At the end of last night’s Satsang class at the Sivananda ashram (which I mentioned in yesterday’s post) the yogi leading the class discussed the importance of not getting too attached to material possessions. In the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu scripture that underpins the philosophy of yoga which the ashram teaches, Swami Sivananda refers to humans as the ‘caretakers’ of everything they come into contact with in life, rather than the owners. We are all, he says, ‘passing pilgrims’ in this world, which is why the whole concept of ownership is one that he discourages.
The yogi gave the example of someone saving up to buy their first house, who feels that in the exchange of deeds they are laying claim to that property and making it their own. Yet the reality is that such an arrangement is only ever temporary because, ultimately, the end of life will sever all such ties. It follows, then, that everything else we humans like to stamp our ownership on is also merely temporary – including our relationships.
I really like the idea of being a ‘caretaker’ rather than an ‘owner.’ To give an example of why, when a person borrows an item of clothing they generally take care of it more than if it were their own, because they know at the end of the day (or week, or month) they’re going to have to give it back (after all, it would be pretty embarrassing giving something back in a much worse state than the one in which it was loaned).
I think that as a society we would do well to stop and think sometimes about the way in which we regard the things – and indeed people – closest to us. If everyone had in mind that they were ‘passing pilgrims’ the world might, I believe, be a better place to pass through.
I probably shouldn’t admit to being short of inspiration today, but there you have it: My confession. It’s been a taxing start to the year, to say the least, and I’ve exhausted all of my energy stores – both mental and physical. Training for next weekend’s 16 mile run isn’t helping on the physical front, but it has at least given me a focus for which I’ve been grateful in my lower moments; hard as it is to get out and running when the axe of redundancy (or any other challenging life event) is hovering over your neck, it really is true what they say about exercise making you feel better. Though I’m still not convinced I’m going to enjoy tomorrow morning’s scheduled 12 mile run in the rain….
But this is not to be a negative post, far from it. I’ve found a new job that I’m itching to start, have already got some freelance irons in the fire and genuinely feel this period of change will be the making of me – I’m just looking forward to the change phase being over and the new phase being underway, because it’s the change phase itself that’s so very tiring.
Rather than go home and slump on the sofa this evening (as is my body’s inclination) I’ve decided to be proactive in beating the tiredness, and am planning a return to the Sivananda Yoga Centre in Putney for its evening Satsang class. The Centre is a branch of the ashram in Kerala (southern India) where I did a two week residential yoga course in 2011. Satsang is a free class which comprises a twenty to thirty minute group meditation session, followed by 45 minutes of mantra chanting and a talk on the philosophy of yoga. It sounds a bit crack pot, I’ll admit, but I actually find the whole thing very relaxing, and a great way to ‘switch off’ the mind after a long day or period of stress. To any disbelievers reading this post I will say only this: Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
Writing this post reminded me of the few days post-ashram when I and two of my fellow ashramees [sic] spent a few days on the coast, in Kovalam. This pic was when we were still full of the enthusiasm of regular yoga practice – how times have changed (for me at least, I can’t speak for the others!)