Seasonal illumination

This is the festive season, whether or not you are celebrating one of the religious festivals held at this time of year. The days draw darker up to the solstice and this evokes all kinds of responses in all aspects of nature including us.

It is at this time of year that we need to reach out for one another, as is expressed (whether skilfully or not) by the various acts of giving encouraged at this time. It is a natural response in many living beings to pull together in adversity. So it makes sense for us to do likewise, ready for what would have been, the very challenging winter months ahead.

The diminishing light makes us wish to reach out for light, and all the candles, fairy lights, reflective baubles and tinsel, no doubt symbolise the sun and our aspiration towards light. This aspiration towards light of course is not just external but internal too. We all yearn to be cast open – to be seen to be known – and so much of what we do in the darkness (that is hidden from others and often ourselves) yearns for the light. It is light itself that purifies, so called ‘dark’ acts are always accompanied by other forms of denial, and ignorance, quite literally ignorance. Having friends with whom we can share and confess our experiences, helps in this bringing to the light process, and it is this illumination that in yoga is pointed to by such expressions as satya (honesty, truthfulness).

This truthfulness needs support and other yogic principles make this clear, ahimsa (non violence) is the space that self-possessed denial needs to move light-wards. Other traditions also exemplify this realisation, the Buddha is sometimes referred to as the sun, and Buddhist mindfulness (p-sati/ skt-smriti) is to be practiced without covetousness or grief for the world and is said to lead to complete wisdom and the compassion that is born from that presence of mind (skt & p-citta-heart/mind).

Of course, mindfulness or illumination benefits from some support, so Buddhists and yogis are encouraged to abstain from unethical behaviour; that is disturbing, unsettling behaviour. And in the the yogic tradition, we are encouraged towards more satvic (one of the three gunas) states which are claming, settling, cooling and spacious conditions. In both traditions, the end game is the transcendence of ethics and or the gunas, but it is recognised that this is not the same as ignoring or cutting them of, it is more a case of moving beyond. It is, after all, the ‘tranquilising’ benefits from these practices, as well as from our other yogic practices, such as mantra, meditation and asana, that eventually lead to the calming and stilling of the waters of the mind.

This makes the mind a suitably reflective tool for ‘mirroring reality’ whereby all conditions are transcended and a relaxed inclusive, illuminating consciousness is all that is left. It is this ‘intuitive awareness’ that is capable of spawning truly appropriate (p-kusala - skilful) action, that is the only qualification for transcending more clear-cut moral codes.

Quotes

‘Working with ahimsa means that a practice can be a constant source of surprise, because the lack of self-imposed limits ensures that the practice unfolds in its own time.’

— Jo Johnson