A little more than a week ago we finished our 3 week 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training with Keepers of the Earth.
I will do my best to generate some words that convey the teaching of the experience for you all.
First of all -- WOW. I am blown away by the level of involvement, participation, willingness, curiosity, and deep inner investigation demonstrated by each of the students for this training.
Each person showed up to this experience with 100% of themselves. This made it possible, I think, to do more "work" than was anticipated. And work we did!
The power and strength of the sangha is something that cannot be underestimated. Each time people gather with a common interest, a field is created that supports the completion of the mission. For us at this YTT, the mission was to become self-empowered, self-initiated, self-Realized "Keepers of the Earth" Yoga Teachers.
I think we did a damn good job.
It makes me wonder about the real possibilities embedded in yoga practice. I'm learning so much about what it is we are doing or attempting to do in our study and investigation into this topic of "yoga". More importantly, perhaps, I am witnessing the affect and have witnessed the affect of having people together for a period of time focused on the process of yoga and the methods proposed therein.
What I hope to share here with you is some of my own musings and processes around what's actually happening when we gather and do this (yoga) together. I still don't really know (I mean, I have my own conclusions), and although I don't have all the answers, I think I am getting some important data that is relevant for discussion, analysis and documentation.
I'd start here by stating the obvious and simple fact that a group investigation into Yoga is a shared group process and experimentation where each participant is attempting to understand cognitively but also experience the whole point of "Yoga" --- unity, or union. As we know, Yoga is a framework for understanding, experiencing and reverse engineering the process of a human being attempting to realize the ultimate goal of existence. It is consciousness attempting to experience consciousness. In modern science and Newtonian physics, our viewpoint of the world is invariably mechanistic. The Western mind has believed that consciousness sprung out of biology, as in consciousness is a byproduct of the brain. According to Yoga metaphysics, consciousness descends INTO and through the brain to interpret the world, and "the world" is essentially a projection of the mind. The Absolute or Supreme Reality is not found in the world "out there" but rather can be only discovered through a yogic process of internalizing one's awareness and following the outward-bound threads of life back to their Source. When we come together as a group to attempt this massive experiment -- perhaps the greatest science experiment of all time, to understand the "Source of Life" -- we have the framework and methodology of Yoga as a container to guide and hold our experience.
It feels important to state that this path is not absent of dangers and pitfalls. We are talking about the greatest journey of all journeys -- the epic mono-myth of the human condition. We are attempting to summit THE mountain -- to understand and experience the very wellspring of Creation from which our lives (and all lives) spring forth. To unravel and un-do the tangled knots of the mind and psychological complexes that make up what we think of as "us" and return back to the cosmic polyp of unitary consciousness. It is the process of undoing all processes and anything that has ever separated us from Source Consciousness. Of course it is going to be a "process"! Of course it will be challenging!
As we proceed inward to the innermost cave of the Heart -- the locus of one's personal awareness which acts as a sort of bridge to the Absolute -- the entirety of one's mental landscape & internal environment becomes illuminated and is thus able to be observed. If one is unable to relax in the face of their own internal processes, subtle contractions of mental and psychic energy may cause us to become "trapped" in particular memories, feelings or psychological realities. Relaxation IN intensity is the engagement developed through yogic practices such as asana, pranayama, kriya and mantra. All of these tools are different modalities which cause energy to flow and move through the mind-body system. We are given the chance to then learn how to "manage" this flowing energy by allowing and letting go of inner resistance to the flowing life-force. This is how we learn to direct and control shakti as opposed to It controlling and directing us. Shakti is the universal principle of energy which animates us -- She is the river we have stepped into when we took birth and She is the pulsing current which pulses life through our veins. As long as we are alive we are both bound by Her and indebted to Her, and the yogis are ones who try to understand how this current flows.
Kundalini is the phenomenon of transcendent evolutionary energy which is harnessed through these practices and the yogic process, which refers to the movement of life-force up and away from egoic thinking and mundane mentality. Kundalini is shakti that is moving towards the Absolute, towards transcendence, towards the "Ultimate." If our life-force becomes trapped or"stuck" by our egoic mind, self-limitation is the resulting mental process. Over-identification with the small self is shakti that is moving away from the Absolute and is swirling in a temporary whirlpool of separation. This is known as ahamkara in Sanskrit, or the "I-am action". Creating a sense of "I, me, mine" enables our ego to create a temporary membrane between the ego and life where a person can then be a separate individual as opposed to an interconnected part of a Greater Whole. When this happens, doubt, fear, carelessness, sluggishness, resistance all creep in to become the internal experience of the practitioner and therefore the "result" of their yogic experiment. The separate individual is like a hand cut off from the body trying to make its way back but ill-equipped to make the return. As much as it may "try", it remains separate and ultimately confused as to cause of its suffering.
You can think of Kundalini shakti as the flow of life-force energy like a river straight back to the Ocean and the flow of ahamkara as the flow of life-force energy that get trapped in little eddies and side streams. If the yogic processes is clearly understood (re:embodied), when life-force gets trapped on the side and is no longer fully contributing to the great river of life, there is a quicker and more precise adjustment in the individual for him or her to enter back into alignment and "flow". All of our practices and the teachings of yoga are meant to support this.
This is why the Yoga tradition clearly states the 5 obstacles to Yoga in the Yoga Sutras, putting it very plainly that the first obstacle is avidya, or ignorance. When whatever we are witnessing in our mental landscape is mistakenly identified as REAL, our mind subsequently becomes completely entangled with the thing itself. As it is said in the Yoga Sutras, if the Seer confuses its True Nature, the mind becomes the "thing" that is seen (YS 1.3). Our entire Reality conforms around a subjective experience that, when investigated carefully, is revealed to be a temporary state of mind. When this happens, our entire experience of life shifts away from transcendence ("transcendence" being "our" river returning to the Great Ocean). If & when our experience shifts from transcendence & unity, the result is separation. When in separation, the ego is now pitted against life and engaged in the perennial battle of strategy, manipulation, fear, and other ego-centric "I, me, mine" tactics that ultimately lead to reinforcing the ego's position.
The paradox here is that only by learning how to let go, over and over again, can we become familiar with the process of actually releasing our grip on any and all tightly wound identities which will thereby allow our "personality" to breathe and relax into Life. Letting go means acknowledging the illusion of the ego, which is no easy process. Oftentimes we can become so identified with our ego that it feels more real and true than the Absolute. This over-identification can become so calcified and crystallized into our neurology and nervous system that it takes deep inner purification to begin to release the vice-like grip of the ego. However, the methods of Yoga are designed to generate enough shakti to burn through the impurities that bind us (tapas). The yogic system explains the process with succinct and clear teachings. Knowing these concepts (cognitively) doesn't make it an easier as our entirely neurology must adjust to vibrate with the experience of flow. As it is said in the Yoga tradition, knowledge in the form of direct experience is a direct path to liberation. What this means is that once you taste the fruit of your work (as in, you have "let go", even if only temporarily), your organism now has more evidence to assist you in moving towards greater and greater degrees of "letting go" in the future. We experience the bliss of releasing the ego and can temporary enter the stream of Life and Nature. This may happen fleetingly or for more extended periods of time. Each time we do it, each time we enter the vast, mysterious (and often terrifying) Unknown, we get better at it.
As it is said, this is a process, and as one of my teachers would say -- "try not to draw any hasty conclusions." We are talking about "Truth" with a capital T. Words on a blog post aren't going to cut it. No one can say explicitly what "this" is. Scripture and anecdote may only be so helpful. Experience and experimentation is necessary, along with repetition and sincerity of effort.
For me, although it has only been 9 years of my life that I've dedicated to this path, and only with absolute sincerity, devotion and "no-turning-back" since 2016, it feels truthful to say that "the juice is worth the squeeze".
What is the other option? Now that I have accumulated enough experiences to see myself, and to see where I am getting stuck behind my own BS, I am given true choice.
In the light of completing of my first ever Yoga Teacher Training with Keepers of the Earth, I suppose what I'd like to say now in summary is that I am grateful for these teachings and I am grateful to those who want to study them with me. I look forward to seeing how the graduates of KotE YTT take this out into the world, and I am appreciative for their loving contributions to the cosmic flow.