Even nonaction has its consequences


“Prana” posted a really good question on last week’s blog.  Something like–What happens if you are on the receiving end of actions by someone who has a penchant for being agreeable and also prefers to avoid confrontation or action? I’d have to say, there must be times that it is really nice and times that it probably sucks.  Because I’ve been on both sides of the matter, I’ll imagine I’m in a relationship with myself… Say some change of plans comes up for the Amandas– highly inconvenient.  Amanda-1 really doesn’t want to deal with it but she takes a pause and a deep breath and decides she’ll do it with a smile.  So nice for Amanda-2.  Then, a relationship issue arises.  On one day, Amanda-1 is in the agreeable/avoidance-type-mood and she responds to the thing as if it’s all going to work out and there’s no problem.  She really wants the issue to be easy and okay and tries to believe that maybe it’s not such a big deal.  Great.  Amanda-2 thinks she can move on.  Time passes. The issue is still hanging on and it turns out that it wasn’t resolved with Amanda-1’s efforts at agreeable-ness.  She is upset and there’s angst.  This is a problem after all.   Amanda-1 doesn’t address this directly and the issue grows.  It seems to have implications that are really, really serious.  She finds it difficult to take action and do something so then she blames Amanda-2.   Amanda-2 is confused by the “it’s okay/it’s not okay” and so she doesn’t know what to do.  Amanda-1 doesn’t like that they are both confused and vents some frustration.  She thinks it’s Amanda-2’s fault or that she’s avoidant or unclear.  Amanda-2 can see that Amanda-1’s not clear.  This makes it difficult for Amanda-2 to be clear.  Amandas’ efforts to try and see something from a more positive angle can lead to adopting and integrating a different point of view but can also confuse the matter at hand. Confused?  I am, too.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could be self-aware, clear, and fearless enough to look at all that’s going on inside of us, accept it, and then talk to our partners about the stuff that arises in a direct way?  What if we could distinguish between the desires and needs that come from a deep, divine and personal place (purusa) versus the avoidance that comes from fear, yearning for the material, and desires motivated by old habits that you aren’t ready to give up (prakriti)?  When we know what won’t change (deep desires, purusa) and what can and will change (prakriti), then we don’t waste time trying to change or let go of something that isn’t going to change or go away.  If we have this clarity, we can act in a way that supports the things that are constant and need nourishment and we can be more chillaxed about the things that shift and flex.   But we don’t always have the clarity which is one reason we need yoga.  We need relationships because it’s there that so much of what’s unclear is highlighted and we get to work with that stuff.  The yogis knew a thing or two about this stuff.  When you can’t see the difference between purusa and prakriti, they call that confusion avidya.  Like smear-covered dark sunglasses worn in the evening, avidya can keep you from perceiving things clearly.  In The Heart of Yoga, Mr. Desikachar says,

The essential purpose of yoga practice is to reduce avidya so that understanding can gradually come to the surface. But how can we know whether we have seen and understood things clearly?  When we see the truth, when we reach a level that is higher than our normal everyday understanding, something deep within us is very quiet and peaceful.  Then there is a contentment that nothing can take from us.

I want the contentment, but I’m facing some difficult matters and I don’t know what’s “really going on.”   I want one thing.  I feel another thing. It can seem like it’s purusa talking one minute and my whiny prakriti self the other and it’s all going on in an internal mucky and smushy pile of mush and I’m confused.  Because of this, I can’t say with confidence that I feel a certain way and I need a certain thing and that I’ll be feeling and needing that same thing tomorrow or in a month or a year.  Avidya is smeared all over my eyeballs and when I look at these things relationship things that come up, I’m not quiet and peaceful at all. Sometimes, I quiet down and think that I’ve finally got an answer, then I don’t like what I came up with or don’t want it and just like that it’s gone.  What I thought was clarity quickly transferred itself to the mush-blobby pile and it’s hard to know what to do.  Yogis know about this, too.

Avidya is as closely related to nonaction—even nonaction has its  consequences.  The Yoga Sutra claims that whether our actions have positive or negative effects is determined by the degree of influence avidya has over them. (sutra 2.12)*

Yoga has a name for the unpleasant consequences… When avidya veils your perception and you can’t see clearly then the action you take isn’t right action.  It is confused action.  The suffering that comes from smeary blob of mushy confusion is called duhkha.  We suffer.  Tell.  Me. About. It. One of the sidebars in Heart of Yoga names some particular modes of suffering and I can’t believe how much I can relate to this right now.  “The different aspects of duhkha discussed here are thus distinguished: from the inability to perceive or accept a change arises parinama-dhukha; from the situation where a need cannot be fulfilled arises tapa-duhkha; from the difficulty in giving up habits arises samskara-duhkha.  A discussion of the various causes of duhkha can be found in the Yoga Sutra 2.15.”  Check. Check. And check. Yep, the duhkha triumvarate is in effect.

I want to be clear and brave and honest in my relationships.  I do.  But something is not in agreement inside of me and there’s a battle going on and I don’t know what side I’m on.  It’s just not that clear so, I wait. I keep practicing. I give myself some space, some milkshakes and some loving-kindness.  I stay engaged in the beauty and mystery of the life all around me and the life I’m leading.  I read *The Heart of Yoga and see what I find. As a final thought, I’ll leave you with these words of wisdom,

Stepping out of a situation in order to get a better look at it from another standpoint is called pratipaksa.  The same word describes the process of considering other possible courses of action.  (sutra 2.33)*

Have a good week, dear readers.  I love you guys.

4 thoughts on “Even nonaction has its consequences

  1. Heart of Yoga is such a rich book, and I love how simply and clearly you explain these deep concepts (purusa, prakrti, avidya). Beautiful. Happy new moon week 🙂

    1. Thanks, Mo. ‘Heart of yoga’ really is my go to. Mr. Desikachar is so very practical in the way he ties these yogic principles to relationships and life. I love the book for all the insights it offers.

  2. Wonderful post Amanda, I really like this.

    I also feel your deep rooted honesty and challenging yourself, on this day to day path of struggles that is (sometimes) life. I can totally relate to this, particularly the confusion and breaking habits. I’ve been noticing that when I am confused/anxious, I am (normally) not present. When I am honest enough with myself to acknowledge this and “sit with” this, I just oberve my breath and usually some clarity arises, but only if I allow it and don’t force it.

    Another thing which helps me immensely is being in nature, especially if there’s wind blowing – makes me feel far more alert /aware and a clear mind, lying down watching clouds, or swimming. The water helps me allow things to see things clearly – and either be as they are or possibly shed light on whether action needs to be taken (though doing the action may, not always get done ofcourse – which is where my avidya and procastrination comes back again to cloud my sense of perspective) … But, at least I feel this momentary or maybe longer, clarity which is still remembered, and with time slowly more and more of these experiences arise, rather than more of the opposite – the “smeary blob of mushy confusion” type!

    I really like this:
    “Stepping out of a situation in order to get a better look at it from another standpoint is called pratipaksa. The same word describes the process of considering other possible courses of action. ” (sutra 2.33)*

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