Starting with Shakespeare in “As You Like It”, and possibly before then, our culture has toyed with the metaphor performance provides for life. The modern yogi’s version of “All the world’s a stage…” is to perceive ourselves as if watching a movie of our lives. This cultivates, among many things, a connection to the witness (saksi)/Self/Seer, the ability to be present, and a loosening of our particular viewpoint which in turn opens us to compassion and intimacy with all beings (yoga).
When considering ksana – the smallest indivisible unit of time in yoga philosophy, based on the movement of the smallest indivisible particle (anu – smaller than even an atom, as an atom can still be divided into protons, electrons, quarks, etc.) to the adjacent spot – the cinematic montage becomes perhaps an even greater tool for the yogi.
I encourage you to attempt this, now sitting at the computer, later while walking to the kitchen, stepping out of your home, and moving in your daily life. To witness the difference in experiencing yourself as a continuous entity moving through past present and future, and as an entity of this moment of creation, and then the next, and next. In sequence, but not continuous in nature. Noticing the past as a vehicle to and memory in the present, but not a part of the present itself.
This creates an opening to experience what is termed in the movie Waking Life as the Holy Moment. In the movie they discuss how we normally think of some moments as Holy, as special, and then we have all the rest. But when we step into the montage of our lives, we step into each moment as unique, special, Holy.
This is particularly pertinent to yoga asana practice. Often, especially as we mature in our practice over years, we allow ourselves little moments of laziness. A shorter chaturanga here, an inattention to the exact placement of the hand there, allowing flexibility or strength to substitute for the other in a pose, or other manifestation. We know, as consistent practioners, that we will practice this pose again, often in that very same class.
Like any skill, practice is the key ingredient. What and how you practice, is how you will perform. In yoga asana, there never is the performance, the big game to highlight this. The practice then, says the montage, must be the performance. From this vantage point each pose becomes a “Holy Pose”, a unique, special, experience. Every placement of the hand, every full aware exhale, every adho mukha svanasana is entered into with full intention to be the very best – in all the ways that is meant in a yoga practice – which includes the ability to let it go when we “succeed” or “fail”.
Every moment is a moment of practice – and not just seeing every struggle as an opportunity to practice compassion, or every change as a transition, or every street as an opportunity to be present of the trees, the smells, the people, etc. But each and every single second, we are practicing, we are setting patterns.
Or, simply put, don’t practice our mistakes. Each moment is setting our pattern of practice. Set the body pattern, set the mind pattern to the groove you WANT to move in – be intentional.
Grooves set us up to be able to move, respect others, and come into relationship with ourselves, other beings and the world in ways that will be beneficial for all more easily. It also cultivates the ability to more easily change grooves when we outgrow old ones.
When I lived in Hawaii, I rode a moped. Which I adored. Like any vehicle, slouching was a form my body easily fell into while driving. The problem with a moped, however, is that everyone can see you. I would be driving, slouched as can be, and have a sudden thought that my beloved yoga teacher might be driving by, and see me. I would immediately straighten up, and assume a more tadasana-like position – hearing her exact words and instructions in my mind.
Whether or not you can recall your teacher’s words, I highly recommend this mental play as a means to recall this work of stepping into ksana. While you are practicing asana, imagine your most beloved teacher is beside you, and you want to practice as best you can for her/him. While you are meditating, imagine they are sitting with you, and will see if you end early, or check you phone during the session. The possibilities are endless. But beware of creating an opportunity for guilt or blame to arise. “Guilt” does not exist as a word in Sanskrit. This practice is not meant to give you a prison guard, but an inspiration, an opportunity to perceive each practice, each moment as “the big game”, a reminder that each moment is Holy, and there is nothing we should be waiting for to make it so.
*Ksana appears three times in the Yoga Sutras, the following two are inspiration for this post:
ksana tat kramayoh samyamad vivekajam jnanam YS III.53
By samyama on single moments in sequence comes discriminative knowledge.
ksana-pratiyogi parinamaparanta-nirgrahyah kramah YS IV.33
Each sequence of events is composed of distinct moments that are only perceivable when the yogi transcends those moments and is at the other end.