Monday, April 4, 2011

Goldilocks and the Three Gunas

Sometimes I wonder whether there is a Master Lesson Plan that all of my teachers receive in their in-box, establishing that week's theme.   I find that idea attractive, since it would mean that all of us, practicing together no matter where, are imbibing the same message, thinking about the same issues, reaching for the same new heights -- seems like a good thing.  But I know that's not what's happening.  I know it's an infinitely more creative process than that, and that since we're all around each other all the time, thinking about the same philosophical underpinnings, it's bound to happen that we're looping around, sometimes overlapping in ways that are just delightful.

And it's also likely that in this case, I am the common element from class to class, teacher to teacher, making the connections between what they're speaking.  It's inevitable that there will be similarity, but they're not working it out with each other in advance.  Leave that to me, yoga nomad, traveling from studio to studio with a little piece of thread sewing it all together.

At Laura's last Wednesday night class with our Sausalito kula for almost a whole month, she started us off talking about the three gunas, or energies: rajas (hot, fast, creative, restless), tamas (cool, slow, dull, sluggish), or sattva (calm, peaceful, clear).  Particularly on a Wednesday night, the class, filled with people coming from work, having had to rush-rush through traffic to get to the studio, is more rajasic.  You can hear it in the room, the chatter, the zing of conversation.  On Saturday mornings, when we're all there fresh from sleep and still in that zone, the mood of the room is more tamasic, the invocation is quieter, more harmonious, sometimes too slow.

The point of the practice is to arrive at that sattvic middle ground, exemplified by savasana really, a pose in which we're calm and quiet but also aware. If you're snoring, too much tamas!

In that class with Laura, we played with finding sattva in every pose, with not over-efforting, not being overly busy in a standing pose, with adding an element of ease in the pose as well, of relaxation.  A little bit of savasana in every pose.

I took a few days off of going to class because of work and getting ready for the Bakesale.  When I came to my mat yesterday morning in a studio that is not as familiar to me, with some people I know but mostly people I don't, I was tired, could feel a migraine starting to buzz around in the back of my skull, dull.  So it was particularly delightful that Abby told the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  It was just what I needed to hear.  It was Just Right.

Because that's what the story is all about.  When Goldilocks lets herself into the three bears' house, she makes her way through their porridge, their chairs, their beds.  In all cases, the first things she tries -- porridge, chair, bed -- is too hot, too high, too hard; the second is too cold, too low, too soft; the third is Just Right.  Ultimately, she falls asleep in Baby Bear's cozy Just Right little bed, where she is discovered by the Bears upon their return.

The yoga, Abby said, is about the awareness of being Just Right.  Which we all are, just by being here.  We're Just Right.  There's nothing to add, there's nothing to take away.  Just Right.

And of course -- lightbulbs flashing in my head, hand scribbling in notebook -- what are the porridge, chairs, beds, but expressions of the gunas, right?  One is too hot (rajas), another too cold (tamas), and the third Just Right (sattva).  As with porridge, so with life!

I went back and did a little re-reading of Goldilocks, before writing this.  Aspects of the story are embedded deep in my brain, but others I just couldn't remember.  I was surprised to find that in some versions of the story, Goldilocks is a horrible snoot of a child, arrogant, bossy, who lets herself into Bears' house to demonstrate to herself that their place is so ugly, hers is so much better.  At the end of this version of the story, Goldilocks, discovered by the Bears asleep in the Just Right bed, after Just Right porridge and Just Right chair, is transformed into a sweet and loving girl.  But only after having found and experienced the Just Right.

And what is savasana but the experience of resting in the Just Right bed, from which we arise, like Goldilocks, transformed?

As Douglas says, we are every character in every story.  It was always easy for me as a golden-locked child to be Goldilocks.  But even as a darker-haired grown-up, I see it now, the way I'm Goldilocks in a different way, the way we all are, seeking the Just Right, the balanced place of sattva in every experience, and made better for it.

Thank you, darling teachers, for the reminder.  May all beings be Just Right!

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