's a reality that it's it's helpful to really be aware of it certainly for me i notice a big difference and i have friends who have children of a certain age and they have been struck by this mesmerizing power of the screen you know like sometimes with a baby there's this device called a dummy in british english or a pacifier or a comforter sometimes in american english i think this thing that the baby puts in their mouth it's a surrogate for the mother's breast yet and it can pacify the baby it can quiet them down now some of my friends who have young children say the screen or the device it's interesting yeah the device is sometimes called a tablet it's like you give the child this pill and you anesthetize them to reality and the child becomes completely entrapped by the pixelated world mesmerized and some of my friends were were telling me that they saw something happen that really it moved them it chill it chilled them to the bone it just what they saw happening was that some friends of mine who have two boys they'd been in a situation where there were no screens for some time and they'd seen the boys be so creative the way they would play and then when they went back into the sphere of screens they saw wow what is happening here is that their attention is being captured but their creativity is being stifled deadened and turned off and i would suggest that this is a symptom of our anesthetized times only very recently in human history were we much much more reliant on ourselves and each other for our entertainment so we would be actively participating in the drama in the play in the storytelling in the singing in the dancing and now so much more of it is mediated and it makes us more passive when i was a boy i had the luxury of time when i had nothing to do and some of my friends who are parents they see why it's so something's changed it's for a lot of children they don't seem to have this time with nothing to do and the time when we have nothing to do can teach us to connect more with this creative capacity somebody who has learned how to be when there is nothing to do or nothing that one has to do and there's nothing to distract me that person learns how to not be bored without an artificial surrogate pulling our awareness out and this is intrinsic to the yogic method is to get comfortable with nothingness and to get comfortable with uncertainty and to get comfortable with myself as i am here and i would suggest that in the times that we live in here we're being bombarded with all this information since birth and it has this kind of anesthetizing and divisive dividing influence the news so much of it is propagating the divide and rule game to a truly i would say villainous and disgusting extent why do the people who own the media want us to be divided well there's all sorts of reasons one could speculate but a divided person is weaker and is more susceptible to being herded shepherded coerced into doing things that might not be for their own good and certainly into buying things they do not really need when we are anesthetized we are less skillful we are less sensitive now of course there are certain situations in life where we're very grateful for anesthesia for example if one is having a you know some dental treatment one might be very grateful for it but maybe if you if you ever had the dental injection you can't really chew properly they quite speak so well we would like from the yogic perspective all our senses to be operating at their optimum and we would like all our senses to be operating in an undivided individual indivisible congruent cohesive way because this is what's going to allow us to actually experience more of the fullness and the beauty that actually is available to an incarnate human being so the other day i had the pleasure and privilege of doing a kirtan with some other human beings in reality it was a small gathering and i came out of the place where we'd done it and i saw a truly beautiful sight which i took a photograph of you can see i hope it was a very clear evening so you can see the lovely rusty orange of the glow of the sun on the horizon and you might not be able to see it on the screen but if you download the image i'm sure you'll be able to find it there is the sliver of the moon i went home by the time i got home it was a little darker and then i saw this and now i hope you can see you can see a very clear night and you can see perhaps more or less in the center there is that little bright sliver of the moon now perhaps if you download the image and you look closely my it was on the it was on the smartphone which i had switched on one of the rare occasion i switched it on and i could see the whole disk of the moon the sky was so clear but there is the bright little sliver and the rest of the moon is as if behind a shroud or a veil so i can see the whole moon but just the little sliver is bright and this got me thinking it reminded me of something that i was thinking about during the winter on another clear day when there was this moon cycle where there were very clear nights between the half moon and the full moon and i actually drew a picture which i think you'll be able to see here so i drew this picture of the full moon and it's supposed to give the effect of the shimmer of the full moon anyway you can download that to prove your leisure but coming back to the image of the the moon where we can't quite see the whole disk i was reminded of a time and perhaps the next image as well i was reminded of a time where i was out walking and it was a half moon but it was a very clear night so i can see the full orb of the moon but just at that day like here is just a sliver just a crescent that day was half was bright the other night i'd come out of a kirtan two hours i was leading the kirtan where was i nowhere but there the practice of kirtan does this beautifully because it's a physical practice it's an energetic practice i have to focus on the sounds it's very sensory so it invites all of myself into the present moment i am leading the kirtan so i'm fully there i'm fully into it there's no regret in those two hours i was only in it and i step out and i see the moon and it's very very beautiful it arrests me i'm fully there with the moon i come home and i see then the whole orb of the moon but part of it is concealed and it makes me think and i wonder how descriptive is this view of the moon of the way i allow myself to live i don't show up every moment of the day in the way i show up when i am leading a kirtan sometimes my ideas and my beliefs they interfere with my whole system honest full presence and when i allow that to happen i steal from myself the opportunity to taste and relish fully the beauty of this moment yoga always encourages us to be fully in the present moment as best as we can and this is illustrated very very beautifully in the sanskrit or indian theory of performing arts so sometimes in yoga we speak of life as a play or a dance or a drama now in the sanskrit system of aesthetics and dance and drama and performing arts called nachishastra there is this beautiful theory of rasa and bhava it's a fantastic topic one i would love to speak to speak to about speak about at greater length but very briefly bhava is from the word bhu the verb which means to be and to become now what do we know when we're a human being really no well i am but in the theory of nachishastra there's the idea that when we are as human beings there are eight and eventually perhaps nine bharvas that are known as stai bharvas these are the we are and we experience these eight and perhaps nine ways of feeling so you can see the stai bharvas on the screen here and these correspond to the rasas so rasa means that which is tasted the idea is that when we're a human being there are these eight latent things that can become they can be roused and brought into the realm of our experience and they then allow us to taste relish experience the rasas shringara rasa the erotic rasa hasya humor karuna compassion pity sorrow raudra this is when there is like we're feeling anger vida when we're feeling we're feeling heroic and valorous bhayanaka we're feeling fearful bhibhatsa we're feeling disgusted or we're feeling averse we feel a sense of wonder and amazement now have you is there anybody watching i wonder a human being who's not experienced eros the sense of attraction and sensual attraction sensual pleasure who has not experienced laughter and humor who has not experienced sorrow grief pity compassion who has not experienced anger who has not experienced a sense of motivation and enthusiasm and get up and go to go and do something who has not felt fear who has not felt disgusted who has not felt wow these things are all inherent to the human experience is the idea now the idea in sanskrit aesthetics and drama is if we go to a great drama that is really well acted that will allow us to experience these flavors very fully in a very satisfying way and as an audience member there's the idea that we need to be which literally means with heart so similarly the great actor actress acts with heart and when the great actor does this they can also display what they call the sattvic above us when they cry they're really crying when their hair's standing on end they've got goosebumps they're really in that and then they transmit to us these feelings so we really feel the fear the anger the disgust the joy the sensual attraction the eros we feel it we relish it we taste it so imagine that you go to such a performance the actors are absolute masters we have the beautiful experience of seeing the master the skilled person at work and they're doing it with such presence that it pulls us fully into the present it's stunningly beautiful it arrests us we are fully present then imagine what we can experience at the end of such a performance so if we bring up the image one more time of the rasas and staibabas look at the ninth one at the bottom of the sheet shanta and the summer there is the idea when we grant ourselves permission to live wholeheartedly then we can come to shanta peacefulness then we can come to summer evenness we feel that fulfillment we feel that satisfaction so yes in the world that we navigate we are subjected to we do encounter all types of anesthetizing influences but yoga offers us a remedy a solution an answer and the answer is heartful presence last week we spoke about gratitude for the sun the sun that is the illuminator of all and the enabler of all this beauty that we experience on the earth when we practice gratitude it brings us more into the present when we're more in the present we become more receptive more open our awareness expands we can receive more presence receptivity awareness gratitude prague prague very beautiful city the golden capital of bohemia i think a fine address would be number one bridge street bridging our previous limited idea of who we are to the yogic revelation of our true essence number one bridge street golden capital of bohemia how to get there how to live there in this bodily house presence receptivity awareness gratitude let me play on this stage of life wholeheartedly let me make it my own story let me resist the bandwagon let me resist being shepherded herded ushered along a mainstream current that may not be serving me take care not to just go with the flow just going with the flow it leads to being stranded on a sandbank lashed against razor rock or flying off a waterfall a very very long way down we've got to get in the flow this sometimes means resisting the current so we can steer where the pilot of our conscience really wants us to go so i mentioned earlier focused concentrated presence is the recipe for dharma and for dharana when we live life sahradaya wholeheartedly when we grant permission to these miraculous powers of all our senses to support our present experience we can train them to really support our deeper longing so may we find the courage in the presence to really honor the amazing gifts of embodiment to honor the gifts of conscious awareness and really use this vehicle to its true capacity to lend beauty to this earth to actually honor this incarnation and move with grace and leave this world better than how we found it which is the way of dharma and the way of yoga thank you for joining me in this series it's been wonderful to share with you on this live platform thank you for being here and i hope to share more before too long thank you very much


Jenny S
4 people like this.
Thank you for your poignant teachings this season. This episode makes me nostalgic for the time when my children were little and years away from the phenomenon of being “plugged in” and passively entertained. Little did we know back then what the future held. Here’s to living in a more creative and passionate world moving forward! ✨🌎🌍🌏✨
Caroline S
3 people like this.
what an amazing session James!!  Yoga and Beauty is not talked about much in yoga classes or in yoga teacher training.  And yet, if our practice is not steeped in beauty / flavour / taste, it is not full.  I understand that now.  That and having time for nothing to do and enjoying are great insights.  All your talks have been super inspirational.  Thank you so much.
4 people like this.
I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to these talks. So much so that I have often started them again and listened a second time straight after! Thank you James. Yoga is just so sensible and practical. I wish it was on the school curriculum.
Kate M
1 person likes this.
White Nights is one of my favourite films!! I have owned it in various formats : ) The dance is extraordinary. And you mention the Natya Shastra - coincidentally, I've started studying Bharatanatyam with a dance artist from Kolkata, and he advised me to read it (although acquiring a copy is proving tricky). In short, I have connected on many levels with your thoughtful exposition on yoga in this episode, and in the whole series! Many thanks!!!
Caroline S
Kate, yes I agree, tricky to find a book on Natya Shastra

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