“Maitrī adişo balā” 3.23, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
“Maitribala= whose strength is benevolence”
I don’t know where I found the above quote. I have been re-visiting my years’ collection of class plans in our current phase of practice. Every week I would teach a class and attempt to theme the class on a sutra as I learned about them. As I re-purpose the asana sequences I created back then for class today, I noticed how the themes I wrote could also be re-purposed for comment in these newsletters.
Remember, I wrote in July how I feel I’s written, said everything that can be said for where we are in our practice? From here on forward, at least for a period of time, we need to just practice what has been preached. We need to take it from thought to action, move it from the head to the body.
Back to Maitri-
The Indo-Iranian word *mitra-m means "covenant, contract, oath, or treaty", and later, "friend". The word is derived from a root mi- "to fix, to bind" (Indo-European *Hmei), with the "tool suffix" -tra- (compare man-tra-), a contract is thus described as a "means of binding." The use of 'mitrá' to mean friend, may therefore be a shortening of the term 'bond of friendship'.
I have been practicing practice- have you noticed that in class? No agenda, nothing to get, no something different to become.
It’s friendship- just hanging out because you like to be with. Nothing to accomplish. Enjoy the company of.
There is an immense strength in benevolence. I’m sure you have experienced feeling cared for, the feeling of someone who just likes you, quirks and all. They don’t want anything from a relationship with you other than the relationship itself.
This has been my deep lesson of the past 12 months- friendship and practice, both agenda-less, both just showing up and being in the moment as we are.
The funny thing is I realized all this hiking 4,000 ft up a mountain pass in the Colorado Rockies last month. It was reinforced a few weeks later by heading 4,500 ft up the northeast flank of Mt. Rainier to scramble Mt. Ruth, (twice in 8 days). The realization is I hadn’t done anything particularly spectacular to “train”, other than show up twice a week wearing a weighted vest, on the stair climber and go hiking once a week. Just showing up and being there for that, suddenly I found myself enjoying the process itself- the time alone with myself in the gym, the intensity of the effort during and the feeling after. suddenly I found myself on top of a few spectacular places without a timeline or a schedule or a targeted outcome. No burning thighs, no burning lungs, no burning thoughts during the ascent or descent. Enjoyment of the journey, as is the cliché.
This past week, in my own yoga practice with an online class I had chosen for my injured shoulder, I put my hand on my sacrum, following the queue of the teacher. “Feel the pelvis tilt anteriorly”, the teacher said. I’ll be darned- 20 years of practice, 20 years of hearing that queue, and this past week, in parsvottanasana, I felt for the first time my pelvis tilt anteriorly and then posteriorly then to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, I again tilted it to the anterior. On a day I had shown up on my mat just to practice, just to hang out with my body.