Action for the Sake of Action
Stephen Mitchell’s rendition of the Bhagavad Gita contains this excerpt: “Act with no thought of results, open to success or failure. This equanimity is yoga.” Ah, if only. I have a longing for this state when I read this passage. I love how it begins with the word act. Not sit back, chill out and don’t care about life. It’s a calling to act for the sake of action. To give full ambition, attuned focus, and be open to success or failure. Imagine the possibilities if we conducted ourselves without being motivated by the potential positive outcome. If we no longer prevented action because we were inhibited by the fear of loss or negativity. This is not a state of nirvana specific to priestesses and monks. It’s happening every moment in nature. Take for example something as random as snowflakes.
Snowflakes are fleeting and temporary. They are symmetrical but they are not perfect. Their awesomeness is revealed when we peek up close and study their crystallized formation. Every random branch of a snowflake is unique and tells its history of that singular journey, travelling from the sky down to earth. They arise from the nothingness and dissolve back into it only to be reborn in another shape and size. There is no clinging to the cold or disappointment if they melt the instant they reach the asphalt. Nature provides a beautiful illustration for us to absorb the wisdom that is whispered on the everyday. Transmuting the cyclical lessons of nature and its ability to act for action alone into our yoga can transform our practice. Begin by setting the mind to practice for the sake of practice… with no other means. Then add to your tool kit the layers outlined below and begin to witness the potential shift in perspective.
In Eastern anatomy the layers of the body are referred to as the Koshas. Like Russian dolls, each metaphorical “body” is contained within the next moving from periphery to core. They are a benevolent reminder that the experience of yoga is like a lattice that goes up and down, in and out, side to side. The first layer of the body is Annamaya kosha – the physical body. It is here that a pose is aligned through safety and direction. Yet once a pose winnows its way into the body, the experience is just beginning to crack open.
Lying just beneath the physical body is Pranamaya kosha – the breath or life-force. The breath is described as the gateway to the soul. It links the manifested plane with the un-manifested plane. Once the body has the form of the pose we then receive the breath with awareness to explore the attics and basements of our body.
Becoming more subtle is Manomaya kosha – the mental body. Chemistry released through brain invokes certain feeling tones and emotions. Attention to this layer allows for residual tension to be moved through the body creating space for a more expansive mind and body.
The charting continues to entrain into the subtler fields of Vijanamaya kosha – the wisdom body. As the first three layers begin to syncopate in your yoga practice, a different feeling arises as your wisdom body comes alive. All of a sudden you are not just trying to survive or breathe in a pose, but a shift inside you occurs, as if the spirit of the pose starts to emerge.
Anandamaya kosha – the bliss body is the fifth layer in the body. There is a feeling of wholeness and integration, even if you are only there for a moment. This is the radiant core where unconditional love and communion with life arises.
The beauty of this body system is that it is a network of communication in relationship with itself with no hierarchy. We may need to ground into our physicality so that we can cope with life circumstances. We may need to get out of our own way and allow the freedom of expansion to enter. There is no climbing of the ladder or eternal destination, only the present moment awareness. To practice for the experience of practice. To then act for the sake of action and maybe eventually we can love with no strings attached.