Life exists as a duality: hot and cold, joy and sadness, pleasure and pain. One must exist in relation to the other. But although we may know this intellectually, most of us cling to one side of the duality and run from the other. The yogi however, does not.
My yogic father once defined a yogi as “he who lives in moderation”. His meaning was two-fold. First of all, the yogi recognizes life’s duality and realizes that an avoidance of one side leads to life becoming a constant, un-winnable struggle and thus suffering (dukha). The more one attempts to pull towards one side of the duality, the stronger the pull of the other side becomes.
Our avoidance of an aspect of life also leads us to becoming entrapped within the emotion, or thought, or desire from which we are running. Unwilling to face an aspect, thought, desire or emotion, we unconsciously relegate it to the subconscious mind. There this aspect sits, sending constant messages to our minds, colouring our view of the world and of situations. We thus become enslaved by this aspect (emotion, or thought or desire) without even realizing it. If we had simply allowed the thought, desire, or emotion to rise and travel through us, seeing it, facing it, we would have been able to let it go at the same time as we were experiencing it. This is the way of the yogi. Being unwilling to experience, in effect means being unwilling to let go, and thus moving into a state of entrapment.
The second thing that my father meant by his statement was that the yogi does not live on the extremes of life’s sensations . The man who becomes a glutton for sensory experience is on the same level as the man who engages in sensory deprivation. The Buddhists speak of this in their “Eightfold Path”. The sensory world is neither to be pursued nor to be avoided, it is simply to be experienced. It is neither good nor bad, it is simply part of our existence. Extremes of sensory experience (indulgence or deprivation) both strengthen the ego, leading to increased suffering.
Despite what is believed by some who do not understand the yogic concept of moderation, the yogic path is not devoid of human emotion. Quite to the contrary, the path actually shows respect for emotions, asking us to take the time to experience them, to get to know them, and not to hide from them. As we get to know our emotions, we begin to see where they come from. We begin to understand how closely related emotions really are and that it is the egoic mind which labels which emotions we believe we are experiencing. It is the mind that judges and artificially decides whether the emotion is desirable or undesirable.
To walk this middle path is an expansive experience. Living in moderation actually opens the world to you, instead of dividing it up into some artificially constructed concept of good versus bad. As you walk this middle path, the perceived distance between desire and repulsion begins to collapse. You enter into the realm of contentment… and this is the Yogic Way.
Kavita Maharaj is the owner of Red Door Yoga® and the director of The Red Door Yoga School® in Lantzville. She can be reached at 250-390-9367 or through www.reddooryoga.ca for questions.