Published Aug 7, 13 PM
By Louis Cortese
There lies out there that which is not graspable.
Yet, paradoxically, there are infinite descriptions of it. Some are quite definitive and detailed in their accounts, while others claim they can only allude to it by stating what it is not. Still others insist it is fools’ gold, mere superstition.
Prescribed roads to it are as great in number as there are exegeses of it. Philosophers, holy men, saints, sages and fools have all followed myriad directions to it, and certain have found it, but were unable to convince each other it was their proprietary path that led to it.
It is right before us, but we cannot see it. Once we begin to hold it, it escapes our grasp. It has been the question through the ages: “How do we come to know it?” Wise men admonish not to put boundaries around it, advising we should cease all efforts to posses it.
It is “what is.” It is everything, yet it is nothing that can be described.
Yet, there are those who firmly believe that angling your body into trikonasana can capture it, or regularly extending your spine into urdvha dhanurasana can open doors to it. Practice these poses and others like them, and you will get insight into your true nature. Can that be? Is it possible that developing the ability to go up into handstand wipes the fog away from the existential mirror?
If so, wouldn’t it follow that having the ability to do so in the middle of the room, while dropping your feet to touch the top of your head, would give you even greater ontological insight? Indeed, it would imply that the formidable asana-ist, Kathryn Budig, is an enlightened sage (she may very well be; I am not suggesting she is not), while someone struggling with tight hamstrings is destined to flounder in eternal spiritual darkness.
It seems implausible that vinyasa-ing from Warrior I to Warrior II to Warrior III, or ascending into crow pose, is the catalyst to knowing the unknowable. It seems ludicrous, actually, that disciplining your body to the rudiments of gymnastic movements in a repetitive pattern is the path to attaining infinite bliss. Can it be that easy, that merely doing 108 sun salutations in succession will open your eyes to that which is timeless? Especially when it’s imperative that we do them in Lululemon tights on a designer yoga mat? How has it come to pass that the road to self realization is now through luxury yoga retreats in five-star hotels in exotic locales costing $6,000 per person, double occupancy, airfare not included?
No, it can’t be. This yoga thing started out on the right track a few thousand years ago with a mythical persona named Patanjali who had a knack for coming up with succinct pithy aphorisms.
A physical element was incorporated through the subsequent few millennia, but it was still mostly about trying to describe the indescribable. More recently, this other Indian fellow, Krishnamacharya—and his disciples after him—amplified the physical side of yoga into some really cool postures. But since it has gained traction here in the US of A, it has become one big confusing jumble of chic exercise and fashionable facile spiritualism.
Usually, popular movements become so either because they capture the public’s playful imagination or because of the spread of fundamentalist, peremptory beliefs. In yoga’s case, luckily, it`s the former. Unfortunately, the truth, the “what is,” never has much popular appeal or staying power. It`s neither sexy enough nor orthodox enough. Namaste.
About Louis Cortese
Lou , in his life, has been a precocious young boy in an anachronistic town in the mountains of Sicily, an immigrant at the age of 8 arriving by way of an ocean liner to the shores of the west side of Manhattan, a guido from the Bronx, a hippy, a Zen Buddhist, a businessman, a yogi and a conventional family man with three sons and two grandchildren, among other things, none of which describes his true self and all of which in the aggregate do not give a full account of him. If his story is not he, then what is? He’s still looking. Lou’s musings can be followed on his blog http://louiebop.tumblr.com/