There is a daily blessing that can be said over the ability to see, but sometimes our eyes can mislead us. There are times when we see what we want to see, focusing on somebody’s good qualities if it suits us even though others around us can only see the bad, or we can focus on the negativity and ignore the abundant blessings that are in front of us. Today’s Kosher Sutra is all about closing our eyes to see what’s really going on.
The ancient yogis talked about the concept of pratyahara* which is a kind of sensory deprivation that allows you to get into a deeper space of meditation. At its most practical level it can be experienced by closing your eyes when doing a physical posture. Eventually it extends to becoming so enwrapped that your other senses are virtually shut off and you are entirely focused on the inner experience.
This is akin to the reports of Biblical prophets who would completely shut down their outer physical senses when communing with God**.
The context of our Kosher Sutra is the patriarch Isaac who is giving his prime blessing to his eldest son Esau, and it’s crucial that he can’t actually see his son at the time. The reason for this is that the blessing is actually given to the younger son Jacob who is dressed up as Esau. The commentator Rashi suggests that on some level Isaac actually allowed his eyes to be dimmed, allowed himself to be fooled because he knew on a deeper level that his younger son was the true heir and disciple.
When we enter a physical pose with our eyes closed, we can ‘see’ things differently. It’s possible to be aware of the ground beneath you, the way that your skin brushes clothes, the soft touch of the air on your face. Try it for a moment, in whatever position you’re in, and begin to notice how you can ‘see’ with other parts of your body, becoming aware of the space in the room around you, and the more subtle things that you might otherwise miss if you were only looking with your eyes.
Yoga teacher Max Strom describes the skin as hundreds of tiny eyes, all increasing our sensitivity and all acting as tiny teachers. Today’s posture is a simple seated forward bend, with your legs straight, back straight, folding forward from your hips and aiming to take hold of your heels*** – and the modified version of this is to loop a strap or belt around the soles of your feet.
One thing I often mention in workshops is how yoga is a metaphor for everything else we’re doing in life. A large part of the practice is about being more sensitive and intuitive human beings and today’s principle is about seeing more deeply and looking beyond that which our eyes are telling us.
A way to incorporate today’s Kosher Sutra into your everyday life is to be aware of a situation where you are facing resistance or difficulty, to close your eyes and notice how you are feeling about it. Whether it’s a challenging email or text message, or a face-to-face conversation (how terribly old school…), try dimming your own eyes to discover what you should really be doing. The truth is usually there, if we choose to see it.
**see Aryeh Kaplan’s descriptions in Jewish Meditation and King Saul’s experience in 1 Samuel.
***There’s another reason why we’re taking hold of the heels, but we’ll explore that at the same time next year….email me if you need to know now…
The Kosher Sutras © Marcus J Freed 2010/5770