Sunday, October 11, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.40: Mindfulness & Direction

an-artheShu prasaktaash ca
sv'-aarthebhyash ca paraaN-mukhaaH
yad-bhaye sati n' odvignaaH
smRti-naasho 'tra kaaraNaM

- = = = - = = -
= = = - - = - =
= - = - - = = =
- - = = - = - =

When men attach to meaningless aims

And turn away from their proper aims,

Failing to shudder at the danger,

Loss of mindfulness is the cause.

"Everybody has his or her own way," is a principle that has been transmitted together with the traditionally-sewn robe, together with the bodhisattva-precepts, and together with just sitting upright in the full lotus posture.

The difficulty for each person is finding his or her own right direction, which is a vestibular-related function, and at the same time a function of intuition.

What this verse is saying, as I read it in the context of the preceding verses from 14.35 and on the basis of my own all-too-shallow and intermittent experience, is that mindfulness works like a protective garment to preserve this intuitive direction-finding function.

In Alexander work as I have experienced it in the hands of skilled teachers, inhibiting and directing to promote the proper use of the head-neck-back relation (what FM called 'the primary control') can work indirectly to allow this protective layer of mindfulness to grow.

Alexander work, as alluded to in the previous post, also seems at times to work the other way, so that outer defences are stripped away, leaving one feeling vulnerable.

Perhaps the explanation for this is that what is not true mindfulness has to be stripped away before true mindfulness can grow -- because true mindfulness is never something that a person can manufacture; it is rather something inherent, something natural, something that is part of man's supreme inheritance.

If we understand the meaning of mindfulness like this, as the present series of verses appears to be describing it, then this understanding fits well with Gudo Nishijima's understanding that the essence of smRti is the natural state of balance of the autonomic nervous system.

What Alexander work adds to that understanding, as I see it, is that the means-whereby a person covers himself in smRti has to be an indirect one. "Keeping the spine straight vertically" is too direct. "Letting the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen, while sending the knees forward and away" in my book, is definitely a step in the right direction. What those words really mean cannot be expressed in a blog post (though better hints may be had from video clips like this one). The proper aim of the real work that is done in every Alexander lesson should be, as Marjory Barlow used to say, to put meaning into those words.

EH Johnston:
Loss of attention is the reason that men are attached to what is calamitous and averse from their proper aims and fail to take alarm in the presence of danger.

Linda Covill:
When men are attached to worthless objects, turn their backs on objects worthy of them, and fail to shudder at this danger -- the reason in these cases is loss of mindfulness.

an-artheShu = loc. pl. an-artha: m. non-value , a worthless or useless object
prasaktaaH = nom. pl. m. prasakta: mfn. attached , cleaving or adhering or devoted to , fixed or intent upon
ca: and

sva: self
arthebhyaH = abl. pl. artha: aim, purpose, object
svaartha: m. one's own affair or cause , personal matter or advantage , self-interest , one's own aim or object (also pl.)
ca: and
paraaN-mukha: mfn. having the face turned away or averted , turning the back upon

yad: which
bhaye = loc. bhaya: n. fear, terror , dismay , danger , peril
sati = loc. of pres. part. of as: to be
na: not
udvigna: mfn. shuddering , starting , frightened , terrified ; sorrowful , anxious , grieving for (an absent lover)

smRti: remembrance, mindfulness, etc.
naashaH = nom. sg. naasha: m. the being lost , loss , disappearance ; flight, desertion
atra: ind. (fr. pronominal base a ; often used in sense of loc. case asmin) , in this matter , in this respect
kaaraNam (nom. sg.): n. cause , reason , the cause of anything (gen. , also often loc.)

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