I came into the study of Yoga at a time when I was searching for a direction in life, a meaning that was meaningful and inspiring. I was just out of college, very concerned about issues like Environmental Degradation; I had read “Limits to Growth” and was having intense conversations with my friends on Marx and Marcuse. We met a lot of the early 60’s generation of ‘conscientious objectors’ people who would later on be called Hippies, and who would be called the Woodstock generation.
I was very fortunate in that I spent a decade learning inner work from Pulin K Garg and Yoga from Krishnamacharya simultaneously. The Yoga Sutra provided a daily practice and an intellectual rigour, it led me into the world of meditation and contemplation. Process work opened up internal spaces, helped to heal deep wounds and reclaim my emotional self.
I have gone on to base all my work with individuals and organizations on these two pillars of my learning. However, I have been deeply concerned with the way in which Yoga is taught today and inner work is offered. I was thrilled when a few years back a group of young seekers in their thirties approached me with questions that were exactly the ones I had asked my self at a similar age. Not that I have found the answers, but I have grooved the questions. They were explicitly seeking a way of enquiring into these life questions through Yoga.
We have spent a couple of years on this “collective contemplative conversation”. We studied the Yoga Sutras in an experiential way. The group was ready for some experimentation so I dusted up my Rorshach Kit (I had learnt to use it from Pulin), and did what Pulin and I had wanted to do a long time ago: use the insights from Rorschach to design a meditative practice. The group has stayed with the enquiry for more that two years, experienced profound transformation and made clear choices in discovering alternative ways of living. The group has formalized itself, it is called Ritambhara, (www.ritambhara.org.in) and the members see themselves as “spiritual activists”, my wife Sashi and I are Mentors for the group.
I was thrilled when I got this mail from Sangeetha Sriram. It has given me the adhikaar to offer life coaching based on the Yoga Sutra.
After a long weary journey, I was led on to the doorstep of Yoga. Being and learning with our teachers Raghu Ananthanarayanan and Sashikala Ananth and fellow-seekers in the community Anita Balasubramanian Rajeev Natarajan Priya Nagesh Naveen Kumar V Radhika Rammohan Saraswathi Vasudevan Rengarajan LV Parthasarathy Ramanujam Kokilashree AlangaramGowtham Sandhya Anju Sandhya Manian for three years now has been a very rich experience. Here is one articulation of the way I see the personal and the collective; how everything (climate change, my eczema, patriarchy, genocide, my breath, my incessant mind) comes together in One Vision.
I begin by seeing and acknowledging that I'm on a journey, and that my limited mind / my small self is incapable of understanding and undertaking it all by 'itself'. I need help. Patanjali's invitation in the form of the First Sutra says 'Aaah! Now you're ready!!' atha yogAnushAsanam.
This is the point I gain the ability to look at the 'Hero's Journey'. I am disillusioned enough to start asking the questions:
- What is my journey towards?
- Where am I in the journey?
- How did I get here?
- What lies ahead?
Bringing awareness into 'Who I am' not in a philosophical but an absolutely practical way: my personality, tendencies, gifts, questions, aspirations, meaning-making, fears, explorations, experience, learnings, challenges, relationships, behavioral patterns, attractions, aversions, etc. In other words, I begin to intuitively understand my 'Universe', along with which naturally, but slowly, unfold 'self-acceptance' and 'compassion to the self'. This understanding becomes the seed of true non-violence / ahimsa.
As a consequence of my beginning to understand / have insights into my own journey, I begin to see and acknowledge, begin to understand / have insights into others' journeys. As I start bringing awareness into my universe, I start bringing awareness into others' Universes, along with which naturally unfold 'acceptance of others' and 'compassion to others', little by little. Though my sense of discernment / judgement sharpens, I experience myself as less and less 'judgemental'.
The seed of ahimsa has begun to sprout.
The Collective Journey
A pattern / an understanding emerges: It is one of an upward spiral movement that the Consciousness is undertaking. Suddenly, the world that seemed all chaotic and messed up, with everything misplaced and gone wrong looks orderly, meaningful and beautiful; There is a sense of purpose to everything around. Each life form and living system is undertaking its own 'Hero's Journey'.
A sense of wonder and anticipation! The seeds of humility and surrender begin to sprout. IsvarapraNidhAna. I am but a speck in a larger journey that I cannot yet comprehend.
I begin to experience 'Inter-being' and 'Oneness'.
... at the collective level, by collectively imagining newer possibilities and co-creating newer ways of organising life in form: new forms, structures and processes of community, economy, governance, education, celebration, expression (The Arts), justice, etc. based on trust, dialogue and collaboration.
An experience of Abundance unfolds as I go deeper into this work; Abundance of all things good: Resources. Connections. Positivity. Hope. Energy. New Possibilities. Ideas.
The Map: Knowledge of 'Existential Universes' - this understanding uses the intellect: To understand without arrogance or the need to control; Right use of knowledge; The Sacred Masculine.
The Path: The Map might show what is where. I still need to use my intuition to feel my way through the terrains, and decide on the best path (there might me multiple paths connecting two points); Intelligence; The Sacred Feminine.
All of the above reinforce and provide feedback to each other.
Photo: Courtesy Tess Joseph
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My work revolves around helping individuals, groups and organizations discover their Dhamma, and become “the best they can be”. This aligns with my own personal saadhana. I have restated this question for my self as follows: “how can I be in touch with the well spring of my love for the world and my love for my self simultaneously”