Keeping Safe with Saints and Sages | Mark Whitwell on Responding to Grace
Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga
We have all been inspired in our lives. We have all experienced those moments when the social mind falls away and we see what is actually going on: the beauty, power, intelligence, nurturing, and harmony of Reality itself.
Such moments may come in the midst of a beautiful sunset seen from a hilltop; when we lay eyes upon our lover in the early morning light; when we encounter a sublime work of art or listen to visionary music. Some seek out a sense of the sublime through toxifying drugs; others through extreme sports.
For many, Grace comes in the presence of another person. Deep in the indigenous Indian traditions in which Yoga arose was the practice of sitting closely with a friend in local community who was not obstructed in body and mind from the powers of creation.
During these meetings with our gurus, saints, and sages we experience a sudden flash of insight. We recognize that we are indeed in the natural state; that we are not separate from Reality, or what some culture’s call God. We sense the profound insignificance of our usual mind’s preoccupation. And instead recognise the profound beauty of reality as it actually is.
In and of themselves, these moments are not necessarily useful. In fact, if you don’t have the practical tools to respond to what has inspired you they can make your life worse.
Without a practical way to respond to Grace, we will return home and then slot these moments into our socialized assumption of ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ experiences. And we will go looking for more highs.
Grace will make us even more miserable as we produce a painful split from our apparently ordinary ‘humdrum’ life.
This is why people become like addicts to their spiritual experiences: mountaineers seek out increasingly dangerous climbs; devotees won’t leave the ashram; young men ignore their partners to go get ‘high’ on month-long darkroom retreats in Bali.
Many of us have been deeply affected by the lives of saints (both living and those no longer with us in physical form like Christ) but have had no knowledge of what to do about it except the usual story of meditation and going within. Without knowing how to conduct the energy of life that we receive from our beloved saints in completely life-positive and sex-positive practice then our mental health is put at risk.
Yoga: The Practical Response
If you have been inspired by anything at all, then what you can do in response is a simple home Yoga practice.
In the Vedic tradition in which sages such as Ramana Maharshi appear, when you meet someone unobstructed in body or mind the response is to go home and be intimate with your own life and all conditions of your life.
Intimacy with all ordinary conditions (not the witnessing practices that have become popular) is how we respond to those moments in our life when we feel uncomplicated and free. Whether these moments come in meeting a person like Ramana, as a shamanic experience, a love affair, or a life-changing experience in nature.
Yoga is your direct participation in the natural state, in your heart, the place of the perfect union of giving and receiving. That is, inhalation (receiving), exhalation (giving), strength-receiving, within and without. Your daily embrace of the union of opposites in your own embodiment, reveals the heart that sages such as Ramana or Christ pointed to.
With our steady participation in the heart’s flow established in our own ‘ordinary’ lives, the presumption of difference between the sublime and the everyday falls away. We no longer are dependent on blissful experiences, mountaintop sunsets, or big wave surfing over dangerous reefs in order to feel at One with Reality itself.
Freed from the tyranny of the idea that we need to search for God, we simply relax and participate in God in our own homes. The result is a flowering of your intimate connection to yourself and others. Now that you are abiding in the natural state, you are safe with saints and sages and realizations of all kinds.
*For a full exploration of how the sacred and the everyday were split by culture you can find God and Sex: Now We Get Both (2019) here. Of course, in reality, they have always been and are One.