EKAGRATTA CHITTA – IF NOT NOW, WHEN? by Marcus J Freed
Kosher Sutra: ‘These are the appointed festivals for God, you shall call them holy’ (Lev 23:37)
Soul Solution: Improved clarity and improved relationships
Body Benefit: Strengthen arms and legs, open heart space.
One of the greatest afflictions of our age is the lack of exclusivity. There are high rates of marital infidelity for both men and women, placing an ever-growing pressure on the institution of marriage. Our once close-knit social circles now extend to lists of virtual friends that number in the hundreds or thousands. Worst of all, our incessantly-texting generation has developed the inability to focus on the person we are with, as highlighted in the recent NY Times article Keep Your Thumbs Still While I’m Talking To You.
How does it feel when you are with a friend and they aren’t paying you full attention? Or you are betrayed by a lover’s affair? We don’t like it. It’s not the way we are wired. Often the problem lies deep within ourselves and according to the yogis we are in an age of mental distraction, which they called vikshipta chitta, a distracted mind, or mudha chitta, an infatuated mind. Oy.
Our Kosher Sutra: ‘These are the appointed festival times for God, you shall call them holy’ (Lev 23:37). The term for ‘appointed festival times’ is Moadim, which means an exclusive time. I recently heard it translated as a ‘date with God’. It’s date night!
The word kodesh, meaning holy, is elsewhere defined as separating something out to make it special. The Chernobler Rebbe and Sfat Emet explained that we can make time itself holy by marking it out for a specific reason such as a festival or sabbath. In this sense we also make the private relationship with our spouse holy because it’s separate, dedicated and exclusive. The commentator Rashi said that this word for holiness is often mentioned in conjunction with our intimate life (on Lev 19:2), and this is possibly because it is through sexuality that we have the greatest opportunity to be exclusive. Dating many people at once might hold sound fun, but it doesn’t lead to good results.
How would a woman feel if she received a piece of jewellery from her husband, only to discover that he also bought an identical item for his mistress (and indeed to discover that he’s got a mistress at all)? The festival sacrifices are described four times in the following sentence as milvad, i.e. specially-designated, or apart (Lev 23:38). In order to make a marriage special it has to be exclusive, or the person will end up levado, e.g.the same word also means ‘alone’.
The focus for our generation’s yoga practice is ekagratachitta, meaning a one-pointed or singularly-focused mind. The most common objection I hear for newcomers is, ‘I can’t do yoga because my mind is all over the place’. The response which I rarely say is, ‘you need to do yoga because your mind is all over the place’. We learn to be at one with our thoughts, singularly-focused in the moment. ‘If not now, when?’ asked the sage Hillel.
In relationships we thrive spiritually, emotionally and physically. When we learn to be focused in our thoughts and focused on the person we are with, we all benefit.
Bridge posture is good preparation for the full Backbend/Wheel position.
i. Lie on your back in semi-supine position and bring your feet so that they are on the floor in front of your buttocks.
ii. Place your hands facing down on the floor by the sides of your thighs.
iii. Inhale and lift your hips, pushing into the balls of your feet.
iv. Hold the position with your hips as high as possible.
v. Exhale, slowly come down and when you have finished doing the three to five times, hug your knees into your chest and roll gently on your back, massaging your spine and back muscles and releasing the lumbar.
Variation: You can place cushions underneath your lower back to support you in the posture.
Marcus J Freed is president of the Jewish Yoga Network, the artist-in-residence for Jewlicious Festivals and the creator of Bibliyoga.