From the earliest days of human civilization, poets and writers have extolled the virtues of lions. Magnanimous, Royal, Powerful, generally Quiet but capable of Fury and Destructive Carnage, the Lion has always been an object of admiration.
This has been especially true of Indo-European cultures. Indra was the Lord Protector of Heaven in the Sindhu culture that developed at the beginning of known civilization. In Samskrut of that day, the Lion was called the Indra of Animals. Emperors and Kings were often praised as Lions for their conquests, bravery, courage and magnanimity. In those days, the imagery of a Lion killing a hard charging elephant was used to fill warriors with resolve to fight a powerful enemy.
Some 2,000 thousand years later, the Great Emperor Ashok created his symbol of Three Lions facing three directions. It was Ashok who spread Buddhism across Asia. You can still see this symbol of Ashok in many South East Asian countries. Another 2,000 years later, Guru Nanak founded the Sikh faith and asked all his followers to use Singh (Lion) as their last name.
The British also idolized lions. Four lions adorn the statue of Nelson in London’s Trafalgar Square, the monument to the battle that established the supremacy of Britain’s navy. King Richard who took Britain to war in the Middle East was called Richard the Lion-Heart for his courage and will to fight.
When Lokmanya Tilak (the man Gandhi called his guru) began his fight for India’s freedom from British rule, he started a newspaper called Kesari or the Lion. On the banner page, he described the British rule as a marauding elephant trampling the rights of Indian people and warned that India is like a sleeping Lion who once awakened would unleash his fury against the British elephant.
These are Lion virtues that I like to read about. But I like to put into practice another trait of Lions, a trait that has ignored by historians, poets and writers. In today’s stressful life, it is perhaps a more important trait.
If you look at photographs of Lions or study their daily behavior, you will notice that Lions generally spend the day lazing around in the shade. For the most part, Lions do little except relax. Look at a photo of a relaxing Lion in old copies of National Geographic and you will see what I mean.
I admire this ability of a Lion to completely relax, to lie around doing nothing. It is what I try to emulate during weekends. I leave strenuous exercises to others, I leave household tasks to those who care about such things. I prefer to simply lie in bed and watch TV or movies. Fortunately, football season has begun. So there is no shortage of games to watch on Saturday and Sunday. If the games are uninteresting, I can always fall back on my large library of Bollywood DVDs.
I can picture the sneers, the ridicule of some readers at this lifestyle. But to them I say, try it before you knock it. It is not as easy as it sounds. Let me lay down a challenge to all readers. Identify one day for this exercise in relaxation. On that day, do nothing. Just lie in bed all day and relax. Drink your favorite beverage in bed, eat your food in bed and watch or read something that you enjoy, something that has no real purpose and no redeeming value.
Try it and you will see how hard it is. After a short time, you will remember there are bills to pay, you will remember the dishes in the sink, the dust on the floor. Someone close to you will call you lazy and try to insult you into getting up to be productive. Ignore these distractions and pressures. Be steadfast in your pursuit of total relaxation.
I thought of all this when I heard a young CNBC anchor complain of back aches yesterday. This anchor sits in her chair in front of the camera for 3 hours every working day. She probably sits in her office as she prepares for her show. Exercise fanatics would probably advise her to work out, stretch and do all sorts of physical Yog exercises to relieve her back pain.
If she asked me, my suggestions would be different. Subjecting the body to more pain to relieve pain has never appealed to me. I speak from experience. I sit in a chair in front of three-four computers every market day, from about 7 am to at least 7 pm. I eat both breakfast and lunch at my desk. I do not exercise either during weekdays or on weekends.
But I have no back pain, no body aches and, according to my Physician, my blood pressure is ideal. I think it is due to my determined pursuit of doing nothing except lying around all day on weekends. It is a trick I learned from Lions, the Lion’s ability to relax, completely relax and laze around doing nothing. This is my kind of Lion behavior. It is also my way of practising Yog.
As we wrote a couple of weeks ago, the philosophical basis of Yog is the control of Buddhi or Conscious Understanding over the Mind. It is this control that makes one a Yogi. The physical system of Yog created by Sage Paatanjali around 200 BCE teaches a complex system of disciplined breathing to achieve physical relaxation. That system is a tool to achieve the result. Frankly, it is a bit strenuous for me. I did try it. But, in these days of dawn-to-dusk tasks, making time for such physical Yog actually created more tension and stress.
So I fell back on the original, philosophical basis of Yog. I taught my Mind to listen to my Buddhi. I taught myself to completely relax one day each week, to ignore all tasks, to turn off my mind and to lie in bed giving up all earthly duties to watch TV. I have done this for about 9 years and I am very satisfied with the results, both physical and mental.
I have no wish to be called Lion-Heart. Instead I would be happy to be called Lion-Relaxer or perhaps Lion-DoNothing as some might choose to call me. It’s Ok. In my Yogic state, insults do not reach me.
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