I find myself in a lovely rhythm this week on Koh Phangan. Two weeks ago I moved to a new place, high in the jungle and extremely private. I have a lovely sea view from my bed and French doors that open to a large seating and practice space. The beach was nice place to start, but its energy can be distracting and I’m pleased to have made the move towards a more secluded abode.
I wake early, meditate, do my tapas (spiritual commitments), read, and enjoy a nice breakfast of fruit and tea. I am practicing Hatha Yoga and Pranayama with a teacher and class each day from 12-4. I’ve progressed to level 3 at Agama and am very fortunate to have the wonderful and talented Kirsten as my teacher. She is a true Yogini, very inspiring and dedicated to her students. Her emphasis is on meditation, stillness, and deepening. I feel an affinity with her aspirations and style and am extremely grateful for her teaching.
As you progress in the levels here, the emphasis shifts from knowledge to practice, and I’m loving it. We’ve had several classes of nearly three and a half hours in length, holding asanas for as long as 10 minutes, practicing sublimation techniques, breathing exercises and meditation. I often feel like I might float away when I walk out of the hall. Agama Yoga is an incredibly transformational practice and it’s so beautiful to watch both myself and others open and explore their true nature, remove blockages and fears and journey down the road of realization together.
There is a growing awareness of my subtle body (prana-maya-kosha). This is the one you can’t read about in any school book and science will deny its existence because they cannot measure it. Yet we all know it’s there, and countless sages have spoken and taught about it. You first have to work on modifying blockages at a gross level in your physical body, removing toxins like alcohol, marijuana, caffeine, and focusing on diet, sleep and general lifestyle improvements. Then you have a platform for exploring the intricate energetic phenomena that is our subtle body, a body so much wider and expansive than our physical one. In many ways its like being an infant and learning to use one’s body for the first time – often stumbling and running into things, having difficulty navigating in the world. Yet as I practice more and more with this, there are new pathways opening to me, new ways of knowing myself and being in this world. There is a feeling of coming back home to a true self, not the one we have been taught or believe that we are, but the one that we actually feel and know that we are. This is the body connected with prana (the subtle life force that pervades everything) and begins connecting us with everything else.
Agama is a tantric yoga school – and there is incredible insight into the sexual energies, raising and subliming them towards the ultimate desire of the union of consciousness with its own luminosity, wherein all appearance is recognized as your deep, blissful nature, or true Self. Tantra focuses on the polarities of Shiva and Shakti, their interplay and communion. Last week I participated in an event known as a tantric transfiguration. I first got together with the men to learn how the event worked – after some time we entered a dimly lit hall where 40 women were sitting in a large circle. The men all took their seats and we began. The women were wearing a dress based on their element (earth=yellow, water=blue, fire=red, air=white). All of them looked incredible. The men remained in their seats, the women traveled around the circle. Every three minutes a new woman would appear before me, present her mudra (often a very provocative gesture indicating where her energies were), then I would take her hands, seat her very close to me. We would sit facing each other, staring into each other’s eyes without blinking or looking away for several minutes. I’m not sure exactly how to describe what was happening – but it was powerful. In those few minutes you could see and feel so much: openness, love, rigidity, pain, longing, hurt, passion, confusion, questioning, seeking, wanting, denying, on and on and on. When is the last time you stared into your lover’s eyes for three minutes without moving? Imagine doing this with 40 (mostly strangers) people without stopping. Something happens. From what I understand, transfiguration means to see another as a sublime manifestation of the Divine, to go beyond the limitations set by human personality, to embrace in the consciousness sphere all the perfect aspects manifested or yet unmanifested which lead love spontaneously to elevated, superior levels.
I spend a lot of time alone- focusing on what’s right in front of me. Cooking my own meals, reading and watching spiritual movies. I’ve been careful about my social life here – one can easily lose focus on practice, engaging in the almost nightly events or constant distractions of being on an island in paradise. I’m no hermit either, I enjoy company and have found a small group of people whom I really enjoy spending time with, discussing the simultaneous beauty and suffering of this spiritual journey together, our aspirations and fears. One relationship in particular has actually changed the course of my life and has been a deeply moving, opening and incredible experience. One bestowed with grace, wonder and love. I could fill pages with more about this and the discoveries occurring within me but these words are more appropriate for a private conversation.
Time to go.