Yog and Business
Your business plan, your ambitions, your passions are are forms of fire. Luminous vitality that informs, motivates, and rejuvenates life. As someone with a job, friends, family, and dreams of a vacation, the purpose of yoga is to help you adapt to the world and thrive. The techniques are not there to further repress or stifle your creativity or desire to bond and form attachments. This is a really different take than the mistaken notion that we are to cultivate detachment and passivity in order to practice yoga.
There is quite a bit of confusion in some people's minds about purity, detachment and desirelessness. So pick your teachers carefully. Teachers often teach one thing and do a totally different thing, and often do not even know it. For example, lots of young American yoga teachers act holy during the week, and make sure to look virtuous in every bit of organic clothing they wear, every bit of salad they eat. Then on weekends they get stoned and party down, which is how they find balance.
I met such a guy at a party and had a long conversation with him. John is in his late thirties and has been practicing yoga for twenty years. As a businessman, he is dynamic and creative, the embodiment of The American Entrepreneur, the ones who create all the new businesses that are constantly springing up to make money and make the world a better place. You have met this type of person, they live and breathe excitement and dynamic energy for the business they are building. They are always thinking of their Business Plan and mobilizing their energies toward implementing it.
As an entrepreneur, John's brain and body are constantly bubbling with ideas and excitement about the projects he is working on. But as a yogi, he thinks that when he meditates, he is supposed to make his mind blank! And he has internalized this resistance to such an extent that he more or less always has the brakes on inside, a kind of self-chatter that he really should be more desireless, and that his brain really should shut up.
Yoga is Stopping the Mind?
John's training in yoga meditation is etched in his nerves: Yoga chitta vrtti nirodhah. Most translations of this sutra, the second sutra of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, say something such as, "Yoga is to still the restless mind," or "Yoga is the suppression of the wave motion of the mind." John was drilled in this, so he sees meditation as being a war on restlessness – "It's only when your mind stops that you can realize the self." He built his meditation state of consciousness to be stoppage, inertia. It doesn't matter that this makes him fail – Patanjali is sacred, not to be questioned.
Twenty years ago, when John was doing yoga for hours a day, working a dead-end job, and more or less drifting through life, he could make his mind blank for minutes at a time. He didn't have much going on in life other than his love of yoga. No car, no car payments, no steady girlfriend, no business, no real home. His life has completely changed: he now has a wife, a business, business partners, and creative projects. And he has not updated his definition of meditation. Since he can't accomplish what his old definition of meditation is, he just doesn't meditate at all.
My definition of meditation is the minority opinion. It's more like, just surf the waves of your mind. Waves are interesting. Waves are what's happening. Waves are where the dynamism is.
Actually, all John has to do to meditate is close his eyes and open his senses. There is so much going on, so much creative energy related to business, and so many rich perceptions from doing yoga for 15 years, that he just needs to let them combine. If he would just be with his creativity, and reinvent meditation to support where he is now, he would experience a boost to his energy and his health.
Unfortunately, his understanding of yoga is that it is a separate world, like church. This really is unfortunate, because he needs the quiet time to just sit there and simmer in his creativily.
Your Business Plan as a Yantra
Entrepreneurs are always thinking inside their Business Plan, which they carefully constructed and are now breathing life into. I introduced him to the idea that his business plan is a kind of inner architecture, a beautiful flow of energy that he has visualized. In yoga, such a construction is called a yantra. Yantra, an orderly, almost geometric diagram vibrating in the dimensions of prana and mindstuff.
Concentric triangles within a circle – one of the many form of yantra.
In a good business plan, energy flows in, around, out, and back. You spend energy creating a product people want, and then you get energy back in the form of money and the consumer liking your brand. There is a beautiful geometry to this.
Excitement is Vibration
And that the vibration, the excitement of this dynamic energy is his mantra. He just doesn't realize it. Mantras are usually thought of as Sanskrit words, but the words are just pointers to an underlying vibration. If he just lets himself feel the current of electricity and excitement embodied in his Plan as it is Manifesting, he feels a kind of kundalini shakti giving him energy to support his plan.
This excitement itself is a kind of mantra, a sacred vibration.
Vibration is Orderly
John understood instantly that his excitement is a kind of mantra and his business plan is a yantra, But then he rejected the idea, because it made no sense in terms of his past understanding of yoga.
He is extremely visual so it made sense to his brain. Then for about a few seconds he was perceiving his ambition as a yantra/mantra, but it was such a wild thought, matching nothing in all his yoga training, that he blocked it out. As he blocked it out, his face went blank and he got a little tired and dull-looking.
This blocking is something he trained himself to do, thinking it is yoga. Yoga = stoppage.
Above: Sri Yantra.
Examples of yantra, or geometric diagram to use as a focus of meditation. Actually, any diagram – the Christian cross, a triangle, a circle with a dot in the middle – could be used. But John's business plan, as it was vibrating in and around him, looked a bit like the Sri Yantra.
His old conditioning, that Yoga is blanking the mind, fought back and started yelling at him in his head, "This can't be yoga."
Vibration Calls for Attention
When John closes his eyes, whether it is to fall asleep at night, to take a nap, to meditate, or when lying in Shavasana after doing a set of yoga asanas, he sees and feels the movie of his creative life, juggling time and resources, balancing, visualizing, sensing what is needed. The vibration of it all calls his attention. The areas that are too excited, that he is anxious about, need to be soothed by the application of attention. The areas that he has been neglecting call for attention. All this attending is a dynamic and rapid process, and is not what people usually associate as meditation. But why not? It's all vibration, orderly vibration.
John doesn't realize that his mind and the universe are one and the same, that he is a local representation of the intelligence of the universe. He is keeping an artificial split there, and blocking out an energy that wants to help him, his own life force.
This is a copper plate engraving of a yantra, from the collection of Ajit Mookerjee.
If you visualize it vibrating, you get the sense of what a mantra is.
Here is a color version of Sri Yantra:
So yantra and mantra are different ways of sensing the same thing, energy vibrating in a coherent pattern. Yantra is what we call it when we see the energy. Mantra is what we call it when we are listening to the sound of the energy vibrating.
Still with me?
The Correlation of Sound and Pattern
OK, let's go a step further. Some people have done research on this, and they called it Cymatics. Hans Jenny and his associates set about to phonograph sound vibrations. They would chant OM near a plate of water and photograph the way the water wiggled. Or take a super-light powder, such as fungus spores, put them on a metal plate, then play a violin note. They used all kinds of sources of vibration, and all kinds of material objects to vibrate, and all sorts of ways of photographing them. The book, Cymatics, is beautiful and worth the $40.
Above is one of the photographs from the book,
You can duplicate this sort of pattern at home by taking a plate or bowl of water and putting it on the speakers of your home stereo, and playing your favorite music. If you want dramatic lighting, turn off all the lights except for one spotlight or colored flashlight. You'll see concentric circles, waves standing up vertically, motions, intersections of waves.
Now consider what human creativity is – when an inspired businessperson sets out to create something – a yoga studio, a TV series, a wonderful whole-food restaurant, a clothing line, or some other project to make the world a better place.
Before that plan existed on paper and in a set of agreements with banks and leases and contracts, it was vibrating in the awareness of the entrepreneur. And to a clairvoyant, it looks a lot like a yantra, vibrating. It's art. Life is beautiful. There is a geometric beauty to a business plan, because it is a description of the way energy will flow: people will get hungry at lunch and come into my restaurant and gratefully pay for a bowl of delicious soup and a salad. I will use that money to pay for the materials, the raw ingredients, the cooks, the utilities, the rent, interest on the loans, and myself. Everyone gains from this flow of energy. It's an ecology.
Yantras in 3 Dimensions
Let's go just a bit further. Yantras don't actually exist in only two dimensions, as if they were on a piece of paper. Let us think of them as vibrating in three dimensions.
A sculpture by Stan Tenen
Then go a step further, and see and feel the yantra vibrating, and realize it is just a structure of life, a conception you have created that is in its own way as beautiful as a flower or a seed.
Why shouldn't your business plan be as beautiful as a sunflower, or an acorn? And what makes you think that the excitement and ambition you are manifesting is any different, or any less authentic, that the urge to flower or grow as manifested in plants?
Let Excitement Feed You
So far so good. And a naive person would just be nurtured by the energy coming off their own business plan. A Christian would feel "inspired by God" to succeed in business and pray for success and blessing of everyone involved. A business woman influenced by New Age thinking would visualize success.
And if a woman meditates and just allows her excitement about her life to percolate and shimmer in her body and mind the whole time, then she will feel nourished and soothed and informed by the vibration.
But there is a problem with some definitions of yoga, because yoga is sometimes defined as stoppage. John was indoctrinated in this, so he is blocking off a source of energy and inspiration.