Go Directly to the Seat of Knowledge - Marcus Aurelius
The first time I went to Mysore, this was exactly what I had in mind.
Going to the seat of knowledge. Going to learn from the source.
What I thought I would learn when I went there wasn’t even close to what I actually did.
And now I know looking back that was the biggest reason I had to go.
What I learnt on that trip has allowed me to start living a life that is completely from my own center.
Read on to learn what those are. You won't regret the 10 mins its going to take. Could be life changing.
Hearing your Muse
What is a Muse? That has nothing to do with yoga?
The ancient Greeks (along with the Romans who called it your Genius) didn't believe that creative work came from you so much as through you. From a divine source.
Elizabeth Gilbert talks about it in her Ted Talk.
"But, ancient Greece and ancient Rome -- people did not happen to believe that creativity came from human beings back then, O.K.? People believed that creativity was this divine attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source, for distant and unknowable reasons."
Whatever you want to call it insight, muse, God or inner wisdom we can all agree on one thing. It's important.
It's important becomes it comes from within you.
The problem is that more and more people never get a chance to hear it.
There was a time in history not too long ago when we spent a huge amount of our day with periods of silence.
The default way of life had less outward distractions which gave the space to 'listen' within.
Now taking time out to “just be” is considered a luxury. Even labeled as lazy.
What does a typical person's day look like in the modern world?
They wake up, check their phone, read text messages, read emails, off to work listening to music, more emails, listening to co-workers, listening to friends and parents, Facebook, Instagram, to do lists, home, television, messages....you know what I mean?
It's just a constant flow of external inputs.
Modern life is very full, very fast and it's getting more so. How can we possibly hear that inner deity when it’s so noisy?
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” - Albert Einstein.
Those of us practicing yoga know better right?
When you practice and take your focus inward you get a break from that external firehose of information.
You carve out some space to hear that sacred gift and for part of your day the rational mind becomes the servant.
You listen to what insights arise then move forward into the world living your life with that knowledge.
What happens when you live a life with knowledge from your own true center doing that which makes you come alive?
Well look at the example of Pattahbi Jois.
Have you ever stopped to think about how many people Guruji has impacted in the world?
I mean it’s millions.
Millions of people in the world are doing yoga and benefiting because he stuck to his life’s purpose. Millions and it just keeps growing.
That could be you. I'm not kidding.
Read the book Guruji to learn the full story. It wasn’t an easy road for him. He ran away from home. He never made any money till much later in his life. He never taught yoga for fame or for money which eventually did come to him but what motivated him was not those reasons.
He did it because he couldn't not do it.
"Last time I saw him, just two months before he passed, three months before in the end of February and I could go to his room and still talk with him. And he just, we just talked about yoga, at that stage he just wanted to know how many people practice and how they coming to the Shala and what time they start.
That was in 2007, or 2008, I think it was still 2008, the family didn't want that Pattabhi Jois was teaching and they hide the key to the old Shala because he wanted to go to teach people. But, somehow he found the key and he was teaching secretly and, I wasn't there, but there were some of my friends. I think there were nine people. So he told people to come to the Shala and I will be there this certain time. So I think this was 2008. He had such a big strong will, just to keep teaching and it was not about money, it was not about fame or, you know, having lots of students or something. It was all about yoga. What I saw him from '96 to 2009, he didn't change. Even all this fame and famous people around, he was always the same. I think he really had a passion to teach yoga for people. See that kind of Bhakti you know, it's really teaching all the way until the end." - Petri Räisänen, Ekaminhale Interview.
This is one example of what can happen when you follow your bliss.
But you see the following your bliss is just one 1/2 of it.
Your life’s purpose isn’t for you. It’s not your purpose. It’s your life’s purpose. It’s through you for everyone else. For everyone else because that same life in you is also in them.
(You might recognize this concept from a little book called the Bhagavad Gita).
When following your bliss meets selfless action then you are really on the track.
This where I got it screwed up with selling shirts. I couldn’t see how it had anything to do with my “life’s purpose”.
Ok I got it you say.....I need to quiet my mind and listen to my Muse. Now how can do I do that?
Let me show you a couple ways. Here’s the tools I was talking about.
There's 3. First one....
1. Mysore Style Yoga
So what is different about practicing in Mysore?
On that first trip I had these expectations that I was going to learn from Sharath and he was going to give me “the one thing” that would change it all. You know the secret ingredient, the master key;)
What I did learn instead was that he wasn't going to tell me anything.
Instead Guruji and Sharath created the conditions that allowed me to get knowledge from within myself. The seat of knowledge that is in every one of us. This is why I needed to go.
I needed to see what was most important in learning Yoga.
Here Petri talks about the energy of the Shala - "In 25 years I've seen many shala's......."
So what are these conditions?
You need a room. Just like that old Joseph Campbell quote I mentioned earlier.
How that room is "managed" is extremely important for this to all work.
The shala in Mysore is packed full and busier than any yoga shala you have ever been to but one thing is missing.
50 to 60 people practicing at any time and all you hear is breath. When I say practicing I mean mat to mat beginner to advanced postures. It's intense but within that....
Breath supported spine awakening with the least amount of external distractions.
Where else can you find that except in Ashtanga Mysore Style?
Nowhere I've found.
Ok now that being said the amount of noise does increase as the morning goes on and people move in and out of the shala.
You will hear Sharath saying "one more" and then occasionally speaking to students directly.
But in the early morning shift where people who have learned the practice there is literally no talking. Sometimes it felt like 30 mins would go by and not a word.
Plus you almost never get interrupted in your practice. Most of the time you are just left alone other than backbends or a couple other key adjustments.
"Yoga begins with listening - Richard Freeman"
With this silence and uninterrupted practice you have the opportunity to really go deep within yourself.
You have the space to listen. Not externally but for once what is coming from the other direction.
Compare that with a typical led class in the West where the teacher is talking constantly and there is often music. Where is your attention going? It's listening to the teacher. Its directed outward.
See what I'm saying?
Silence is natural. Talking is man made.
As you'll see if you decide to continue in this story of mine the more we move towards nature the better life seems to work out.
You need a Teacher
The other "condition" is what having a teacher does to your practice.
There's two big benefits in my experience.
One is the respect and devotion you have for Sharath and the lineage which leads to focused attention.
I first felt this when I started practicing at Ashtanga Yoga Vancouver. I had this new pressure to do what my teacher told me that I never had from practicing on my own and it makes a massive difference in your focus. Not performance but focus.
That same feeling of doing what your teacher tells you is 10 times as powerful from Sharath.
I've never seen anything like it. He commands so much respect from everyone and I realized it's because he has earned it.
He did the hard work of 25 plus years of practicing and teaching to understand the system.
So when you are practicing there you don't want to disappoint him and you trust him 100%. It makes you step up and pay attention. When he says do something you do it.
You don't second guess it, you don't hum and haw. You don't think. You just do. This just simplifies everything. There is no decision making.
This includes interrupting the flow of the practice. You don't leave your mat to do something against the wall, you don't talk with your friend or go grab a prop. You just do your practice. So there is some pressure there to stick to the system.
This accountability results in very focused attention. Im never more focused in practice than when in Mysore.
Then which I talked about in the first series and have experienced the most with Fiona and Tanya at AYV is just this feeling of someone who is watching over you and caring for you.
They really get to know you when you spend day after day in the shala practicing. I got the first glimpse from the teacher at Tim's then the second from Mary Freeman but after many years practicing at AYV I don't think anyone knew my body and then with it my patterns than Fiona.
The average doctor visit is something like 8 mins and Mysore teachers spend hours and hours with their students everyday. The truth is they are some of the greatest healers in the community and a lot of them can't even afford to run the shala because of the way yoga has been discounted through business models. But I digress (for now) All I want to point out is that these teachers are available to you. I'll tell you how to find one of them in the last email.
Reduce The External Inputs
On the first trip I remember in the morning I would take my Ipad to read before class. It's so busy in the shala that sometimes you have to wait for an hour or more before you go into class.
One day it was before Led I was sitting on the on the ground outside KPJAYI. I could hear Sharath counting the class before me as I read my book.
I felt something and looked back behind me. There was Sharath in the window telling me to put my Ipad away. Geez I thought, totally embarrassed, what's the big deal? Now I know.....
He wanted me to quit filling my brain with more information. I'm probably more guilty than anyone for constantly reading and learning which isn't wrong but there is a time and place for it.
Rather than adding more into your head this time each day is a time to let things settle. Let the thoughts digest. Stop the inputs.
I think of it now similar to eating and eating and eating never letting the food digest. Now instead of food we do it with information and inputs.
We live in a new world where we have never moved so little but thought so much. With access to the internet at anytime anywhere it takes a conscious effort to turn off the mental inputs.
Now with the rise of social media the filter on the quality of thoughts you are getting is not there. Along with the effect the tool has on your mind it's a new challenge for people who use yoga as a tool to provide clarity in their lives. I go into this in depth in the next series.
What I've been doing since is going from 6 PM till 12 PM each day with no inputs.
In that space instead I do things that calm the mind like my practice, writing, walking in nature and this exercise that I learned from Mark Robberds below.
2. Morning Pages
Awhile back I was telling you when I gave Mark Robberds some shirts and he was so kind that he was wearing them all over the place? Like in this video here
If you haven’t met Mark I hope some day you get the chance because he is also a living example of someone who “followed their bliss” .
When I met him I was curious to know how he ended up living this life of teaching yoga, playing kirtan and surfing.
He told me it all came from reading this book and then doing what's called the Morning Pages that he learned from it. Since then I bought the book and have been implementing this same practice in my "no inputs" time.
It could be called a spiritual practice since it clears out some of the clutter to allow the deeper thoughts to be heard. From the author Julia Cameron's website this is how you do them
"Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing,
done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*–
they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about
anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes
only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and
synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put
three pages of anything on the page...and then do three more pages tomorrow." Morning Pages by Julia Cameron
Combining this with your Ashtanga practice and you have some really powerful tools for figuring out what to do with your life. In this video here Mark talks about the book.
"There is a thinking in primordial images, in symbols which are older than the historical man, which are inborn in him from the earliest times, eternally living, outlasting all generations, still make up the groundwork of the human psyche. It is only possible to live the fullest life when we are in harmony with these symbols; wisdom is a return to them."
— C.G. Jung
As I mentioned earlier I had this conflict going on inside me about selling shirts. Turns out I wasn’t selling shirts. I was bringing symbols into people’s lives. Even my own.
And just like Yoga you don’t need to understand how symbols work in order for them to have an affect you.
It’s not about understanding with the mind. Yoga and Symbols go beyond the mind. They awaken as Carl Jung says “that missing part of the whole man”.
The Sri Yantra - The Most Powerful Symbol In The Cosmos
“A Yantra thus maps the road of eternal return, and the way to inner wholeness. Escaping from the web of Maya, the adept gradually discovers their eternal being through the yantra’s symbols. When they have eternalized all the symbols of the cosmos and their body “becomes” the yantra, the adept is no longer alienated from the truth that the symbol illustrates, but is transformed into the truth that they seek.” - Madhu Khanna
Im not going to get into the whole way the Sri Yantra works in this post, just like I can’t teach Yoga in 500 words. It's not even necessary.
Although the Sri Yantra does have many deep and intricate layers of symbolism that can take a lifetime to learn I’m going to tell you what it symbolizes to me and possibly to you if you are practicing yoga with this intention.
The Sri Yantra symbolizes a part of my being that I share with nature and with the world. A part that is eternal and doesn’t die when my body does. I know this part of me exists because yoga has been one of the ways I am able to experience it.
It’s this experience, the experience that is “not-knowing” that keeps me coming back each day.
When I put the Sri Yantra on the shirt my intention was to create something that represented that reason for practicing and even though I didn’t know that was exactly what the Sri Yantra meant somehow that was what happened.
Have you heard the story of the beggar who was sitting by the side of the road begging for coins from people passing by when a man stopped and said to him. "What is that you are sitting on?"
The beggar replied "Nothing but an old box. I've been sitting on it for 30 years".
The man said "Why don't you open it and look inside?"
The beggar got up, opened the lid of the box and gasped.
It was filled with Gold.
Of this series.....
I wrote the first draft of this series in 2014. It's when I first started Ekaminhale and all the events that I have talked about were happening. The way I've written it might sound exciting but starting an online business has been one of the worst decisions I have ever made.
Still just like injuries and heartbreaks the path is the path and the wrong turns show you the right ones.
About 2 years ago I was completely burnt out to the point I could barely sleep at night. So much online work was having a huge affect on mind. I would notice it most on the days I spent all day on the computer. At the end of it I was so confused and distracted. It was exactly the opposite of how I felt after yoga.
Ekaminhale was not making any money so I still had my other job which was also on the computer. It felt like my mind was always racing. I couldn't tell what was important from what wasn't.
I'd felt like this before. It was about 10 years ago in New York city.
I don't know if it was divine intervention or what but just when I thought I couldn't take any more stress we got forced out of our house in Vancouver and left the city.