Monday, August 20, 2012

Going to Extremes

Old wooden roller coaster
“I don't know why I go to extremes
 Too high or too low there ain't no in-betweens ...”

Billy Joel, I Go to Extremes

I'm definitely an all or nothing girl. I always seem to be stuck in an endless cycle of highs and lows—I spend my days continually on the go or in mindless interia, a state of rajas or a state of tamas.

Last September my work routine was turned upside down overnight. Just as I was about to shut down my laptop for the day I saw an urgent e-mail from my client manager. He had been informed by project management that the client contract required us to work from client premises and that our remote access from home and our company's offices were to be immediately revoked. So I started a four-day commute to North Sydney.

At the time, the work was starting to ramp up. Without the flexibility to work from home, I was spending up to 12 hours in the office, leaving the house at 7:00am and returning any time from 7:00pm onwards. I was tired, stressed, and unable to focus. I put all my effort into work—I had no energy to exercise, grabbed whatever I could buy for lunch, and raided the office biscuit jar and vending machines to get over the afternoon slump. It was no surprise that my body quit when it had the chance. Most of the four-day Christmas break was spent in bed and I finally succumbed to the Winter viruses and had to take a week of sick leave in June.

It was early this year that I decided to take six months' leave from July to concentrate on my health and my yoga. However, six weeks in and I still find myself cycling between days of hurried activity and mind-numbing inactivity. How can I find that balance, develop equanimity, achieve something closer to a sattwic state?

A silent meditation retreat brought clarity. Something that Swami Satyadharma re-iterated about bhakti yoga, the yoga of love and devotion, clicked; bhakti practices can help emotional people direct and focus their emotions. And this article on bhakti yoga describes bhakti yoga as a way to balance those who have an intellectual disposition.

I have long eschewed bhakti practices because the idea of devoting everything to an object felt too uncomfortably like surrendering control of my own thoughts and will. However, can you say that a person is of one particular disposition? I might lean towards the intellectual but from a yogic viewpoint my ups and downs could reflect an imbalance in swadhisthana chakra, which governs the emotions. So I'm trying to introduce bhakti practices more regularly in my life: daily chanting and a monthly healing mantra and kirtan session. I might not be able to intellectualise the bhakti practices but I cannot deny the clarity and release I gained from a weekend of meditation, chanting and kirtan.


  1. Bhakti Yoga: Adapted from “A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Science of Yoga and Kriya”, Yoga Magazine, July 1992
  2. Photo: Old Wooden Coaster by Jeff Weese
    Sourced from and made available under a Creative Commons CC BY 2.0 licence.

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