I encountered a very difficult context in my work life when I was very young adult; our family business went into a tailspin at this time. Simultaneously the family context also suffered badly. However, I also met some extraordinary people at this time, the Krishnas of my life, namely J. Krishnamurti, Yogacharya Krishnamacharya and Pulin Krishna Garg. I spent the next ten years of my life learning from them. JK and Krishnamacharya influenced my spiritual journey profoundly, and Pulin influenced my professional journey. Without the inner transformations the outer challenges could well have over powered me! So I speak from a conviction born of personal experience when I speak about the extraordinary power of the inner work in impacting all aspects of ones’ life.
When I ask a group of people “what is Yoga?” I usually get two sets of answers, from two ends of the spectrum. One set of answers are around the ‘ultimate aim’ namely union with Paramaatma. The other set is around the practice and benefits of Aasana and Praanaayaama. There is nothing wrong with these answers per se, however, the real power of Yoga lies in its width, its depth, and its simplicity. What I think will be useful to explore is the ground that lies between these sets of answers, what the Yoga Sutras call Antaranga Yoga, or the inner work. This is contrasted with the outer (called bahiranga) Yoga, as well as the transcendental called the Nirbeeja (without seed or form). A simple definition of Yoga is “to accomplish that which is beyond ones’ grasp and to sustain this capability”. This is the idea upon which we will ground our exploration and practice.
In my coaching sessions I am asked the question “how do I balance my spiritual growth and my professional growth?” more and more often. I don't know if it is because the person being coached knows my background in Yoga, or is it a phenomenon that is more wide spread? Since this is a question dear to my heart I thought I would share my thoughts and what I have gathered in my journey.
There are some very powerful concepts that capture the essence of inner work, and the practice of these has the potential to help one become the best that one can be. These practices are offered as areas of sustained enquiry. The one question that is quintessential to this enquiry is to ask oneself “in doing what I am doing, what am I really doing?” I have used seven words/ concepts as the guiding light of my enquiry, and these are:
Value: I value friendship
Behaviour: I display compassion in my relationships; I demonstrate respect for others.
Introspection: Am I listening to and understanding others?
Value: I value action
Behaviour: Spontaneous, authentic and appropriate response.
Introspection: From what inner space is my action emerging?
Dharma:Doing the right thing
Value: I value life in all its manifest forms
Behaviour: I ensure that my actions are meaningful to me, to others and to the context simultaneously.
Introspection: am I enlivening my context and myself through the action?
Value: I value learning and knowledge
Behavior: I question things and enquire deeply; I engage in dialogue with learned people
Introspection: Am I asking ‘what, why and how’ with a passion to learn?
Value: I value joyousness
Behaviour: I bring in a sense of aesthetic enjoyment in my actions; I approach work with an attitude of serious play
Introspection: Am I having fun in whatever I am doing?
Value: I value an integration of my energies
Behaviour: I practice the essentials of yoga i.e. healthy body, ethical behavior and self -discovery
Introspection: am I bringing a deep attention into whatever I do?
Abhyaasa:Practice, practice, practice
Value: I value the pursuit of excellence
Behaviour: I Endeavour to be the best that I can be in every situation,
Introspection: Am I improving on the sense of self and my surroundings continuously? How can I be part of the solution?
These are the seven words, and the values and behaviour that they imply. There is also the introspection that one can engage with in the self-enquiry.
All these words are found in the Yoga Sutras and the Gita. They find an echo in all Indian traditions. Many of these ideas are found in the Buddhist, Jain, Sufi and Sikh traditions. These seven words also reflect the pragmatic expression of the seven Chakras.
We will discuss these concepts in the series of papers that follow.