I recently completed my 500hr teacher training with Theresa Murphy. Theresa asked us to prepare a presentation to our group as our “final exam”. She encouraged us to read through all our notes and create a dharma talk citing readings or quotes that supported our ideas. We’d met once a month for an entire weekend since the previous September, 12 months in all, and the amount of material we covered was tremendous.
As I considered how I could possibly sum up everything I learned, I flashed on a moment early on in our training and couldn’t get it out of my head. My presentation developed more or less organically from there. Some of it is a bit of an “inside joke” referencing some of the colorful language our amazing teacher uses in teaching asana or discussing various concepts but the larger part is a reflection of what I’ve learned about myself in the context of our training: how to see myself more clearly, how to understand that I, we, are all the identity we create for ourselves and perhaps something more essential, our true nature.
In the end each of the 12 unique women I studied with in this training, brought incredible honesty to their own presentations and I will be forever grateful to have shared this journey with them. This is also a thank you to them and our brilliant mentor!
Reflections on a Prime Number
This is a confession of sorts, an exploration, dissertation, a riff, a rap and a thank you.
A prime is a natural number
It’s a number greater than 1 -
It’s a number that can only be divided by 1 …
A prime is a number greater than 1 that can only be divided by 1 and itself.
Our number is 13
WE are PRIME my dears!
Here’s my Dharma –
Page 19 – 19 is a PRIME
We are on Page 19 in our manual –
It’s our first week with T in our TT
“Volunteers to read?”
“Being good non-dualists, tantrikas (tantric yogis) see all possible sets of opposites, all dualities (good and evil, hot and cold, hard and soft, male and female) contained within the universal consciousness.
I read -
“The only way a yogi can liberate himself from suffering, according to tantra, is to UNTIE all the opposites or dualities ….
Hahahaha - laughter? – I look up – I look down
“The only way a yogi can liberate himself from suffering, according to tantra,
is to UNITE (damn it)….. all the opposites or dualities in his own body!“
I am still reading blah, blah, blah but I am sweating and flushed with embarrassment .
The word was Unite but I read Untie Whattttt??????? Nooooooo?????
Did I pee my pants? No - I simply transposed 2 letters and read a word incorrectly. I ERRED.
BUT I don’t ! … ERR er Or I mean hardly ever,
Or I mean I HATE to be wrong!
OK there it is - that’s my issue – I’m attached to my smarts.
They’ve served me well – garnered me praise and income and praise.
I’m a junkie for being the smart girl!
Sometimes too smart for my own good …
NOT too Smart!
But then – UNITE or UNTIE – What the FFFFFFFFF
Suffering yogis – I offer you liberation!
No right without wrong, here without there, he without she, success without failure, UNITING without UNTYING?????
Om, gate gate, par agate, parasangate, bodhi svaha.
GONE COMPLETELY BEYOND,
AWAKENED AT LAST! Hallelujah!
This is the Prajna Paramita Mantra – the perfection of wisdom chant
(Perfect for the smart girl, right?)
But wisdom is not knowledge and the teaching is this:
Form is emptiness; Emptiness is form;
Emptiness is not other than form;
Form is not other than emptiness.
Then, through the power of the Buddha, venerable Sariputra said to noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, "How should a son or daughter of noble family train, who wishes to practice the profound prajnaparamita?"
Addressed in this way, noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion said to venerable Sariputra, "O, Sariputra, a son or daughter of noble family who wishes to practice the profound prajnaparamita should see it in this way: seeing the five skandhas to be empty of nature. Form is emptiness; emptiness also is form. Emptiness is no other than form; form is no other than emptiness. In the same way, feeling, perception, formation, and consciousness are emptiness. Thus, Sariputra, all dharmas are emptiness.
And he went on….
This is the Heart Sutra. The story is of an ambitious student who wants to train asking Buddha through the figure of the Bodhisattva of compassion – HOW do I do it? How do I practice THIS THING.
Pema Chodron says in her teaching on the Sutra of the Heart of Transcendent Knowledge that the bodhisattva’s answer in overview is
“anything that you're clinging to, anything that you now currently believe to be so —such as egolessness, or the Four Noble Truths, or the skandhas, as a description of no-self— anything that you currently believe in, it's not that.
In other words, the Buddhist teachings are progressive stages in groundlessness.
Having taught groundlessness, now the Buddha teaches —through Avalokiteshvara— the prajnaparamita, which says:
even all of that, if you believe in it as a belief system, will block you from understanding the truth —if you cling to anything, it will block your understanding the truth— even clinging to the words of the Buddha, the teachings of the Buddha, will be a major obstacle if you hold on to them and make them something solid and use them as ground under your feet.”
C’mon… No ground under your feet? What you think is right or (big R) RIGHT - or TRUE let it go???
Alas - look to “The Sacred Mirror”. In Jennifer Welwood’s article on the heart sutra she speaks about the indivisibility of form and emptiness in both the inner and outer worlds. And while she admits it’s a poetic concept, it’s still a bit esoteric. To help us understand it better she explores the concept in relationship to “our not knowing our own nature”.
We might understand emptiness as an open awareness that always exists and as such, a clear space in which we are able to focus our mental energies on form – call that form here our thoughts, reactions etc.
And yet for most of us, most of the time, the idea of emptiness is daunting even frightening so we fill it up. We “fabricate” a form to avoid the emptiness rather than seeing the two as one –rather than understanding that each: the form and the emptiness give rise to one another - non-dual!
SO back to me – and my smartness! My fabricated form!!
The crux of it is that clinging to or identifying with being smart, or strong, or right or more perfectly “yogi like” smacks you in the gut when you see or sense that your not perfectly so. Maybe even more so, if that is what you fear in the first place. Right?
Maybe I fear not being smart, or strong or cool or whatever –
You fear your not something so you promote a persona or form that says YOU ARE THAT or the opposite of that , NOT THAT, and then you walk around having to hold onto your pants so they don’t wind up around your knees!
Striving to earn value extrinsic to ourselves rather than recognizing our intrinsic value; this the foundation of the samsaric loop and most suffering.
So the liberation is in the awareness of our non-dual nature.
The lesson is a new sense of awareness and the groundlessness that is the bodhisattva’s answer and the curiosity in Sariputra’s question – How?
No answer without a question
Permission to be curious, the invitation to be curious has been the biggest lesson and gift of this training.
In a sense, to be curious is a form of UNTYING – AHA!
untying, undoing, untethering, unmooring – our willingness to be curious sets us afloat.
So is it possible that we have to UNTIE ourselves from our beliefs or limitations before we can UNITE the dualities in our own bodies and minds?
I think “you could make a case for that!”
And now I’m up to page 59 in our manual where the heart sutra is printed and umhmm 59 is a prime number!
So what about everything else we learned?
How to feel our own kidneys working,
exploring the mysteries of the Trika Guha,
the unique energetics of the 5 vayus and the related elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether– (5 is a prime) ,
the characteristics of the 7 chakras – (7 – prime),
the Sanskrit and all the anatomy,
techniques of pranayama
The difference between 8 and 11 syllable chants
The magnificent vagus nerve
The phrenic nerve
how to use the bolsters, straps, blocks, sandbags, chairs and the wall,
how to assist in each asana,
lift our pelvic floor,
"corn cob skewer" our hips,
descend our groins back and down,
soften our bellies,
collect our bootie flesh
widen our diaphragms 360 degrees,
reach thru our hearts,
grow our toes and
skillfully (slurp!) suction our hamstrings down!
and the rest of the information on the 599 pages in our manual – (599 is also a prime!)
Well … I think I’ve got most of it being as smart as I am ….
but since I just celebrated my 55th birthday (sigh!) and my hormones are often playing peek-a-boo with my recall …
which, because of my new non-dual, non clinging awareness of the emptiness that is often my mind these days, I am totally cool with …
I am resting easy in my dharma – 7.29.59 – that’s my birthday –
you guessed it – all prime! Divisible only by 1 and me!
And as for you? You are all Primes to me and I am so grateful for it!
Theresa Murphy ERYT-500 - www.theresamurphy.net
Pema Chodron – www.shambhala.org/teachers/pema/heart_sutra.php
Jennifer Welwood - http://jenniferwelwood.com/writings/
Purusha and Prakrhiti - there are many definitions, here's one: "Purusha is pure consciousness, it follows that prakriti is unconscious. Prakriti is everything that is changing. Prakriti is not just the physical aspects of the universe that we can sense; it is our very senses themselves - our thoughts, memories, desires, and even our intelligence. Prakriti is everything that is that isn't conscious. Consciousness resides only in purusha, or more properly, as purusha." from www.yinyoga.com
And ok 1959 is not a prime number but 59 is! Taking poetic license here!