The Bhagavad Gita, one of the most revered spiritual texts, begins with a rather dramatic scene. Due to long and complicated circumstances, two armies have lined up to do battle. As the two sides are trumpeting their conches and preparing to fight, the warrior Arjuna asks his charioteer, Krishna, to pull the chariot into the middle of the battlefield, where he basically has a nervous breakdown. He drops his weapon and refuses to fight.
What ensues is a conversation between Arjuna and Krishna that lasts for 17 more chapters, with the armies seemingly in freeze-frame, in which most of the great teachings of yoga extant at the time are summarized. The teachings are exquisite and varied, and this opening scene is a beautiful teaching in and of itself.
As my teacher Douglas Brooks explains (please see his beautiful companion to the Gita, “Poised for Grace”), we are every character in the story. We are Arjuna the warrior, struggling to do the right thing, confused and loathe to enter into a battle that will surely end in annihilation of both armies, each of which contain his family, teachers, and friends. And we are Krishna, an incarnation of God, patiently pausing to answer Arjuna’s many questions, providing perspective and the guidance of a trusted counselor.
These two characters can be thought of as different parts of ourselves: the confused and searching human, and the wise higher Self.
The battlefield itself can be an instance of as any situation in our lives. We each face challenges, we have battles we must fight. Often our lives are extremely intense and chaotic, which is exactly the time we most want to engage in yoga. One of the most important teachings from this scene is that of a sacred pause.
When we face challenges, do we rush in? Do we follow the very human instincts to gain power and act out our anger? Or do we pause and seek counsel from a deeper part of our Self?
Instead of rushing into battle when he still feels hesitant and unsure, Arjuna pauses to consider what he is doing. And in that pause, Arjuna and Krishna converse. Arjuna consults his higher self, Krishna. He asks questions, and he LISTENS.
In our own lives we could also benefit from taking this pause. Stop, take a few breaths and listen to a deeper part of ourselves. Sometimes we have the time to contemplate our options before responding to a challenge. Sometimes we must act in the heat of the moment, and it is the connection that we have previously cultivated through our practice of yoga that guides us.
Our yoga practice allows us to connect with a deeper part of ourself, our Krishna self. Each time we step onto our mats and begin to watch the breath, each time we close our eyes for meditation, is an opportunity to access a greater wisdom that will provide us answers if we pause and listen. With repeated practice and stabilizing that connection the guidance comes more instantaneously. Yet like any conversation, we still have to truly listen.
· What are the biggest battles in your life right now?
· How do you converse with your Self? How do you work through your challenging situations? Take it to your mat? Your meditation cushion? Your journal? A trusted friend/advisor? To whom do you listen?
· In your everyday life notice if you are truly listening in your conversations. If not, practice just listening.
· When you encounter a challenging situation, take a sacred pause to listen to some deeper guidance.