Monday, January 10, 2011

Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life, by Charlotte Bell

MIndful Yoga, Mindful Life

Today I finished recording this for the Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB) library upon special request.  

When he initially handed me the book, Nicholas, the audio librarian (who is also blind) asked if it contained too many diagrams or photos.  I flipped through it.  It contains none at all.  I read the back cover and explained to Nicholas that the book discusses the spiritual aspects of yoga -- the mindfulness, awareness, the subtle links between the mind and the body.  "Oh, not just exercises, lah?"  he asked.  The misconception of yoga as a purely physical discipline seems to be universal.  

I approached this book with some reservation, fearing a lot of jargon, or worse, jargon in Pali.  Self-help books too often make me wish their authors would spend more time in writing classes.  

This one was quite all right -- sensibly organized, a gratifying mix of theory and application, and clearly written.  The author discussed each of Patanjali's 8 limbs of yoga in turn, working from translations of the 2nd century BCE text.  She had about 10 translations at hand, quoting from all and giving a lovely glimpse at how widely they differ.  She also made connections to the Buddhist tradition of Vipassana meditation where the two schools of practice overlap.  

Bell writes about being aware of our reactions to sense perceptions.  When we see something, do we really see it, or do we instantaneously label and judge it?  I've thought about this a lot over the years.  As sighted people, the vast majority of our sensory input comes through our eyes.  As I listen to my own inner chatter, a lot of it is hasty labeling and judging:  Ugh, new building.  Say, nice shoes.  Hmph, why is he scowling? Love that painting!  That t-shirt is hideous. And I don't spare myself this non-stop critique, either. And for what?  Buddhists talk about monkey mind -- a mind that leaps madly from one thing to the next.  Mine seems to be a nitpicky, fault-finding monkey, and realizing this has not been a pleasant insight.  That is, at least, one thing that blind people are spared.  They cannot make snap judgments based upon appearance.  Do they make snap judgments based upon other sensory input?  I'll have to ask Nicholas one of these days.  


  1. Off topic, my cousin & I had a wonderful yoga class yesterday ( It was good fun. We later discussed the meditative aspect of yoga, being mindful of each moment and movement. You should join me one day!

  2. What?! You weren't reading Agatha Christie in the middle of your Adho Mukha Svasana?? :-)

  3. Nope :-). I'm almost finished with her whole catalogue, can you believe it!


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