Yoga can ultimately have the potential to set itself apart from mainstream spiritual organizations by virtue of the fact that we address the wild, untamed, ‘dirty’ and unmentionable parts of our own humanity.
In order for us to find out who it is that we truly are, I believe quite firmly that we cannot just dwell on the so called “pleasant or light stuff” and that we must look at the darker side of our being as well. There, hidden away in the darkness, is where our real fears lie and if we are ever going to live a life of freedom and if we are ever going to really make a difference in this world, then at what point do we step up to the plate and enroll ourselves in the “Game of Life”?
The vast majority of individuals will wait until it is too late and that is where most of us are heading right now. The truth of this observation can be seen quite clearly as we take stock of our own lives and the events taking place on a Planetary level. The truth is that it is the nature of people to wait and, rather than do something that will make a difference, is to stand by and do nothing.
Yoga is not for those people who are looking to continue to take from the world and Yoga is not for those who like to keep up with the “In Crowds” and do what is socially acceptable. Yoga is also not for those who wish to pretend to be nice.
Yoga can be a powerful tool for those whose intention it is to find new ways of expression and alternate ways to build and strengthen their own inner light. It is for those individuals who wish to become forces for good and to consciously look for ways to strengthen the fabric of goodwill in this world. Why? Because many of the threads of this fabric are very weak at this present moment and the world needs you…the world really needs YOU to step up to the plate and make a difference.
Coming back to the question once again, “What is Freedom and are we really Free?” leads us nicely into the discussion of the ultimate goal of Yoga, which is “Moksha”, meaning “liberation or freedom”.
Sadly, the majority of us live in a state of delusion regarding freedom, never really understanding what it is nor even trying to make an effort to understand what it is. We continue to live in cages gilded with golden bars and never really step beyond these bars of our own making. We are like tigers constantly chasing our tales in these golden cages, running in circles and thinking that if we could only catch the tip of it, we would be happy.
On the odd occasion though, we actually do catch that “illusive tail” only to discover that it did not make us happy and, in this realization, we become even more unhappy because we are not happy. We then let go of the tail, the viscous cycle starts all over again. Instead of investing our energy in leaving our golden cages, we repeat the cycle over and over and over and over….
Then, POOF…we die.
This is not a judgment. This is a fact because this is the nature of the body. We cannot change it. Swami Rama joked about this and said, “Death is an eviction notice to the ignorant.”
The inspiration for the particular writing came on December 18th, 2006, as a student passed away. He was around the age of 35 and he came with us to Costa Rica in October 2005. He was planning on coming again in Feb 2007 and even emailed me the week before to let me know what his flight plans were.
Two years before, he had started on the path of Yoga. He was in a relationship which was not thriving and carrying a mortgage that was weighing him down. This somehow provided him with a sense of security for the future. Every time I asked him, “What do you really want and what is it that your heart truly desires?” I never received an answer. I am not sure if he found that answer before his passing, but when I found out about his death, on the next day all I could think about was would he have done anything differently if he had known that in two years he would leave his body.
In each of us, there is a true longing; a longing for the wild side, a longing to be free, a longing to be unclean and a longing to get down and get dirty, to explore our true nature and express our authentic self.
The majority of us operated like captive elephants which are chained by their foot. The chain was once attached to an unmovable object but it is no longer. In our minds, as long as the chain is attached to us, we will always be stuck, however, the chain is not attached to anything anymore and we have just plain forgotten that we are free.
Lately, in my yoga classes, I have opened the door a little to what I call “The Yogi’s Choice”. Sometimes we do it on our own and sometimes we do it with a partner. In these moments, the students have an opportunity to do whatever poses or exercises they wish to do and it is most noteworthy and quite instructive to all of us that, it is in this precise moment that most of them freeze up. The image of the elephant always comes to my mind.
Are you really free? What is true freedom?
How do we know if we live in this prison? Because we say things like “I can’t…”, “That’s impossible,” “I am not allowed to” or “This or that is wrong.” We recite mantras like, “I must do this or that.” “Society says I must do…” “My family says I must do…”
It is our self created prison that enslaves us. Swami Rama (Meditation is not what you think…) said, “Your mind is the key to your freedom or the warden of your prison. ” Only through systematic Yogic Practice can you truly understand this and begin to work with your mind in a way that helps you truly THRIVE in life on all levels.
Yoga opens the door to experimentation and gives us the opportunity to test the waters and to see where we limit ourselves and where we do not. Yoga gives us the opportunity to learn how to deal with issues and instead of always running away from these issues; we learn how to breathe into them and through them. Yoga helps us to build a steady mind, one that is focused and directed. It helps to build a strong body and one that is not reactive to life’s little pressures.
Our power in life will be rooted and strengthened from a place that is built on inner peace and joy and it is from that deep sense of joy that we begin to move back into the world, not only to reshape our own life but to greatly influence those around us to do the same.
There is power in being happy. And just how do we “be happy”? By simply remembering our true nature and essence.
All the scriptures, be they Buddhist, Koran, the Bible, the Sutras, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Unpanishads or even the Torah say that the moment we go inward, our ignorance disappears and all the causes of suffering leave us. What remains is pure joy and happiness.
Part of our problem is that we are extremely rooted in being happy from outward things. We go out of our way to have more things, to eat at the most expensive restaurants, to have the “cool” friends and all of this activity can be quite exhausting. I used to be like that, for all of about five minutes when I first came out of the closet. “The Pursuit of Happiness” was a lifestyle. What I now know to be true for myself is that because it takes a lot of energy to pursue happiness in life, there is very little left to realize where it actually comes from…until it is too late.
I believe each of us is capable of so much more especially when we truly make the decision that, “Yes, here I am and I am choosing Freedom”
If you are truly ready to make that decision, please do the following exercise.
Take and pen and a piece of paper and answer the following questions:
What does freedom look like to me right now?
What are the “I must’s” in my life?”
- Society says I must…
- My family says I must…
- My mother says I must…
- My government says I must…
- My job says I must…
- My Co-Workers say I must…
- My religion says I must….
Do I really want these? (Did you know you can burn them?)
What are the obstacles to living my life in freedom?
And lastly, make two commitments. Not just ones where you say you will and never do.
1. Sit for just ten minutes a day, in stillness and solitude. This means no music and no distractions…just pure quiet. This exercise will reveal its potency to you over time.
2. In the words of Bryan Kest, “Get your ass to Yoga Class.” Many of our students still need constant reminders from their teachers and forget everything so quickly. It isn’t really your fault, no more than it is the fault of a Lion who kills. It is your nature to forget and that is why you must develop inner determination so that when you do forget, the positive habit patterns are in place to help you stay the course. In all honesty, if you are not getting to a yoga class once a week, how can possibly expect to see great results?
Through time and sincere effort, grace will descend upon you. That is the nature of this Universe. However, give it time and be patient with yourself and you will truly know freedom.
About Yogi Aaron
Yogi Aaron brings passion and a spirit of adventure to his teaching. Thus inspired, he guides students to secret, far-flung locales, which not only empowers them to realize their own limitless potential but also makes yoga relevant and accessible for the modern world. Since 2002 he has been travelling and leading retreats worldwide. He currently serves as the Yoga Director at Blue Osa Yoga Retreat + Spa in Costa Rica