Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Monday, 3 December 2012

A Kind of Hush

I'm back on my feet, still hoarse, waiting one more day before I return to yoga, but some parts of me are running well.  (There may even be parts of me which are excellent.)  It's a good day for a walker to stay indoors; we had freezing rain again last night and the sidewalks are glazed with a layer of ice which would be best tackled with skates rather than winter boots.  I sit in my fibre room, tidying and sorting, drinking mulled apple tea, while appreciating the quiet blanket of snow which stills the neighbourhood noise outside my studio window.

My attendance at the yoga studio has been patchy this fall.  Travel, family obligations and minor ailments have limited my time there, making it feel sometimes as if my commitment to yoga/meditation practice is not all it should be.  Although practice enters my life in some form every day, somehow, I equate studio time with "real" yoga.  Studies or practice at home leaves me with a nagging feeling that I'm losing my grip on something important to me, that I'm less of a practitioner when circumstances draw me away from practice with others.

Some years ago, Colin recommended Chogyam Trungpa's "Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism" as one of the best books written on yoga. Like its author, the book is complex, but, if I understand its essential message, it is that there is no "pay off" in yoga practice. (Chogyam Trungpa phrases this much more elegantly.)  Yoga/meditation is not a self-help programme.  Degrees of practice do not guarantee results; any benefits which come to us through yoga are incidental to the practice itself.  If we become attached to practice in that we expect certain outcomes - improved health, clarity of thought, etc. - we are falling into a trap of egoism and attachment, just as we often fall into the trap of attachment to any other material good.  If we expect our practice to do something for us, we are treating yoga as if it were no more than the latest fashion statement.  Consider how easy it is for us to believe, "I devote x hours to my yoga practice; I am a serious yogi/ni."  Spiritual materialism is an obstacle and one we often don't recognize before we smack up against it.

It stands to reason that my sense that I am a failure as a yoga/meditation practitioner is as much a part of spiritual materialism as its opposite.  If I only see myself as truly practising yoga when I'm in the studio, I am attached to the belief in yoga as a pay off, where a certain degree of practice in a specified setting equals "real" yoga.  Viewing yoga this way is not an excuse for slapdash attendance at classes, but it does provide some insight into how quickly I can be caught on the slippery slope of treating yoga as a means to an end, rather than the end itself.

I am a believer in cycles; like the phases of the moon, everything waxes and wanes. Cycles remind us to slow down, catch our breath and take time to reflect while we wait for the next upswing.  When I'm in a down cycle of my spinning or knitting, I don't lament that I'm not at my wheels or spindles or working with needles and yarn.  I know that I'm taking a needed break from that work, shifting my focus, so that when I am called back to spinning or knitting, I will be able to approach that activity with a fresh perspective.  

Fibre work always calls me back to what is needed at the time.  If I trust the process, yoga will do the same.

Sometimes, our path is not always clear.



  1. Wise words!! As someone once said to me, if I expect results, I am already limited whatever possible future benefits by the narrowness of my imagination of what is possible. How horrible is that?! And, of course, I think of one of my favourite sutras in Patanjali's Yoga Sutra (1.12) Abhyasa vairagrabham tan nirodhah. Through practice and non-attachment to results we will achieve the goal of yoga (nirodhah). Lots to work with there! Thank you for this post...

    1. Thank you, Robyn, for your beautiful words.