When I first started practicing yoga, I did so out while inspired by quite selfish and vain reasons. Looking back, I can reflect and contemplate honestly, and I am happy to share what I've learned along the way. I do so with the hope that my message will reach anyone who can relate to my story and also shares a similar intention as me. After all, I believe we are all inspired to live "better" lives. I believe life has gifted us with this great blessing -- the blessing of wanting to do better, to be better, to live better. The word "better" here is of course subject; however, we can certainly turn to scripture as an authority to understand the great plight of human nature as religion has been time-and-again an elaborate invention to protect the human psyche from its -- if left to its own devices -- deranged condition. I say this all the time and I'll repeat it here: we are all a little f*cked up, BUT we are also carrying within us the seed for greatness; a seed of absolute potential and goodness; an innate spark of the divine that motivates us to seek greener grass and calmer weather. Perhaps this search for "better" is an inherent part of life and one thats necessitates all of creation. All I know is that this was the search that motivated my first yoga class ever... and now here I am, more than 8 years later, having created my entire life around this path without looking back (okay, maybe once or twice).
As I had mentioned above, my first motivations were plagued by selfish desires and motivations. On some level, for sure, I was seeking body-image stuff. I wanted to look healthy and fit and do all the postures "well" and aesthetically. The first 6 months of my yoga asana practice -- which was, on average, about 2.5-3 hours a day in the studio -- I pursued glorified images of my self. Somewhere around the 6 month mark (I think) I started to experience a deeper understanding about what was happening as I was practicing. At least a small portion of me began to be directed inward and the outer "form" no longer was as relevant. I paid more attention to my breath and to the feeling of the breath in the body. I still struggled and sweated through my practices, but there was an inner equipoise slowly emerging.
Looking back, I realize how important the initial struggle was for me. I was needing to burn out some pretty dense karmas in my self and in my physical body. I was still relatively "dense" in the sense that my sensitivity and the amount of space I actually had for life to happen freely was limited. Much of my life was under the control of my ego-spells and overly mechanistic ways of viewing everything -- including my relationships, my own body, and virtually everything around me. To put it simply: I was rigid and controlling. This helped me have the lethal combination of hyper-discipline and ambition which led to rapid success of material things. But on a spiritual level it left no room for the Mysterious force beyond on my mind. More importantly, it left little room for Love to flourish. Eventually that "mysterious force beyond the mind" started to make Itself known but I had to grind it out for a bit, first.
About a year into practicing I got a ticket to Costa Rica to attend my first Yoga Teacher Training. It was here in this program that I was opened wide to the vast universe of Yoga beyond the poses. My spirituality and my authentic connection to the throbbing inner pulse of life expanded considerably through this first YTT, which took place at The Sanctuary in August 2015. I give gratitude and love to my teachers Naga and Liz who were stewarding a 40-acre piece of land in the middle of the jungle and who revealed to me a different way of living. Me, being a city boy, I was influenced tremendously by spending 3 weeks in an off-grid cabin, practicing yoga in the open air shala, and performing traditional fire rituals every week. The single most important thing I received from this experience was a real sense of falling in love with my spiritual practice and the path ahead of me. Before that, I kinda just went to yoga class because it helped me feel better and I thought it was good exercise. After this experience, I think I "saw" for the first time the true benefit of yoga sadhana, which of course leads to one falling deeply in love with the path.
This initial YTT was an initiatory moment and a rite of passage for me. Let me explain what I mean by this, as these 3 weeks of being in Costa Rica were incredibly formative for me, but so were the practice sessions leading up to and after this trip. As best as I can understand and explain in words, I got to "see" that everything I wanted was possible if I could commit to the process of attainment. In yoga, this "process of attainment" is called sadhana. What sadhana really describes is the set of spiritual disciplines that you submit yourself to in order to grow and progress on a spiritual level. This does not mean, necessarily, material achievement. However, what I saw in my own life is that my material achievements started to actually align with my inner spiritual principles. My motivations for... well, everything.... started to be mirrored by my true aspiration. My true aspiration? To experience more love in my life. Period. I didn't care about money, status, fame, or even cool fun things to do. I realized that my deepest desire was to LOVE and be LOVED.
I wanted to unleash the force of love within me, and to get rid of everything that was holding that love back from its highest purest expression.
When I finally saw that yoga practice was a tool, a vehicle, to help purify my system of the inhibiting thought patterns and tendencies that closed me off from love and obstructed its flow through my vessel, that's when it happened. My entire attitude towards life shifted and priorities became so obvious and clear that there was nothing else to do. The path became simultaneously extremely narrow -- because there was One goal -- and also vastly wide, as that One goal could be applied to LITERALLY everything. My entire life became focused around that singular, central mission -- "to unleash the force of love within me."
It's been years and thousands of hours of practice, and the goal remains the same. My understanding of what Love is and what it does, how it works continues to evolve and change. I am learning to be less and less afraid of Love. To allow it through me more easily and readily. To allow it to take the forms life wants it to take, aside from my ego's preferences.
You see, Love can take any form -- anger, sadness, joy, confusion, destruction, creation. There is a reason the Tantrikas worshipped so many different forms of the Goddess. They all saw Her as evolutes of the One Great Love, and yet understood that She had to take different forms at different times. Just like a mother who loves her children. The mother will do what is required of her, by Life -- even if it is uncomfortable -- to ensure that her children grow to reach their fullest expression.
The great intelligence of the function between Love and Life is not something that can be understood in a mere blog post, but it is felt and known to be true by those who sense it. It seems obvious to state that Life loves us, and places opportunities in our life to help us grow more and become more than we are. Just like a Mother with Her Children.
I think that tuning into this vast intelligence is what is meant by yogic spirituality. To learn how to become an embodiment of this wisdom -- by purifying our channels so that anything that is not an expression of Life's Great Love can be burnt in the sacred fire one's spiritual effort. This is a monumental mission, and one that I believe all great saints and sages have referenced. The choice to align with Divinity takes away our selfishness and puts us on the path of being Of Service to, and in endearing (and perhaps enduring) alignment with, the Creator.
These are big topics to consider.
Is there a lesson here?
My concluding remark is to consider where are our minds still dominating and controlling, and thereby preventing us from being in absolute LOVE, awe and wonder towards the Mystery. This love, awe and wonder towards the Mystery is the curiosity that creates space for deep listening to occur -- where we are actually and lovingly paying attention to what is happening right now, as if this is the most important thing in the whole world. And this is what it means to fall IN love with spiritual life. We are not machines and nothing here is on accident. Everything has an incredibly divine purpose -- if we only look, pay attention, and empty ourselves of what we think .... we can then fill up on nectar of immortality and elixir of life that is the foundation of our myths, which is the foundation of religion. This "nectar of immortality", the Kingdom of God as it was described Biblically, is merely the Eternal Moment where one goes to surrender their individual self, to die the temporal death, and yet be reborn into Heaven -- the frequency of Being which is, inevitably, blissful, true, and self-existent. Sat-chit-ananda.
All paths lead to the same place -- home to the Heart (back to the Source of Creation). It's just a manner of whether or not we see the mysterious way our life is trying to get us to wake up to this simple and yet obvious truth.
"Let go..." the Mother whispers to us as we cling tightly to our material toys.
"There is something better for you on the other side."