An Incomplete Recipe
By: Camella Nair (Swami Nibhrtananda)
Haven’t we all had to ‘eat our own words’ at some point?
Its part of the process of human maturation that we all tend to go through whether we are on a conscious spiritual path of not. We think something, and then before we know it have uttered the words which invariably lead to acting a certain way in order to validate our belief system.
Our precious ego in other words gets in the way of potential self-awareness.
Unless that is of course, we can see what is happening and take ownership and vow to improve our personality quirks. Many events in our lives and karmic lessons tend to be on ‘repeat,’ a bit like Groundhog Day we had recently had. The yogi at some point however says “enough!” and starts to investigate something that should stop us being bored however…..ourselves. Yes, self-interest is a part of the practice,
The teachings of Patanjali provide a road map of investigation and all we need to be able to do, like preparing a fabulous nutritious meal, is to assemble the teachings, discern for ourselves what is meaningful and then bring them alive for contemplation, improvement and change. Sounds easy eh?
But the truth is, it is not. Many people practice hatha yoga (the discipline of physical exercise and energy control) yet far fewer ever delve deep into their own psyche in order to become a better person.
The yoga sutras of Patanjali are pithy aphorisms of self-study along with guidelines of how to improve, and yet on face value can seem rather nebulous.
Enter the commentaries of the Yoga Sutras (which remember were written thousands of years ago) and yet still need to reference modern day life. The book mystically is dead and yoga is an oral tradition.
The problem in my mind is that the majority of the commentaries are made by men and there seems to be a missing link to integrating the esoteric teachings with our everyday lives as parents, home owners and employees. And yet that is how we can best assimilate the teachings and make them come alive in our lives. This makes it easier to think, say and do the right thing.
Many of us are eating healthier and conscious of how food arrives on our table and so this enthusiasm and curiosity can help to spark a new look at some of the vital yogic teachings on an individual level. We can do this by using food as a metaphor for the teachings and so have some of the important sutras in our mind whilst we are preparing food. For example, thinking about and cooking with chocolate when studying the law of attraction.
In the first of the 4 books known as the Yoga Sutras, we are told what yoga is and what it can do for us, namely emancipation from the physical body. Therein lies the rub as Shakespeare may have said, for being in the body can actually be rather nice. Nothing wrong with that. We really can and should enjoy life. No need to rush for enlightenment. After all what are we going to do with the rest of eternity if we no longer have a physical body?
It is in book 2 where the essence of spiritual practice is outlined under the heading of Kriya Yoga.
Sutra 2:1 Tapah-svadhyayesvara-pranidhanani kriya-yogah,
Self-study, self-discipline and an attunement to indwelling reality that connects us to all life.
It points to the obstacles in our mind as we are challenged on an emotional level with life circumstances and experiences. It really does not matter so much what happens in our lives but our ability or inability to respond rather than react that is important. Kriya comes from the root Kri meaning action. So Kriya Yoga could be translated as conscious, volitional, engaged, spiritual action.
The problem can be like an incomplete recipe, that we don’t necessarily join the dots to make real changes in our lives and so the drama continues to affect us.
It is for this reason that even though students kept asking me to write a cook book (I am usually the cook as well as yoga teacher on retreats), I stumbled on the idea that perhaps we can find meaning in reflecting on key sutras whilst cooking up a meal. Food as you might have guessed becomes a metaphor for the teachings.
How about thinking about the obstacle of aversion when family members still want to eat meat. Can you cook up a wonderful non-veggie meal for family and friends without getting all evangelical? When you eat spaghetti or noodles can you think about the blessings of longevity and the opportunity for experiences and wisdom as the body ages? This along with many recipes, journaling exercises, video lectures and cooking demos is what I conjured up in my kitchen when I was living for a decade in a yoga community in the heart of Silicon Valley. I had regular study groups on the yoga sutras but wanted to make the commentaries more main stream and appeal to the students that wanted me to write a cook book.
Time is precious and eating well is important. This does not mean that we have to be vegan and give up the things we love, but just continue life with an inquiring mind and an openness to change.
Conscious shopping, cooking and eating really can be a meaningful way to ‘eat the wise words’ of our ancestors and feel like we are making real spiritual progress without alienating people around us.
Camella is a yoga therapist, Ayurvedic Health Educator, Autor and Swami in the Kriya Lineage and created the online program called Cooking the Yoga Sutras.