My mornings are very similar to those of Darren Main: The alarm goes off before the sun arises: it’s time for practice. I’m awake, but my eyes have not yet opened. I begin to weigh out how badly I really want to practice today. I think to myself, maybe I’ll sleep a little bit longer instead…. This thought never wins out. Eventually I get out of bed and turn a regular living room into a sanctuary lit with candles and incense. After my practice, I feel infinite and peaceful, as if nothing could shake me of this truth. But just like Main, the world hits me with a harsh reality. Whether it’s conflicts at work, a sour conversation, or just a multitude of little things not going my way, the ego flares up and the momentary bliss is gone. This is the life of the Urban Mystic: a spiritual practitioner and devotee who has one foot with spirit and one foot in the physical world.
This state of being between two worlds sets the grounds for Dharana, one of the eight limbs. Dharana translates into concentration. It has been described to me that one who embodies Dharana is like a candle flame that flickers in the wind and then continuously comes back to center. As yogis of the modern era, we are asked to do the same. The world continuously will distract us from our path, but we must choose to recenter ourselves as the flame within us bends one way or the other.
For me, this is one of the most important concepts in Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic. It reminds me of one of my favorite excerpts from Nichala Joy Devi’s book The Secret Power of Yoga:
“Yoga is the uniting of consciousness in the heart.
The lotus flower has long been a symbol for the unfolding of spirituality. It is one of the most elegant illustrations of the meshing of our human and Divine natures.
The lotus seed is planted and grows in muddy waters, below the surface of the lake, far from the light. Though the light is murky and clear, the flower blossoms by drawing energy from within. As the bud passes through the muddy waters, it lifts its face to the sunlight and finally emerges. Miraculously, not a trace of soil remains on the flower. It lives in the mud yet it is not affected by it….
Yogah Citta Vritti Nirodahah. Yoga is the uniting of consciousness in the heart” (Devi 16).
We see from both Main and Joy that the ability to draw the attention back comes from continual practice and focus within. No matter how hard it can be to get out of bed or to take a breath in the midst of a heated moment, as yogis we have the opportunity to continually choose between the two words: like the lotus flower whose blossoms face the light, but whose stem is rooted in the darkness. From our position we see that both light and darkness have created out beauty, our strength, and our faith. We are living examples of the lotus flower. It is our choice to be affected by the mud or to shine our face towards the light, to drift from our path or to continuously choose to come back to it.
Main, Darren John. Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic. Forres, Scotland: Findhorn, 2002. Print.
Devi, Nischala Joy. The Secret Power of Yoga: A Woman’s Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras. New York: Three Rivers, 2007. Print.
Photo credit: Damiane McMillen