Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mind Body Spirit Festival and Confessions of a Former Yoga Junkie

Dear friends,
I leave early Monday morning for London, UK where I will be performing and teaching at the Mind Body Spirit Festival. Waiting for me in London will be the freshly printed copies of my new book Confessions of a Former Yoga Junkie. I thought you might like to read another sneak preview:
In the yoga community, we have come to a place that is like spiritual adolescence. We know the basics and we are out in the world. Wal-Mart sells yoga mats and Costco sells Eckhart Tolle’s books. We can express lofty ideas and speak beautiful things. But in order to grow, we must go deeper. We know how to fool our parents, as many teenagers do. But we cannot fool nature. Eventually the teenager realizes that to be responsible means to understand the consequences of his actions, just as the junkie needs to discover the wanting at the root of their addiction in order to heal. If we are to address the pervasiveness of greed and wanting in our lives, we need to start talking about and becoming aware of our shadowy habits that support them, including the ones lurking in our yoga practice.
We need to mature as yogis and as people. We are not being truly honest with ourselves if we say we are yogis because we go to a stretch class once a week, but feel unable to find that center at any other time. We are not being the best we can be if we feel we are conscious because we watch Oprah or tweet the words of wisdom of the latest pop guru, but then become immediately impatient and yell at our spouse, friends, co-worker or children.

Yoga was surely not designed 5000 years ago by the ancient rishis (sages) to be the next fad after the 80’s aerobics of Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda. Yet it seems to have been co-opted as such in an attempt to fulfill our desire for perfection by consuming something “out there”. We need to embrace yoga in its totality, rather than just appropriating aspects of the practice that suit our ego. We must take pause and learn to move from stillness by going within and meeting this moment as it is. Until we do so, no matter what kind of bendy exercise we may do, our lives will continue to be driven by an unconscious desire to resist the now and keep our personal sorry stories alive. By letting go of the story and of the feeling that the world is somehow against us, we release the attachment to feeling separate from life. We let go of our perceived need to carry around the weight of our illusionary self. We begin to experience yoga, that is, union, or oneness with all that is.

We need to talk about the pitfalls on the yogic path and the shadows of spirituality, because they are our shadows. They will show us where we are stuck so that we may return to our true home. When we find the self-love and courage to do so, we move, in a more grounded, humble manner, into the fullness of life, and become the unaffected beings of light that we most naturally are.
Confessions of a Former Yoga Junkie will be available for purchase at Mind Body Spirit Expo in London next weekend. It will be available in Canada soon after.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Coming Soon: Confessions of a Former Yoga Junkie

Dear friends,

Today I am busy at work finalizing my upcoming book "Confessions of a Former Yoga Junkie", about the pitfalls I experienced on the yogic path and how you can avoid them. The book will make its debut at the Mind Body Spirit Festival in the UK later this month. In the meantime, though, here is a teaser for you to enjoy:

We use the word “junkie” loosely. You can hear it uttered with enthusiasm when someone expresses particular zeal for something. They may be addicted to that thing. But the offhand use of the word can easily mask what may be a shady underbelly lying in the darker recesses of their psyche.

The word “junkie” ultimately refers to someone who is an addict. As such, it points painfully to a human being who erroneously identifies with some elusive external substance, person, place or thing as his or her source of permanent happiness. There are many forms of addiction deeply interwoven into the fabric of our culture. Addiction is somehow a part of the modern, human psyche. The popular, casual use of the word “junkie” seems to give us unspoken permission to broadcast our compulsions in a way that does not ask us to look more deeply at them. Inadvertently, the word illustrates how we culturally enable repeated choices that do not bring us lasting joy.

We can see these cultural shadows easily if we look at the prevalent, and often socially accepted (or at least tolerated), addictions rampant today, such as, alcohol, cigarettes, shopping, sex, food, overworking, and overworking out. We encourage this fight and flight to perfection - the perfect house, the perfect mate, the perfect body, the ideal sublime - through a deep-seated, often unconscious distorted relationship to our self, to each other and to the divine. This in turn, feeds our sense of dissatisfaction and attachment to the perfect something out there that we “need” to make us – finally – feel happy.

When I was in architecture school, some of my fellow competitive, rise to the top, type-A classmates seemed to exhibit a fascination with insanity and compulsive behaviour. Somehow, the weirder, wilder and more off your rocker you were, the cooler, more avant-garde, edgy and creative you had become. This fascination was not born in a freshman architecture studio. It may have come to the forefront there. But in each student who showed those characteristics, a previous tendency for such already existed in their personality. It could have been incubated at home, at school, in institutions, through the media, in society at large or perhaps with friends. Wherever it had been fed, the drive and work ethic that my classmates and I shared illustrated a tendency that is socially prevalent and highly encouraged, yet whose shadow is seldom discussed.

Because of a deeper, spiritual malaise, our lives are driven by restless wanting. They seem to go on and on, as though we were helplessly tied to a merry-go-round built on fa├žade and temporary pleasures. We may be too numbed out to willfully pause, take stock and embrace positive change, until something dramatic happens that shakes us from complacency and wakes us up from the spell. We conveniently float in a stew of short-term getting by above a dark underbelly, until our lives come to a crashing halt due to illness, injury, failed marriages, job losses, even death of a loved one. It is only once we have been knocked to our knees and are closer to the ground, that we can see the shadows we have carried with us all along.

I have seen overt addiction destroy marriages, ravage careers and occasionally take a life. But I have also seen covert addiction to an ideal sublime wiggle its way into the lives of spiritual aspirants, who have shifted the focus of their driven personalities from social or cultural success, to a spiritual drive for what is perceived as “good” or spiritual. In the same spell-like state, they too may feel above it all, but the same shadows still lurk below.

Whether or not one is an addict, in the spiritual community it is surprisingly easy to make a lateral move and appropriate a spiritual identity in exchange for one we deem less desirable, all the while sidestepping our shadow. I know, because I did just that.    

Enjoy the gift of this day,