About me, I guess
SO, while walking from morning asana practice to work, it seemed to me that it might be worth writing a bit of an autobiographical blurb, if only to provide a bit of a roadmap to my inner landscape. I have reason to believe it is a bit unusual. You’ll have to judge for yourself after you’ve read this.
Apparently, I’ve always been a yoga practitioner, even when I wasn’t. Depending on who you care to listen to (e.g. Yoga Journal, Sivananda-ji, Erowid.org, and many others), there are from four to six different main “branches” of Yoga. The thumbnail descriptions at the Advaita Yoga Ashrama provide me with an easily memorable summary. In any case, there’s an awful lot of overlap in the practices though, making it hard to practice just one. What most westerners practice is Hatha Yoga with some components of Raja Yoga thrown in for good measure. I would say that Shiva Rea advocates a Bhakti Yoga practice with a strong Karma Yoga component. Jivamukti practice is also strongly rooted in Bhakti Yoga. Back in its day, Anusara Yoga was something of a Tantric Yoga (maybe we’ll get into that some other time, yes?) practice.
The point of that digression was to provide a bit of flavor to the terminology, as well as a jumping-off point for some of my own story. I was born in 1964, and one of my earliest memories is of watching the televised coverage of the first moon landing. Between Star Trek and the amazing real-world achievements happening in the last half of the 20th century, I was attracted to the path of science from a very early age. In the yoga world, this would fall under Jnana Yoga – even more so for me as I fell into computer science and artificial intelligence, which mirrors the inquiry process of Jnana yoga into the nature of the mind.
But I also lived through the seventies and came of age in the early 80s while the whole tantric swirl of the sexdrugsrock-n-roll counter-culture was still happening (although it was fading into the background as the hippies decided it was time to make some cash). In particular the playful attitude toward transcendental experience in the psychedelic sub-culture attracted me strongly, and to be blunt, I spent a few years using a fair bit of LSD. There really is nothing quite like having your perception of your body dissolve into nothingness around you to make a convincing argument for the essential nature of humanity as spirit.
The excesses of my tantric days, led me, as they did for so many others, into the evangelical Christian community, where I was introduced to both Bhakti and Karma yoga as being essential to salvation and love in this world. Of course, they don’t call it that in the churches, but that is where they fit according to the traditional yogic ontology. During those days I had many experiences of the phenomena known in the Yoga Sutras as siddhis – Christians would call them charismata (if they were academically inclined) or “gifts of the Holy Spirit” (by the more prosaic). It was pretty cool to discover that the strangeness – and the incompleteness of materialist science – I had always felt in the world was repeatable without the drugs.
But there are aspects of the common Christian teaching that I find rather toxic. I won’t go into that just now because whole books would need to be written (and actually they are being written now) in order to provide a correctly-balanced view. Ultimately I found it necessary to depart from mainstream Christian practice, and have, with a few twists and turns, found myself practicing yoga. But I am coming to the practice from the “spirit” side of the “mind-body-spirit” trinity that is so much talked about. Practically realizing non-duality and all its implications in my life is perhaps the latest and best understanding of my dharma that I have. Hatha yoga, the physical practice of asan, has proved to be a much-needed missing piece that helps to keep me grounded and balanced, and Raja yoga provides a cooling breeze to the intense heat of the Bhakti fire I have cultivated for so many years.
Does it all make any more sense yet?
This document was translated from LATEX by HEVEA.