Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Bigger Picture

As living, breathing humans overflowing with emotions, conditioning and ego, it's easy to get wrapped up in the grind and commotion of our day-to-day life. So much so that we forget that we are but a small part of something much, much bigger and more profound. With such exhaustive focus on the small stuff (the stresses and agitations of work, finances, family and the minutia of our lives) we get drawn further and further away from the 'big picture' and may see only the tiniest speck on the page.  Our daily work is to pull back from our drama and to crawl out of our limited thinking to take a look at the picture as a whole.

A favorite illustration of this is a children's book called Zoom by Istvan Banyai that I've used in class from time to time. 

From School Library Journal"Zoom" is a wordless picture book that re-creates the effect of a camera lens zooming out. For example, one illustration shows a boy on a cruise ship, the next shows him from a distance, and the next reveals the whole ship. Finally, the viewpoint moves back farther and it turns out that the ship is actually a poster on a bus. The perspective continues to recede, revealing the bus as an image on a television screen. Three pages later, viewers see that the person watching TV is drawn on a postage stamp. The final picture shows a view of Earth from space."

Over time and with practice what we begin to find is that taking the time to sit silently in meditation or getting on our yoga mat allows us to connect to what one of my favorite teachers, Erich Schiffmann, calls "Big Mind".  We crawl out of our narrow worldview and expand into the experience of our deeper connection to all things which in turn makes our narrow view seem not quite so important.  Erich says: "Far too many people get distracted by the complexities of their various techniques and lose sight of what the overall 'big picture' is.  Don't lose sight of the big picture. Don't lose sight of what the practices are all about. The big picture, the reason for doing yoga is... to have the experience of yoga (yoga = to yolk or harness the powers of the mind). The reason to do yoga is to have the experience. And what we're talking about is the small mind, the personal mind, personal self... merging with infinity. In easy words, small mind joining with Big Mind.  Once you even have a taste of that for even a split nanosecond, it wipes out your previous convictions about the way you thought things were. What you discover is that there's no such thing as small mind. There's only Big Mind infinitely expressed.

To me, a big part of the practice is about cultivating mindful awareness of all the ways in which we tend to contract, grasp, cling and close ourselves off.  Pulling back the lens from which we view the landscape of our world, we slowly start to shift from our small, constricted realm to a much larger and inclusive worldview. With attention, patience and practice our circle of awareness widens outward and we become more liberated.

     So how do we start to expand our sphere of understanding?  We begin by finding the "witness"- the part of us that is detached from the small stuff, the "I", "me" and "mine, and enables us to observe impartially.

To invite "Big Mind", try this:
Begin by sitting comfortably or lying on the floor in savasana.  Settle yourself into stillness. Let your eyes close and take a few moments to simply tune in to the flowing quality of your breath as it moves into and out of your nostrils.  Begin to slide into stillness.

From here mentally step back from your body, as if you are standing outside yourself looking at your body sitting/lying on the floor.  Slowly scan your awareness over its surface.  Feel where your body comes into contact with the earth, where your skin comes into contact with the air-is it warm or cold?  Feel the border between what's inside and what's outside, or where your skin is soft or stretched over the bones.  Take your awareness to all of the dark, tight or closed off places.  Your attention will help you to bring light and energy to these shadowy spaces.  

Then, continue to pull your awareness back even more to include the fluctuation of thoughts.  Try to see them as an observer might, looking at them from different angles without staying with any one thought in particular (kind of like watching a dramatic movie with the volume turned down).  Stay with the understanding that although you may have lots of thoughts and activity in the mind, you are not those thoughts or activity.

Keep your awareness with the body and the thoughts but now begin to include the movement and energy of the breath.  Feel it inflate and deflate, rise and fall with each inhale and exhale. Stay with the breath for several minutes.

Now let your awareness of boundaries dissolve; the boundaries of your skin, your chair/mat, the walls of the room you are in, and allowing yourself to expand into the spaciousness surrounding you.

Continue to sit or lay in stillness cultivating the quality of expansion  Try doing this for 5-30 minutes.

Until next time...

Keeping Things Whole by Mark Strand
In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body's been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh clinging.You and I are old friends. Beautiful thoughts, as always. xo