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Dear Jenni: YSP 1:39

Choosing meditation according to one’s affinities also brings mental stability.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:39 – Bouanchaud translation

What shorthand is to words, symbols are to ideas. This is especially true of religious concepts.

Elsie Sechrist – 1909-1992 – American psychic

How time flies when you’re philosophizing… Has it really been 12 weeks since we discussed the role of Ohm in yoga culture? At the time, I argued that “Ohm” wasn’t appropriate for me because it leaves me unmoved. It matters not how many greatly learned people tell me it’s the sacred syllable and/or the sound God makes. It moves me not. This comes across a littler harsher than I intend but for me, it’s just noise. Sacred noise to a great hunk of the planet’s population but in the end, it does me no good at all.

I’m not picking on Ohm specifically either. The seed syllables of the chakras: lam, vam, ram, yam, ham, Ohm and AH are equally noise. In short, all these sounds make about as much sense to me as Ava Maria (Hail Mary) or the expression “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti” (In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) means to the average Hindu. I’m not arguing one is better than the other because that would be just incredibly stupid. The point I’m making is that culture counts. I believe we are all hardwired to experience the state of Yoga. I think that’s part of our essential human heritage. It’s our birthright, encoded into our DNA and made manifest in the structures of our wonderful brains. It’s not that any of us are lacking this capacity to reach a state of Yoga but many of us (most of us?) have lost our ability to access it in a regular fashion. It’s there but it’s sometimes behind a locked door. And I believe that not all the keys are the same between people or between cultures.

Gregorian chant moves me to tears. As I type this, I’m listening to a recording by Anonymous 4 of Agnus Dei (Lamb of God). It fills my mind and my spirit with peace that allows my mind to tease out what words I want to bring to this blog. It leads me into mindfulness. And for those of you who haven’t figured it out already, YES, I went to Catholic schools as a child.

It’s in this sutra that I find the heart of the matter and here it is: “according to one’s affinities”. Culture counts. Personality counts. Bouanchaud makes the point that icons, mantra, etc are a provisional focus for the mind. Jenni makes good points about the use of focal points or dristis as an often used technique to still the mind. There’s dozens of them in yoga. The key point is to remember that the symbol isn’t the thing we seek – it’s just a shorthand expression of a state of heart that doesn’t respond well to the limitations of linear language. It just needs to be a symbol that reverberates inside our right cerebral hemisphere.

To me, this is an opportunity to explore. Personally, I didn’t know western liturgical music had such a powerful emotional impact on me until I studied yoga. But it was soothing and helped me let go of the workings of the ego-complex. The key point is for me to keep it as a symbol and not allow my mind to become overly attached to it. I’m all right so long as I remember that the symbol is not the concept. I suspect the concept is universal; the symbols are all part of the fascinating jostling wonderfulness of humanity.

Thanks for reading and Namaste



About Kate MacKay

I'm a certified Viniyoga teacher, in Fredericton, NB. I was a 9-1-1 operator and emergency services dispatcher for 22 years. Surprisingly, the two worked well together, or as I liked to put it, from the sublime to the ridiculous -- all in a day's work. I'm currently off work as a result of a stress-induced cardiac condition that's thrown a few crimps in my lifestyle. I'm not actively teaching yoga in the classroom right now and probably won't for several more months. That said, this blog is one of the forms of practice I can do and I thank you for joining me in this exploration of all things yoga.

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