I have been thinking about redemption lately, and how it applies to my life.
The notion of #selfcare has always irked me a little, like a niggling twitchy response from deep inside whenever I come across the concept within the context of yoga.
It implies that perfection is merely a block of raw chocolate away at the affordable end, and a 2 week all expenses paid ‘lifestyle’ retreat at the pricey end.
#selfcare – A perfect symbol for the marketeers to capitalise on guilt free indulgence.
There’s a meme closely associated with self care, the notion of getting ones shit together in order to help others get their shit together. This is powerful. It has the potential to be a mechanism with which our species gets its collective shit together.
But when is enough enough?
How much #selfcare does it take to reach perfection, or at least a feeling of perfection enough that helping others comes as naturally as the breath?
It’s important. I don’t want to downplay it’s benefit but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the economic behemoth it has become in the industrial yoga community.
In the US alone, the Yoga industry has revenues of around 10 billion dollars including retail and associated services. And that number is only going to go up with the steady increase in popularity.
I notice a quiet frustration in my teachers when an entire 10,000 year historical system of being a human must be distilled into the confines of a 75 minute class. But the thing is, 75 minutes can be utterly and absolutely transformational given the right circumstances. Because of the transformational nature of Yoga, it is natural for a practitioner to become curious as to why they are seeing such remarkable results where other methods may have failed them. So they seek out answers and are more often than not confronted with the dragon of marketable products, aimed directly at their vulnerable state under the guise of #selfcare.
Is this the most efficient use of resources in a cultural system where the liberation of the downtrodden and the ultimate reduction of collective suffering is the primary tenet of its philosophical foundation?
Particularly in the western world where a majority of Mazlows hierarchy of needs are well and truly met.
I get it though; Rents need to be paid, the cars not going to fill itself and so on and so forth. After the costs of basic living is met, there is typically very little left for indulgence, let alone charity.
Which is why #selfcare and it’s justifications are so potent a concept in this environment. It truly is guilt free. You just have to accept the notion that you are imperfect, that there is work that needs to be done on you, that stepping out of the scented candled hot bath with certified organic body milk, you are primed for the liberation of others around you – Because of course, they are imperfect too.
If you read the texts, particularly the Gita, you will come to understand that liberation is a straightforward and simple process. I won’t detail the process I couldn’t do it justice but I will point out that a general underlying theme of the book, is the notion of the self not exactly existing as a thing. This is a theme that carries across many of the yogic texts.
The Atman (self) at the fundamental level of inquiry is the Brahman (universal everything). But for the benefit of incarnation, that is – Something to do in a universe of infinite potential, the Atman has to be sheathed in a complex set of illusions in which the experience of material reality occurs.
So if the self doesn’t exist as a discrete thing, and the experience of the self is an illusion, how can it possibly be imperfect? In need of some form of #selfcare to realise it’s true potential?
Surely it’s neither perfect nor imperfect. It just is. Needing nothing to maintain the state of isness.
Which is where redemption comes in, the actual topic of this blog post.
Redemption has two definitions in the dictionary, one religious and the other economic. One is redeemed spiritually by loosening the shackles of sin and finding grace with god. One is redeemed economically when a debt is paid or resources are exchanged for goods and services. Both imply an explicit exchange of something.
So I ask, what about redemption of the self as it is referred to in the Vedas? The Atman. The shining emanation of pure consciousness potential that lies within the confines of your personality.
Finding your way back to this supreme personality seems to be the purpose of spiritual practice and exploration.
So what is being exchanged in this context? It it tough to pin down one over the other but I have a feeling the redemption of the self involves an acceptance of the present self as it stands relative to the potential future selves put forth by us in our past. A form of travelling back through time to events and circumstances where feelings of content and joy were pervasive, this is typically found in childhood. A you before all the adult stuff gets piled on.
A free spirited being of unbounded creative potential.
I often ponder what it would be like to be 11 years old again, but retain the wisdom of the 19 years since I was actually 11. What kind of infinite potential that particular scenario could muster up. Then I think, wait. That is not necessary, the 11 year old is still there – It is merely buried beneath many years of future scenarios tested and refined to allow me to sit here and write this. Perhaps some of those identities and personality quirks can be redeemed for a simpler sense of child-like wander.
A redemption of the self.
But why stop there? Could it be possible to cash in every sense of personality and identity I’ve built up, all the way back to the purest spark of the Atman at birth?
Perhaps the notion of #selfcare and it’s implicit imperfection can be replaced with the notion of self redemption. Where instead of cashing out external resources for a promised glimpse of enlightenment, one merely aims to scrape off the mud of personality and identity and future potentials to find the already perfected being of the Atman waiting there all along.