Shiva Murthi in Haridwar - Photo by Chétana Jessica Torrens

Nothing but Blue Skies: Experiencing Pratyahara

In mid-Fall and mid-Winter in Rishikesh, there is truly nothing but blue skies. We wake up each day and think ‘another perfect day in paradise’! There’s something about this even-ness that is steadying. Perhaps it is that steadiness that creates a container for inner work. This photo of Shiva in Haridwar reminds me of this contrast — the clear blue of peacefulness and the the rearing snake of energy work, the three-pronged Trishul of ida, pingala and shushumna. Shiva means welfare; but his symbolism is highly energetic and urges us to shed the skin of the outmoded and gather our energy for a bit of an energetic blast. And yet, this growth, this propulsion can only really happen when there is a container, like the Ashram, the spiritual community of Tapovan (Rishikesh), Ma Ganga and the abiding rocks of the mountains and riverbanks. We need both the even-ness and the dynamic energy that moves us onward.

But, back to blue skies. As we move into mid-spring here in Canada, I am reminded of how that expansive arc above us is ideal for Pratyahara (gathering the senses). In my favourite film, A Room with a View, George Emerson quotes Dante, “My father says there’s only one perfect view, and that’s the view of the sky over our heads”. This is a very Yogic thought. Why? Because if you lay down on your back in the grass in a wide open space, on the Ashram roof or on the dock at a retreat, your field of vision will be unified, not broken up by different lines of trees, buildings, roads, electrical wires. You will see only blue in all of your field of vision. This is very calming and recollecting for the mind, helping you come into a state where the senses are not overloaded with data can can turn inward to the root of their experience.

So, though perhaps we can’t have blue skies all the time, we can really gain the benefit when they’re here. Take time to gaze upon this ‘perfect view’. Be truly there – in that expansive present. And then perhaps, you’ll hear the damru of Shiva — rock and roll!

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