Training appears to have rounded the bend so that we’re now dealing with the more spiritual and esoteric elements of yoga. This has always been a part of the training, but before the emphasis was on asanas. Now it seems to have reversed a bit. Asanas are obviously still a part of the training, but we’re delving more into the other stuff.
Today we spent five hours with a guest teacher, Raghunath. He is one interesting dude if ever there was one. He began practicing yoga 30 years ago at age 17. In the the early 80s, he was a member of a “seminal” hardcore punk band, Youth of Today. Around age 22, he ditched the rock star life and went to live in an ashram in India as a celibate monk for six years. That’s one colorful life … and all of this before age 30.
Today was one of those really dense, soul-lifting, life affirming days. He came in to speak with us about the Bhagavad Gita, but the conversation took lots of fascinating twists and turns. We did lots of mantra-chanting as Raghunath played this crazy accordion-type instrument. He’s a master story teller, and the way he broke down the Vedic texts was enthralling. My favorite was a parable about a king who (unknowingly) married a god, upon the condition that he agreed not to question anything she did. They fell deeply in love, then had a child. The king was over the moon, then one day his wife took the baby down to the Ganges River, where she set him off to a watery death. The king was devastated, but couldn’t ask why his wife had done this based on their agreement. This happened six more times in a row, with six more of their babies. Finally, on the eighth child, the king had enough and asked his wife why she kept drowning their babies. Because of this, the eighth child lived a long life. But, reality was not what it appeared. The gods had previously cursed eight souls to live on earth as punishment; seven of these souls egged on their eighth friend, who actually killed a man. The souls implored the gods not to impart this fate upon them. Though the curse could not be reversed, the gods agreed that the seven who had egged their friend on would have to incarnate on earth, but they could leave shortly after entry. These were, of course, the seven babies who were drowned shortly after birth. The eighth child–the “lucky” saved one–was actually the cursed one, who was forced to live another long incarnation. The message, of course, is that things are not as they appear, and divine grace can often appear to be something entirely different than what it actually is.
There were lots of little nuggets throughout Raghunath’s vibrant lecture. We talked a lot about how crucial it is to give life up to the Divine. He explained how limited our scope of reality is–that we are restricted by our human senses and have no idea what reality is beyond that. He compared our perception of life to that of an ant. There may be an ant in our yoga studio, he said, but that ant would have no idea it was in a 200-hour teacher training class, even as he crawled about in the room. My favorite bit of information from him was that “if you crack through the ceiling of reality, that’s when the magic trickles in.”
Another noteworthy bit of advice came when my friend asked him a question about marriage. Before answering, Raghunath told those of us who were single in class that it was important that we spend our time becoming the person our perfect partner will seek out rather than worrying about finding our soul mate. It makes a lot of sense.
Toward the end of the session, the class sat in two rows facing each other. We repeated an exercise three times where we laid our hands in the hands of the person opposite from us, then looked one another directly in the left eye. It was a crazy exercise–it was like the rest of the world blurred out except for our partners’ one eye, and you could see how much depth was in each person. One cause for concern on my part was that he told us that those of us who were laughing were doing it as a shield from letting others in. I giggled a bit during the first round … but all three of my partners were laughing. I’m a bit concerned about what this means I may have been obstructing. Something to think about.
Such a special day. I can hardly wait until our next 10-day intensive starts on Friday, though I’m already sad about the fact that this will be the final chapter of our journey together.