Early Spring in all its incarnations has taken hold of Brooklyn, NY. We get the warm sun, the cold wind, the driving rain, the deep stillness. We get the bare hardscrabble earth in abandoned space, divinely pruned horticultural specimens delicately budded, and wildly profuse weeds in their vibrant green leafing. As I walk to teach yoga I am struck by the co-arising energy of everything around me. That bare ground will be weed-covered, that delicate specialty rose will be wilted and bare. I remember an exhibit of artifacts from ancient Egypt in which there were seeds resting in the bottom of a ceramic pot. Some of that seed resting unseen for thousands of years actually sprouted when given soil and water and light.
I see this idea that all the possibilities are present as another way of thinking about emptiness. The paradox delights me, that emptiness is everything at once, the world beyond the illusion of this-is-this, that-is-that. Okay, this way of thinking is not for everybody right this minute... perhaps eventually ... but my point is this: It is our human way to attach meanings to an object or set of conditions, to associate emotions with our perceptions and not something inherent in the object or condition itself. The rain is not good or bad. If we build houses in a flood plain then too much rain is hard on our expectations, perhaps washing away good growing soil from one place and rejuvenating soil elsewhere in the flood plain. If personal gain is the way we measure, then this is "bad" for some and "good" for others. Yet the rain itself seems to me to have no intrinsic goodness or badness.
We do this all the time with plants and animal life. This is a lot full of weeds, this is a flower bed. This is a beloved pet or endangered species, this is a pest or public health hazard. This is murder, this is food. Dualistic definitive thinking is in our nature, but must we let it rule our lives? I hope not. Yoga has opened the conduits for me and many of my students to see beyond the waves of the mind (Patanjali's Sutra I.2 yogas-citta-vritti-nirodhah), at least part of the time.
Lately I have been deeply investigating Anjali Mudra. To me this is not "prayer hands" as many of my early yoga teachers referred to it. Anjali Mudra is a hand asana that expresses many aspects of our potential awakening. Holding the base of the palms together and allowing the ends of all the fingers to gently meet by gently bending the first knuckles, we find stability and balance between right and left, a foundation in the base of the wrist and lightness and space between the palms. The slight natural cupping of the hands brings a feeling of grace, the contact of the finger tips is lively yet peaceful. There is a deep, gentle and profound sense of completeness. Such a simple thing to do, yet it brings us directly in contact with ourselves and with all the possibilities that open within us. Many speak of this as a symbol of the potential to open our hearts, as often the hands are held before the heart, the head naturally bowing slightly towards this form. There is no doubt for me there is reverence in it. There is also, for me, the availability of directing prana (life energy) through the mudra towards others. A.G. Mohan suggested using Anjali Mudra in many asanas, in order "to bring us humility rather than the ego boost from achieving the form of the asanas." I have been exploring this with great interest.
I like to take Anjali Mudra in its form of representing everything at once: perfection and imperfection, hardness and softness, dominance in balance with surrender. I could go on and on in this same vein. Essentially it represents emptiness and completeness and all the potential of the seed and bud, the soil and the sun, the rain, the breath, the space for the breath in all living things.
A dramatic moment stands out for me when I fully and instinctively understood that everything exists at the same time. Thirty years ago, in the midst of a calm and happy time together with a visiting friend from college days, I felt an enormous surge of what I felt as anger towards him, and out of the blue blurted out at him (suddenly weeping so copiously that he took me in his arms), "When you are a decrepit old man I want to be the one pushing your wheelchair!" There was so much pain and joy in the deep understanding of my love for him that I simply overflowed in all emotional directions at the same time! In that moment, I could see old age in his beautiful youthful form, and feel despair of his loss as I came to understand the depth of his presence in my life. It wasn't long before we both realized that we would spend the rest of our lives together.