Many times during my travels I meet a lot of Yogis who have injured themselves in some form or other whilst doing their physical practice, most of the times I have even met teachers who take some kind of “pride” in exhibiting the injuries they had while “trying” to get into a posture. In fact I know of a few teachers who have to take complete bed-rests once in a while to recover from their injuries, to start “jumping” into postures again. I wonder what makes them push themselves over the edge, what makes them greedy enough to take their body for granted and suffer.
This question brings us to a very important point mentioned in the books of yoga (Katha-Upanishad) which not many talk about in the yoga circles, the concept of Shreyas and Preyas.
Shreyas and preyas are two paths mentioned in the Upanishad. The simplest meaning of the paths is basically the “perspective” with which you look at things. Shreyas is the path of lasting good and preyas is the path of immediate satisfaction.
The Upanishad is obviously talking about spiritual path but it is also so very applicable in our day to day life. The yoga enthusiast who does not conduct his asana with awareness and focus will lose site of the “present” moment and push so hard so as to injure, just to get his body in some desired posture for a micro-second to feel good in the ego. If the asanas are conducted with an understanding that the body develops its capabilities over a period of time and not in one yoga class, the asana practice would be “lightening” and un-stressful. When the Yogi follows the path of shreyas, the perspective becomes broader, allowing for time and regularity to ground the practice which can provide benefits for the whole life time, rather than injuring and causing a set back to the beautiful gentle process of growth. Not just in the asana practice but also in day to day life, how many times have we gone over board with food, drinks, habit patterns, guilt and other tendencies because of loss of the bigger picture?
The beauty of Universe lies in the fact that the imminent and transient are both present simultaneously; it is not that the permanent is in one place and the impermanent in another. In our life every moment presents a choice between the permanent and the impermanent. The impermanent comes in form of various situations, opportunities, and pleasures, while the permanent is ever there as the very basis of it all. The movies projected on the screen may keep changing but the “white” screen permanently remains, untouched and unscratched.
So, if we really “see” things, they can be experienced in two realities, the immediate reality and the wider reality. A skilled mind can distinguished easily between them. This skill is called “viveka” or discretion. An approach to gradually change the perception of things needs to be inculcated in our life. This can happen when we develop certain sensitivity to appreciate lasting happiness as opposed to the impermanent. This ability in the Yoga sutra is called “viveka-khyati” in which the person is able to see things as they are and not what the mind-veils or sensory defects project.
For example – A person who needs to lose weight may have to give up eating some things and take up a rigorous exercise routine, in the beginning it takes a lot of effort to banish laziness and “behave” while eating, later the challenge gets tougher as it takes even more effort to keep up the motivation to workout and diet over certain period of time. In this case the immediate reality can be interpreted as “suffering” but over some months of consistent practice as the weight loss happens, the person find joy, confidence and lightness. Ultimately this health routine, if managed properly can become a lifestyle and the constant yo-yoing of weight and psyche along with it can be controlled. In the view of preyas the enthusiast could have quit the weight loss program labeling it to be “suffering” or by blaming others etc. but if the perspective is made broader and looked from the point of shreyas, the few months of regular training can become a healthy lifestyle accruing benefits for the whole life.
Let’s get it straight, it’s about “Choice”, and life gives us enough chance and strength to make choices. Our choices create our reality. As long as the mind is full of attractions and repulsions, the impermanent alone attracts the mind and we do not choose the permanent. We become myopic with the immediate things, and turn blind to the bigger picture. The “inner voice” or the “intuition” becomes lesser and lesser as the mind is busy fulfilling the demands of immediate externals.
The two important things we all should practice are firstly to take time to “see through” things and not just “look at” them, look for the bigger picture and not the immediate pleasures. This can be developed over a period of time by being mindful and aware of the situations and taking responsibility of the choices we make.
Secondly, generate trust in that “inner voice”, this can be achieved by practicing meditation to stop the chatter of mind between likes and dislikes, working on past issues with forgiveness and letting go, and finally giving the “inner voice” a chance in every experience that life takes us to. Let us all try to live our own truth honestly till we reach the final Truth. Let us resolve to look beyond the “me” and “mine” and waking up to the call of our Hearts.
A time will come when our Will, will become the Universal Will and then the life will flow through us and not against us.