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“Mom got me this t-shirt when she went to Hamsterdam.”

Hamsterdam…? Lilly held up a Little Mermaid shirt that Paula picked up on a business trip to Copenhagen. Hers was the sort of slip-of-the-tongue that used to pay the mortgage on Art Linkletter’s Bel Air Mansion. Kids say the darnedest things, indeed…

While it’s cute when kids mix things up – confusing this thing for that – it’s not so funny when we spend our lives doing it; and that, according to the Yoga Sutras is what we do.

According to the chapter on practice, we mistake Buddhi for Purusa. (See? Not so funny.)

Buddhi is the meaning-making capacity. It blends the data that comes in from our senses (manas) and filters that data against our memories (smrti). It’s further influenced by an internal editor (ahamkara, literally a self-aggrandizer) which scans the clippings and makes notes about “what this has to do with me”.

It’s a pretty amazing process, if we don’t say so ourselves. And it’s happening right here, right now, in me!

“In Hamsterdam!”

“Actually, I think you mean Amsterdam. And in any case, the shirt’s from Copenhagen.”

“No, Daddy, you’re wrong.”

Purusa is that which observes or that which is aware. Purusa doesn’t react to what it observes. It just observes – unlike the bundle of habits, patterns, memories and interpretations known as “Daddy.”

The strict Sanskrit translation of Purusa is “city-dweller.” This city-dweller is all-pervasive, not limited by my skin or yours or any other boundary; and technically, as the Yoga Sutra-s describe, it’s not an entity, hard as is it to talk about without making it seem like one.

When the contemplative teachings – Yoga or otherwise – talk about forgetting who we are, they’re referencing this confusion.

(more on this tomorrow),



Al Bingham leads PostureTweak and Breathe, Move and Rest classes online at EncourageYoga.com. Online classes are $5/class however Project LOVE makes them FREE with the code LOVE at checkout. Use the code 1x or 100 times. https://www.EncourageYoga.com/ProjectLOVE

What’s In the Temple?

In the quiet spaces of my mind a thought lies still, but ready to spring.
It begs me to open the door so it can walk about.
The poets speak in obscure terms pointing madly at the unsayable.
The sages say nothing, but walk ahead patting their thigh calling for us
to follow.
The monk sits pen in hand poised to explain the cloud of unknowing.
The seeker seeks, just around the corner from the truth.
If she stands still it will catch up with her.
Pause with us here a while.
Put your ear to the wall of your heart.
Listen for the whisper of knowing there.
Love will touch you if you are very still.

If I say the word God, people run away.
They’ve been frightened—sat on ’till the spirit cried “uncle.”
Now they play hide and seek with somebody they can’t name.
They know he’s out there looking for them, and they want to be found,
But there is all this stuff in the way.

I can’t talk about God and make any sense,
And I can’t not talk about God and make any sense.
So we talk about the weather, and we are talking about God.

I miss the old temples where you could hang out with God.
Still, we have pet pounds where you can feel love draped in warm fur,
And sense the whole tragedy of life and death.
You see there the consequences of carelessness,
And you feel there the yapping urgency of life that wants to be lived.
The only things lacking are the frankincense and myrrh.

We don’t build many temples anymore.
Maybe we learned that the sacred can’t be contained.
Or maybe it can’t be sustained inside a building.
Buildings crumble.
It’s the spirit that lives on.

If you had a temple in the secret spaces of your heart,
What would you worship there?
What would you bring to sacrifice?
What would be behind the curtain in the holy of holies?

Go there now.
Look behind the curtain.

Tom Barrett, from Poetry of Presence (Phyllis Cole-Dai and Ruby Wilson, editors).

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