I’ve been hunkered down, sheltering in place, hermetically sealed inside the house for days and days, avoiding the hazardous air outside. There is lots of housecleaning to do, laundry to catch up on, and if I can get in the mood, cookies to bake so I can cover up the smell of smoke trapped inside these walls. Finally, I ventured out yesterday to go into town for my yoga class. Shockingly, I saw that Burger Town had their “Closed for the Season” signs already posted on the windows. It’s quiet as I drive by the schools who now have indoor recess and sport practices are cancelled. Boats don’t venture out into the smoke covered lake, no one goes on their dock. It feels like the place has evacuated, like Florida as it gets ready for Irma’s assault. Under this inversion, not a dry leaf flutters on its branch. The sun, reddened by smoke, sinks into the dense gray, long before it reaches the top of the western mountains across the lake. A fog-like gloom settles in, swallowing up the light, shortening days which are already on the decline. It is pitch black outside by bedtime, but sometime in the night, the full Corn Moon penetrates the smoke-filled sky, and I awaken, thinking for a moment that it must be snowing.
Those days feel impossibly far away. I read several poems today about rain, thinking how magical that will be when it happens again. I’m missing Autumn enormously, my favorite season. I had planned to clean out my mitten and hat and winter coat closet today, to get it ready, but I couldn’t gin up any enthusiasm to sort and fold the wool tartan scarfs and organize pairs of mittens and gloves. With my housecleaning frenzy, I thought since the house is closed up, maybe I should vacuum the walls. But, that felt way too much like climbing the walls. So, I puttered around, from this to that, and wasted much of the day watching Hurricane Irma graphics, reading the fire incident reports, looking at videos of all the fires dotting the northwest, and stories about Portland residents wearing face masks. How dreadful to be a Portlander right now…Mother Nature has surely betrayed them.
When I go to bed at night, I decide that we will get on the road at 5 am and make the long drive to the Oregon coast for fresh sea air. There’s smoke there now, but it looks like they are about to have some rain and clean air is predicted to be blowing in from the ocean anytime. But, morning arrives, and we discuss it, and hem and haw, and I think about the people who really have weather-related problems, and the world’s ginormous problems, and the depths of suffering, and decide to just get on with it, deal with my own tiny world of adversity. As my yoga instructor tells us, when we are struggling with a challenging pose, it’s an opportunity to practice “Svadhyaya” on our mat, as well as in our lives. It’s one of the important Patanjali yoga sutras.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra says: “Study thy self, discover the divine” II.44
It’s probably fair to say that the more we realise what we are not, the closer we come to realising who or what we truly are. By studying ‘the self’ and recognizing our habits and thought processes, we realise how much of what we do and think is far from who we really know we are.
When we listen to the ego, we often do things that don’t always align with our true beliefs or intuition. The ‘I’ or small ‘self’ is mostly concerned with survival, which usually entails getting what it wants in all situations, and proving it is indeed ‘the best’ despite what consequences that might have for us. The small self judges, criticises, fears, conditions, doubts and is essentially the cause of the chitta vrittis, or ‘fluctuations of the mind’.
By paying attention to, or ‘studying’ our ‘self’, we become more aware of the things we do that harm us, and also those which serve us and bring us closer to that process of ‘yoking’ or ‘uniting’ with the true Self.