You Need A Room.
"You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don't know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don't know who your friends are, you don't know what you owe anybody, you don't know what anybody owes to you" - Joseph Campbell
This striking mountain sits directly in front of my home & family business, The Overlander Mountain Lodge, located at the edge of Jasper National Park Canada.
Any person who has ever traveled from the flat prairies in the East of Canada to the West would see this view as they approached the Rocky Mountains.
This is no ordinary mountain.
It is the subject of legends.
Ever since I can remember the locals would talk of how the outline resembles a First Nations chief laying on his back looking up to the heavens.
Can you see it?
All my life I could see the outline but the real power of this mountain wasn’t unlocked until I discovered how I could hear it.It was by following my golden thread that I learned where the story originated and just how deep the meaning went.
The Golden Thread
Following the golden thread is when you let the activities or subjects that interest you guide your path in life.
Carl Jung called it circumambulation.
Jung's books are extremely difficult to understand which is why an interpretation from someone like Joseph Campbell or even better another Albertan, Jordan Peterson, is needed for most of us.
My interests & curiosity led me to the practice of Ashtanga yoga which I was first introduced to by Rameen Peyrow from the Yoga Loft in Edmonton.
Since there were no yoga studios near me at that time each morning I would practice by myself in front of my fireplace in complete silence.
Soon I started to get "whispers of information".
Questions from within began to arise.
It was enough to change my path in life as I started seeking for answers.
I began to travel around North America to find experienced Ashtanga teachers.
First I did workshops and week or more long stays with Mark Darby, Richard Freeman and Tim Miller.
Next I moved to Vancouver and apprenticed wth Fiona Stang at Ashtanga Yoga Vancouver for 4 years.
Eventually I travelled to India to study at the source of the practice with Sharath Jois at KPJAYI (now Sharath Yoga Center) for 5 years in row.
It wasn’t until I practiced in Mysore that I learned one of the most important pieces missing in Western yoga studios.
This was also the secret that would give me access to the "voice" of that mountain.
I still can’t believe I had to travel all the way to India to figure this out but now I understand why very few people in the West would know.
What is unique about Ashtanga yoga in Mysore with Sharath is not the postures you do.
It’s not the what.
Just as important and the part everyone misses is the where.
It was the practice room that Sharath created that gave me access to a new source of information.
He had created a room that has more (but not enough as I will explain in this series) of what is missing in Western yoga studios.
The Greatest Guide
One summer when I was back in Canada between trips to Mysore my curiosity about the first symbol I printed on my shirts, the Sri Yantra, led me to the book titled Man and his Symbols
It was writings from Carl Jung and some of his students.
In Part 3, Chapter 1, The Pattern of Psychic Growth, ML Von Franz writes:
“Throughout the ages men have been intuitively aware of the existence of such an inner center. The Greeks called it man’s inner daimon, in Egypt it was expressed by the concept of the Ba-soul; and the Romans worshipped it as the “genius” native to each individual…..This inner center is realized in exceptionally pure, unspoiled form by the Naskapi Indians, who still exist in the Labrador Peninsula. These simple people are hunters who live in isolated family groups, so far from one another that they have not been able to evolve tribal customs or collective religious beliefs and ceremonies. In his life long solitude the Naskapi has to rely on his own inner voices and unconscious revelations. He has no religious teachers who tell him what he should believe, no rituals, festivals or customs to help him along. In his basic view of life the soul of man is simply an inner companion. Whom he calls my friend or Mista-peo meaning “Great Man”. Mista-Peo dwells in the heart and is immortal; in the moment of death, or shortly before, he leaves the individual and reincarnates himself in another being”
When I read this I was fascinated by the observation of these people accessing this inner voice without methods and just by being immersed in nature.
Another thread I was following at the time was to learn the indigenous history of the Jasper National Park.
There weren't very many resources other than this one book, Jasper National Park, 10,000 Years of Indian History Part 1: to 1800, by Joachim Fromhold
As I was going through it I was shocked when I read this paragraph
“In Alberta the Palisades, on the upper Athabasca River, was likely already recognized as a sacred place. Here the prairies are overlooked by the mountains, with 8 MISTAPEW overlooking the area…..”
“...at the time when spirits and mankind still walked the earth together, these were the offspring of the spirits and humanity, The giants were more or less overseers of the earth and guardians of mankind. During the first cycle of history the spirits walked the earth in earthly form. At the end of this cycle, the spirits withdrew to the spiritual plane, but the giants remained behind. In time they too withdrew from the living world, but instead of withdrawing to another plane they lay down and went to sleep. To some people living today, the outlines of these spirits can still be seen in the natural features, such as mountains, hills, horizons and other natural features. Tradition has it that in the End Times, or the end of this cycle, draws near when they once again allow themselves to be seen. Among the mountain people there is a belief that more and more of the people are once again becoming aware of the MistaPew" - Jasper National Park, 10,000 Years of Indian History Part 1: to 1800, Joachim FromholdI can still remember the exact moment I read this. My birthplace was a sacred site full of Mista-Peo.
It was because although I lived in the same location I didn't live in the same environment.
And the result was I had a different body
The Naskapi were immersed in nature and I was immersed in technology.
The result was I wasn't in shape to access my own intuition.
If there is one reoccurring pattern I've learned and written about over the last 18 years it's this
Humans create products that in the short run seem to improve life but in the long run have unknown consequences to our physical and mental health.
Something man made gets added into our lives and unknowingly something else (from nature) gets pushed out.
Here's a few examples
- If you add in chairs you leave out sitting on the floor which results in the inability to squat, back pain, tight hips and lack of creativity.
- If you add in rubber soles you leave out touching the earth with bare skin which increases anxiety and inflammation.
- Add in sticky yoga mats and you lose grip strength
- Add in microfiber towels and you lose clean oceans
- If you add in LED's you leave out heat from natural light sources like the sun and fire which powers up your cellular battery
- If you add in MSG you leave out bone broth which means collagen to keep your skin healthy, glowing and beautiful (more on eating animals in the series)
- If you add in flat streets you leave out hills which results in no posterior chain strength
“Only to the extent with which man brings nature into his life will he reach the height of magnificence” - Henry David Thoreau
So how do we avoid the same mistake when it comes to our yoga room?
Here's a strategy I learned from Permaculture Design.
Shield from forces that impede growth. Pollution for example.
Create the conditions for encourages growth. Sunlight for example.
Ready for a paradigm shift?
A yoga room is much closer to a garden than it is to factory.
If you just let that sink in for a second it has massive implications.
I think we can all agree that anything natural requires certain nutrients to grow.
Where does insight, intuition, creativity, the voice of the MistaPeo come from?
It comes from the body.
What “nutrients” create growth of insight?
One is silence. Another is movement.
In most western style yoga classes there is no silence and as a result little or no insight.
Because of the style of class that permits drop ins and has an ever changing set of postures usually the teacher is talking through the whole class giving directions
The gardener’s job is to set up the conditions to facilitate growth then step away and let nature do the heavy lifting.
Which is exactly the way it works in an Ashtanga Mysore Style class.
This is just one of the ways that is completely unique and the true power of Ashtanga Mysore Style yoga.
A Primal Mind
"to the despisers of the body will I speak my word. I wish them neither to learn afresh, nor teach anew, but only to bid farewell to their own bodies,—and thus be dumb." - Friedrich Nietzsche
One day as I was walking off trail exploring the mountain we live on when it hit me.
The forest with its uneven terrain full of dips, hills, fallen logs and rocks forces my body to move in a variety of directions.
I have to lift my leg up high to my chest to get over a fallen tree or crouch low to get under and around one.
As I was doing this it occurred to me how similar this was to my yoga practice.
Making shapes with my body in silence.
What does that do to how and what a person thinks? Or what a person is able to think?
Or looked at a different way.
What happens to the mind of a person who doesn’t?
Does a person who can move differently think differently?
Ask anyone who practices yoga and they will tell you that it does.
You can also ask rock climbers, dancers, mountain guides and even gym rats.
The idea that how we move can affect what we think would lead me down a new path in the coming years.
I would learn how to regain the physical capabilities of a human who was shaped by a natural environment
My yoga practice would be part of the solution but not enough if I spent the other 23 hours in an unnatural environment.
With this observation I began to do whatever I could to bring more nature into my life by creating a habitat for living that would make me strong and healthy.
The result is our new retreat center located at Folding Mountain Jasper Alberta.