March 19, 2012

Aversion, Forgiveness, and Food. ~ Camella Nair

Photo: Ed Yourdon

A Taste of Yoga Sutras, Lesson 8.

As part of her work connecting yoga and food, Camella Nair has created a 12 week course that pairs Patanjali’s yoga sutras with the everyday life activity of feeding the body. In this series for elephant journal, Camella provides readers with a short version of what she addresses more deeply in her course.


Duhkhanusayi  dvesaha

Aversion is a state of ignorance or forgetfulness that clings to the memory of pain

Many people are suffering in their mind because of something that someone said or did years ago!

If a relationship ‘gone bad’ or event causes us to squirm and does not have some closure or resolution (in our mind), then we will be bound to the experience of unnecessary suffering until it is.

It is a memory of pain, Patanjali states in this sutra, that creates the aversion or dislike.

If I burned myself whilst cooking a BBQ, then I might start to dislike BBQ’s in general because I would associate them with pain and want to avoid them. There is nothing bad about the BBQ, I just had an unpleasant experience with it. The object is distorted in my mind by my experience. Another person could love BBQ’s.

The memory track is something that we carry with us for many lifetimes and does not just ‘go away’ as we leave the physical body. We come into the world with a set of prejudices and loyalties that have been a part of our personality in the past, because we have identified ourselves with those likes and dislikes.

Photo: Alex Proimos

In lesson 6 of this series, the ego was equated to leavened or unleavened bread. Just like leavened bread has its roots in the past (yeast from previous batch), our blood line memory track contains all the hurts and dislikes of the past.

Karma is said to be stored in the red blood cells and so this is one of the reasons that a conscious person does not want to eat meat that has not been reared and slaughtered compassionately, or chooses not to eat meat at all. Let’s take a look at this and ask the following questions.

  1. Do you eat meat, chicken and not pay attention to how the animal was raised, slaughtered?
  2. Do you eat meat, chicken and only buy free range organic?
  3. Do you turn your nose up at people who eat meat, chicken?

Many people reading this article would not answer yes to the first question, and this leaves us with the two camps of people: those who eat some free range, organic meat, and those who are vegetarian or vegan. In either camp, we could find many people who are judgmental of people in the other group.

Photo: Annie O'Neill

Vegetables are God, Meat is God!

If we change our lives and our habits during our practice of  yoga, we can become a bit of a bore as we try convert others to thinking the way we do.  Evangelical yogis my guru calls them. And haven’t we heard it all: “You must try this new…” “You should do…” “How can you do that?”

I will hold my hand up now and say, yes, that was me! Trying to convert my family to being vegetarian! It actually caused them unnecessary stress. They felt very threatened by my new found ‘wisdom, and perhaps felt like I was detaching myself from them in some way.  They took it very personally.

And so I have given up the quest of converting anyone to think the way that I do. As a teacher, if students come and resonate with me, fine. If they do not, that really is fine also.  I think one of the wisest teachings I have heard is where Sri Shelly said to a student:

So you wanna be a teacher eh?, I tell you what, take a row boat into the middle of lake Michigan and whisper, “Who wants to hear the teachings?”

We really need to be careful as teachers (and we all are) that in our process of self-revelation we understand, it’s about us. It always has been.  It is still about our ego and how we relate to others. Yes, it’s wonderful to be in a controlled environment, where everyone speaks whimsically and we bow to one another and say “Shanti” and “Namaste.” We are a minority, however, and need to recognize that not everyone thinks the same way that we do.

We need to be real and this is the very reason that I have developed Cooking the Yoga Sutras. How long can you sustain the balanced vibration of your soul after a yoga class? Five minutes? Five hours? Maybe you are doing really well if you can get to your car and not have a negative thought or word.

Getting back to the evangelical yogi…

Can we be O.K. cooking meat for the family members who may guess that Patanjali might be an adjective, the name of an ethnic restaurant, or a root vegetable they have yet to discover?

All is dukha, or unsatisfactoriness, as the Buddhist would say.

Why is that so if we are happy and content? Shouldn’t we be happy, because we are doing that which we like, and so let others do that which they like? It may change in any case.

We may be vegetarians now, but it might not always have been so. What we enjoyed before might not give us pleasure anymore because we know more about the animal and its suffering in man’s food chain.

Photo: Camella Nair

Other family members might have other ideas, however, and in this lesson, I use chicken and suggest how we can cook it for our non-vegetarian family in a loving way. We can educate them on which types to buy, and the concept of using less, good quality chicken in a dish. I also use seitan (a chicken-like substance made from water and whole wheat flour), which is an excellent substitute for a vegetarian ‘in training.’

All is dukha in other areas of our lives too. For example, all marriage will end in a divorce (yes, one in 2), separation, or by death.

Can you sit with that for a while?

There are two sides to a coin as there is to the physical body or a chakra. Emotionality divides the two sides. Yoga merges the two to reveal the divine sushuma or golden cerebral pathway to God consciousness.

Want to know what draws us back to the physical body time and time again? Emotionality—the strong likes and dislikes we have. Nothing draws us back more quickly than those we love and those we hate.

In astrology; the 7th house is the house of one’s spouse. But, it is also the house of one’s hidden enemy. Can you find a soul mate that can expand the horizon of your awareness and yet not trigger oodles and scoops of emotionality? That is your perfect partner!

Life really does have to be a conscious, volitional, engaged, spiritual action or kriya which is often thought of as a rebirthing process. It is the reason why some students resonate and decide to become initiated as a disciple of a specific teacher.

Teach me that I may be a source of light to all those I serve.

The dharma of the spiritual aspirant!

Those we serve are our students, our kids, our family, our culture and our civilization. We are all one, except that we have different likes and dislikes that separate us into opposing camps.

Our likes and dislikes both blind and bind us and create a sense of separation (because Patanjali says we have forgotten our true nature – Avidya).

How can we make progress with this affliction? Practice forgiveness!

At first it may be hard. We may have to feign being noble and just say “I forgive you”, but in time it really does create a groove of forgiveness. Its mystery and power lies in the magic of mantra or thought form.

If I can think it, I can say it and I can live it!

All is dukha in time. That which gives us pleasure will in time be the source of great pain. We fall in love and in time, through a difference in thinking or separation of the physical body, there will be pain to the same degree that there was pleasure.

Forgiveness is linked to letting go and it is interesting for me, as I teach hatha yoga, to see how difficult it is for some students to lie in savasana (corpse pose at the end of class) or practice restoratives. Vinyasa (continuous movement) is probably the most popular yoga in America today.  This is the difference of movement and self-interest vs stillness and surrender.

Whatever your personal practice of balance and equilibrium, how long can you sustain the vibration of the after effects? What is the trigger that causes you to lose your sense of awareness?

Well I was o.k being spiritual until they said or did such and such.

No, my beloved. You or your lack of self-awareness is in the way of you progressing on the path. We are limited by the thoughts we cannot think to solve the problems in our life.

We have to learn to let go—to forgive and to move on to a new thought or a new relationship, and, as we will see in the next lesson, a new life!



Prepared for elephant journal by Lorin Arnold

Camella Nair is an ordained Swami in the Kriya Yoga tradition and has been practicing yoga since she was 17. She has written two books on yoga as well as an online course on the yoga sutras which is part philosophy and part cooking (http://www.cookingtheyogasutras.com/). She lives with her two teenage sons in Northern California. She can be reached via email at [email protected].

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