Saturday, 13 November 2010

Cutting through spiritual materialism

I finished this book a few days ago. I was going to write about it when I was back at home, (I am in London now) but having already moved on with my reading, I realise it may be better to write about it now, while it is still fresh in my mind.

First of all, loved the book, some parts more than others. Most of all I loved how the book got me thinking. Even the title. It is a Buddhist book but I am going to write about the thoughts it generated about my astanga practice, all thoughts are my own, read the book if you are interested in it, I don't want to spoil it.

I have had an attitude of surrender and honesty in relation to my practice and faith that the alchemy of the practice would just work. For instance if I noticed ego or ambition in my practice I just let it be. I am human afterall and it is a practice. So if I wanted to get on my mat on any given day because I wanted to work on an asana I would accept that even though I knew it was not about the asana, I felt that the practice would work regardless.

This is mainly due to my faith in the practice and has worked pretty well for me. This book made me question this belief and then realise that surrender and acceptance are indeed necessary and yet questioning is also good. 

When I first started practicing astanga there were so many things in primary that I couldn't do that the practice hammered my ego each time I got on my mat. Not that I felt bad about it but I was not hey check me out either. What I love about this practice, specifically about learning it pose by pose is that there is usually something I can not do. What I wonder though is as people progress could ego about the practice become more of a problem if left unchecked or even encouraged.

I am by no means advanced in astanga world but as someone who has practiced daily for years my practice has obviously changed. When I practice at a workshop or some classes people sometimes complement my practice. I never know what to say. I work hard at my practice and I guess it's nice to acknowledge that effort. I definitely feel that internally, as in I enjoy being in a fairly flexible strong body. But for me it is mostly a spiritual practice and the last thing I want is an ego about my spiritual practice.

I think it is best to just observe the thoughts that arise as a result of this physical or spiritual progress and just watch them. I think you can not subdue the inevitable how should I put it, unspiritual thoughts or actions. To do so would not only be repressing but also spiritually egotistical, as in, I am way to spiritual for that!

I have found that through surrendering to the practice, it has changed me. I like a challenge of a difficult asana and I like it when I can do something that was once challenging. I mostly do not care what others think, okay well maybe I like to please my teacher sometimes, lol! I am thinking one of the reasons this practice works so well is because it teaches us to stay in the moment, to notice, to allow and to surrender.

I am going to leave you with a quote from the book

" We go around and around, trying to improve ourselves through struggle, until we realise that the ambition to improve ourselves is itself a problem. Insights come only when there are gaps in our struggle, only when we stop trying to rid ourselves of thought, when we cease siding with pious, good thoughts against bad, impure thoughts, only when we allow ourselves simply to see the nature of thought."

Chogyam trungpa, cutting throughout spiritual materialism.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


  1. love this post. Thank you for sharing.

  2. thank you for this, I read this book so long ago that I forget, great quote too, so true!