This is the final of three posts based upon our forum discussion in NYC this June.
According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, one of the definitive texts on yoga, the final step, or limb, on the yogic path is liberation. This term can mean so many things, so let’s look at it.
In a classic Indian view, it can mean your soul is so evolved and so pure that it no longer has to repeat the cycle of reincarnation. It’s free to just be.
I have a slightly different view, as described in this excerpt from the Punk Rock Yoga Manifesto: “I view liberation in a much subtler way, and as more of a temporary state. This liberation, where we transcend every biological impulse and every mundane thought, is like a butterfly. It will land upon you for an instant, and if you are very quiet and still it may linger long enough for you to notice. I cannot describe what liberation feels like for others. I can only share my own glimpse into transcendence, which, frankly, is difficult to put into words. I perceive it as absolute serenity, quiet, peace, and joy, where my normal concerns, aches, and pains fade into obscurity.”
Some students in the discussion group described their view of liberation as being unbound and unrestrained. We can look at this in a classic sense of feeling so free that we no longer have the needs of the flesh, such as food and water. Another way I choose to look at it is that while we inhabit a corporeal body, we do have bodily needs–either we cook the food for ourselves or pay someone else to do it.
The challenge is–can we find liberation while undergoing our duty?
Can we perform tasks such as scrubbing the toilet, taking the subway, calculating taxes, etc. but view them without feeling retrained or inhibited by them? Can we view them as merely tasks–nothing more nothing less–and can we detach our negative view from them. We can perceive our tasks as nothing more than our participation in dharma, or the regulatory order of the universe. They are part of the natural order of things–neither good nor bad.
But even beyond, I believe we go so far as to cultivate a sense of joy in the day-to-day. Yoga can be this spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. A mindful practice, or true time for ourselves no matter the amount, can help us shed the negativity that surrounds our chores and develop a a more neutral perspective–perhaps even a joyful one. can help us cultivate that sense of liberation even as we fold the laundry.
This is an excellent challenge–take the joy you feel after finishing a yoga class and challenge yourself to find that same serenity and joy in a routine task, maybe by just doing some deep breathing and staying focused on the task instead of letting your mind race light years ahead. By first becoming aware and concentrating, we can in fact turn our day-to-day lives into a giant extension of our yoga class. This is difficult, as so much of the world–it’s loud noise, it’s ubiquitous anger, it’s flashing lights–causes us to disconnect and think about anything else. But starting small, such as starting at home, can help cultivate this freedom even in a small amount and help us find liberation in more of our daily life.