The Fog and the Malas

I had a free morning today, for the first time in a while. So I slept in, and after a hard rain went down to the river before delving into my designated activities...

The morning began with some fog, but by the time I arrived at the river, the sun had started to shine and the fog had partially lifted. It almost seemed like it was hovering - somehow hanging on over the river - in suspended animation. Earlier this week, I went down for a quick peak of the river on a day that the fog was much more dense, and at that time the sky was virtually indistinguishable from the river. I love those moments when you cannot tell where one begins and the other ends. It reminds me of Infinity. Of the Divine. of Unity...

Observing the fog this morning reminded me of a teaching in yoga philosophy called the "malas." The malas are impurities that occlude our ability to see. Some of my yoga teachers have in the past used the analogy of dust on the mirror to explain them. We want to clear the dust off through our practices, in order to reveal our true essence.

There are three types of malas or impurities. Anava-mala impedes us from seeing our true nature, and so we have this tendency to perceive ourselves as incomplete. Mayiya-mala occludes our ability to see unity, and instead, we dwell in separation. Karma-mala refers to the bondage which results from our actions and the activity of the first two malas. So, to neutralize this last one, we must be able to recognize the Divine within us, but we must also be able to recognize the Divine in everyone else as well. Only then do we truly see and experience unity.

Of course, this is a very simplified explanation of very sophisticated teachings. But today, I realized, the river was speaking to me once again...

In the last couple of weeks - and most especially the last few days - I have examined my life, my teaching, my purpose, and my fundamental beliefs very carefully, as we begin this year of 2012. I have considered what my place in this world is - what my strengths are - and what they are not. Some of it was not easy to accept. For example, physically - I've had to accept the reality of where my asana practice and body are, and how it impacts on my teaching. On the other hand, the quieter practices have enriched my life very deeply, and these I can more adequately share.

I also examined how I want to spend my time and with whom. One of the things I decided to do, was to set aside regular time for the study of a diversity of subjects. And so, as a former theologian, I decided to go back and study things I wasn't able to do in graduate school, and also review recent scholarship in former areas of expertise. This week, I studied some of the Gnostic Christian texts and Tantra - and found myself looking at each subject through the lens of the other. It was actually quite fascinating to make connections which opened the doors to other explorations.

I also had the blessing and the privilege to openly engage in very vibrant and deep discussions with members of my yoga community about several very pertinent issues which enabled all of us to see a number of things with greater clarity. The very process of our discussions was addressing the malas on many different levels. I was in awe of the amazing insights and wisdom that were shared, and I was proud of my friends and colleagues and my community. I felt the bond between all of us - I felt the Unity.

And this morning at the river, as the fog was lifting, I realized it was a metaphor for the work I had recently done in my own life and the work being done collectively within my community. Attention was drawn - in both situations - to where the work was needed.

This morning, as I drove back home, after doing a Lovingkindness meditation, I had no doubt where I belonged. I had no doubt of who I was - and what I needed to do. I felt supported. And I felt blessed. All that remained, was to go out and share that!


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