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A Great Insight and the Story Behind the Story

I'm reading Tara Brach right now, and she tells a story from the Buddhist canon about the Buddha and Mara, the Demon God. The most well-known story involving Buddha and Mara happened the night of the Buddha's enlightenment, when Mara tried everything in his ability to tempt the Buddha. But what we don't hear a lot about is their relationship after the Buddha's enlightenment. As it turns out, Mara stuck around.

Dr. Brach talks about how the Buddha asked Ananda to be a gatekeeper of sorts, alerting him whenever the "Evil One" was present. Instead of admonishing Mara, or chasing him off, the Buddha would treat him as a revered guest and serve him tea. It's not entirely clear whether or not they conversed, but they would sit across from each other, drinking tea, until Mara felt it was time to leave.

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Mara is used as a metaphor for fear in our lives, the fear that often shows up unexpectedly and blindsides us. Sometimes we admonish it, try to chase it away, or even collapse under the pressure of it. The story of the Buddha serving Mara tea shows that by establishing a level of comfort with our fear, our insecurities, we get to the point where fear is still present, but is not effective.

I was playing around with various yoga poses and came into this bakasana variation, a forearm balance that asks a lot of you. The head and shoulders are pulling forward while the spine curls up (into a cat back), the legs and hips are pulling in and the core is on overdrive. It's easy to let your shoulders pull too far forward and dump the back. An advanced form is to start in pincha mayurasana and fold oneself down into the "baby bakasana."

I was thinking about Mara today with my practice. It was hard for me to get started, but once my body started to sweat, I started to recognize the elemental benefits yoga practice brings, and I stopped caring so much about the minutes ticking away. When it came to the new variation, I didn't jump at the chance to try something new. I felt Mara's presence, and instead of reacting to it, I simply invited him to tea. And the result is that I learned something new, I did something different, and now I can move on.

Posted in Shopping Other Post Date 07/02/2017


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