A fundamental practice of yoga

(… continued from ‘The Power of the Mind’)

Our teacher often used to give a fundamental practice of yoga. To sit and as the thoughts come up, “Not wanted. Not wanted. Unreal. Unreal. Not wanted.”

The thoughts of opposition can be of different kinds. Sometimes there is something that would be good to do, but there is an element which doesn’t want to do it. That element says to the intellect, “Get me out of this.” The brilliant writer, De Quincey, heard a pianist play. He was fascinated. “Wonderful,” he said and he told his friends, “I am going to master the piano and be able to play.” Then he found that it would mean a lot of practice for hours every day.  He had already told a lot of people, and it would be a terrible loss of face to give up. So he said to his intellect, “Get me out of this.”

So the intellect said, “Well, look. Supposing you go to a concert. You have a free ticket, but there is just one condition. That at a particular point in the piece, you have to [make two taps on the drum].  That’s all. It will ruin the concert for you, won’t it? You will be waiting for your bit. You will be tense and then you will do it and you’ll think, “Oh.  It’s over!”  You won’t enjoy the concert because you have got this to do.  Now, think of the musicians. They have got things to do all the time. It means they can’t enjoy the music at all. They are just slaves producing the music for us to sit in serenity and enjoy it. So it would be a great mistake to take up the piano and do all that practicing, wouldn’t it? You’re much better letting other people do it and enjoying it yourself.” So his intellect got him out of it, but this isn’t exactly a constructive thing.

To give up our thoughts in meditation there practices.  But you can’t just sit in meditation and do these practices and then run wild with instant reactions in the daytime.   We are told, for instance, in nearly all sorts of schools of good behaviour, when you are annoyed and you feel you want to say something, to count backwards from 19 before you speak. Or, sometimes it’s 99. Or, sometimes people even say, “Count up to 10 before you speak.”  Most people have heard these things in the nursery somewhere, but nobody ever does them. However, if they were shown, if it were known that it could have an effect, then there is a spiritual version of this which is one that would be worth trying.

First, I will give an example from the world of how effective this is. A man published an advertisement, which he put in one of the highly reputable and respectable papers, ‘How to give up smoking without using will power.’  The paper wrote back to him and said, “We are not going to print this unless you tell us what your method is.” So he wrote and told them and then they printed it. He did quite well out of this, earning whatever it was, 10 shillings or so. Well, his method was a little hourglass of sand for boiling an egg, for three and a half minutes. He enclosed that.

Now, he said, “You don’t have to use your will power in my method. You can have a cigarette when you like, but when you decide you want one, take out the hourglass, put it down and wait for three and a half minutes, then have your cigarette.” Well, I saw some of the letters that he received. Even this first step was often quite effective. The sudden wish for a cigarette, it’s a quick thing. They want it now.  They set the hourglass and didn’t feel frustrated because, “I know I’m going to be able to have a cigarette.”   Then after the three and a half minutes, they quite often didn’t want it. Or, if they had it, it didn’t seem very interesting, very attractive. Well, then he said, “Now, extend this. Wait for your three and a half minutes, then you can have your cigarette – but when you have your cigarette, you mustn’t do anything else. You mustn’t talk to people. You mustn’t look at anything. You mustn’t listen to anything. You mustn’t read the paper. Just go into a corner and enjoy your cigarette.”

Well, what they experienced was that they would wait for the three and a half minutes, they would go to the corner, take out the smoke and enjoy the cigarette.  But after a few puffs, it wasn’t enjoyable and they would find themselves putting it out halfway through. Well I won’t go into the further steps, but anyway, he was fairly successful.

Now, there is a spiritual account of this, which is that when something happens which suddenly causes anger, fear (I’m giving a version from the Far East), you can have your anger.  But wait for three minutes and then have your anger, then you won’t feel frustrated. When it happens, bring your attention here (the point between the eyebrows), just for three minutes, then you can have your anger. You can make your angry reply then, as angry as you like. Or, maybe something happens that frightens you.  In the same way, wait for three minutes and then have your fear. Bring the attention here, then have the fear.

Now, we could just try for a moment.  They don’t seem to make egg timers now, but I’ve got a little timer here. Now, this practice is given in the book called, ‘Training the Mind Through Yoga,’ where the body is to be made an instrument and a servant.

 

© Trevor Leggett

(Continued in ‘Spirit is independent of the body’)

Titles in this series are:

Part 1: The Power of the Mind

Part 2: A fundamental practice of yoga

Part 3: Spirit is independent of the body

Part 4: One of the programmes of Yoga