Portrait of Keats

Bliss and Melancholy are as natural as inhale and exhale. Which shall sit on the sovran shine?

Or putting “Ananda”, bliss, back where she belongs!

     With enough tapas, one can burn away the knots that tie the heart and rid the chitta of the vrittis, the viparyayas and samskaras that tether us in the dark. That is, in English, with enough earnest consistent practices, one can rid the mind of its turnings, it’s wrong perceptions and it’s emotional and mental patterns or habits.
     We can learn to float above it all, like the birds we practice on our yoga mats. So the sacred texts promise. With enough tapas it is written, we can learn to float with equanimity, above the pandemics and the many other poisons pervading our predicament. On the surface of the pond, as regally, as perfectly, as exquisitely beautiful as a swan, we learn to float. But daily navigation of this never still pond, our daily commute is a bit bumpy you might say. We yogis make these endless, secular-divine, poison-bliss, round trips. The swan with neck exquisitely elevated toward the heavens is in the next moment swooning under, diving in the dark to devour. One second you’re floating up in headstand, the next you’re tumbling to the carpet.
     The constant turns between our seemingly separate, and thus fearful (or angry, or resentful or jealous or choose your vice) selves are followed by eternal glimpses of bliss — prompted by the stillness of Shavasana, prompted also by beauty, shared smiles, understandings, twinkles of the eye, love, or the acts and sounds of kindness. The turns we take on our daily paths between the never satisfied self and the “Self”, between the Swan that floats to the swan that devours, can lead us, by these very turnings on our daily paths, to melancholy. For it is awareness that moments of blissful floating are incessantly followed by moments of diving under to devour that can leave the daily practice with a residue of melancholy.
     But perhaps all we need is a new map for our commute. Are these turnings actually no more than the “chitta vrittis”, the turns of the mind, Patanjali tells us need to be “nirodahah”, i.e., need to be Self controlled? That it’s not the actions themselves, not our practices and all the rest, not the floating or devouring, but it is our thinking that creates the melancholic residue. Our blissful practices don’t melt into melancholy. It is the vrittis of joy or bliss that turn to melancholy. Keats captured it this way: “Ay, in the very temple of Delight Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine”, Ode on Melancholy.
     The ability to float under the water, even while devouring, is the parlor trick our chittas need to navigate to rid us of this melancholy. To understand that diving into or under the surface, devouring itself can be a “floating” as well.
     “Renounce and enjoy” as Krishna might advise Arjuna. Divinize all of life, as Swami Vivekananda might put it, not just the floating, but the devouring as well. To pen an ode on melancholy is progress on the path. Let go of the results. Let go of the fears and aversions and desires. These are what lead to the vrittis that bind the knots in our hearts. Detachment, or “vairagyam” is the coequal to our “abhyasa”. (Patanjali, 1-14) Vairagyam may in fact be what usurps melancholy and puts Delight, or “Ananda” (Bliss), back on it’s rightful sovran shrine.