Monday, May 7, 2012

The process of subtraction

"There was a boy who had a great talent for carving beautiful dogs out of wood. Everyday he sat on his porch whittling away, letting the shavings fall around him. One day a visitor asked him the secret of his art. "I just take a block of wood and whittle off the parts that don't look like a dog" he replied. This anecdote describes the movement of growth. The art of soulmaking is taking our lives in our hands and ,with all the love and discernment we can muster, gently whittling away the parts that don't resemble the True Self. In spiritual whittling though, we don't discard the shavings. Transformation happens not by rejecting these parts of ourselves but by gathering them up and integrating them. Through this process we reach wholeness." Sue Monk Kidd "When the heart waits"
This week I was listening to Sharon Salzberg and Silvya Boornstein talking about what they call the process of subtraction. What they meant with this was that to let our True Self shine forth there is nothing we need to change or add onto ourselves, but rather uncover something that's already there. We use our Yoga practice to move inwards and free our true sense of "I". Swami Satchidananda once talked about the capital "I" and the little "i", he said that the capital "I" is just a pure simple stroke, just as the highest truth is always simple and pure. The dot on the little "i" is ego, the practices of Yoga are there just to remove that dot. 
When we are in a state of "I" we dis-cover our True Light; through a continuous, dedicated practice we cultivate that state. In the process of removing the layers that we no longer need we become available to connect with kindness. The carving process can be compared to what is referred to as Tapas in Yoga, tapas is to create heat. In Yoga practice we create heat both on a physical level through asana, which purifies the body, and on an energetic level through the breath, which purifies the koshas, or different energetic layers we are made of. Heat burns through the layers of unwanted mind stuff that veils the "I" facilitating the process of subtraction, just like the carving whittles away the extra wood that is not the dog. 
Yesterday I fell from a chair and badly hurt my back. I was very upset because this would interrupt my Yoga practice. I realized how attached I am to the physical practice of Yoga; perhaps this injury was meant to give me a chance to set aside some time to recognize this unneeded gripping. Falling uncovered my fear of not being able to do the practice as I am used to, giving me the chance to identify that, not judge myself for it, or be ashamed of it, but embrace the fear and see what I can transcend, so when I practice it is not the little "i" that practices but the capital "I", who is mindful and practices kindness. It turns out my injury was my chance to practice the process of subtraction. 

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