May 20, 2018 Opinion, Philosophy

My daily Mysore practice with Satinder Khalsa this month has me rethinking my relationship with time. More specifically, I’ve been asking why time is so important to me.

I am realizing there has never been a point in my adult life where there’s not been a quiet sense of urgency. It’s always there in the background, just below the surface. A sense that time is fleeting. Time is of the essence. There is no time to spare. There is no time to waste.

I have to be careful what I say here. Yatha drishti Tatha sristi, “as your vision so is your universe.” But so often I’ve told myself I’ll never be able to do a posture only to prove myself wrong a few months later. So I’ve learned to never say never. But when it comes to Marichyasana D it feels as though never is apropos. At least in this lifetime. But why does it matter?

I’m currently being stopped at this posture, which has greatly challenged my dance with time. My teacher has determined I do not have the adikara to advance any further. Adikara is Sanskrit for the right to know or the right to have.”It’s the proposition that if one takes something before it’s time it’s a kind of stealing, a kind of cheating. But when we cheat what we are really doing is cheating time, or more precisely, we are cheating because of our fear that time is running out.

As it turns out, the Hindu goddess Kali (and SLAY’s adopted deity) is the goddess of time, and time (kala) is the slayer of all things. We know this instinctively but mostly put it out of our minds. It’s the double-edged sword of consciousness. It’s the reason for our success as a species that ironically leads to most of our suffering.

The Ashtanga practice is a great metaphor for this dichotomy. It takes years, decades, a life, many lives to find adikara but the ego wants instant gratification. It knows time is short. It wants that next thing so it can move on to another next thing. So the stage is set for conflict. But time always wins in the end so why not just surrender? That’s the central lesson of Yoga Chikitsa as I see it.

It’s a hard lesson to learn in a culture driven by results and success. It’s easy to get caught up in the cycle of attainment without questioning whether we’re ready to have what we are seeking. We are so driven by “winning” at all costs that taking shortcuts is almost expected. It’s unsurprising when we discover our favorite athlete takes performance enhancing drugs, or a businessperson or politician skirts the law for personal gain. They were just doing whatever it takes to get to the next level after all. Why should yoga be any different? Ignore a little here. Modify a little there. And voila, we’re doing second series!

Stopping at Mari D this month has shown me the value in spending time reflecting on my practice and its purpose, placing more emphasis on the quality of drishti, bandhas, and breath. I’m spending less energy on arriving and more on experiencing. And this reflection transfers to other aspects of my life. I’m beginning to look at time differently. I’m beginning to look at my asana practice differently. I’m beginning to let go. But the month isn’t over. Stay tuned.