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EMBODIMENT - A Yoga Experience

We just completed our third annual Costa Rican yoga retreat, and it is hard to capture with words the essence of this experience. Alas, I will try, with the intention to seal the "vibe" of this incredible event for those in attendance and also to transmit that "vibe" to other potential seekers on the path.

I'll start with giving thanks to the teachers, traditions, and methods which have supported my own journey of awakening and the yogic process which has unfolded within me. My first trip to the Sanctuary occurred for me back in July 2015, when I was just a wee yogi interested in exploring the Infinite. This Sanctuary is where we hosted this year's retreat (our second year in a row), and is a place built by yogis for yogis. A true gem in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle, completely off-grid and solitary, a container set for precision, quality, and depth of work. It is always an honor to return to a place that has become a spiritual home for me, and the location of many deep dives into my own sadhana (spiritual process/ practice) and where many gems and insights have been mined. To bring a group here and to facilitate a journey for them is one of the greatest blessings I can receive as being someone who has so much appreciation for this work.

It would be important to illustrate, to the best of my ability, the nature of "the work", and what the "yogic process" entails as this would ensure the reader can follow along and feel connected to the essence in which I am attempting to convey. So, after my giving of thanks, I now speak to this subject.

"The Work"

As I mentioned, my first experience at the Sanctuary happened for me back in July 2015. I was freshly out of the corporate environment and I was seeking to establish myself into a spiritual practice that could effectively deliver the promised results of peace, clarity, and understanding that many of the spiritual traditions in which I was so-far familiar were talking about. What I really wanted was to understand myself better, my place in the cosmos, my purpose for existing, and how to align myself better with nature. I didn't know it at the time, because I didn't have enough clarity around what "the work" really was. I just had some inner sense that propelled me to figure out a spiritual practice that could help with my vague questions. My mind was so busy with many different thoughts, I had many different goals and directions in which my life-stream was going, I was distracted by conflicting viewpoints and my life was a series of frantic attempts to organize the chaos of each newly arising moment. In short, my life-energy was scattered and I had a difficult time maintaining its focus in coherent streams towards chosen objectives. My mind and heart were in conflict. I needed to keep my body busy as a coping mechanism to protect my mind from realizing how little peace I actually had available to me when I would just stop to rest. It was a difficult place to be, but I need to write about it now to give context for my life situation and how I was operating when I had my first trip to The Sanctuary.

I went down for a Yoga Teacher Training immersion. It was 21 days. Somewhere around $5000. I had just quit my job as a mortgage banker and had some savings, but without knowing where my next paycheck was coming from, this was a massive leap of faith. I didn't really have a "plan", I just knew I need to sort out my own inner world. Guided by Liz Lindh and Naganath, the two teachers for our YTT program, I was finally starting to understand what "sorting out my inner world" meant after 21 days of committed sadhana and an immersion into what Yoga actually is, or means. It was during this training that I had the incredible blessing of sitting in on and practicing what is known as a Dhuni (yogic fire ritual), which was a large part of Naga's personal practice. The Dhuni alone was a life-changing experience, as until then I had little to no concept to give me an understanding about the transformative and meditative power of mantra and ritual. prayer and worship were words that I associated with church. They had a completely different meaning when they became self-evident to me as I sat under the open sky, bare-skinned and immersed in nature, and I was able to reach my own conclusions due to the authentic insight that arose from this process. More on this later.

Grant during his YTT in 2015

Although I hadn't intended to do this training to become a yoga teacher, what happened after I returned home from this 21 days seemed a natural result of the work. As I gained clarity over what the whole "thing" was about, all I wanted to do was practice more. I started chanting mantras early in the morning as a part of my daily sadhana. In addition to japa (repetition of mantra), I did some breathing exercises and a few key asanas that I learned during the YTT with Naga and Liz. As I practiced more, I eventually received an offer to start teaching a yoga class. So I did. I taught a little bit, but I practiced for most of my free time. By the end of 2015, I had decided that this - yoga - was all I wanted to do, so I canceled all my other "plans" and potential timelines/ realities and put all my eggs in one basket - the basket of Yoga.

Once I decided to go "all in", I began the slow and painstaking process of finding teachers who could really shape the course of my path and sadhana. I wasn't interested in the mainstream styles. I needed people who could take me deeper, and help me cultivate the flickering flame that had awoken in me during my first trip to the Sanctuary. One of those key teachers was an English man named Steve Harrison. I met Steve in India, a few months after a return visit to the Sanctuary in 2016 in which I was invited back as a guest teacher to Liz to assist and co-facilitate the next round of YTTs. Steve helped me understand the importance and value of the Hatha Yoga system and it was from his guidance that I began to practice (and thereby understand) some of the subtler aspects of the yogic process. Through the application of these techniques and methods, I was able to appreciate (retrospectively) the incredible power and transmission of the Dhuni.

Fast forward to now, and the completion of the EMBODIMENT retreat, that is the subject of this blog post. My tangental story-time is valuable in-so-far as much as helping us reach a greater understanding into the nature of "the work" . It is almost 7 years later and many, many hours of research, practice, and investigation into the true nature of what I am calling "the work". Why is this important to share? It could be helpful for one's own process and experimentation. For me, I am doing this work not to escape my reality but to become a better player in the game. Wildly expansive and cosmic realizations can lead us into realizing the hilarity of our existence and the redundancy of my attempts to explain it (after all, if All is One, who am I trying to explain this to?) Even telling my story is hilarious! But perhaps you, as me, or some aspect of me out there is looking to find "me" again, and this post might help that soul make its way home. As Ram Dass said "we are all just walking each other home".

So - what is "the work"? Even trying to explain it has taken me paragraphs of story telling, and no real direct pointers. There are texts on this subject. Even Yoga, as a metaphysical system and esoteric sciences, which does a wonderful job of explaining the "point" and goal of it all, can only suggest. The real work is in doing it.

As far as I can so-far tell, we must actually, willingly, and voluntarily seek to understand what it means to be truly in "the moment". To be a fully embodied Now. This is an on-going process. It is a process of self-discovery, refinement, understanding, application, questioning, investigating... and at-times downright exhausting. It is far easier to go into autopilot and say "well that's just the way things are!". It is far easier to allow our traumas to take over our body, to become subject to the karmas that have befallen us, instead of taking a conscious choice to literally step out of the world of form and return ourselves to the unmanifest bliss of that-which-is-beyond-the-world. To unplug from our psychology - the part of us that tells us the world is real and that everything we see and experience is who we are - takes a degree of willingness that few people have. This is just my observation - it has no judgment. If you're reading this, merely due to the fact that you have gotten this far tells me that you have enough of a curiosity to investigate further. I think that this is worth recognizing, as this curiosity to investigate is part of the requirement that I am talking about.

EMBODIMENT was an experience of investigation. It was a process of immersing ourselves into the yogic process, guided by the eight limbs of our great sage Patanjali, referencing the famous text of the Yoga Sutras, and supported by practices passed to us by our predecessors. Sadhana, satsang, and sangha were our pillars - aka, practice, enlightened discussion, and inspiring company.

In conclusion, I give so many thanks to those in attendance. The souls who've chosen to commune in such a special way. To turn away from the world and put their attention to the most precious resource of all - their own undivided life-energy. Life-energy before it is scattered about into the life with the countless duties we have. I give thanks to those who are practicing, bringing themselves back to the Moment, learning to become fully embodied vessels of light and consciousness, and for those keeping the torch of these teachings alive. It is a great honor to walk alongside all of you on this journey of awakening to the Truth of Who We Are, of what this all is. It is a great honor to do "the work" and I give thanks to all those who've gone before us and paved the way so that we can learn and grow ourselves. I feel blessed to simply be walking this path; blessed that there is even a path to walk.

All my gratitude to the path.

Ramachandra pada jay sharanam

I take refuge in the knowing of the Heart of hearts.

I take refuge in the path itself.

Om Namah Sivaya

I bow to the ineffable one, the Light beyond the light.

Om Shanti Shiva Shakti

Peace to God and Goddess as One.

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