A risky move

This may be a risky move. This post may not bode well with some who come across it. And that’s ok. It is more important for me to express myself than to keep silent when improvement can be made. Honestly and often, I am sharing my own battles and triumphs simply because it helps to write them down. It also seems to solidify the experience by sharing it with others. There are wonderful moments when, sometimes, others can learn valuable lessons the easy way, via “testimony”…
This is 2013, people! Get your mind right! Ain’t nobody got time for pacifism. We all must churn and wrestle around with old paradigms so we can come out of it better for the experience. In doing so, we can help the evolution of our creative and collective consciousness.

So. We have had yoga philosophy class everyday for two weeks now. We are studying Patanjali’s yoga sutras. Trying to summarize the vast knowledge contained in the sutras is like trying to cram your size 8 foot into a size 7 heel. It ain’t gunna happen. But a few doctors who wrote the book Super Science of Yoga did a fantastic job. First, they describe yoga as being a completely comprehensive process, rendering the entire human experience in terms of consciousness. (Taking note here that yoga is much much more than sweating out last nights hangover in your lululemon capris while Rihanna blasts that we are all diamonds in the sky).
Yoga has eight limbs: cleansing exercises, pranayama {breathing}, asana {poses in lululemon capris}, meditation, pratyahara {withdrawal from sensory organs; Catholics read as thou shalt not covet}, samadhi {ultimate goal of enlightenment, to see your true self, to transcend the physical world; Catholics read as gettin into Heaven}, yama {ethical principles, followed physically, orally, and mentally; Catholics read as 10 commandments}, and finally a continuation of yama, niyama {the rules and regulations to be followed by all}. Unlike almost every other process we have available (psychology, the modern medical field, various religions, etc.), yoga is the only completely comprehensive study. At no point does yoga have a “well, it’s now time for faith to kick in” moment. This was an issue I found very difficult to comprehend growing up, and it wasn’t limited to the teachings of the Catholic church, although that’s what bothered me the most.
As a child, I was surrounded by priests, nuns, and teachers who all responded the same way when I asked a question that didn’t have a clean, logical answer: “You have to have faith”. What that means is very simple: the wonderfully manicured sidewalks of these institutions eventually begin to crumble and then, ultimately, trail off into territory of BIG, DEEP ideas {like consciousness, the soul, why are we here, where do we go, and who is this god person, anyway?}. Yoga answers all of these on the grounds of consciousness; and I mean ALL of it. Physical health, life, death, creation, mental/physical illness/health… Ok, now we are all on the same page about yoga. Lets get back to the sutras:

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali succinctly outlines the art and science of Yoga meditation for Self-Realization. It is a process of systematically encountering, examining, and transcending each of the various gross and subtle levels of false identity in the mind field, until the jewel of the true Self comes shining through.

This text is similar to the Bible, but with a lot less ambiguous sonnet-like passages and more to the point revelations. The yoga sutras lay all the cards on the table and no one is left out. No question turned away or left unanswered. everything you ever wanted to know, ever wanted to improve about yourself, every bad habit you wanted to shake…it’s all there with an answer and a solution. Right. So, with that giant ball of knowledge being dropped everyday, for an hour, starting at 11AM, I react like this:

20130216-083930.jpg I ask every question I have because I don’t want to miss any detail or misinterpret anything. Mostly, everyone else sits quietly, patiently and I feel bad for holding up progress. But then, we break for lunch, and I feel confused. As we sit around for lunch, I can overhear, “Oh, the sutras are so easy.” Then in the same breath, I hear: “oh man, what I would do for a beer right now, or a massage right now, or {insert distraction}”. It appears that, for some, the sutras aren’t sinking in at all.
Maybe it is a lack of understanding the relevance of yoga philosophy. Teacher training is not about briefly learning the sutras in order to be tested on them, only to leave that knowledge behind here in Rishikesh. You cannot be a yoga teacher without a sound understanding of what these sutras are saying. Furthermore, imparting this knowledge to your students is essential.

Yoga isn’t about tight pants and vegan cookies. It’s a total way of life.


I just met myself

As I walked back to class this afternoon, my head was down trying to navigate through the various substances that puddle in the street. I was also deep in thought, having let thoughts of home, class, practice this morning, etc. carry me away from the present moment. Back in the present moment, a little girl was heading my way. She was riding a rickety old bicycle, two sizes two big, and yelling to me. I almost did not notice her. Initially, her voice couldn’t reach my mind that was so deep in thought, so far from the present moment. Luckily, she kept trying and as our paths came closer and closer I heard a familiar phrase intermingling with her native Hindi words: “High-five!!” I looked up quickly, hoping it was meant for me and that I wasn’t too late to take part. I wasn’t! There she was, heading straight for me, recklessly trying to keep the bike upright with one hand, the other stretched out ready to meet mine.

What a fantastic afternoon, what a fantastic reminder of human contact, love, and moments of pure happiness.

A walk through town

Throughout this mornings yoga and pranayama practice, I watched as the sun began to peak from behind the clouds. It has stormed consistently for the past three days, and I have enjoyed every moment of it. The rain brought with it these gorgeous whips of low laying clouds that crawled over the mountains in waves throughout the day, winding tendrils through the trees and around the mountain temple spires. Breathtaking, really. So after a quick breakfast of fresh fruit and hot lentils (very tasty), I joined a few other classmates in a walk to the local coffee spot. The scenes along the way were fantastic; Rishikesh is a town straight out of a child’s storybook, with big blocks of brightly painted colors and curls of metal staircases and door handles. It’s a magical place, a similar sensation to being in Big Sur. We reached the coffee shop, which was wonderfully full of prayer flags comfy floor cushions, but I could not give up my exploring adventure so I parted ways with the group and continued on my own. A short distance from the coffee shop was a large gated archway, it’s surface chipping away orange and green paint. Not particularly a welcoming entryway, but I went through anyway as I could see a pathway leading through several other similar archways and disappeared into the jungle mountain trees. I passed a donkey, a wedding, a group of school girls, (all heading the opposite direction) and finally found myself alone on the winding path. It took me through an abandoned hospital and then to a towering, rusted iron gate that was locked but which had a small door that was swung open, just big enough to climb through. My adventure continued up a windy cobblestone path with cozy homes on each side, like a scene straight out of The Shire. It was somewhere between here, where the path meandered into a denser forest and was void of any homes, and when the path rejoined the main town again, that I felt overwhelmed with love and gratitude. Love for such a magical place, seemingly bringing into existence everything I’ve always dreamed about. Gratitude for being given this opportunity; that the universe really does know what it is doing and I am always taken care of, even when I cannot see it that way. I am deeply deeply grateful. Even more so, I am happy.