Saturday, July 20, 2013

Inner Layers Align, Koshas of an Asymmetrical Body

I'm standing in my kitchen thrilled by the quintessential integrity and alignment in this little teapot by Hsin-Chuen Lin on my shelf. How can an object be so beautiful, proportioned perfectly, balanced in every way in form and function and not be symmetrical? In my own daily life, I see so many moments when my inner dialogue seems designed to keep me off balance. I think of how my mind offers me criticism, praise, observations, excuses, prompts, and shifting values in every moment, all of which push and pull me around. I'm learning that my sense of inner alignment comes from some where else, some where other than all that ongoing mental activity.  I think this little tea pot reflects inner alignment and more than just the physical skill of the potter who made it.

In my first yoga training, I was introduced to ideas about the Vedantic and yogic concept of Koshas, the layers, conceptualized as sheaths or "bodies," in which we function and experience awareness. There are said to be five of them, the physical body (Anamaya kosha), the breath body (Pranamaya kosha), the energy body (Manomaya kosha), the mental or wisdom body (Vijanamaya kosha), and the bliss body (Anandamaya kosha). Of course they have names in a number of ancient languages, but for my purposes they are layers of living awareness, each rooted in some aspect of my concept of self, and expansive in ways that are becoming more accessible to me through daily life by way of my yoga and meditation practices, and my growing mindfulness. I don't have to separate them, or define them by anyone else's terms, though sometimes what others say or experience does shed light in places where I'm not so clear. There is a delicate balance between allowing myself to let go of defining elements in order to experience reality without distortion or projection.

It is as simple as being fully present, a practice that takes everything I've got. I can allow this in anything I'm doing -- a level of cultivated awareness from which I slip in and out. In my yoga practice I take a standing pose of warrior one (Virabhadrasana I). This is similar to a standing lunge with the back leg at more of an angle and the back foot fully down on the floor so that each hip is rotating a little differently from the other. To start with, I am probably full of technical check points, sensing the difference when my left ankle is the rear support or my right ankle takes that role. My awareness scans my body - so much variation day to day, moment to moment, in this hip or those quadriceps or shoulder. First layer, Anamaya kosha indeed, full of recorded experience as well as sensations in this moment. I notice that my breath inhabits my form, operating on another level. I notice the slight twist in my ribs as I breathe, feel expansion inward and outward throughout my body, and feel that I am gaining access to my energy body, flowing inward from earth and air and outward into earth and air. I can sense dull places where there are less open channels, and vivid places that are like energy centers. In all of this my mind is awake (at least some of the time). This is not the judgmental, critical, assessing mind, but a spacious, curious mind. Beyond these sensory, physical, intellectual or emotional facets arises a inclusive connectivity, that in some inexplicable way accepts the space where I stand, the air I breathe, other living beings and myself in this without distinguishing hierarchies or values, offering a sense of total being.

All this happens with continuing messages from my stiff left ankle, knowing that my right shoulder is not level with my left, and listening for that wasp dive-buzzing the corners of the window nearby. I'm not driven towards perfection, not expecting my physical form to be symmetrical or to accomplish some kind of measurable feats in order to be worthy of my respect. My body is not unlike the little teapot, a graceful offering of internal alignment, within its functional range of motion.

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