Sunday, 10 March 2013

Maitri kuruna - friendliness and compassion... a workshop with Hamish Hendry

Yesterday I took part in a workshop run by Hamish Hendry of Ashtanga Yoga London. It was awesome. Hamish is a great man and very funny. Punctuating selected sentences with swears is always a winner for me! 

Sometimes, the simplest workshops are the best. It began with a Mysore style practice in the morning and a talk and short demo in the afternoon. 

I had one of my best practices ever yesterday, after the past 2 weeks of back and SI pain, I was worried about doing second again, but the whole practice from start to finish was a light and beautiful breeze. (Including the easiest assists in Laghu and Kapo ever!) It goes without saying Hamish and his assistant Louises' assists were spot on and helped to bring steadiness and ease to even the most challenging of postures. 

I'm going to write a few posts on stuff that came out of the workshop, but there is a lot of wanted to ponder before sharing, so will cover these over the next few posts. The afternoon session was great, an in-depth look at the first 12 yoga sutra and learning to chant them correctly. But it was one sutra which he mentioned which I want to talk about here. Hamish said that a student had once asked him what sutra he thought most pertinent as she wanted to get a new tattoo. He reeled off the one below - probably the longest one in the book! I thought this was hilarious and I'd love to see the tattoo one day :)

I think it was 1:33 - please forgive me if it wasn't this one, but he said it so quickly, I just remember it beginning with 'M' and being quite long - anyway, I'm going to go with it for the purposes of this post ;) Anyways, whether or not Hamish did talk about this sutra, other commentators on the sutras say that even if there is nothing else you take from the sutras of Patanjali, 1:33 is very helpful in keeping a peaceful mind in your daily life. (Swami Satchidananda swears by it as his guiding light to keep his mind serene!) (Satchitananda, 1978:54) It goes like this: 

Maitri kuruna muditopeksanam sukha duhka punyapunya visayanam bhavanatas citta prasadanam


By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness. (Satchidananda, 1978:54) 

Another translation I like is..

Consciousness settles as one radiates friendliness, compassion, delight and equanimity towards all things, whether pleasant or painful, good or bad. (Hartranft, 2003:13)

The latter translation is from Chip Hartranft, a great Buddhist teacher and he highlights that in common with Buddhist tradition, Patanjali observes the yogic process is deepened by the cultivation of friendliness, compassion, delight and equanimity - the four 'heavenly abodes' or brahma-viharas. To practice these they should be radiated not just inward towards one's self and one's experience, regardless of its qualities but outwardly, towards all sentient beings. The willingness to greet all phenomena with kindliness is the basis of non-reaction (1:15). (Hartranft, 2003:14) I read somewhere that compassion arises when you realise and accept that people only acting the way they do in order to make them selves happy. I guess that if you can accept that and not judge that person for their actions, then you've kinda made it :) 

This morning I got out my Manorama CD and began learning to chant and memorise the first 12 sutras as Hamish had recommended. I've never really thought it that important before, but he something that captivated my attention. Try learning a few sutras, they are mantras - mantras protect the mind and keep the mind for 'going outwards'. When I practice asana I always think 'sthira sukham asanam' (asana is steadiness and ease), its the basis and foundation of my practice. So why not try remembering the others for steadiness of mind?! 

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