“Experiencing the presence of a realized master is like being reborn.” Amma
Recently, I experienced a profoundly transformational experience that transported me back to the deep fire of spiritual yearning that I felt as a child. Normally, such experiences I have not written about in detail, as I feel they are very personal and need not be discussed. However, the reason I feel the need to convey this experience is that, similar to myself many people have extremely profound experiences in their lives that provide a deep connection to their innate sense of self. Even though I am nowhere near being awake at a spiritual level, I feel a certain quality of spiritual longing that can provide an energetic connection that transcends our mere ego identity, even if just for a momentary lapse. Of course, this experience is not permanent, yet lasting long enough to produce radical changes in how we perceive our sense of self.
After not being able to do any Yoga asana for the last two years, after I sustained an injury that has affected the tendons of my hands and arms. Due to this injury I have literally been living in more or less constant levels of pain everyday, thus preventing me from doing numerous activities. I have undergone all of the medical and physiotherapy that exists, as well as numerous alternative approaches. The last recommendation was from my medical doctor to start doing Yoga. In the last two months, I started doing a very basic Yogic practice that I modified for a beginner, so that when the Yoga course that I signed up for came I would be ready.
The importance of this story is that when I was around twelve years old I found an old Yoga book from the 1970’s that my stepfather had, as he would do the shoulder stand to help his back. I had this profound insight that this was the path for me and I began a regular Yoga practice on the hard floor of my room in the evening. At that time my body was very stiff and I remember the feeling of resistance that I first felt, yet I preserved. The book only had the basic postures outline, nothing about spiritual aspects related to Yoga, yet after each practice I would naturally prostrate down to the Divine Mother. The interesting aspect of this last comment is that it was 28 years ago and I grew up in a rural part of the Yukon. Thus, I had absolutely no exposure to such ideas during that time in my life, certainly not to anything related to any form of spirituality. I started to research, to the best of my ability aspects of Yoga and found out that meditation was also very beneficial. Following some suggestions I would light a candle and focus on the tip of the candle, hoping to focus and still my mind.
The most important aspect is that within my inner self I felt a tremendous spark of inner connection to this type of activity. I felt a deep burning and longing to find a deeper sense of meaning in life, to become unified with the infinite Truth. Of course, being that I was young and underwent tremendous change when I started high school, having to relocate to the nearest city, my practice suffered. Yet, I found a wonderful woman, Jeanie Stevenson, who was my first official Yoga teacher sometime in 1990 in Whitehorse Yukon. I would go to her classes with all of these people who were older than my parents. I remember feeling a deeply profound sense of calmness pervading my being. As high school progress I eventually stopped doing Yoga.
When I was 19 years old I was living in Switzerland and one day I was in Winterthur, the largest city near where I was living. I happen to come into a little esoteric shop and found a very beautiful book on Yoga from Swami Sivananda. That was when I began a very serious practice that deepened when I was living in Totness England when I was 20 to 21 years old. Shortly after my 21st birthday, in 1995 I went to India for the first time and had the opportunity to study Yoga with a man in Rishikesh by the name of Rudra, who is Iyengars second disciple, as well as the Sivananda ashram located there. This was the beginning of three more trips to India where I mostly focused on studying Yoga in South India. The last was in 1998 when I completed my Beginner and Advanced Sivananda Teacher training. Shortly after I found myself in the California Sivananda Ashram where I moved to live a spiritual life. Ironically, karma had a very different plan for me as I ended up moving back to Canada until my current departure September 2013. In Canada I continued to study Yoga and had the opportunity to take workshops with some very well known Yoga teachers who had studied for over two decades with Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, or Sivananda. Some of these people were Peter Bennet, Felicity Green, Mary Paffard and several other such practitioners of Hatha Yoga.
However, as of ten years ago my intense practice started to dwindle, as I became a full time university student and was working part time. This was when I began to attend other peoples classes more, rather than adhere to my own practice. Slowly my practice lessened and lessened, feeling so busy with life, my love for Yoga was no longer palpable. Then, two years ago I could no longer do any Yoga at all, as I had been doing a little bit still until the injury.
Recently, I started a Level 1Yoga course at Amritapuri ashram. The experience of doing asana again with a prop to assist my hands and arms, transported me back to my childhood where I re-experienced the profound longing I had, the spiritual spark that I felt throughout my entire being, there was nothing so clear in my lifetime, that this was my path in life. Even though my body is no longer that of an advanced adept of Hatha Yoga that it used to be, still within I feel this innate knowing of exactly how to place the body in most of the postures. I realize that I have a complete inner body awareness, as though I can feel my entire inner body and know how to place my body accordingly for each posture. This experience is something I did have before when I used to do very advanced asana’s, as there needs to be a certain level of awareness as to how to maintain the posture. Again, I felt a deep sense of inner peace filling me, even though my postures were not as fluid or flexible, this innate sense of deep stillness began to fill me. Of course, after not doing asana for so many years I have needed corrections to ensure that I am holding the posture correctly, this is mostly in my upper body that has been affected by the injury.
I feel the inner longing and love that I used to feel reawaken, like the coals of a fire that has never fully gone out. With a little air the flames of this innate knowing and love began to come forth. The connection I felt to an innate existence of being connected to a higher energy of consciousness allowed me to function in the world, to travel, and to focus my energy. The identification that I experienced while being connected to Yoga allowed me to have inner strength and to have a more still mind than when I let this practice go.
Yoga has taught me the impermanence of the body and the innate intelligence that exists within us. This impermanence exists, as all physical phenomena changes and transitions itself naturally, including our bodies. Perviously, I had reached a very advanced level of practice where I was able to study very intense Ashtanga Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, and anything in between. I had a very strong and agile body. Thus, when that is taken away so is a part of our ego that allows us to identify with our accomplishments. Like many things in my life, I have had to work very hard or I am forced to go back to the beginning, regardless of the massive work that I had previously done. I became a beginner once again, with a body that was not only lacking in agility, but with hands and arms that can not bear any weight. The first sessions in my small flat in India were so painful I actually started to cry due to the frustration and pain of not being able to hold my arm behind my back in an easy stretch most people can effortlessly do. Yet, like all things if you keep trying, progress will be there and as I continued day after day I started to slowly see the progress, the lengthening and agility increasing. During this course, I was able to do everything that all of the other students were doing, which is a huge accomplishment, including being able to feel immense steadiness in most of the postures. This comes from all the Yoga that I have previously performed, even though my body is not highly flexible, there is an inner knowing of how to be centered and still within the postures, to make an effort and to let go and surrender to the practice.
I realize that to lose something, there is a hidden blessing waiting for us, as greater humility allows one to surrender in order to learn in a way that is not possible when one thinks they already know everything. I feel receptive, open, and similar to when I was young doing asana in my room. The deep connection to this practice is something that has been so innate to who I have been in my life; experienced as an unarticulated sense of being. I never told many people necessarily that I did so much Yoga, as for me it felt like an extension of my self, rather than something that I just did on a regular basis. I felt that the practice brought me closer to a sense of my true self, deeper within, and into a place of inner calm, which is an experience I have only had in my life through this practice.
I feel deep gratitude that I am able to return to this practice, to embrace its powerfully purifying quality within, as a part of my daily practice.
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