November 11, 2011
The male of our species is equipped with the unique capacity to ignore items that are directly in front of its eyes. “the bananas are in the fridge next to the butter” says the female. “I can’t see it” replies the baffled male. “Here” says his mate, pointing at the objects that he was looking at but looked past. If only the gentler gender realised that male DNA is primarily equipped for grand tasks such as throwing medium-range spears to catch the evening’s dinner rather than foraging for berries and gathering one’s nuts.
It all started with Abraham. God does vayera. He ‘appears’ before Abraham who was sitting in his tent (Genesis 18:1). Or was the Divine presence in front of him along? Abraham then lifts his eyes and sees ‘three men standing before him’ (18:2). But why didn’t he see the men walking up? Shortly afterwards God considers ‘concealing’ Abraham’s forthcoming fortunes and the City of Sodom’s misfortune (18:16) but reveals that as well.
How often is the answer standing in front of our eyes but we fail to see it? My yoga teacher Edward Clark once said that ‘enlightenment is around us all of the time. All we need to do is to see it’.
There are later revelations immediately after Abraham’s story, as the inhabitants of Sodom prepare to physically reveal themselves before assaulting the male visitors, while Lot’s daughters reveal their father’s nakedness to effectively perform a drunken rape-and-impregnation. Some revelations, however, are best left covered up, as many a politician will attest to.
People sometimes ask if I teach meditation as well as yoga. I gently explain that there is no ‘as well as’. All is one. Yoga is meditation in movement. It doesn’t matter which form of meditation we choose, as long as we become conscious. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s ‘Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction’ (MBSR) is a hugely popular form of, well, reducing stress through mindfulness. But more can be achieved when we become still and become present. More of the world is revealed to us in these moments of stillness.
Mindfulness leads to seeing more opportunities before our eyes. To seeing the ‘truth’ about certain relationships. To listening to the messages our body is sending us.
The Iyengar Institute once published an entire book on how to do the yoga posture Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle Pose). A whole book, no less! Why? Because there are subtleties. Over time, we get deeper and deeper into the posture. With meditation and mindfulness, we can get deeper and deeper into our lives. Correspondingly, it becomes richer and richer, and all the more meaningful.
Abraham was present, aware and tuned-in to the Divine voice within, and received immense rewards as a result. By focusing on the process of mindfulness, we can unleash immense happiness that is in front of our very eyes. Perhaps it was next to the bananas all along.
Marcus is the creator of Bibliyoga, artist-in-residence for Jewlicious and president of the Jewish Yoga Network.