Imagine there is a pipe or channel that transfers water – and it is your only water source. Then one day, this channel ends up with a clog, a build up, a blockage of some sort. When presented with this problem, how do you clear the choke point?
There are two ways to approach the problem. You could shove something into the channel, muddle things around to see if that loosens it. Or, you can knock on the outside. Often times, it requires both approaches. Knocking on the outside and clearing the inside.
This is how our yoga practice works. It begins to knock on the outside – the physical body, with the poses and the breath and thoughts on the inside.
As I sit on the couch I notice this feeling of anxiety that’s swimming deep in my belly. I’m trying to relax while the kids play on the floor. Something is nagging me. I can’t figure out what it is. I look past the kids on the floor to the table that is still underneath breakfast and now lunch dishes. Knowing that around the corner the kitchen resembles the same two or three deep layers of unfinished food productions.
According to the yoga sutras of Patanjalj “the first commitment is to cleanliness” ii.32a
A lack of this basic cleanliness – plain old tidiness – is almost a sure sign that your channels are “untidy” too… Deep down inside: the thoughts, or winds, are numbered up, ready to turn into a new choke-point at any time.
A very simple and effective way to take advantage of the interchange, the interplay, between outside and inside is simply to clean up the place. If your space is free of clutter, then this is all reflected upon the inner winds or thoughts.
Perhaps taking it one step further than just tidying up – but getting rid of what we don’t need or use.
If there’s just less junk around the room, then when you go to focus, and fix your mind on a single point (such as relaxing with that book while my kids play), then there’s not as many things that the mind has to sift through to get to what you want to focus on.
It’s a lot easier to find a friend in a group of ten people, especially if they’re all lined up, than a crowd of a hundred people all walking around. Similarly, it takes less effort, much less effort, to focus all day long when thoughts can sync into a row instead of having to walk around the mess. Focus is like food for the mind: the mind thrives on it, and so do the inner channels.
All these extra things in our house are tricky. They sit there, looking pretty harmless, and that’s why we let them stay. But if you were asked to “think of some of the things in your house”… Where does your mind start to go?
Then, you remember all the numerous things under your roof, regardless if you use them or not, because the information about each one is stored in your mind. And the mind – although we don’t think of it this way – has only so much capacity. Every time you acquire another object, every time there’s one more thing cluttering up your home, then there’s one more thing cluttering up your mind as well. And as the mind goes, so do the inner channels and its choke points.
Cut out the extra stuff in your home and in turn clear the channels in your mind. Completing your projects – paying attention to tidiness – settles the winds and choke points within the channels.
And then the mind will be free to come inside, and arrive at its own nature: concentration, contemplation, uninterrupted attention — medicine for the channels, and a happy state of mind that lasts. It’s all a kind of cleanliness, in a way: tidiness on the outside, tidiness on the inside. Resulting in a clog free – powerful flowing channel.