In the Yogic traditions of India various practices of awareness cultivation have been developed to accommodate the individual and experiential differences among human beings. Some people naturally feel more drawn to what are known as Bhakti practices (such as chanting and devotional rituals) Others may be drawn to the more intellectual path of Jñana (self inquiry and meditation), where one follows rigorous logical pathways toward an ultimate understanding. Along with the almost infinite varieties of postures, practices, and pathways, it can be difficult to know where to begin.
I humbly offer the practice of Rupa Yoga. "Rupa" (‘Form’ in Sanskrit) refers to the direct experience of objects, and primarily references the way we interact with them in our lives. Rupa yoga, a term I borrow from one of my teachers, is an exploration into the nature of Seeing, Hearing, Feeling, Smelling and Tasting, with an emphasis on the first two or three depending on the practitioner. Though not a formal tradition in and of itself, it is known well by Artists, Musicians, Poets, Chefs and Craftspeople and most often passed down through direct apprenticeship or from a parent to child, though usually without the emphasis on spiritual attainment or any kind of direct realization. In other words it is a practical and direct way of working with what is present and available to all of us. It is not only the skills acquired in these pursuits but rather the direct perception of one’s own awareness that one cultivates through each particular skill-set. For example; a musician cultivates the ear by making it more sensitive to the nuances found in music, -from the learning of harmony and rhythm to the complexities of feeling and emotion.
By taking the time to investigate our experience directly, we can develop greater depth into the actual nature of the Artist, the creative force in us all. Who or What is the artist/person/energy that creates a painting? Is it merely the sum of conditioning that this one individual has accumulated through their life? Are there qualities or conditions that make one artist good and another great?
Through awareness cultivation exercises one can begin to explore the subtle aspects of Consciousness itself, directly engaging with the creative impulse. Using drawing or painting to investigate the experience of seeing, or music to investigate the experience of hearing, we can begin to enter depths of Self awareness, and sensitivity, often ignored in our ever-quickening modern western culture, cultivating a potentially lifelong exploration into the nature of experience itself.
The practices of observational drawing and mindful perceiving are used in this path as forms of meditation and inquiry that help us establish the awareness of our direct experience as opposed to what is more common, our beliefs, thoughts, and stories about our experience.
We look at the direct experience of our perception and see what it is actually made of, its Reality!
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