To be avoided by my own stuff from doing the only thing that could help me get rid of that really ‘stuff’ was horrible.

Krishna Das, Chants of a Lifetime

According to legend, the altar in the Jerusalem Temple hid a shaft that led all the method down into the Primal Abyss. When the primordial chaos bubbled up with the shaft occasionally and threatened to engulf the world, the high priest would write the Tetragrammaton-the four-letter Unpronounceable Name of God-onto a pottery fragment and drop it down the shaft. The turmoil would then decrease.

In a sense, the Four Yogas have actually ended up being the 4 letters of my personal Tetragrammaton-though I typically do more or less the opposite of exactly what the high priest did. When my inner abyss begins to bubble up, I stow the fragments and bury the brush, rather combating the chaos with the very things which it’s made: frenzied efforting, dispersed energies, sense of guilt, shame and the conscious fret and fume of resolutions and clenched teeth. [i] Like the woodsman in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits, I tire myself attempting to reduce a tree with a dull saw, due to the fact that I am too hectic to stop and sharpen the saw.

Maybe I am getting ahead of myself.

I started asana practice numerous years ago for three very particular physical reasons:

  • to allow me to sit easily cross-legged on the floor while playing the tabla.
  • to enable me to heft an infant and a toddler around without my back seizing up.
  • to enable me to tidy up after my youngsters and pet dogs without having to either squat or lean forward over a bent knee, thus grinding the knee joint.

When I began doing the workouts, I knowingly intended to restrict myself to them, not diving into yoga viewpoint at all. I was not among those Christians who thought yoga was dangerous-in truth, the evangelical university at which I taught offered a yoga class-I merely figured my plate was complete, thank you.

I did come into contact with Christians with a much more conservative worldview than my own, of course-people who thought that reflection opens one up to the impact of fiends, that yoga asanas are naturally Hinduistic (and for that reason demonic,) that namajapa-the recurring chanting of the name of a deity-was un-Christian even if the divine being were Jesus, because it breaches St. Paul’s concept of hoping in the Spirit, however … with the mind likewise. [ii]

As a longtime specialist of Christian meditation, I did not take these people too seriously, but I also never thought about the effects of their being wrong. I later recognized that, if they were mistaken, my worldview would’ve to change drastically, due to the fact that either you make special fact claims for your very own custom or you do not.

The ironic thing, obviously, is that the yoga-at-arm’s-length folks were definitely right– yoga is dangerous! As I ended up being more comfy in my body, lost weight, grew more powerful and even more limber, took more notice of what I ate and became more confident, I developed an interest for the philosophical foundations of this transformative practice. I devoured Swami Vivekananda’s Four Yogas, and rapidly proceeded to the Katha Upanishad, Vedanta viewpoint and the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna. After that, there was no going back.

I’m still a Christian, however God is much bigger now than prior to I discovered yoga. I’ve discovered that one can indeed be both a Christian and a Yogi, and the discovery has radically altered my outlook and practice. I’m now able to honor the Divine in lots of kinds, while still being committed to Jesus as my ishta, or selected perfect. There’s only one Rama, said Sri Ramakrishna, and He’s a thousand names.[iii]

It was the works of Ramakrishna’s disciple Vivekananda that introduced me to the Four Yogas-a a little arbitrary, but nonetheless helpful means of thinking about spiritual discipline. They overlap with each other to some extent, and many activities might be identified under even more than one. While most people will certainly favor one type over the others (I’m more a jnana yogi than anything else), every yogi’s individual sadhana, or spiritual practice, should include all four. They are:

  • Karma Yoga, the filtration of action with generous work.
  • Bhakti Yoga, the filtration of feeling through devotional practices.
  • Jnana Yoga, the purification of the intellect through understanding and understanding.
  • Raja Yoga, the purification of concentration through meditation. (Some people think about Hatha Yoga, the physical asana practice, as a different fifth discipline, however I regard it as part of Raja Yoga, since its initial function was to prepare the body to be still and comfy in reflection.)

These four disciplines, taken together, function as a daily Alka Seltzer for my personal abyss. Daily application stills the variations of the mind, [iv] and keeps me sane, healthy, and familiar with the Divine presence in my life.

But when a periodic eruption sends out up a flood of bubbling chaos, instead of increasing my yogic dose, for some factor I back off. I become much too busy for asana practice, meditation, prayer, research, or healthy eating and sleeping. And obviously, the even more I disregard those things, the less able I’m to accomplish the jobs that somehow seem more urgent.

I end up physically debilitated and emotionally depressed. Nothing appears meaningful or worth the effort, and the extremely sky overhead feels like a suffocating leaden dome. I comprehend why Sylvia Plath likened her episodes of depression to a bell container coming down over her.

When I discovered myself sitting in a coffee bar, attempting to compose a post while hunched over my laptop like Snoopy acting to be a vulture because my back was painfully seized up, with a whole fall’s worth of unraked leaves in the back yard and a house littered enough to get lost in, I finally woke up and realized that trying to stuff the chaos back down the shaft on my own was not working any much better this time than it had the previous times. Slowly, with the assistance of a loving partner, medical intervention, and a renewed sadhana, I began digging out from under the debris.

snoopy

After months away from it, asana practice was difficult at first, but it’s returning to me faster than I feared. My ability to concentrate in reflection has eroded likewise, however it, too, is slowly going back to pre-chaos levels. I’m working again with restored vigor.

The challenge, of course, is to bear in mind to do exactly what’s essential for health when the mind is telling you to put those things on the hold. You do not have time to sharpen that saw, the mind will tell you-keep sawing, since this tree needs to come down right now! However obviously, it’s exactly when you think you’ve more immediate things to take care of than your spiritual practice that your individual sadhana becomes so essential. Which is probably why, even when many were coming and going till He had no time even to eat,[v] Jesus still made time to withdraw into a lonely place to pray.

About: Scott Robinson

Website – mandalaband.net

Profile – Scott Robinson taught college music at a Christian university for 10 years before leaving to pursue innovative work and fatherhood. He’s actually written for Sojourners Publication, PRISM, Cross Currents, Minnesota Parent, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He currently composes, records and performs original kirtan with his band Mandala. Scott is a proclaimed member of the Third Order of St. Francis, and lives in Philadelphia with his other half, 2 children, and 2 incessantly dropping canines.

Footnotes

[i] Lewis, C. S. The Screwtape Letters
[ii] 1 Corinthians 14:15
[iii] The Scripture of Sri Ramakrishna
[iv] Patanjali, Yoga Sutras, second aphorism
[v]Mark 6:31