It already seems the the festive season is well behind us and we're all back at our regular classes and home practice, New Year resolutions to the fore (perhaps a better name for yoga practitioners is the Sankalpa). It’s a great idea to have a goal for our practice, whether the starting point be primarily physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual, from which will flow an intention to practice to help us reach that goal. Whatever your goal, the yoga tool-kit of practices has so much to offer. But perhaps in this new year, we can start to realise that our practice isn’t confined to the yoga mat or the time of formal practice; it can and does include all aspects of life. All spiritual traditions share this, of course.
My svadhyaya (self-study/ study of texts) for this year is the fabulous Tantric text that says precisely that. Tantra and Yoga are considered to be one and the same. Yoga is "union" and tantra is "expansion" through that state of union. The text is called the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, (VBT for short) framed as a conversation between Bhairavi (Shakti or Cosmic Energy) and Bhairava (Consciousness, also called Shiva), in which Bhairavi asks the questions. The text describes many different ways to focus and hold our own awareness so that inner illumination (Awareness ) can arise. According to tantra, Consciousness is the fundamental "substance" of the universe; it has always existed and it always will. It can't be described or defined: I found this awe-inspiring quotation from the Tao Te Ching that refers to it:
Something there is, whose veiled creation was
Before the earth or sky begin to be;
So silent, so aloof and so alone,
It changes not, nor fails, but touches all;
Conceive it as the mother of the world.
I do not know its name.....
I participated in an introduction to the meditation practices (the 112 dharanas) during a retreat at Mandala Yoga Ashram a couple of years ago but I'm planning to build on that beginning. I have a lot to study and practice! Translations vary; I have 3 translations to look at: here’s an extract from one translation of verses 1-2:
I have been listening to the hymns of creation
Enchanted by the verses
Yet still I am curious
What is this delight-filled universe, into which we find ourselves born?
What is this mysterious awareness, shimmering everywhere within it?
At least a delight-filled universe sounds good in the dark days of January. Perhaps it's possible through practice of these dharanas to develop the experience of openness and inner spaciousness that will allow us to be available moment to moment in life, rather then tangled up in constant (stressful) mental activity.