“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Do you have trouble remembering this? I sure do. Despite the fact that I have heard this quote hundreds of times, see it on someone’s Facebook page once a week, and truly believe it, I still have trouble remembering it – and LIVING it.
I know, I know – this dance between remembrance and forgetting is what we are here to engage in. But still, I want to forget just a little less often than I do…
Yesterday I drove to Jackson to do a workshop with my good friend and teaching buddy, Neesha Zollinger. For three hours we played around with fun hard bird-themed backbending poses (that’s kapotasana, rajakapotasana, and eka pada rajakapotasana – the whole pigeon posse, if you don’t know!). Not only did I do some cool and fun poses, in just three hours I arrived back at the remembrance of myself as a spiritual being having a human experience. Phew!
The remembrance didn’t always happen that fast. These days I can reconnect a lot faster now than I could when I started my practice. Why? This is where immersing in yoga comes in. (You’re not seeing this connection yet. That’s okay – I’m getting there!)
You know how the first time you hike a trail time warps in this funny way that makes you uncertain about how long you have been out? Every view is new and different and exciting. You take in every flower and rock, in awe of its newness and splendor. You look at the map a lot, and you’re completely absorbed in reading it correctly. You revel in the companionship of your hiking buddy, and you know you will always remember this first time on this particular trail with him or her. Typically when you turn around to head back to your car, the time flies, and the return journey seems less than half as long. The next time you hike that trail you’ll wonder why you had it in your head that it took 4 hours when in fact it takes only 2. A few times after that, you’ll decide that you can just run the trail, or listen to a podcast while you hike because you know the twists and turns so well you don’t need to work as hard. You’ll still love every flower and rock. They’ll put instant smiles on your face, even while you listen to your Ipod. In fact, you can just call up the buddy you hiked the trail with the first time and talk about your experience, and that alone can bring a smile to your face.
The path of yoga can be a lot like that. If you’ve never immersed yourself in the philosophy and practice of yoga, you haven’t headed out on that amazing trail yet. You need a map and guides, points of focus, and companions for the journey. The first time you take a multi-day yoga workshop where you spend all day doing asana, tapping into life force, discussing what you’re doing on the planet, journaling about what’s important to you, and opening your heart to strangers and friends, you’re blown away. It’s so COOL! It’s so empowering! It’s so….FUN! Your physical practice improves by leaps and bounds. Every nugget of philosophy is a portal to a new room of insight. The time flies, and the folks you’re in the workshop with suddenly feel like your best friends – even though you may have only known them for 5 days. They are great friends, of course – and different from your other friends. Because you’ve connected about the BIG questions in life, you and your workshop buddies become “kalyana mitras.” A kalyana mitra is a spiritual friend – one that keeps you honest and on your path, one that reminds you of your radiance and power when you are feeling low, or knocks some reality into you when your ego gets a little too big.
I’ve got this relationship with Neesha. Because we’ve immersed ourselves in multiple 5-day long immersions and teacher trainings with amazing groups of students, all it takes it rolling out mats next to each other and busting out a couple of poses for both of us to get right back to remembering our divinity. Additionally, we’ve both been using asana and philosophy for years as our path back to the realization that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. We learned the technology – the trail markers, if you will – from our teachers and have been hiking this trail day in and day out for years. We don’t have to look at the map quite as often, so it doesn’t take us 5 days to get back there anymore. Sometimes it takes only 5 minutes. And what a gift that is!
This gift is available to you too, through immersing yourself in yoga. Neesha and I are gearing up to offer our communities a chance to walk this trail with us this summer. If this path calls to you, join us! We can promise you amazing flowers and rocks, as well as a few mud pits and wrong turns. There will be insight, confusion, fun, knowledge, self-awareness, frustration, laughter, deep awareness, powerful connections with your compatriots, and more. We can’t promise you that the journey will get easier right away – in fact, it almost always gets a little harder at first. But if you stick to the path, you will certainly get to know it a lot better. You’ll always have the technology to get back to the deep knowledge that you are a spiritual being having a human experience.
All you’ll have to do is show up and roll out your mat. And maybe give your new kalyana mitra a call…
Want more info about our program of Immersion in Yoga called The Yogic Life?
Or…watch Neesha and I chat about them here: