Andy Curtis- Payne reflects on the impact of Covid 19 and how we can look to the future…
We find ourselves in strange and potentially challenging times, much of what we have hitherto accepted as normal has now changed; our working lives, our home lives, our leisure time, all these and more have been impacted by the global pandemic. All this change has, somewhat inevitably, created more uncertainty and instability. We need only look to Yoga Sūtra 2.15, the sutra in which Patanjali presents the potential causes of suffering, to see how disturbing change can be; parināma (change) taking first place amongst the causes of duḥkha!
Viewed from a yoga perspective we can see clearly how the kleśa, the inner afflictions or obstacles referred to in Yoga Sutra 2.3, have risen up; what else is panic buying but asmitā, a false sense of self, and abhiniveśa, a deep primordial fear, on overdrive! So, if we are dealing with the kleśa it seems obvious to look to kriya yoga, outlined in Yoga Sutra 2.1, for support and solutions. In the absence of the usual structures that contain us we perhaps need to be more thoughtful about maintaining healthy and supportive routines, a certain tapas, or self-discipline, (the first component of kriya yoga), to contain and direct our energies appropriately.
So, what of svādhyāya, or self-reflection, which is the next? We can reflect on how our buttons are being pressed regularly by the challenging and changing circumstances we are living through, being aware that even though I practice yoga I am all too human in certain ways at certain times. Knowing and observing that I am being challenged hopefully allows me a certain perspective, a degree of space in which to notice and contain my kleśa before my actions are adversely affected- again! In addition, if I can observe these reactions I am not them, they are simply things that I experience, I am the observer!
So, to īśvara pranidhāṇa, the final component, which is to do with recognition and acceptance of our true place in creation. Much of what we are experiencing is out of our control, hence the abhiniveśa; we like to delude ourselves we are in control and much of our security is built on this, but at times like this we must accept that there are greater forces at work which we cannot control. To an extent we can only watch and wait as things unfold, but we must reflect on what it is we can do, what we do have. I refer, of course, to the teachings with which we have all been blessed. I find myself once more profoundly grateful to Sir, TKV Desikachar, for his tireless dedication in disseminating his father’s teachings for the benefit of all. I hear his words and am comforted; the last time I was privileged to be taught by him in a group setting he often said, “Anything can happen!”, I remember now being puzzled at the time but, with hindsight, those words seem somewhat prophetic.
I titled this piece Spring Sabbatical, for we are now definitely seeing and feeling the seasons move forward again. With gratitude I feel the warmth of the sun as the days lengthen once more. I find this particularly helpful this year; to see nature unperturbed, going about her business as birds sing, flowers open and release their delicate perfumes. So, the extra space I now find myself in, much against my own will and predisposition, gives me an opportunity to reflect and embrace the Spring in a way I am usually too busy to appreciate. The hurly burly of everyday life can all too often eclipse the minor miracles unfolding around us every day; the aforementioned bird song, squirrels chasing each other through the oak trees and storks (yes really, storks!) renovating last year’s nest, Spring cleaning you might say!
Please do not mistake me, I am not trying to make light of the current situation, but simply to offer a different perspective on it; if we cannot change the situation can we embrace it, can we let go of what we normally do (samskāra) and develop new attitudes and patterns to allow ourselves to move forward in a lighter way? Sir once said that yoga is not about escaping from life but about moving through it more skilfully (echoes of the Bhagavad Gītā, 2.50 where Kṛṣṇa enjoins Arjuna to devote himself to this yoga of skilful action), so if we engage fully with our practice, all we have been taught, we can more effectively care for ourselves and for others.
So perhaps when you next practice with each inhale feel yourself nourished, strengthened and ready to move forward and, with each exhale let go and feel lighter and freer. For this is the essence of the teaching we have received; the breath is that which nourishes and cleanses the body, stabilises and cleanses the mind and thus creates some space in the heart where we can rest and remember what we really are, Light!