Work As Ritual
Every morning on my way back to our apartment from the shala I had an opportunity to see the neighborhood of Gokulum awaken to a new day. Each day there’s a very simple task that most, if not all, homeowners seem to take great joy in doing. They work diligently at cleaning their entryways, from doorstep to the driveway out to the street and even beyond. There’s a pleasing sound to the task as the women of the house brushes her homemade broom along the concrete and pavement. Then after they sweep, the entire area gets another scrubbing with water. After all is done it sparkles. The final touch is a glyph carefully drawn by hand using rice flour.
They do this every morning!! The work takes some time depending on the size of the property.
It may have been the post practice euphoria or the intoxicating sights, sounds and smells (some good, some bad) of Mysore but I had the sense that each woman was not doing this to simply “clean house” but instead to welcome the divine into their home. A prayer through work.
As practitioners of yoga and on the path to spirituality our efforts into our daily practice should be seen in this same light. Effort not just for the sake of effort but to commune with the divine. To learn that the act of work can be an act of reverence. In practice it is not effort for physical or emotional refinement but to transcend into the realm of the Self.
It may not be a god or the divine you are seeking but instead a clearer understanding of your Self. That’s a capital “S”, Self. The Self that is spoken of in the Yoga Sutra, Vedas, Upanishads and so on. The Self that is the pureness of our own being that has been masked by all of life’s happenings. Through a light-hearted approach to your practice the shackles of the material are unlocked and the True Self (Atman) gains some command of your daily actions. And that’s the catch. Ashtanga is set up in a way that it can create desire towards the material. There can be anticipation for the next posture or a desire to have the perfect Janu C or possible frustration arising when the body is not as light as the day before. These thoughts must be held in check and in doing so mental fitness is gained. From this mental fitness, a certain level of respect for this practice and maturity towards it alters our perspective so that we may prepare our own entryways to welcome in the Self.