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 (God)
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 voice 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 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 a perfect example of what happens when you spend less time looking outward for direction, more time looking in & then directing your actions with the knowledge you receive.
Because here's the thing - that knowledge is not from the ego. It's from God, Muse, Source, Tao etc.
Your life’s purpose isn’t just for you. It’s not just your purpose but for life itself.
Your life’s purpose comes through you.
And here's the paradox.......
when it does you can't help but be rewarded.
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”.
It revealed itself after which I'll explain in a second.
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.
1. Mysore Style
So what is different about practicing in Mysore?
On that first trip I had these expectations that Sharath was going to teach me “the one thing” that would change it all. You know the secret ingredient, the master key;)
And he did. But not how I expected.
The biggest mistake I had made up to that point in my practice was the direction I was looking for knowledge.
It wasn't outside. It was inside.
Guruji and Sharath created the conditions & gave me the tool to access that 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. Not Asana's but 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. Full room of practitioners with the most important condition.
Silence. And when there is silence then God can be heard.
Where else can you find that except in Ashtanga Mysore Style?
Nowhere I've found.
In the early morning shift at KPJAYI where people who have learned the practice there is literally no talking.
Sometimes it felt like 30 mins or more 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.
With this silence and uninterrupted practice you have the opportunity to really go deep within yourself. You have the space to listen.
And you don't have to do it alone. You are supported by the group energy of other practitioners and your teacher.
In Western Yoga classes the students rarely get to experience this.
The teacher is talking from start to finish. Because of the way those classes are set up the teachers don't have a choice.
You might have one student who it's their first class ever and then another who has been practicing for years and none of them know what asana they will do.
The teacher will tell them and two things happen.
Their attention goes outward
They start thinking more thoughts.
It's always Day 1 and the student never gets to hear God. Only the teacher. (which it seems a lot of teacher's like)
On Day 1 in a Mysore class as a new student there is talking from the teacher as well since you have to be told what to do.
But on Day 2 if you remember what you learned on Day 1 then there is no need for talking.
On Day 30.....well words can't explain that. It has to be experienced.
To hear God we need to go deeper. We need to get to Day 30 minimum.
The movements become ingrained and require less thinking.
We can practice in silence.
We can focus on our breath and most of all
We can listen. Not to the teacher but to God.
As you'll see if you decide to continue in this story of mine the more I bring nature into my life the better things have worked out.
You Need a Teacher (with Experience)
The other "condition" is what having a teacher does to your practice.
There's two big benefits in my experience.
One is the respect I have for Sharath which results in focused attention.
I first felt this when I started practicing at Ashtanga Yoga Vancouver.
I had this new pressure to do what Fiona 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.
(It's something as a student you want to know about your teacher. How much experience do they have? How long have they been practicing? Teaching? You need to find this out before you listen to what they say - the number of fans on Social Media is not a good indicator!)
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.
This accountability results in very focused attention. I'm 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.
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. A tool like a cell phone also trains our mind not to focus to be distracted by the constant scanning.
These are new challenge for people who practice yoga as a tool to provide clarity in their lives.
I go into this in depth in the next series. Working title (God vs Instagram)
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
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.
3. Coming Tomorrow.
Whoah that was quite a bit of information. I'll let that digest for now and save the best for last.
If your reading this then you deserve it.
See you then