Yoga On The Rock is about the how and why for yoga in Bermuda ( the Rock as it is known). The general feeling about Bermuda is that if you live in a place so aesthetically beautiful, then you must be living in Nirvana. But nirvana, according to the Buddha, is a state of mind, not a state of place. Hence in this small-town diverse international community where life happens while living in a fishbowl, learning to cope requires rock steady confidence. Yoga helps maintain the balance.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Yoga On The Rock -Yoga Teachers Training Research Paper
by Yoga Teacher Trainee - Matthew Sinclair - June 2015
There are many
elements of yoga that continue to excite and inspire me. From the proposition
of continuing to develop and deepen my asana practice to realign and
reinvigorate my body to the practice of meditation to quiet and calm the mind,
I have been swept up in my practice.
Whereas, I began my yoga practice
more earnestly in October 2014 for the physical benefits of the asanas, the
asana practice has become but one tool to empower me on my spiritual journey.
As Swami Satchidananda said, "easeful body, peaceful mind." And so I
strive for both with the intention of developing spiritually. That is, I strive
to surrender to God's will.
At once, this quest to surrender
inspires, scares, and perplexes me...yet I return to my practice of yoga. The
aspect of yoga that has seemingly helped most on this journey is the seventh
limb of Yoga, dhyana, or meditation. (Although, it could probably best be
described as dharana, or concentration, at this stage of my journey.)
I love the simplicity and clear
purpose of meditation. John Main describes this simplicity and purpose well in Moment with Christ: "Remember again
the way of meditation. We sit down, we sit with our spine upright, we breathe
calmly and regularly and we begin to say our word. The purpose of the word is
to keep us on the path, to take us away from illusion, from desire. As long as
we are on the way, as long as we are saying our mantra, we are turning aside
from distraction and we are on the way to make contact with the root from which
we are sprung."
It is a beautiful metaphor that
reminds me firstly that by God's grace alone do we live and secondly that our
growth, our becoming who we are called to be, will be enriched the more we are
in contact with that root from which we are sprung.
I have always been fascinated with
philosophy and the idea of how best to live. I would rarely use the term
"self-improvement," but I was always after a new way to improve
myself, whatever that meant. (Clearly, direction was lacking.) My bookshelf
holds the evidence. These "improvements" were always adjustments in
ways of behaving or thinking that would allow me to attain something external.
For example, 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right
Things Done was acquired to help me hone in on my productivity at work for
the ultimate goal of career progression. While this book does have merit for
what it can offer people, I’ve more recently discovered a certain
superficiality in these types of books. For what good is it to get more “productive”
at a job that distracts with busyness from the core of who we are called to be?
The practice of yoga, particularly
meditation, has given me the tools to become, as Matthew Kelly says, the best
version of myself, or who God calls me to be. I never framed the thought of
self-development in a spiritual context, but it certainly feels right and
whole, and it has given my life clear direction. (Paradoxically, this clarity
is comfort, or peace, with uncertainty.)
This becoming or bettering, I've
begun to feel, is not an addition of some virtue to my personality, but rather
a subtraction, a taking away of that which clouds my understanding of my true
self. It's as if each time on the mat, a small candle is lit, which shines
inwardly to create an awareness of all parts of me.
Reading the words of Thomas Merton
in New Seeds of Contemplation strengthened
this insight: "For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore, the
problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I
am and of discovering my true self" (p. 31). Hereto, I find great appeal
in meditation, knowing that each time I sit to meditate I am discovering who I
am, without expectation of what or who I will find.
This all seems straightforward and
simple in theory, but I am recognizing that it requires great patience, faith
and devotion in practice to remain committed to becoming the best version of
myself. As in meditation, so too this is required in living fully, along with
This honesty is another quality of
meditation in which I find appeal: you cannot cheat. You simply sit and must be
with whatever arises. I am reminded of the words of Bob Marley, whose life and
music, has been for me a source of inspiration: "ya running and ya
running, but you can't run away from yourself" (Running Away, Kaya, 1978).
It's as if the only escape, or freedom, is to, in fact, to surrender to God's
will. Meditation has allowed me to begin this process of surrendering to
God’s will by first surrendering to who I truly am.
It might be evident at this point
that the practice of yoga has caused a stir in my life. This, perhaps, is not
immediately apparent, or at all, to other people, but I feel it in my heart. I
am hopeful that this going within will prepare me for my work in the world and
enhance my relationship with others. Fr. Tom Ryan’s words fill me with
encouragement: “Through it [the mantra], the Spirit is at work resolving old
conflicts, bringing us to face ourselves with honesty and humor, to accept
ourselves and the inevitable gracefully, with joy and even gratitude. It is
from this self-acceptance that we most effectively reach out to others, for
when we can be with ourselves in tolerance and love, we can be with others in
the same way" (Prayer of Heart and Body, p.113).
The practice of yoga has given me a
confidence to know that I can face the world with courage, trusting in myself,
and God's will for me as I endeavor to serve the world with my gifts and
talents. This trust comes from faith in God and this faith is deepened through
becoming closer to Him through meditation and other practices that allow for
stillness, silence, and simplicity.
Through meditation, the true self is
slowly revealed and through this revelation we are more able to live our lives
in accordance with God’s will for us. Initially, this insight discomforted me,
but as I continue my practice of yoga, particularly meditation and svadhyaya
(self-study, reflection of spiritual works), it has served as inspiration. “The
mystery into which meditation leads us is a personal mystery, the mystery of
our own personhood, which finds its completion in the person of Christ.” (John
Main, Word Into Silence).
The attempt to live a deeply
spiritual life is, in essence, not limiting (which frightened me), but
liberating. To paraphrase Timothy Radcliffe, OP, in What is the Point of Being a Christian?, because we are made in
God’s likeness, which makes us intelligent and free, and the source of our own
actions, our deepest freedom “is spontaneously to do what is good, because it
is what we most deeply desire” (p. 43) Our actions, when derived from the true
core of our being, take us toward not away from God.
Therefore, meditation is not a
luxury, but a necessity as it helps us to discover the true self within, and
thus brings us closer to God, to the fulfillment of love and joy. I am not
entirely certain on the semantics of being “closer” to God, but what I’ve
experienced over these last six month is a greater awareness and appreciation
of God’s closeness in my life, and in the life of the world.
I am blessed. Meditation has opened
my life up to more truth and reason, which I’ve discovered in my Catholic
faith, and in learning about other spiritual traditions. Indeed, as Pope
Francis stated, “the Christian truth is attractive and persuasive because it
responds to humanity’s deepest needs.” Therefore, meditation, while a seemingly
subtle process of uncovering, has become a call to action.
How will I respond to humanity’s
needs? Meditation has been a catalyst for allowing me to begin to answer that
question. Only when I can live authentically out of my true self will I be able
to respond fully to God’s will for me. Part of this journey is “…to discover
the God who is the source of freedom bubbling up in the very core of our being,
and granting us existence in every moment” (Timothy Radcliffe, What is the
Point of Being Christian, p. 45). Meditation is the beginning of that discovery
and appreciation. I guess getting up early isn’t such a bad deal after all.