Join me in the second week of our seven-week series exploring the Yoga of Resilience, Resistance, and Recovery. I am offering this series in all of my current weekly classes: Wednesdays at 5:30 and 7pm, and Saturdays at 10:30am. If you missed class last week, you can still jump in and join us. While the series provides optimum benefit if you are able to attend all sessions, each class is designed as a complete offering unto itself.
Yoga is a profoundly elegant, comprehensive and holistic system for experiencing vitality, complete freedom, and wholeness. It is a path and process.
It is precisely these things – a path, a process, a comprehensive system – that so many of us need right now. We are being called to a level of healing and recovery that is profound and uncharted. We are being called to the Next Level of resistance to oppression, requiring Next Level commitments to resilience as well. Read why we need this work more than ever in these times.
Last week we began to explore how the path and process of yoga is what we need right now. And let me clarify: this is not “Yoga for Resilience” or “Yoga for Recovery.” While I am saying that the practices/comprehensive offerings of yoga can support us in cultivating resilience and recovery, the series is called the Yoga of Resilience precisely because of the iterative nature of this work and the ways that those progressive unfoldings mirror and evoke Yoga itself. The work of cultivating resilience is an ebb and flow, a dance, a work of (he)art that we get to fine tune every day. The same is true for recovery – from anything, really, but especially from addictive and self-destructive patterns. This is not simply about using yoga class to help you stay centered and feel better. Of course that is part of it, one of the many benefits. This is about the fact that the path of building resilience and the process of recovery are themselves yogas.
This week, we begin to explore the individual tenets that Durga Leela, founder of Yoga of Recovery, has codified. These tenets help to structure the work of resilience/resistance/recovery by speaking to the nature of human experience – acknowledging exactly where and how we suffer – and pointing to the tools of Yoga, Ayurveda, and the 12 steps which meet us at the level of our suffering. These tenets recognize the natural energies of manifestation/existence/the human condition, as well as the ways those energies can go awry, and the yogas that best allow us to express those energies in a more conscious (sattvic) way.
The first tenet, Life is Longing, speaks directly to our innate longing to know our own True Nature, to know Spirit. We come into being in a state of complete Union with Spirit, One with the Greater Energy, connected to the whole of life. It is our nature as humans to seek connection, and we suffer when we forget that connection. Durga tells us, if we don’t honor the longing with space and time, it will corrupt into craving. Any substance or substitute that we turn to in a vain attempt to satisfy that longing will never address the existential depression we experience when we feel disconnected from our True Nature (Spirit).
If you don’t honor the longing with time and space, it will corrupt into craving. -Durga Leela
Thus, the Yoga of Recovery tells us that we must honor that longing with time and space. This is the medicine – the practices which remind us of our true nature (Spirit) and our ever-present reality (always connected). What we must treat is the human condition itself, at the level of the forgetting. Anything less and we are only addressing the symptoms, not the root cause. The core questions of existence – Who am I? What do I long for? Why am I here? – can never be medicated away. The prescription for healing is to dive deeply into these questions with our whole being.
Yoga, Ayurveda, and 12 steps offer us a way to administer the medicine of self-inquiry/self-knowing/realization of our nature as Spirit on a daily basis to keep us in fit spiritual/holistic condition. The “fit spiritual condition” is the state of remembering.
The traditions and practices which most directly address this level of suffering are Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga. Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of devotion, of love. It is the yoga which teaches us to practice the presence of God/Spirit/Greater Energy in everything we do, so as to get ever closer to God. It is the yoga which teaches us to attune ourselves with our God so that our will, our actions, our thoughts can be a vessel for expressing and living out that will. It is most often articulated through ceremony and ritual, through kirtan and the building of altars and the offering of prasad, blessed food. All in the name of calling forth the presence of God. It is a non-stop party at which God is the guest of honor.
For householder yogis (that’s us!), the Bhakti prescription can be evoked through creating, tending, and spending time at an altar. Through songful prayer that allows your mind/body/heart to sync up and entrain with The Greater Energy, to resonate with Spirit, to harmonize with Grace. The medicine lies in allowing you to get ever-closer to God, so that when you’re forgetting your self, you know whose name to call…when you are falling off the (figurative) cliff, you know who to ask for help.
Bhakti yoga is a non-stop party at which God is the guest of honor.
Jnana Yoga is the yoga of self-realization, the path to Spirit through rigorous inquiry into the Self. You come to know God by knowing yourself more fully. If the root of suffering is forgetting our nature is spirit, then we can relieve our suffering by remembering who we are. It is the intellectual path to optimizing buddhi (intellect, or the Higher Mind) which is a more high functioning aspect of the mind, allowing you to see more clearly your true nature. Jnana Yoga points to meditation which allows the mind to dwell in a state of peaceful observation, allowing for the discovery of truth through perception. Not about thinking yourself into revelation, but about stilling yourself enough to perceive the sattva (Light of Consciousness) that is eternally revealing itself.
At the end of the day, Life is Longing reminds us that our heart has a prescription for us. If all this talk of God and Greater Energy are turning you off, take a moment. Close your eyes if that feels safe and available. Pause and breath for a moment. Bring your awareness to your heart space, and ask your heart what you long for. Pause and feel. Let the answer emerge from the chamber of your heart. You’ll know it is your heart responding if you get answers like Love, Connection, Home, Healing. Compassion. Serenity. Joy. The heart answers from the Absolute World. The heart invites you back to the ground of being. (You’ll know it’s likely your mind answering if you get answers which speak to the relative world).
Ask your heart what it is here for. Whatever that answer – whatever you long for, whatever your heart is here to do – let that be your god and your practice. If you make your life about this in every moment, you’ll be on your path and you will find others as well. This becomes a “prescription” emerging from your own heart. Do not let your aversion to the concept of God stop you from answering the call of your own heart. The work of healing and recovery are about effort and surrender. No healing journey is completely passive, it takes right action (appropriately applied action) and right release (appropriate, unconditional, radical acceptance). Never giving up, always letting go.