In my last blog post I promised that by doing yoga (with or without rock music) you can experience heaven here on earth. How is that possible?! Well, I’m going to talk more about it, below. But first, I want to clear something up: Although we are discussing serious matters, I will sometimes employ sarcastic humor, which might not be apparent in this written format. For example, I do not actually lie on the floor, writhe unpleasantly and scream when I hear country music. That was an exaggeration. What I do, when I am at karaoke and I begin to hear Kid Rock’s “Picture” for the umpteenth time – which is not technically “country” but might as well be, as it has all the necessary elements – I take my glass of wine and go outside to enjoy the sea breeze. Or when everybody stands up and begins singing, “I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free…”
Don’t get me wrong, I love my country. I do. But we are NOT “the land of the free.” If we were, people wouldn’t be getting pepper sprayed and arrested for non-violently protesting a system wherein 2% of our population controls roughly half of the wealth. In fact, it’s quite easy to get locked up here; all you have to do is smoke the wrong kind of cigarettes, or commit the crime of not making enough money to be able to support your family and pay your taxes. America now imprisons a larger percentage of her population than any other country, surpassing communist China and South Africa. Of course, as a yogini I am Free even if, God forbid, I were to become imprisoned. But, I do not have to enjoy the whole culture that goes along with the flag-waving type of music, a culture that says that our country’s problem began with the hippies, is perpetuated by the damn liberals who run the universities, foreigners, and most of all, uppity women and gays. The foreigners ought to go the f*ck home, women should stay barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen (well I like the barefoot part), and the gays should stop being gay, marry somebody of the opposite sex and get busy producing offspring like everybody else. And you, young man – you need to get a damn haircut! Our [half]-black President is not a true American and the next President ought to be from Texas. And by the way, yoga is a heathen religion from the devil. Yee haw. Come visit the South/Bible Belt, I will take you to karaoke and you can perhaps begin to appreciate the sociopolitical implications of the music, difficult to understand if you don't live here. But that’s a whole ‘nother subject.
Now, back to yoga. I have expressed my strong personal preferences in music and politics. Gosh, that’s not very enlightened! Shouldn’t I like everything equally? To the yogini, it’s all the same – pleasure and pain, darkness and light, garbage or gourmet food – I am one with all arising conditions and detached from everything and therefore have no preferences, right? No. That is a misconception. I am passionately involved in my personal human experience. Anyway I never said I was “enlightened,” I said I was Free. I am also free to like everything equally if I so choose. I could do that. But why? Well, certainly I would be more popular. But as my mother used to say, “What a boring world this would be if we were all the same!”
And we’re NOT the same. Each of us is a unique manifestation of Life. As Mark Whitwell has said, “It's not a spiritual statement, it's just how it is. It's not a poem either. You ARE the beauty of life, the extreme intelligence and the power of life. Just as you ARE, prior to meditation, yoga, philosophy or religion.”
Great! So, everything’s perfect. We’re fine just the way we are. Each of us an expression of Love in the flesh; the same Love that binds the atoms together, Shiva and Shakti in the stars and in our own body. Our essential nature is Being, Consciousness, Bliss. Ok… The only problem is, it doesn’t FEEL like it! And that is why we need yoga and why, when we practice yoga consistently, Shiva and Shakti reconnect, we are able to get back in touch with our true nature, with our Source, and experience Bliss.
Now, my atheist friends are understandably skeptical of this explanation involving Source or Consciousness. You may even be dubious of subtle energies or polarities in the body, which after all are not scientifically proven to exist. Well, don’t worry about it. Think of it this way: The breathing and movement exercises result in a predictable neurobiological response, a function of the nervous system, like orgasm. It is scientific. The experiment has been done successfully by millions of people over thousands of years and if you do the same experiment under the proper conditions you will get the same result. That’s all you need to know. Don’t take my word for it, just DO it. And you can stop reading here because the rest of this post will not be of interest to you.
As for those who consider yourselves spiritual or religious, yoga is the means to realize your ideal, to experience It in your own body. The search is over. As we discussed previously, God does not need to be found; God is right here within us. The Source is not separate from Its manifestation. Yoga allows us to experience That.
Now, when I say this here in the Bible Belt, inevitably somebody will argue that God is NOT in us! They will say that humanity is fallen and we are born “physically alive but spiritually dead.” Never mind the breath/ruach, and all that. Never mind the technical consideration as to how can something be physically alive (or even exist at all) without the presence of God, a proposition which I find dubious. They will tell you with a straight face that although God is technically omnipresent, the one place that Divinity is NOT, is in the human heart – unless we invite Christ in. Ok, well look, if you really believe this particular theology, then obviously the first step in your yogic practice is to invite Him in! Go ahead. Problem solved. I assume this has already happened for you or else we would not be having this theological conversation.
So, God is in your heart. How incredibly f*king cool is that?! If you really believe that the Lord of the universe resides in your own being, your own body and soul, you should be the happiest person on earth! Well, maybe you were for the first few days or weeks or months, until the initial excitement of the concept wore off and meanwhile your earthly life continued to suck.
Which, again, brings us back to yoga. God is in your heart. It is an eternal relationship. So, now what? Are you going to ignore Him or Her? Or maybe talk – telling God in prayer all kinds of things that He/She already knows, like what we think ought to be done for various people in our lives. Or complain, apologize, praise, etc. Yeah, you can just talk. Or chant the Names. But, there’s more. What if you could pray with your whole body? What if your movement and breath was a devotional offering, as well as a direct participation in the actual presence of God? That’s exactly what it is. Your breath is from the Spirit who breathes life into you and your body is the temple of that Spirit. With a regular consistent yoga practice, this becomes no longer an abstraction or a belief, but a real experience. And then after you do asana, which is a form of moving meditation, you can go into sitting meditation or “contemplative prayer” – where there is no need to talk or do anything, just Be in that wonderful loving Presence, resting in your oneness with Life. It is ecstasy.
But isn’t this addictive, like a drug? Well, yes – but it’s better than a drug and without the unpleasant side effects. So, am I recommending that you do yoga as a means to experience Bliss and thereby escape the misery of life? Maybe at first. But as you continue your daily practice and yoga removes obstructions and burns away “dukha,” the constriction around the heart, you will soon find that there is no need to escape from pain. Feeling your oneness with nurturing Source, you can embrace pain and move through it without resistance, and experience healing. As this process continues and the heart opens and unfolds like a flower, more and more Love will pour through you and you realize you are that Love. This is Heaven and you didn’t need to climb any stairway. Just move and breathe.