Insight as if It Were Art
Published by: Josh Blatter––The 32 Metronome Project
Often I write about the experiential teachings of yoga as they apply to my life in an attempt to share with you [the reader], a way in which you can create your own flashes of insight. You cannot take my words for truth unless you have the aha epiphanic moment in which the knowledge comes not to you but through you. If I was an art teacher and handed you a canvas, brush and paint, I could show you a technique of how I would use the three items to paint a picture. This wisdom would hold no value to you until you started to work with the paint and there is little that can be truly understood by watching my brush strokes. The teachings of yoga are like learning to paint – they can be ascertained only by involvement. Studying color theory and deconstructing famous works the pre-classical period are no substitute to the practice – although they do offer some support.
I reference the word yoga in my writing when I share my extraction of thought, but try to not get caught up on the word. Yoga can be used interchangeably with anything that is done mindfulness, with attention, and awareness. Yoga can be a job. Yoga can be a relationship. Yoga can be a hobby, an interest, or simply a drive in the car. The word yoga literally means to bring together or thread the body, mind, and spirit nature.
Yogic [or insert other modality] insight comes through linking in with the practice and extracting the juice of wisdom. It does not come from attempting to perfect its form. Let me say that again; insight comes from the experience of the practice and NOT from the attempting to perfect it. I am going elaborate – so slide back into your chair. For many of us it is very hard to wrap our minds around a practice whose goal is to not get better. I believe that if you talk to any “expert”, whether athlete or entrepreneur, what makes them great at what they do is that they understand the nature of their field very well. When they are immersed in whatever it is they do they are utterly connected to themselves; you could say, “in the zone”. The bi-product of this very deep connection is that of great fluency. But fluency was not what they were deliberating while immersed in task.
In order for insight to be gained through an experience we have to be in the present moment. Our attention and awareness have to be in the here and now because the future and past are mere illusions that hold form in our minds only. I am not saying that the past and future are not real, but they are in an unmanifested form holding no value in the present. The following response by the Dalai Lama when asked what surprised him most about humanity, packages it well:
Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present;
the result being that he does not live in the present or the future;
he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
Let us break down perfection and see what it would look like. I would go as far as to say nothing is perfect and everything is perfect, but for a less esoteric look, perfection means that we create and outcome today that is better than how it was yesterday and to the best of our conceivable knowledge. Using this definition we would have to neglect the possibility that the future holds potential for something more perfect which in itself becomes highly problematic and confusing. You see, as soon as we start to drawing lines across the past, present and future, we exit this moment. If perfection is to create and outcome today that is better than how it was yesterday, we are instantly living in the past using an experiential metric upon which no longer exists. Even if we were to argue that the past provides an accurate benchmark for the present, we will still never find perfection because the future holds opportunity to be the new present and hence the present will become a mere blip in the past. It is a constant shift in the infinite of time.
This lackluster theory on perfection crumbles as we dissect it apart and we can see there is no value in attempting to perfect anything. The only way that we can truly live is to pick up the crumbs and piece them together using insight, wisdom, and understanding and stay connected with the experience of whatever it is we do, now; to allow the practice to be the teacher and take each discourse with an open ear and wide eyes. If we can gain this experiential insight, it is also more than plausible that we will note further expansion, evolution, and depth beyond where we are today. It is also just as likely that at some point on the path we will again become victimized by greed, haste and the need to attain more. It is at this point that we use the practice of mindfulness to bring us back to the nature of the practice and return us to the present moment.