Gravity and the heart

Padmasana210Guruji’s writings will seed lifetimes of contemplation. This summary of Eddy Marks’ talk at Yoganushasanam includes my own midnight musings.

“Intelligence is in every cell in the body, but dormant. You have to learn how to tap it.”

Some of this material can seem elusive. Eddy began by giving a practical application of this quote. Gravity is always with us, he said. As yoga practitioners we are always negotiating with gravity, folding into gravity or lifting up away from it. We have to learn to work efficiently with it so that there is vitality in the body. He called Jordi Marti (Spain) onstage.

He wanted to compare the relationship of the arms with the plumb line in the body relative to the effect of gravity. Eddy asked him to take Urdhva Hastasana. Jordi first pretended to have stiff shoulders. He did not take his arms vertically up. His arms were in front of his body and his upper back rounded, like a stiff person. Eddy explained that, in this case, gravity would win, as the muscular effort to hold the arms up was excessive. This would be an exhausting practice. He next asked Jordi to take the arms alongside the ears so that the plumb line of the arms ran even with the elongation of the spine. Echoing Geetaji’s instruction from that morning, he told Jordi to extend from the bottom armpit all the way through the elbow and to keep going. Open the armpits! The shape began to light up with vigor. Here, there was little muscular effort and the action of the arms opened the shoulder. Finally Eddy asked Jordi to take the arms behind the ears. In so doing, he had to dig the shoulder blades into the body and open the chest. Now, Eddy said, “your existence is felt in the chest.” The position of the arms behind the plumb line worked with gravity to draw the back body in toward the front body. While it’s challenging, it’s exhilarating as well. The position of Jordi arms created a vibrancy that presented his inner being as the chest opened.

Building on an image Zubin introduced in the previous presentation, Eddy said that most of us practice as if we are on a life raft, trying to survive rough waters, rather than navigating a ship. Guruji’s practice, however, was akin to a submarine. A submarine is high tech, efficient, and able to travel great distances. Guruji had cultivated such intelligence in his body where he could use minimal effort to achieve great benefits. He fanned the spark of his innate intelligence into a flame that he could readily tap into. Anyone who studied with him knew the heat of his inspiration.

Eddy’s talk sparked my creative juices. I have always been fascinated with an idea that gravity is not limited to Einstein’s theory of relativity, “what goes up must come down” (very very simplistic here). The gravity we are most familiar with draws from the center of our planet, even though our direct experience with it may be a linear “what goes up must come down”. So gravity really is centrifugal.

Our mind generally “gravitates” toward sensory stimulation and gratification, and we seem to have little control. With the will to cultivate particular attitudes and behavioral patterns we can change these instinctual impulses. So just as the earth has its elemental gravity, our mind has its instinctual gravity. We can refine and transform the reactive mind into a benevolent and skillful one through the ethical, physical, sensory and reflective practices inherent in yoga Sadhana.

“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities in the master mind there are few.” (Shunryu Suzuki) This iconic statement encapsulates Guruji’s practice and Eddie’s presentation. Intelligence knows; there is no further vacillation between likes and dislikes, preferences and prejudices.

I believe that there is a gravitational pull towards all things relating to the heart and its attributes. It is as if the heart is the epicenter of our own planet, and we are naturally drawn toward it. Sutra 25 in the third pada of the Yoga Sutras says that one understands the nature of consciousness by contemplating the heart. The heart can plummet into depths of despair and we feel a heart ache. It can reach the highest heavens when in love or when captivated by great art. These extremes mirror our daily existence, and it can be exhausting to bounce around in these emotions.

Sutra 33 in the first pada says that consciousness becomes benevolently disposed when we contemplate the qualities of friendliness, compassion, joy for the virtuous and equanimity towards adversity. We no longer suffer inside a turbulent mind, and yet we will still recognize the vibrancy all around us. The mind becomes quiet, knowing, intelligent, and the heart will rest.

Eddy’s presentation was truly inspired, and it nourished my own inquisitive mind and heart. This is what Guruji meant when he asked us to build a community and grow together.

I have known Eddy for over thirty years. He is a veteran of RIYMI. Senior certified and living in Hawaii, he travels to teach and frequently spends long bouts in Pune studying with the Iyengar family.


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2 Responses to Gravity and the heart

  1. Thanks for your writings. I missed that talk, so it was good to read your reflections upon it.

  2. Kristine says:

    Beautiful. Thanks for writing for those of us back home.

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