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Yoga and the Search for Spock
Yesterday Leonard Nimoy, best known for his role as Spock on Star Trek, left his body to boldly go where many have gone before, a journey all of us will someday take.
"Loss of life is to be mourned, but only if the life was wasted" —Spock
Last night I began teaching my class by telling my students I had a new mudra to teach them. I had them hold up their right hand and then had them spread the index and middle finger away from the ring finger and pinky, forming the Vulcan Salute. I told them that this mudra was called Nimoyste (nee-moy-stay). A Jewish student informed us that Nimoy originally based it on a ritual performed by Jewish Kohanim (priest) representing the Hebrew letter Shin (ש), which stands for El Shaddai, meaning "Almighty (God)", as well as for Shekinah (the dwelling or settling of the Divine Presence of God) and Shalom. Shalom means peace. Om Shanti.
In yoga the Namaste Mudra (prayer hands) is often offered when we chant the Sanskrit word Namaste, which translates to "the light in me bows to the light in you." The Vulcan mudra was typically accompanied by the phrase "live long and prosper", a more secular sentiment that nonetheless conveys a similar feeling of compassion and well-wishing.
As the son of a Vulcan father and human mother, Spock represents the union of heart and mind. Throughout the Star Trek series Spock struggled internally with the two sides of his nature, with logic often triumphing. His struggle reflects the macrocosm of our own society where science and spirituality seem to be two opposing forces trying to describe one reality, neither one fully able to convey the depth of the mystery that is life.
"After a time you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true" —Spock
The scientific method is an excellent tool for revealing where our assumptions are incorrect. It is pure Vulcan logic. With it we can begin to describe the processes that make up biological life, and the laws of physics that govern the movement of sub-atomic particles and of galaxies. However, It is still the domain of art & religion to describe the internal experience of life. What it means to be human. That meaning is necessarily conveyed metaphorically, because, as Spock says, "Change is the essential process of all existence." When our spirituality becomes dogmatized and concretized it loses its meaning and becomes an obstacle to our own enlightenment. It must evolve just as we do.
"One can begin to reshape the landscape with a single flower" —Spock
The yogi seeks to transform the landscape of the mind and heart by planting seeds of wisdom. The practice is to love everyone and everything as if they are you, because they are. The landscape and the flower are not separate entities, they are part of a complex intertwined reality. Yoga is not a practice that leads to oneness, it is a practice that leads to the realization of the oneness that already exists. It is a practice of removing the obstacles to our understanding of that truth.
"In critical moments men sometimes see exactly what they wish to see" —Spock
One of my favorite qualities of Spock is that he is a vegetarian, as Leonard Nimoy was also rumored to be. Vulcans were portrayed as a peaceful species, and Spock would only kill when it was the last resort. The yogic teaching of ahimsa (nonviolence) is the first yama (restraint). The yamas are the first step on the on the path to realizing oneness prescribed in the Yoga Sutras. It is logical to understand that violence leads to more violence, in an endless cycle. You can not realize oneness while trying to cause harm to another.
Humans, with all of our emotions and mis-understandings, will often say that it is impossible that one day our entire species will become vegetarian. Certainly the writers of Star Trek did not portray us that way in the future. Yogis might see it differently.
"History is replete with turning points, you must have faith that the universe will unfold as it should" —Spock
Blessings on your journey into the next life, Leonard Nimoy. Thank you for leaving this world a better place.