Yoga Tip: 2 Greeks & a Spoon


Two famous Greek philosophers were hanging out at the beach. The older one Heraclitus was digging a hole in the sand with a wooden spoon. After a solid day of excavation he rose to his feet and walked to the water’s edge. Here he dipped the same wooden spoon into the ocean. Carefully Heraclitus transported the spoon back to the hole where he deposited its contents. From sunrise to sunset he went back to the shoreline for weeks without interruption dipping the spoon then pouring the salty water into the hole. This activity caught the attention of the new up and coming philosopher Aristotle whose morning and evening exercise routines included a brisk walk along the beach. As Heraclitus had once been the top dog of the Greek philosophical universe & Aristotle had ascended to this lofty perch, the young man became increasingly embarrassed by his elder’s behavior. Unwanted disturbing thoughts started to creep into the brilliant philosopher’s mind. Was it dangerous to spend one’s days postulating the meaning of life and the fundamental nature of existence? Maybe Heraclitus had peered too deeply into his own soul. What had this previously greatest of thinkers encountered that made him loopy? Aristotle was finding it impossible to wow the amphitheater crowds with the discourses that his admirers so dearly adored. Rumors quickly spread that Aristotle had lost his gift of elocution. One day a disciple hoping to resuscitate his teacher posed a philosophical question. Where does the human mind stop and the universal mind start? In the past this was precisely the sort of inquiry that would have aroused the ambitious man’s passions with days of startling cerebral exposition. Over these years of his meteoric rise Aristotle had boasted of constructing the world’s most complete system of rationalism to answer every question the human mind could pose. Now, though, Aristotle’s mind went blank. He just stared at one of those stone pillars that you see nowadays in all those Greek temples. And he kept seeing his former mentor with a spoon in hand walking back and forth like a zombie from the ocean to the hole. Right then something snapped inside Aristotle. The guy leapt to his feet and marched to the beach. All the other philosophers, mystics and students in the school sprang up as quickly as he had to follow in his wake. While Aristotle had told no one about his obsession, everyone was anticipating this moment. Aristotle had not risen to the pinnacle as the greatest thinker in the history of Western Civilization only to piss it away without a fight. Without any clue as to why they were doing it, hundreds of ordinary citizens and slaves joined in the march. But only Aristotle knew that their destination was the beach to get to the bottom of this business with the spoon. When the younger of the two great philosophers blocked his elder’s path, a circle of Hellenic thinkers many rows deep formed in seconds around them and the hole in the sand. “Have you lost your mind, old man?” screamed Aristotle pointing with accusatory vitriol at what Heraclitus was holding his hand. “What you are doing is insane! You keep dipping this infernal spoon into the ocean and pouring a few meager drops of water into that stupid hole. Heraclitus, what madness has taken control of your mind?” Without much ado this titan of Greek philosophers strode a few short steps around Aristotle and emptied the contents of the spoon. Then he calmly turned to face to face his former pupil and smiled. “Since I am the elder here,” said Heraclitus, “answer my question first. Explain the sanity of postulating that you can contain the intelligence of the entire universe in that measly hole that you call your rational mind.” With this question lingering in the minds of all who were present, Heraclitus dropped the spoon in the hole and walked into the sunset along the sandy shore. No one followed him. This story underscores the madness of modern man and the planetary imbalance our species has wreaked on ourselves and every life form here. Seen through the lens of the rational mind, the intelligence of the universe is something that can be possessed like real estate or money. However much energy Aristotle and the long lineage of ardent scholasticism that followed in his wake direct educational curriculum toward worshipping the altar of rationalism, Heraclitus says that the effort to take conquest over the mysteries of the universe will always be futile. He tells us to look for a deeper intelligence. Isn’t it possible with the tsunamis of financial & environmental upheavals and the dwindling of once plentiful resources that we might wish that a few of those philosophers had followed Heraclitus along the sunset sandy shore? Today mystical disciplines that invite this sort of inquiry are emerging to transform the way we harness our mind tools. Yoga practice is one such discipline. HotCore & Power Yoga are the practices offered at Yoga Passion. Join me along the sunset sandy shore here in Beverly Farms. Maybe we’ll hear Heraclitus’ voice whispering over our Ujaya breath.