Friday, 12 October 2007

Yoga.....the path to liberation

Last night on channel 4 television there was a documentary on yoga. It was called 'a beginner's guide to yoga. It followed the efforts of Jane Middlemiss to get to the source of yoga by visiting India. Jane had done yoga for 12 years and wanted to go deeper. I was interested in this because after studying Mahayana Buddhism for 9 years I also wanted to go to India to understand more.

Like Jane I found myself in Varanasi which is a city deemed sacred by Hindus. What I found fascinating in this documentary was how resistant her mind was towards the process. It is like the mind wasn't concerned about the yoga in London because that somehow was not serious. Going to India and looking for a guru to go deeper was more serious. I have talked about how the mind hates meditation. It sabotages the process by increasing the number of thoughts that are generated in order to make the act of sitting still as difficult as possible. I have first hand experience of this. When I'm not meditating there are relatively few thoughts in my mind and it is calm. The minute I sit down to formally meditate it is like 'thought assault' with everything and anything.

What was fascinating about this programme was the little amount of coverage that was given to the spiritual energy that rests at the base of the spine of everyone. In the east it is called Kundalini. The west does not openly recognise this energy. During the programme it was acknowledged that raising this energy before the brain is ready to receive can cause lasting damage. There is a fine line between the mad man and the mystic. Tantric yoga is aimed at raising this energy and for that reason needs to be done with care and caution.

Jane was taken to meet a Guru who lives where bodies are cremated. The greatest fear of us as humans is the fear of death. Spiritual liberation is not possible while one is afraid of death. By living in a place where cremations are an everyday occurrence the yogi loses his/her fear of death and becomes liberated. She was introduced to one yogi and I immediately saw that he was genuine. So many in Varanasi are charlatans, mostly high on drugs. But this yogi was not like this. It was possible to see that Jane's mind didn't want to be there. It kept making silly comments and laughing while she was speaking with him. I wanted to scream 'just keep quiet and listen to him'. He showed her how to do the deepest yogic breathing. This is called Pranayama. There was something about this yogi that told me that he knew what he was talking about. At one stage he got exasperated with her and said 'you are like a child'. She didn't understand what he meant but I did. Her mind sensed the deep threat that was present and would do everything it could not to co-operate.

I watched it with my mum and it was so interesting. I was kind of saying 'she's missing such a valuable experience here' and mum was watching and not saying much. Then the yogi started to speak about the Kundalini and awakening the Kundalini and I really got interested. This is what I understand, not from Tantric yoga but because of a natural experience when on an intensive meditation retreat in Southern England in 1999. It was a rising of energy from the base of my spine which shifted everything. I don't label it Kundalini.

The yogi told Jane that he was going into his home and he went down some steps into what looked like a kind of underground cave and invited Jane to follow him. I understood that it was a place where he would be cut off from all distractions in order to generate the kind of focus and concentration necessary for this energy to rise. Jane started to go down and then lost her nerve and climbed back up. I was so exasperated. I couldn't believe that she wouldn't have gone for the experience. My mum though understood and when I exploded she said 'how could she go down into that pot-hole with that funny man'. All I could do was laugh. Looked at from a non-spiritual perspective this is exactly how it would look. But when you see things from a spiritual perspective you see it as an experience that would accelerate her own spiritual development if she would only have trusted the yogi.

What was interesting was her reaction when she came up to the surface. In spite of the calmness she had felt doing the pranayama with the yogi she proclaimed that he wasn't 'her type'. She then went off and spent £700 on a hand-made sapphire ring. Once she had it, she started crying saying that she didn't want 'things'. This was so fascinating to me and proved to me the power of the yogi she had left. The mind recognised the power also and in order to sabotage it created the desire for the material thing, once the material thing was got, it no longer brought any happiness. This is such a good illustration of the spiritual path and why it is so difficult to live in two worlds, the material and the spiritual. Yoga is the liberation from the material to allow the spiritual essence to emerge. Yoga is the letting go of me and mine in order to be free.

Jane saw other 'gurus' but to me they were all only there for the cameras. Watching it I felt such a yearning to go to Varanasi to find that yogi who was so powerful. Spending time with someone powerful like that accelerates one's own spiritual path. This is why people look for and take gurus. The most effective guru is one's inner voice but there are definitely spiritual people who can show the way and as the ego mind is clever and has no interest in the spiritual path, a guru carefully selected can be useful. The higher spiritual vibration of a guru can raise anothers vibration just by sitting with them. At the end of the programme when Jane was back in London reflecting on her visit she kind of said that the idea of yoga she had when she was in London is nothing like yoga as it is meant in the East and that it wasn't for her. This made me think of the old proverb 'many are called, but few are chosen'.

I also felt sad that her life may not be the same. She has been exposed to higher energies that do not go away. For her it will be like living in a grey world. The material world may not be that satisfactory and the spiritual will seem too overwhelming, so there will be a seeking without a finding perhaps. Just my ideas..nothing more. It was interesting that at the end of the programme she said that yoga was an area of her life which she doesn't speak about with her friends. Because the spiritual is not so common it is risky to speak about it and it's easier just to blend in and not stand out. To me though this is selling out to my Soul and is something I won't do no matter what the cost to me is.

Today was a special day. I went with my mum to visit dad and he was in good form. It seems particuarly cruel when he is so alert mentally and able to come home that his legs let him down. But his determination to be able to move around with little assistance is inspirational to me. Especially when I think back to how independent he has always been. On the way out of the nursing home we went into the day room where dad used to go twice a week and it was lovely hearing how they miss him now that he's not there. But then this didn't surprise me. Dad doesn't have to say anything to have a beauty and a presence.

Afterwards mum and me went for lunch and there was a paper that I started reading. There was an editorial from the recent programme with Graham Norton which traced his ancestral roots. I started talking about it with mum. She talked for the first time about her mums family and I heard stories I had never heard before. It was a special lunch because my mum has never opened up to me like that before. It was lovely and I felt a new and different closeness to her and for her.

So this will be my last post before I return to London tomorrow. It has been a good week and I am pleased that I chose to go home. The skill of not making things mean anything and going with the flow is what has made the difference this time. I also think that writing this blog has made a difference because it has given me another focus besides Heineken!

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