Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Can yoga help me love cockroaches?

One of the downers of living in this Australian paradise are the brown, scuttley pests which set my nerves all jangly and arouse my instinct to kill as they flee into one of the many ready-made kitchen hideaways under the fridge, between the cupboards, behind the rice etc. Oh yes, that loveable Aussie character, Mr Cockroach, who, over these past few weeks I reckon I’ve seen in every possible shape and size manifestation: from the dreaded large dried-pruney ones to the little scatty antsy ones. It’s taken me a while to realise that it’s not just the odd one here and there, but a cockroach breeding factory has set up shop and, most delightful of all, its HQ seems to be in my dishwasher. It’s pretty common not to like them but I’m sh*t scared of them, they give me the heeby jeebies and I don’t really know why. Back in the day I thought nothing of zapping them with cans of magic toxic spray and large WARNINGS to leave the house IMMEDIATELY after spraying. 


But now… it’s not as easy as that. Spraying is not just environmentally unsound, but I’m starting to feel a little bit guilty about killing these things. Maybe yoga can help?!

In fact I just need to look at what the yogis call the ‘kleshas’ or the five causes of suffering which arise from what’s known as avidya or ‘incorrect perception’.

Let’s hear what Desikachar has to say in his excellent book ‘Heart of Yoga.’

“We often determine that we have seen a situation correctly and act according to that perception. In reality however we have denied ourselves and our actions may bring misfortune to ourselves and others. Avidya can be understood as the accumulated result of many unconscious actions, the actions and ways of seeing which we have been mechanically carrying out for years.”

Sounds familiar?

So let’s break it down:
  1. Ignorance (avidya): My attitude towards our scuttley friends is based on my samskara (or habitual pattern of behaviour/thinking) which says ‘cockroaches are evil’. This is irrational and is therefore a misconception of the truth. If we remember Kino’s words from my post earlier this week, the goal of yoga is to free ourselves from these patterns of behaviour. 
  2. The ego (asmita) causes us to feel separate from others and most commonly results in negative patterns of behaviour such as the need to be better than so and so. Now I’m certainly not trying to be better than that so and so Mr Cockroach but I do feel separate from him, I just don’t understand him. Maybe some compassion is required here, he’s just doing his thing breeding and trying to make ends meet like we all are.
  3. Attachment (raga) and rejections (dvesa) I’ve rolled these together because they’re related. Attachments are like the extra cup of coffee/glass of wine you don’t need but that mechanical attachment causes us to really want it. Rejections or ‘dvesas’ are the opposite and here’s where Mr C comes in. When we have a difficult experience or find something unfamiliar we tend to reject it, assuming (incorrectly) that it will always cause pain.
  4. Fear (abhinivesa). Mr C is causing me to suffer from an irrational fear. When has a cockroach ever hurt me? In fact there are plenty of substances/activities/relationships which I’ve indulged in time and time again which have caused me far more pain in the past.
So, as you can see yoga has some fancy terms to explain my fear and after this quick diagnosis I’ve definitely got a bad case of the ‘avidyas’ here. I need to bring compassion and understanding towards cockroaches, I need to practice ‘ahimsa’ and not harm another living being. I need to see my fear/ego/rejections for what they are: the result of my flawed faculties of perception. It sounds pretty easy right? 

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