On Enlightenment

Do you know the difference between sailors and motor-boaters? Sailors are already there. 

Though my days of spending every summer weekend sailing are fading from view (excuse me a moment while I revel in the memories) I am still and always will be a sailor at heart. I’ve never  understood the joy of a motor-boat, which is not to say that they are not fun, just that they do not appeal to my constitution. When on the water I have no desire to get anywhere quickly, let alone have a destination in mind. The simple act of being on the water and moving (or not as the case may be) with the wind is what it’s all about. I’m already exactly where I want to be.

I thought about this when Sri Dharma Mittra spoke of Enlightenment at the Asia Yoga Conference. The most profound thing he said on the subject was this: the body, mind, and senses become enlightened through our practice, but the Self does not need to be enlightened. The Self is already there. He explained further that the Self is already enlightened because the Self is actually the non-Self, meaning that our true Self is not separate from, but rather a part of, the Divine.  The Self is in everything and everyone and so by knowing the non-Self, one has ultimate self-knowledge.

So we can approach our practice either as sailors or motor-boaters. We can see Enlightenment as a place we need to arrive at by zipping as quickly as possible from here to there or we can see it as the means by which we realize that we are already there. The practice transforms the act of simply sitting on a boat, moving or not, as it were,  to one of harmonious collusion with Nature.

 

The Yoga of Korean Temple Food

A major bonus of living in Korea is undoubtedly the food. It is simple, colorful, mostly healthy, and often spicy. All of my favorite things.

Korean temple food is the cuisine that has developed in Buddhist temples around the country. It is vegetarian and like all other Korean food, simple and healthful. What makes it such an experience to enjoy, though, is the focus on balance, moderation, and pleasure. There are generally small amounts of many dishes, each dish meant to satisfy different taste buds. There is a seemingly perfect combination of sweet, salty, tangy, bitter, and savory. The food itself is served in a beautiful way, the colors of the food varied and balanced. Some dishes are served hot, others warm, others room temperature, and some cold. There are many different textures.  A meal of temple food is a completely satisfying sensory experience. And because all of the senses are completely engaged, it becomes a very mindful experience.

Yogis have long known the importance of eating with mindfulness and intention, of managing the senses, and of caring for the physical body as a way to ensure the health of the mental and spiritual bodies as well. Temple food is right in line with the yamas and niyamas (attitudes and behaviors towards self and others) which Patanjali laid out in the Yoga Sutras. From the yamas of non-harming and moderation to the niyamas of purity, contentment, and discipline.

How and what we eat is a big part of our life, considering we do it every day, usually at least 3 times a day. And the choices we make do affect our body, our mind, and energy, our intellect, and our spirit. Aphorism 2.43 of the Sutras says that it is by living a disciplined and well-balanced life on all levels that we achieve “perfect mastery over the body and the mental organs of senses and actions”. A healthy body and mind allow us to effectively manage both the quantity and quality of our energy. It is this vital energy that prepares the way for connection with the Divine and Ultimate Reality.

Even when we know this, it can be difficult to maintain balance. When was the last you felt you got exactly enough time for eating well , sleeping well, exercising, spiritual practice, and personal relationships? I know I couldn’t tell you.  There have been pockets of  time and moments, but it remains a challenge. I know the goal for me is to have these pockets and moments of time get longer and longer, until there’s no break in between. (I may have to move somewhere with no access to cream for this to happen)

In the meantime, I am feeling so very grateful for temple food. Grateful to have access to it, to be nourished by it, and to learn from it. Each time we enjoy it, my commitment as a yogini to a well-balanced and healthful life is reinforced and nurtured.  You don’t get that from a McDonald’s, that’s for sure.