It’s mid-September. Which means, my meditation practice will soon include post-season baseball, and my mat is diamond-shaped.
Before I raise San Francisco Giants’ first baseman Brandon Belt to near Hanuman status, let it be known: I am setting my energy on an ultimate Giants’ series. I’ve got my buddhi based reasons for this passion. (September is fitting the Cubs, with their 108 year-old title draught, like a glove, Madison Bumgarner’s face is the face of focus). The skill of these players in effortless action zooms my awareness in (a yogic action in itself) on why I fell in love with baseball to begin with. I now have a new answer to the question, What is yoga? Baseball, yogis, it is baseball.
I love baseball for the very reason those that hate it, hate it (same could be said of my love of cats). “It’s too slow.” “Nothing is happening.” My take = it’s about the subtleties. So is yoga. Contrary to what many beginning (and even advanced) practitioners believe, the more “advanced” the yogi, the more subtle the practice. Large, athletic, twisty/bendy asana do not necessarily an advanced yogi make.
Patanjali’s The Yoga Sutra, which I now muse-ily mix with baseball, is about the stilling of the mind, quieting the waves of the chockfull storehouse of our thoughts. Just watch the exchange among pitcher, catcher, and batter on a big screen.
Patanjali mentions asana in only three sutra, 2:46-2:48. The first sutra on asana (asana means seat–what else is the pitcher’s mound?) is how to do asana–with steadiness and ease. It is to remain in a “good place,” or sukha, and not let anything in your space. The next sutra tells us how to master asana, which is, to, while in that good space, meditate on the infinite. Loosening your effort into the infinite… The third sutra illumines what happens when we do master asana in this way: you will remain stable in the midst of change.
Baumgarner aces these sutra. Which my fanciful muse finds delightful. Baseball is brilliantly subtle, while vastly complex. It is filled with nuance, defined by detail, and when manifest in its true adepts, an equanimity of fearlessness and joy. So’s yoga.
Yoga is skill in action. Baseball possesses the quietude, timelessness, and the opportunity for stillness which defines such skillful action. But that is another yoga study. If you like to be prepared, dear student, get out your Gita.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite yoga teaching mantras, one I hear is held by the best hitters in the business of baseball:
Be Patient at the Plate.
Baseball and Yoga. What similarities have I missed?