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May 2014 - Yoga and The Life You Did or Didn't Choose

Dear Yoga Friends,

Recently my suddenly-teenaged daughter asked me: "Who decided that life should be like this?" My family is like many others. We're perpetually busy with work and things that need to get done. My daughter has the typical assortment of activities for a kid her age: school, homework, sports, music lessons, socializing, etc. It took me a moment to realize what she was asking, and then it dawned on me that this was one of those "big" questions. She quickly painted a picture of an alternative life, filled with time spent in nature, listening to music, hanging out with friends, and relaxing. As my father used to say, "nice work if you can get it."

Two things have happened in my life that inform my perspective on her question. The first is my finding the path of yoga. The second is taking 13 months off from life as I knew it, to travel with my wife. This was before the internet kicked in, when it was possible to wander in some hinterland, out of communication for weeks or even months at a time.

During that year, among other things, I read every book and essay by Krishnamurthi that I could get my hands on. I also wrote, not so much a diary, but descriptions of special experiences, such as sitting for a couple of hours on a porch overlooking terraces of rice fields, witnessing transitions from a tropical night to dawn to a bright morning. Krishnamurthi used a term "choiceless awareness" to describe a certain meditative state of consciousness. Immersed in an often-hectic life filled with family, community, and work obligations, I am long back from that year of exploration and introspection. But I still find its essence in my yoga practice, which in turn informs other moments of my life.

Krishnamurthi studied some yoga with B.K.S. Iyengar, and although the two men walked different paths, they had much in common. In The Tree of Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar writes:

You may practice meditation and develop awareness when you are sitting quietly in a park, and it comes quite easily. But when you are busy working, your life gets dominated by thought and it is hard to have total awareness. When you practice asana, pranayama, and pratyahara, you learn to be totally aware - you develop awareness in your whole body while you are engaged in action. Then you can become totally aware in all circumstances. In a park, while you look at a tree, you forget yourself and you are one with the universe. Why can't you learn to be one with the universe in your own world - that is to say, your self and your body? This way of looking at daily life is total awareness, total integration, and total meditation.

These two men, J. Krishnamurthi and B.K.S. Iyengar, are both shining examples of meditation in action. Yes, I feel meager and crude by comparison, but I've seen a glimmer of what they are describing. Enough to know that my daughter is onto something.




Chad Balch