Why I Do Yoga
I am often asked why I do yoga, and I often say, “so I can sit”, an answer that often elicits laughter, the kind that you would get when you give a smart-ass answer to a serious question.
Admittedly, it’s a bit of a smart-ass answer, and on the surface, it might look like one of those cop-out answers one may say when one doesn’t feel like saying much, but in fact, there’s nothing lazy or facetious about it.
If you’ve ever tried sitting down to meditate for any length of time, you might find that there are all sorts of agitations going on, not just in the mind but also in the body. If my hips and shoulders are tight, and my back and knees hurt, there is little chance that I will be able to quiet down the mind. Yoga is a tool for me to condition my body for sitting.
Okay, great, so you do yoga so you can sit. But why sit?
Why I sit is a topic worth another blog post altogether, but I want to quote here my teacher Shinzen Young in the Science of Enlightenment. And for an impeccable CD by CD review of The Science of Enlightenment, check out my friend’s C4Chaos’ post: The Science of Enlightenment is Paving the Way for the Enlightenment of Science.
If you follow a path that doesn’t involve sitting still on a regular basis, you run the danger that you might be fooling yourself. You might think that your transcending of conditions is a lot more than it actually is.
Sitting still and not moving is a special activity. It’s the zero activity. It’s the activity of no activity. And against that milieu, you can really see to what extent you have transcended conditions. So it becomes a sort of barometer or gold standard that you can use to measure the degree to which your practice is allowing you to become a free person.
Because if you think that your practice is bringing you freedom, which is to say that it is showing you a happiness independent of conditions, then you can most clearly see that in the situation where all conditions have been taken away.
And you’re just sitting absolutely still with nothing, nothing going on, and how do you relate to that nothing, if you’re really becoming free, it’s gonna be heaven.
But, if after half an hour, an hour, or two hours, or four or five hours of just sitting still, you find yourself in hell, you can’t do it, you find a reason to rationalize the fact that you need to get up, then obviously you haven’t transcended conditions yet.
Nothing wrong with that. You’ve gotten a reflection, you’ve gotten some feedback, a real objective barometer of how free you are. And so, okay, you go back to your practice, and maybe six months later, maybe a couple years later, try it again. See if you can sit there, five hours, six hours, without having to move, without having to change conditions, and once again, you’ll get a real clear picture to what extent are you free from the the thoughts and feelings that come up as you sit there, and to what extent you’re not free, you’re identified with the thoughts and feelings.
A person doesn’t have to sit, I would never say that a person has to do a sitting practice to become liberated, but I would strongly suggest that sitting still and doing absolutely nothing is the quick and dirty easy test to see to what extent is the practice that you *do* do taking you to unconditional freedom.