Everyone seems to be reading Fifty Shades of Grey. And I have to say that I haven’t bought a copy. Its been compared to the Twilight Saga and I’m not even going to go there. The success its enjoyed so far says more about the world we live in than any inspiration on the part of the author. It is as it is.
I was idly thinking about it as I was falling asleep on the sofa. The theme of a man and a (yawn) young innocent girl. Because if she wasn’t innocent it wouldn’t be erotic would it? If there were no moral boundaries to break, no cage bars to bend it wouldn’t work. Boundaries are what tauten our reins in our rush towards orgasm, our rush towards success. We grow up in cages imposed on us by our families, our education, the company we keep. And sometimes we change the shape of them through our own free will. And just as the dominant partner in sadomasochism holds the whip, controls the bondage, our ego uses different restraints. The ego’s restraints are the idea of how our lives should play out and often desperation is a deciding factor.
Once we have constructed our own cage, whatever that may be; to be the perfect partner, the perfect worker, the perfect business owner, teacher, author, parent, meditator, artist- take your pick- then the fun really starts. When something doesn’t work out we end up standing in the smashed up cage surrounded by broken shards of self that make us bleed when we step on them. Our very own Hell.
True letting go is very different from the intellectual understanding of it. Non-attachment is not at all a difficult concept to grasp but so hard to practise. We make up all kinds of stories to support whatever our ego’s tending towards. And also our ego tends to dictate to us what we should not be attached to- that is why having a teacher is so very important. Especially if you are attempting spiritual development. Someone you trust who you know has your best interests at heart even if sometimes the work is painful.
But just as our own cages bring misery they can also bring happiness to some degree. And so we also place boundaries on our own bliss. On some level what we feel we deserve. There is talk of karma and finding meaning in random events but there is also such a thing as coincidence too. So often we are told that achievement is all about the blessings bestowed upon us from the beyond. And it can also become a question of how deserving we feel. Interestingly it’s the tyrants with personality disorders who, it seems, feel the most deserving of bliss.
Looking around the shelves of any Mind Body Spirit section of a bookshop there are so many books about happiness- ranging from how to present yourself differently, to building a shrine in the garden or making a cosmic order because it works for Noel Edmunds…! You could take a few of these books and wedge them in the bars of the cage you are already in for all the use they are.
The recipe for true happiness is contained within the Yoga Sutras. In the sacred words which reveal the methods to truly see things as they are- this is surely the true meaning of the phrase ‘thinking outside of the box’. Because the Yoga sages knew that the journey of the ego, of the particular shape that spark that is you happens to be at this precise moment and yet is not you- they knew this journey is very short and the souls journey is infinite.
Funnily though, when talking of restraints and imposed boundaries this is how the Yoga Sutras starts. Cittavrtti Nirodha refers to ceasing- or containing- the movements of the mind, the restless thoughts. According to BKS Iyengar in Astadala Yogamala, Patanjali starts with this because this is the core of Yoga practice in the journey towards Samadhi- total one-ness (Sama- translates like our word same and Adhi means origin- so literally going back to source). And throughout the Sutras all the different expressions of our minds fluctuations are described and we are given tools to deal with them. One of the things I love about Patanjali’s Yoga is how practical it is. There is no belief system required, just practice. And when practiced with devotion it weeds out everything. There is nowhere for the ego to hide in Yoga when the system is followed to the letter. Yoga is above all else, practical.
After my practice yesterday for about half a minute I experienced a new stillness. A real silence and then the strongest sensation of every tension within my body. Whereas I generally feel as if I am soft and relaxed, underneath it all I was truly as tense as an athlete poised to sprint, every muscle and vein, every millimetre of connective tissue seemed to have an agenda that was far deeper and more primal than my everyday thinking. I felt like I was witnessing my bodys energy and life force with a heat detecting camera and there was so much going on I never normally see.
This happens with regular practice. You start to feel all the attachments, worries and past experience or anticipation of the future manifest in your body, in your muscles, veins and tissues. Your body is like a rucksack full of it all and it’s a little scary to feel it in its totality. And letting go is even scarier because then you are entering truly alien territory. And it begins to feel like drowning in a sea as you float towards an unknown destination.
So you could look at 50 Shades of Grey as symbolic if you wanted to. On some level, satisfaction is always going to involve stepping out of your comfort zone. And I can’t help but think sadomasochism is an absolute piece of cake compared to the Yoga Sutras. Getting whipped by a man in riding boots is a damn sight easier than truly quieting the mind, and really stepping outside of the self. Really breaking boundaries.