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Lions Roar : July 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2008 62 “I WAS DOING A SHOULDER STAND on a wooden deck,” says Phillip Moffitt, recalling an experience he had after study- ing yoga for three years. “It was very uncomfortable, but as I was holding it, I realized the pose could become a form of meditation if, instead of focusing on getting my body exactly right, I made my mind the center of the posture. This was a yogic yoking of the mind, and to me it was revolutionary. It changed the way I did yoga.” Commenting on the relationship between body and mind, Moffitt, who writes regularly for Yoga Journal and teaches Vipassana meditation at retreat centers across the United States, says that in terms of ordinary reality, body and mind are separable, but in terms of ultimate reality, they are empty of anything lasting. “Both ordinary mind and the body are characterized pri- marily by arising and passing,” he explains. “They exist this moment. They’re gone the next. Your body isn’t like it was. There is nothing to cling to because it’s a different body. As for the mind, it’s a stream—that stream you can never put your foot in twice. This is not a philosophy. It’s the observable na- ture of ordinary reality.” According to Moffitt, when one understands imperma- nence, the mind’s tendency to grab on to things of the past, present, or future is radically altered. No matter how difficult the past was, for example, or how much you miss it because it was wonderful, or how much you wish it had been differ- ent, gradually the clinging subsides. “Imagine you used to be able to do a great headstand,” Moffitt says. “But you’ve got this injury and now you can’t do a headstand at all. Ordinary ego mind goes, ‘Oh no, I want to be able to do the headstand.’ Yet once you realize that everything is arising and passing, you might say, ‘I wish I could do a headstand but I can’t,’ and that’s the end. You still have the preference, but you don’t have the suffering. That’s liberation of insight, and you can find that liberation through studying the body or studying the mind.” Moffitt’s primary teacher is the Venerable Ajahn Sumedho, of the Theravadan Buddhist tradition, yet he also studies yoga with a swami in India. Neither Moffitt nor his teachers see any conflict. Yoga and Buddhism overlap, Moffitt explains. Both practices seek freedom of mind; they just have different frame- works. To give an example, he asks us to imagine a problem at work: “You’ve got this deadline and a person isn’t giving you the information you need. So you’re stuck and it’s frustrating. From a yoga point of view, that’s a stretch. It’s another asana. How can you be stretched this way and yet not have your mind fluctuate? From a mindfulness point of view, on the other hand, this is a lesson in learning to be responsible to meet your deadline but not be attached to it.” ♦ Phillip Moffitt: Mind at the Center of Posture DAVIDMARTINEZ JULY 58-65.indd 62 JULY 58-65.indd 62 4/25/08 11:42:15 AM 4/25/08 11:42:15 AM