Doubt, Belief, Faith and Trust

This morning I picked up an Osho book that I read a few years ago called Tantra: The Supreme Understanding. I found a passage that really spoke to me, where Osho distinguishes between several related concepts: Doubt, Belief, Faith and Trust. I think it is fascinating how he considers doubt and belief opposite sides of the same coin, doubt being the more negative view and belief the more positive. Yet both are in denial of something else, “againstness” in Osho’s words rather than acceptance. I think the prevailing view is that you either doubt something or believe it. However if you consider these two concepts similar, then this opens one up to the question: “If I am not doubting or believing, what am I doing?”.  This is where Trust and Faith come in: Faith is a trusting, a deep trusting, a love. It is neither for or against.

The reason this spoke to me so much was that in the past few months I’ve been wrestling with doubt. Several events in my life created the conditions for a doubting mind, and reading this I had the realization that the events in my life have simply moved my attention from belief to doubt.  While the Believing-mind is accompanied by more joyful states then the Doubting-mind, both are in effect limited ways of being in the world. As Osho states, giving attention to doubt feeds it, and suppressing it will only cause it to live in your subconscious.  My experience is that doubt is an extremely corrosive attitude, how then can we get rid of it?  By moving our attention and our energy towards trust, by being indifferent to the doubting mind. Only by being indifferent can doubt disappear completely.

The events in my life have shown me that the only reliable way to be in the world is to trust. Trusting all appearance, good or bad, being indifferent. But not indifferent as in not caring. Indifferent as an absolute acceptance. This trust is the beginning of deep faith, and the very foundation of love.

Please read Osho’s own words below. To put this in context, Osho is speaking about a spiritual students readiness to receive teachings.  Enjoy:

…And your readiness means that doubt should simply disappear from the mind. It should not be suppressed, you should not try to defeat it, because defeated it will remain in you; suppressed, it will remain part of your unconscious and it will go on affecting you. Don’t fight your doubting mind, don’t suppress it. Rather, on the contrary, you simply bring more and more energy into trust. You simply be indifferent to your doubting mind, nothing else can be done.

Indifference is the key: you simply be indifferent. It is there – accept it. Bring your energies more and more towards trust and love – because it is the same energy which becomes doubt; it is the same energy which becomes trust. Remain indifferent to doubt. The moment you are indifferent your cooperation is broken, you are not feeding it – because it is through attention that anything is fed. If you pay attention to your doubt, even if you are against it, paying attention to it is dangerous because the very attention is the food; that is your cooperation. One has just to be indifferent, neither for nor against: don’t be for doubt, don’t be against doubt.

So now you will have to understand three words. One word is ”doubt,” another word is ”belief,” the third word is ”trust” or ”faith”. Doubt is a negative attitude towards anything. Whatsoever is said, first you look at it negatively. You are against it, and you will find reasons, rationalizations how to support your ”againstness.” Then there is the mind of belief. It is just like the mind of doubt only standing upside down; there is not much difference. This mind looks at things positively and tries to find reasons, rationalizations how to support it, how to be for it. The mind who doubts suppresses belief; the mind who believes suppresses doubt – but they both are of the same stuff; the quality is not different.

Then there is a third mind whose doubting has simply disappeared – and when doubt disappears, belief also disappears. Faith is not belief, it is love. Faith is not belief because it is not half, it is total. Faith is not belief because there is no doubt in it, so how can you believe? Faith is not a rationalization at all: neither for nor against, neither this nor that. Faith is a trusting, a deep trusting, a love. You don’t find any rationalizations for it, it simply is so. So what to do?

Don’t create belief against faith. Just be indifferent to belief and doubt both, and bring your energies towards more and more love; love more, love unconditionally. Not only love me, because that is not possible: if you love, you simply love more. If you love, you simply exist in a more loving way – not only towards the master, but towards everything that exists around you: towards the trees and the stones, and the sky and the earth. You, your being, your very quality of being, becomes a love phenomenon. Then trust arises.

Going Deeper

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.

Our Pilgrim is on the Move

Two years ago I built this website for the purpose of documenting my travels abroad and here I am again, on the cusp of leaving home and seeking something unknown abroad. In one week, I depart for Koh Phangan, Thailand, where Agama Yoga awaits.

My initial pilgrimage sought to explore the world, to uncover hidden corners of the planet, to create new experiences and memories.  My trip in 2009 allowed me to exhaust a long-held myth I had about discovering some form of realization through the accumulation of experience.

Today I have a much different aspiration: Unwinding all of this experience, the false identification of self and my delusion about the actual nature of reality. I realized over time that my journey was much more an inward one than anything external or material. My search has narrowed significantly from the entire world, to the spiritual practices of Zen Buddhism, Tantra and Vajrayana. I’ve discovered that this unwinding process is best accomplished through a life not filled with experience, activities and commitments, rather through self-enquiry and meditation. As Yuan Wu so eloquently stated in my last post:

Sit upright and investigate reality. Within an independent awareness, you must constantly step back from conventions and perceptions and worldly entanglements. Look to the void and trace its outline. Take your head out of a bowl of glue!

If all one needs to do is sit upright and investigate reality, why am I traveling half-way around the globe?  Fair question that I will attempt to answer. Let me back up a bit. 

Almost one year ago, on May 16th 2010, I returned home from India, completing a year (mostly) abroad. The journey brought me back to the same place I began, yet things had shifted significantly within me. I vigorously began practicing Zen, both at a monastery in Crestone and at the Boulder Zen Center, developing strong relationships with the Sangha (group of practitioners), and the teachers. After spending a month in a rigorous monastic setting in the fall, I considered a longer-term stay, considered joining the annual 90-day practice period in the winter. Yet, worldly entanglements and my own fear of such a practice prevented me from moving forward. I was involved in a romantic relationship that has since dissolved, a relationship that I believe represented many of the aspects of worldliness that I refused to let go of.  Once again ignoring intuition, I was drawn towards societal ideas of what it means to live in this world, to relate to another person and basically all of the shoulds that are based on nothing but one’s own projections of society and ego.

Part of me wants to say that I’ve been idling the past 3 or 4 months, drifting in this sort of purposeless manner. This is true when examined from the lens of normal that society and we produce for ourselves. I have to step back and remind myself that this is all part of a greater process of renunciation for me, detaching from ideas of self and the world that do not benefit anyone, that only seek to perpetuate a process and mode of existence that perpetuates a world of suffering and discontent.  I meditate a lot, I sit upright and examine my experience. I am constantly trying to step back from worldly entanglements and perceptions.  I examine all the presumptions and ideas of how the world works, what is reality and why I am here.  I attempt to infuse intentions of compassion and wisdom into my body, speech and mind.  Despite on paper being a 31 year old unemployed guy from Boulder with nothing going for him, I feel this tremendous sense of change within, of a new world unfolding before me, filled with Possibility, Beauty and Love.

This still has nothing to do with answering my initial question of why go anywhere? My teacher has told me that practicing in a single stream provides the best results- why swim in another? My answer to this is that my exploration of Agama is, while primarily spiritual in nature, also an opportunity for me to pursue a vocation in the world that has meaning for me. I am considering a meditation teachers training in 2012.  My idea involves bringing meditation and self-enquiry to more people, via any channel possible: Yoga, Corporate Training, workshops, seminars, private consulting, blogging, etc.  It is very loose and evolving at this point, but there is a sense of momentum and purpose for me right now. My intention this summer is to explore the school, evaluate the teachers and the programs, to ensure this is the type of commitment I want to make in early 2012.  This summer I plan to take a number of courses, including Vira Training, Hridaya Meditation Retreat, Kashmiri Shaivism and Naturopathic and Yogic Healing, in addition to continuing my second and third month of studies in the Agama curriculum.

There you have it.  I have a one-way ticket to Thailand, a new Yoga mat and a big heart.

The Middle Way

Its all downhill from here. Only 3 weeks left in this journey – both my 3 month return to India and my original 1 year around the world trip are coming to an end. Most of my remaining time will be spent in a 10-day silent meditation retreat, the rest in transit and appreciating the freedom and simplicity of life in India.

For the past 4 weeks I have been in the small hill town of McLeod Ganj (commonly referred to abroad as Dharamsala) in Northern India, the home of the exiled Tibetan community and the 14th Dalai Lama. Despite strong pulls to the contrary, I’ve managed to stick to my original plan, 5 weeks in Rishikesh and 5 weeks in McLeod Ganj. These pulls have generally come in the form of not being comfortable in my own skin, seeking distraction and change from my purpose here: developing inward. I’ve considered coming home early, traveling to various tourist destinations to the north such as Manali and Kashmir, but I’ve always been able to recognize that acting to fulfill these desires was not going to fulfill my only desire: knowing myself.

And how exactly does one find themselves in a small city in India? I can’t give you the answer but I can share my attempt. I’ve committed to myself to meditating, practicing yoga, volunteering and eating well. Beyond this I am reading, spending time on my balcony reflecting and watching the world go by. I’ve meditated daily now for almost 6 weeks, sometimes for only 20 minutes, other days up to 2 hours. One of the most powerful things I left Rishikesh with was a posture for my legs that allows me to sit for extended periods of time. Looking back this was one of the greatest inhibitors to my meditation, preventing me from sitting still and longer than 20 minutes comfortably. My personal yoga practice has been strong, although it is so much more difficult to do completely on my own, without the guidance of a teacher and a schedule. I’ve managed to practice regularly, taking a day off a week or when feeling very complacent, just focusing on a few individual asanas to work on tension in my body or in my heart. I’ve avoided the backpacker hangout scene, an easy distraction on the road. I’ve fallen into small daily routines of meditation, yoga, breakfast, writing, walking, coffee and reading, volunteering, kora, dinner. I have enjoyed getting to know several other long-term visitors and we’ll get together on occasion for tea or for a walk.

My reading has been focused on Buddhism, Tantra and Yoga. I am opening to new ideas and concepts, reforming my worldview on things such as reincarnation, the true meaning of karma and the tantric approach of embracing life. I’ve been delving into concepts of compassion, devotion and the master/disciple relationship. I’m building a base for which I’d like to explore in greater detail during my meditation retreat and hopefully carry over to Boulder. I feel so very fortunate to be given this gift of retreat and solitude for a deep examination of my life. I feel very rich and fulfilled in a non-traditional way. The human life is such a wonderful gift and I want to experience every second of it.

Volunteering is what brought me here and it has provided a wonderful experience. When I first arrived, I ‘shopped’ around at various centers before finding a good fit, eventually settling into afternoon English conversation classes at Learning and Ideas for Tibet (LIT). Each afternoon a group of Tibetans (half monks and nuns, half lay persons) and tourists get together, work through a set of questions proposed by the facilitator and then the students take turns reading out loud to the class. We always have some fun at the end when the new teachers are required to sing a song to the class and one of the Tibetan students usually returns the favor. The overall atmosphere is very jovial and energetic. I’ve gotten to know a few of the students very well, sharing time after class or simply conversing if we finish the questions early. Almost all of them have endured the arduous journey overland through the Himalayas to escape the Chinese oppression in Tibet. They are separated from their families, homeland and culture. I really connect with the people in class here because I have the strong feeling that if I was born in Tibet, I too would have risked my life to escape to freedom. There is this fire that burns inside them that is very, very touching. Today was my final day and the students gave me a ceremonial scarf and “Free Tibet necklace”, sang several beautiful Tibetan songs and gave me what I am most thankful for, their beautiful smiles and thank you’s. The language difficulties really allowed me to connect with this group at a heart level – and it was very beautiful and touching. About two weeks ago a major earthquake occurred in Tibet, killing and injuring thousands of people. Many of the students have loved-ones or friends that were injured and throughout the classes they were talking about their thoughts and feelings on the situation, their families health and concerns about the Chinese response. There have been various candlelight vigils and prayer meetings at the main temple to honor the victims. All of this has made me value public service so much more and I hope to continue giving part of myself to the service of others when I return home.

There have been times when I feel like I am getting too hard on myself, expecting results or harshly self-judging certain behaviors. Its then that I realize I need to lighten up and take a step back from my practice, breathing the beautiful mountain air or doing the small things I enjoy like a cold beer with friends or movie on my laptop with a bag of potato chips. And while for the most part I’ve avoided fulfilling my supposed role as a ‘busy tourist’,  I of course have had plenty of distractions including my first ever cricket match, many long walks through the countryside and even a day of climbing to the small outpost of Triund, a day’s journey straight up the mountain. I took an Indian cooking course and am very excited about making Malai Kofta and Palak Paneer for all of my friends in Boulder! Whenever I feel frustrated or as if I want to be somewhere else, I simply remind myself of how fortunate this opportunity is, of how when life sinks its teeth into me in the future I will crave and long for this precious time in India.

Much of the time I contemplate how I want to exist when I return to Boulder. I’ve mentioned earlier that my last trip home was overwhelming in many ways – I came home exhausted and immediately fell into old habits and mentalities. This time I am much more energetically prepared, having developed a sort of neutrality that hopefully will prevent me from being tossed around in the waves of the high-paced, materialistic, self-focused nature of life in the West.  I plan to start slowly, carrying my daily practices with me, considering carefully any activities that will demand my time and energy and don’t include spending time with those that I love and those activities that nourish my soul.  I’m afraid my blog entries going forward aren’t likely to have the amazing photos and crazy stories that often accompany them. I find myself desiring simplicity, routine, home. My views on time and accomplishment have shifted drastically, I am no longer focused on getting somewhere or being anyone. I’m not sure what that will look like, but if I’m ever to find liberation I need to drop the many pursuits of the ego that have driven me in the past.

This post feels disjointed, as I feel like I am just touching the surface on many things before I retreat and say goodbye to technology and the world for 10 days. I hope it sheds a little light on what I’ve been up to and experiencing these past 4 weeks. I’m looking forward to the spring rain and flowers in Boulder.

Life in Rishikesh

Hi friends. I know I haven’t written or called or e-mailed in a while. That’s on purpose. This has been a calculated effort to dive deep into the land and practice of the Yogis, experimenting with life and self and soul without the energetic influence of my relationships and habits from home. I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to have stepped aside, to be purposely introspective and examining of everything I have called reality until this step of my journey. 

IMG_4506I’m nearing the end of my month long course and I will soon have the element of time returned to me where I can share many of the practices, postures, cleansings and spiritual insights that I have gathered. I have learned more about my body, mind and soul in one month than I have in any other single month in my life.

My life has been monastic in quality – with the exception of a single motor bike excursion I haven’t left the the quaint area of Swarg Ashram in Rishikesh. A brief insight into my daily life here:

7:00 Wake-up to the mixture of a cool morning breeze rattling the windows and children playing outside next door. I do my morning “Kriyas” which include scraping the tongue, cleansing the nasal passages and gums with rock salt and washing out the eyes with cold water.

7:15: My favorite part of the day. The walk from my guesthouse to the Yoga Ashram. Indians generally do not get started this early, so early morning is an extremely peaceful time when the morning light mixes with the first signs of motion on the street. My first hello is to the same cow that occupies the same space each and every morning, waiting for my orange peel. I provide the aforementioned and move on towards the yoga ashram, passing the bums pretending to be saddhus and nodding hello to the chai walla as I enter the ashram for morning meditation. A small group of 4-6 usually sit for the optional meditation and I find it an opportunity to set my intention for the day. The teacher usually reads a poem or small section of a book and off we go, asking who am I? for an hour.

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8:15: Meditation ends and I use my break to get a 10 cent cup of chai, eat a couple of oranges and mingle with the animals and fellow yoginis on their way to class. My favorite cow is usually around and walks up to me to say hello and get his orange peel. I generally sit between the cow and the dog in the photo below. The bums are usually trying to talk me into buying them a cup of chai in broken English and the monkeys are beginning to descend looking for unsuspecting people not carefully guarding their fruit. Turn your attention away for a second and poof!, a monkey will be happily snacking away on your food and grinning at you from a nearby rooftop or tree.

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8:30: Yoga! Practice usually lasts 2.5 hours, the first 30 minutes dedicated to answering questions and learning the technical details of a new asana (posture). We discuss which chakra(s) we are activating, where to focus our attention and various alternatives for the asana if it is too difficult. We learn the transformational and healing effects of the asana that come with extended practice. For example, improved abilities to give and receive love when focused on the heart chakra. We move into our full practice, which generally takes a total of two hours.

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11:30:  Moon Dance Cafe for for conversation and breakfast. A group of Nepalese guys run the place and they provide amazing food and service. Depending on how hungry I am, its either a bowl of muesli/fruit/curd/honey or a couple of eggs on toast, washed down with a lemon ginger honey tea. Usually I will mingle with various people from, class or town, discussing the Yoga practice or something else.

13:00-15:00: My only real down time of the day. Generally used for doing laundry, cleaning, shopping, checking e-mail or anything else to beat the heat.  The temperature in Rishikesh has been steadily increasing since my arrival – now in the mid 90’s during the high part of the day. The first week here I was wearing a jacket in the morning and evening, now that jacket is firmly packed away for the season.

15:15: Stop by the German Bakery to see Lila and his son, another Nepalese family who make killer Yak Cheese/Avocado/Tomato sandwiches and juices. I will usually find my friends Marcelo, Karina and Dave here discussing something New Agey – Gurus, Clairvoyance, Chakras, energy, on and on. I join in the fun and sip on either a pomegranate or mango juice and if alone, jot a few thoughts down in a notebook.

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16:00: Time for afternoon Yoga. Similar to the morning except we simply practice. We begin with Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutations), making 12 devotional salutations to the Sun. In the final six, we chant the various Sanskrit words for the Sun. Surya Namaskara allows me to scan my body and mind, let go of the various attachments and thoughts I’ve built up throughout the day and drop into practice. We then continue with our typical practice, usually doing different asanas in the afternoon, sometimes focused more specifically on a single chakra such as the heart or third-eye. Afternoon Savasana (final relaxation) is always very powerful for me and when I walk out of the ashram I generally need a few minutes to fully return to my body.

18:30: My favorite (I know I already said this!) part of the day: Taking the back roads from back to Moon Dance Cafe for dinner along a windy stone walled path lined with massive trees. The sun has just set, the birds are singing their evening love songs, the dogs and monkeys and cows are making their final preparations for night. I like to call this the Jewel of the Day, those waning moments between sunset and darkness that are charged with energy. As I reenter my body I try to walk meditatively, sometimes holding my hands at my navel as we do in the Zen tradition as a reminder for mindfulness. Once at Moon Dance I will say hello to my friends and usually take my food to go so I can return on time for evening lecture.

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19:00 – 21:00: Yoga Lecture time – various topics from the morals and ethics of Yoga, things like nonviolence (ahimsa), nonattachment, vegetarianism, karma yoga etc. We learn things like conscious dreaming (Nidra Yoga), music meditation and of course discourses on the many branches of Yoga. We discuss topics such as healing through Yoga, Brahmacharya (sexual continence) and tantra. Most of the lectures have been fantastic – I will discuss this more later when I review the entire first month. There is so much information that comes at you that you have to mine it – I found myself primarily focusing on the physical practice, pulling various items from the lectures that I could apply or incubate into my daily life. After lecture, I would sometimes have a juice with friends or simply return to my room for some reading or a movie to unwind, crawling into bed simultaneously exhausted and invigorated, looking forward to repeating it again tomorrow.

There you have it – nowhere near the action-packed adventure of 2009, but equally powerful on the subtler planes of existence. This time its much more about penetrating deep rather than seeing it all. Turning the lens inwards.

Namaste.

Calm as a Hindu Cow

I’m two weeks into my month-long Yoga intensive in Rishikesh. I feel as if this incredible unfolding is happening right before my eyes. Actually, the unfolding is occurring behind my eyes. Yoga, combined with a beautifully enriching spiritual community, mixed with the current state of my own path, throw in a small group of friends committed to sharing their own process and exploring the beauty of existence together have all come together at this amazing time in my life.

A cosmic unrolling I will call it, that at moments seems to accelerate change in myself and solidify a connection with the Divine. I’ve shaken off the stagnation that I was feeling at home, processing what I now know was caused by a lack of preparation and lack of energetic defense against the onslaught that is one’s past. I am, to the best of my abilities and intentions, back in the here and now. I plan to write about my time at home eventually, but I am still sitting with various aspects of it. Plus the here and now is here and now. 🙂

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Yoga practice has provided the underlying framework for this unrolling. But I’m not talking about the cartwheel Iron Yogi style of practice we have grown accustomed to in the West. Yoga this time refers to the ancient tradition of spiritual awakening first developed in India that morphed into Buddhism and continues to influence thought and culture in the East.

I was introduced to the Trika Yoga program from my friends Al and Nicole whom I met while traveling in Nepal. They participated in the introductory first month course in January and when I checked in with them to see how it was going, Nicole said “It makes me feel so much like a million bucks that if someone offered me a million bucks to quit I would say no." That, in addition reading this link on Trika’s website (answering yes to the 7 questions as the bottom), and I was SOLD! I still consider myself a Zen Buddhist, but I believe the physical aspects of certain Yogic practices (Zen developed from something called Yogacara (meaning one whose practice is Yoga)) are beautiful complements to my Zen practice.

A bit about the program – it (as many popular programs in India today) was developed by a Westerner who assimilated the teachings of many masters. Trika has a holistic approach that provides insight into several Yogic disciplines, primarily aligned with Hatha Yoga (Ha=Sun, Tha=moon), focusing on balancing cosmic and telluric energies in our energetic bodies through our  emissive and receptive functions (Yin and Yang), respectively. The text from Trika’s website:

An introduction to Hatha Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Laya Yoga, and Tantra Yoga. It also includes theory and practice on techniques from Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Nidra Yoga, and Bhakti Yoga, thus constituting a genuine example of Integral Yoga.

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Information and explanatory lectures are given on a variety of related topics such as: diet in Yoga, healing through natural methods, purification and cleansing techniques, Ayurveda, yin/yang balancing, relaxation, physiology and psychology in Yoga, mastery and transmutation of the sexual energy, Eastern philosophy, mental concentration, the use of music in Yoga, and meditation, to name but a few.

Yoga in general is not dogmatic and the ashram where I practice is dotted with photographs and quotes of masters from all disciplines – many Yogis and Hindu deities of course, but also Christ, Gandhi, Buddha, contemporary individuals who have gained realization in various forms.

One can become quite proficient in this Trika path – undergoing 5 years or so to become a certified teacher. The primary introduction lasts 3 months, with most instruction and practice coming in the first month, what I’ve committed to. The first month consists of a 28 day program, 6 days a week for 4 weeks. Each day is similar – the only difference being the new asana we learn in the morning and a unique lecture in the evening. The schedule is very intense and tiring. I’m in the ashram from 7:30-11:30 in the morning and then 4-9 in the evening. The morning begins with a 45 minute meditation, followed by short instructions on the new asana (posture) for the day. We then proceed to practice for approximately 2 hours. We repeat this in the afternoon, incorporating a series of sun salutations(Surya Namaskara) with devotional chanting to begin the practice in a symbolic act that is a complete surrender of oneself to God. We then proceed with the asana practice and once finished, we take a short break and move into a lecture on various yogic disciplines. Yogi Training 101 I like to call it.

I’ve found that the lectures are hit and miss – for example last nights was on the merits of vegetarianism of which I need no convincing. Some are also very high level morality issues that I’ve already spend a lot of time on in my Buddhist path. However – others, on various cleansing techniques, in-depth discussions on chakras, sublimation of energy, tantric sexuality and others are great. So I pick and choose which lectures to go to, tonight skipping a discussion on Non-Attachment in order to blog!

I pick gems out of the lectures to avoid intellectual overload (there is some contradiction in the teaching method as we are trying to get OUT of our heads and into our bodies and yet we are bombarded with 200 pages worth of techniques and philosophies…), working with these gems in my physical practice. This is where the gold nugget is. Spending 5-7 hours on a Yoga mat each day. Instead of running through 50 postures in 60 minutes like I do in Boulder, flexing muscles and treating Yoga like another competitive sport, we do a small series of Hatha Yoga postures generally holding them for 5-8 minutes each. We are taught about the flow of energy in each of these postures and which chakras are activated and how. For example, Padahastana, the first asana is the simple forward bend, touching your toes while keeping your legs straight. Peace of cake right? Try doing it for 8 minutes. It turns out to be one of my favorite postures as it activates your muladhara chakra (root) with telluric energy from the earth, providing a sense of grounding, security and stability. If my mind is full of chatter during the warming exercises, Padahastana usually drops me right into a place where I can practice.

I could go on forever about the postures but what I want to talk about is the subtle explorations that are going on in practice. The real goal here is to clear and activate all of your chakras, remove blockages, learn to sublimate energy from lower to higher (i.e. root to heart) chakras and ultimately to raise your level of consciousness to higher planes or vibrations. The truth is we all have access to this at any time and realized people don’t need to do a hundred asanas to get there… but for the rest of us it is a path to the destination. Once at the destination you realize you were always there and can drop all of the dissections of practice and chakras and all the rest.

One of the most incredible moments for me was an afternoon where I untied a sanskara, an impression derived from past experiences that form desires that influence future responses and behavior (karma). These are often stored in the physical body, far away from where the conscious mind can act or even be aware of them. While working on the emissive side (right/Yang) of Trikonasana (triangle) which activates aspects of the Manipura (navel) chakra such as inner balance, self confidence and inner harmony I began to be overwhelmed with emotion. We immediately moved into Bhujangasana (cobra pose) which arouses the anahata (heart chakra). At this point I started sobbing uncontrollably. I just let it go. There was no conscious thinking, emotional stimulus or anything at the level of the mind that could have caused this. I’ve really never experienced anything like this before. From experience I have a lot of blockage between my navel and heart chakras and this was just one step of many in the slow process of opening this channel. My mind wants to analyze it to death but I’ve just let it go, knowing that it is unexplainable. I’ve experienced other things that don’t make scientific sense and I’m afraid a little too personal and to share to the world.

I’m learning so much about my body, my impulses , my karma , my relationship to self, to others, to God.

Let the unrolling continue.