Sunday, July 3, 2011

Cutting a Path

The process of farming begins with preparing the soil to be seeded. To do this, a farmer will use a plow to till up the dead earth and to coax nutrient rich soil to the surface. The plow softens the ground and creates the perfect environment in which to generate life. The obstacles of hardened earth, rocks and roots that prevent new growth from taking place are removed. In much the same way, the practice of yoga helps us to weed out the things that prevent us from finding inner peace and freedom. 

Walking the path of yoga can be a long and challenging journey filled with obstacles, pitfalls and detours.  The yoga sutras say that "creative nature is not moved into action by any incidental cause, but by the removal of obstacles, as in the case of a farmer clearing his field of stones for irrigation.: (YS 4.3). What this sutra teaches us is that just as a farmer plows his field to introduce water to the field for irrigation, if we as practitioners remove the obstacles on our path toward complete freedom of the body, mind and the soul, we can lead the body and mind more easily toward it.  

Of course, there are many hurdles to overcome as we plow our way towards peace. The yoga sutras list many, such as: illness, fatigue, carelessness, attachment, delusion, apathy, doubt and laziness.  I tend to look upon the presence of these obstacles as blessings and teachable moments.  Being aware of the roots, stones, and hard stuff of our lives gives us an opportunity to weed them out and cut a new path, taking another step towards freedom.  

A good farmer has an array of implements to help him or her to clear the land and cultivate the soil.  Likewise, our practice gives us the tools we need to go about removing these stumbling blocks.  By using asana (postures) we plow through layers of accumulated stiffness, scar tissue and the effects of chronic stress to strengthen and open the body. This paves the way towards overall good health (better circulation, energy flow, stronger, healthier tissues, bones and joints).  Through the proper use of the breath, we begin to rid the body of toxins which then increases our vital energy, relaxes various parts of the body, and conquers craving and brings the emotions under control.  Finally, cultivating stillness by sitting in meditation, we plow the often overgrown and choked up field of thought and therefore calm and quiet the mind.

The lesson of the plow I suppose is to not take the easy route and go around the obstacles placed before us.  We learn with practice, focus, passion and discipline to cut a path straight ahead, removing what is nonessential to make room for what nourishes our physical, emotional and spiritual soil. 

What would you like to cultivate in the field of your awareness?

Until next time...
Grandpa's Plow by Terry Sledge
When Grandpa put his hands to the plow he walked a country mile,
Sometimes I ran alongside or sat under a shade tree to watch,
I would listen to Grandpa’s words about life he told with a smile,
To plow a straight furrow, focus up ahead and there you watch.

He never looked behind while the plow was still in the ground,
And when plowing the same furrow he'd plow it a little deeper,
Removing all rocks in his path he taught me not to plow around.

Grandpa died, I grew up and the farm was finally sold,
The lesson's Grandpa taught me were not just how to plow,
But truth on how to live life if I used what I was told,
Although learned many years ago truth is always for the now.

If you ever hope to make your mark you must look straight ahead,
And refuse to be detoured by the many distractions in life,
Don't look back to see where you were but always look ahead.

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