A Spiritual Life


JOIN US LIVE on ZOOM this Friday, September 4th at 5:00pm to discuss the Summer Book Read of “The Art of Happiness” !!

Once again I am going to combine the discussion we had in Yoga Sutra Study yesterday with the final recap of our Summer Book Club reading in “The Art of Happiness”. Both cover the complexity of LIFE and how to find connection with our seed of compassion and happiness (or experience our pure consciousness) while the world around us seems to be in chaos.

In yoga, our basic dilemma is that our pure unchanging inner consciousness (purusa, the “seer”) has been disguised with disturbances caused by its relationship with the ever-changing external nature (Prakrti, the “seen”). The goal of yoga is to “still the fluctuations of the consciousness” so that we are no longer disturbed and are able to experience a deep peace. The Dalai Lama states a similar idea in the last section of “The Art of Happiness”, saying that “a happy life is built on a foundation of a calm, stable state of mind.”

But how do we get there? Our discussion of Yoga Sutras II.18-23 brought up the reality that the energies of life and nature (the three gunas of rajas, tamas, and sattva) ARE disturbing to our consciousness, and the ability to become free of the disturbances and imbalances they cause is a long process. The Dalai Lama does not deny this either. In this closing chapter on “basic spiritual values” he expresses the need for having faith, inner discipline, and practices to tame the mind. And, these are things that can and should be brought into one’s daily actions.

To look at yoga or any “spiritual practice” as something that occurs in a void, separate from the turmoil of the “real world” is naive. We cannot separate ourselves from nature – we are a microcosm of the macrocosm. If the outer world is in turmoil, our own experience will feel tumultuous unless we have a grasp of and a deep connection to our own pure consciousness. As the Sutras repeat in different ways, “nature” and its evolutes exist to help “the seer” (purusa) uncover its true pure balanced state. However, at every moment we have to use our awareness and discernment because our sense organs love to be drawn outward toward all the “drama”.

We cannot walk in the world and pretend that we are already enlightened or truly and deeply happy at the level that Yoga speaks of. It takes daily action to know and to realize that our actions DO have consequences whether we witness or see them clearly. YES, we have to strive for that idea that we ALL matter, that deep inside we are ALL the same, that spiritually we are ALL human and every being strives to be happy. But, to think this is already the actual reality we are all living in is what is called “spiritual bypassing”.

A “spiritual life” is an aware and present life, a life that does not separate itself from the realities of the world no matter how difficult they become, but consistently strives to make them better. I always think of a quote from BKS Iyengar about how if even ONE cell in our bodies is not in agreement or understanding, then we are still not completely whole. Looking again at the macrocosm in the same way – if one group or person in our world is NOT getting equitable opportunity or treatment, then we have to ask ourselves if we as a community can truly be whole and balanced.

The end of “The Art of Happiness” gives an example of a practice of meditation for “knowing the nature of the mind”. The coming Yoga Sutras start to show us the various ways to start to move toward stilling the fluctuations of our consciousness…keep practicing and uncover that “art of happiness”…

Jennie Williford CIYT

Jennie Williford (CIYT Level 3) is a transplant to LaCrosse via Montana, Illinois, and originally Texas. Throughout her life moves and 5 trips to India, Jennie has acquired a well-rounded and multi-faceted approach to Iyengar Yoga since her start in 1998. Jennie loves the experimental and explorative nature of yoga in accessing deeper knowledge of the Self on every level. The practice of yoga can be intense and introspective, however as practitioners we can be light-hearted and open-minded in our discipline. Jennie is intrigued by the philosophy of yoga and hopes to share this depth of subject while teaching the physical and mental benefits that come from the practice of posture.