Saturday, October 3, 2009

Earth Yoga

We are earth people with earthly challenges.

"To really grow as human beings, and be better yogis maybe we need to try one anothers yoga."
-from my last post

This quote roused enthusiastic support from commenters worldwide on Facebook, Twitter and on the entry on this blog.

To stay with a system of yoga, going deeper and deeper has the potential benefits of knowing self, ecstatic states, and spiritual subtleties. But it could be like the first time you connected sexually with someone (just let me try this out), you might have associated that incredible bliss with a particular individual. Life goes on and perhaps that first relationship doesn't work out. Then you realize that you might have it with others, too. Some are better. Some are worse. But when you associate it with one person and your mind is stuck remembering the past that is delusion. The danger in keeping it (when the "it" is yoga practice) to one teacher or yoga style right now is based on my belief that we need to connect better with each other here, on the planet, which could mean bringing the spiritual experience out of an exclusive arena where we connect it with one style of yoga or one teacher. Maybe it's time to branch out to understand one another across beliefs, and across yoga styles.

When we associate the precious, sacred, totally beyond words experience of yoga with one style or teacher it can be harmful socially when we channel our reverence into a mentality that seperates us from other yogis who practice with other teachers in other styles of yoga. It makes sense that we would want to protect ourselves, but what is the cost? Doesn't this pattern of thought and behavior reflect the divisiveness that can be seen amongst sports fans of different teams, or members of different religious groups, or citizens of different countries, etc? Should we allow the yoga we practice be another reason to shun people who we conceptualize as being "different" in some seemingly important intangible way? Is this really an important difference?

I see an earth translation of yoga as bringing more friendliness and care across peoples, rather than another reason for seeing difference. And I think that we desperately need to find a greater sense of union between all people.

Traditionally yoga practice offers techniques for uniting the individual sense of yourself with a larger sense of your Self, profound connection, oneness beyond description. Yes! Good... A yogi might need to practice with a particular yoga tradition and/or teacher for a while to perhaps be blessed with this realization. How we go forward from here is actually what I'm considering in this post. Certainly you might need the safety of certain parameters (like: a particular teacher, style, or tradition) to develop on your path. But don't get confused and think that the way you did it is the only way that others might do it. That most certainly is obsurd. Your path is only right for you, just as my path is only right for me.

In the sea of all of our differences how can we resonate with our common needs? How can we align less with personal selfishness, and become more motivated to work towards common goals like a more friendly world, and care about the effects our actions have on the global environment? How can we bring our tastes of beauty and connection from yoga practice into meaningful compassionate actions towards others and our earth?


RB said...

One of my teachers is talking about how both in life and in yoga we are trying "to get back ground we've gained." In other words, we had a great moment in our last class and are trying to get back to it for the sake of the ego, or to prove that we are accomplished.

Trying different kinds of yoga is one way to remove the aspects of ego and duhkma from yoga. We can't rest on laurels if we're always trying new things. It's a way to stay in touch with the beginner's mind.

Brooks Hall said...

Thanks RB! Your thoughts put another spin on it. We can get a bit crusty in "what we've accomplished" if we're not aware of that process.

Bob Weisenberg said...

Good thoughts, Brooks. Like you say, just different ways of getting to the same point.

I like to take it a step further-- the universality of Yoga beyond Yoga.

Not only are there Yoga-type concepts in almost every religion, but Yoga is reflected in every other aspect of human life. Here's the way I wrote about this on my website:

"Yoga assumes itself to have discovered universal truths. If you look at almost any moment of pure joy it usually has this character of total absorption in the present moment, where all other concerns and preoccupations fade into insignificance.

So it’s not surprising that one can come up with countless examples of Yoga-type present-focused joy in every aspect of human life. Yoga is just a powerful way of discovering and exploring this aspect of our existence. Yoga didn’t invent it."

Bob Weisenberg

Brooks Hall said...

Yes, Bob! So what we generally call yoga is technique, but what we really value is the experience. And this experience isn't limited to practicing yoga: it can happen at any time.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to get around to writing a post about yet another realisation I've had, after attending a local kirtan group. Of course, it wasn't just the kirtan that brought this on. Its everything I've been doing for myself this year to pull myself back into one piece.

And that includes the yoga, the therapy, the riding of my pushbike, seeing my favourite bands, hanging out with my nieces... all of those things.

Certainly however, the lessons I've learned in asana and meditation, have very much been behind my ability to 'see'.

That said, I agree with Bob. Yoga is not the only system of knowledge in the world that can help one achieve these realisations. And actually, long before I ever started yoga, I was having certain awakenings on my own.

What counts for me is that yoga is systematic, and it works. And its the path I choose.

By not expecting anyone else to follow the same path as me (unless that's what they want for themselves) then I put aside my prejudices.

On the note of same teacher/same style, I know many who do just that. But my Guru has always used that old idea of: If you are attending a teaching of any kind, never sit in the same spot twice as it keeps your mind from becoming rigid.

If you apply the same idea to all patterned behaviour, it certainly keeps things fresh! And right now, I am being encouraged to attend many different kinds of classes to get a feel for what's out there and how others teach. Its proving to be most enlightening.


Bob Weisenberg said...

Fine thoughts, svasti.

One of the reasons I’m so attracted to Yoga is that I’ve had semi-ecstatic “one-with-the-universe” experiences all my life. I seem to be prone to them, in fact, with or without Yoga. I consider this a great blessing.

I’ve had them in music, in nature, in literature, in relationships, in tennis, occasionally in religion, in business, in my family, in windsurfing (especially in windsurfing, where one must focus intently on the wind and the angle of the sail for hours at a time), etc.

Yoga has taught me to increasingly experience this same feeling in everyday life--to view it as deepest reality rather than an occasional high.

Bob Weisenberg

Brooks Hall said...

Svasti! I like what you say about staying in a tradition. I might say something similar: Give yourself comfort, but don't get too comfortable...

Also (as you and Bob are also considering in your comments), since I wrote this I have been thinking about this structure for the ecstatic experience that yoga provides, and am grateful that we have access to these rich and varied teachings.

Kara-Leah said...

Yes, yes, yes and yes!

To it all!

Time to tear down the artificial barriers we erect between styles and techniques and just embrace whatever works for us while being curious and open about what works for other people.

Love that you've got this discussion going.

On my New Zealand-based website, the point is to cut across all kinds of yoga and show the face of yoga as a whole. Hence profiling teachers from every tradition, and getting guest posts from authors of all stripes.

My intention is to bring the community together, because like you, I believe yoga has the power to unite us in the common good.

And what a wonderful thing that is!


Bob Weisenberg said...

Yes it is wonderful, Kara-Leah.

Left you a message on your website.

Bob Weisenberg

AnnaYaya said...

At first I was resistant to the idea of taking "other" yogas. I thought of it as spiritual materialism, where we are all shopping around for the next best flavor. However, I had already committed to trying another teacher's Gentle Yoga class in order to do research for my own Ageless Yoga class. I became aware that I had subtle judgements that her class would not be "real" yoga, or that it would not challenge the students enough. When I got to the class I knew one of the students, a cancer survivor in her late 60s who I really respect. It turns out that we had both begun studying yoga using Richard Hittleman's 28 Day Yoga Program (you may remember Cheryl, the model in the book). My mother used that book and I started practicing from it when I was a teenager. When the class began, the teacher taught a Sanskrit chant, and then took us through a sequence that respected bodies dealing with arthritis, chronic illness, and recovery from surgery. I found the slow pace of the class quite challenging, because instead of rushing through everything, I could feel my body and had to be patient and focused. I noticed many similarities between this teacher's style and my own, but I learned concrete new things to take to my own students. It was moving and humbling (in a good way) to be with people 30 to 40 years older than I am. Because of your blog, I was attuned to my attitudes and preconceptions, and so I was more open. I will be a better teacher and practitioner because of it. Thanks for the lesson. It makes me remember that famous yoga quote I love so much: "Many paths, one truth."

Brooks Hall said...

Thanks KL! Yes! Yes!

AnnaYaya: Of course I remember Cheryl! How could I forget her great look after practicing with that book for several years! And thank you for sharing your powerful experience. I am humbled (in a beautiful way) as I read it.