Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cheryl Simone visits Yoga Arts studio

This entry is a little late, about a week, due to my finally getting up to speed on blogging. Cheryl Simone, author of Midnights with the Mystic, spoke here at the Yoga Arts Studio last Saturday, Jan. 24. We had a good turn out and we're thankful to everyone who came to hear her remarkable story of seeking enlightenment. My account of what she had to say is just that, my account. Others would no doubt present what she said with different emphasis and perspective but here are, over a week later, my impressions.

Since age 14 she'd had yearnings for something more in life, something transcendent, authentic, a connection with the source and power of life. She'd read widely of spiritual traditions and teachings. She'd hopped on the counter culture train of the 60's and 70's, experimenting with LSD, which she affirmed as mind expanding but temporary. She'd seen her own soul in the body of Baba Ram Dass. She traveled the aiawaska shamanic journey and attended numbers of retreats and workshops on the art of meditation. Yet, no durable breakthroughs. She was still subject to the internal storms stirred up when personal expectations and desire contrast with life as it unfolds. Business seemed to be an especially challenging area. "When biz was good, I was good. When it wasn't, I wasn't (i'm paraphrasing)." She had been a quite successful housing developer out of the Atlanta area. She had a good life, as many would define it — plenty of money, a couple homes, a good 2nd marriage, at least one offspring, a son. But her health was poor, hormones off balance, heart stressed, high blood pressure, low energy, physical pain and spiritual frustration to the point of giving up.

Then she met Sadhguru Vasudev. In his presence she found peace. She offered to host Sadhguru and his assistant at her mountain home for a week. Her book is a vivid account of the six or seven nights she spent at Sadhguru's feet. To make a long story short, through his presence and teachings and through practice of his "inner engineering" techniques, she has recovered her health and achieved contentment of heart. Now she lives to spread the word, promoting her book and devoting many of her resources to the service of helping people discover their enlightened selves.

I most remember the incident she related where Sadhguru answered the question Cheryl was harboring, but never asked. He sliced a knife through a cake, withdrew it and said, most people are unfulfilled because they are like this knife stuccoed with gunk. Life sticks to them. They identify with what sticks to them, the accumulations from infancy till death or even former lives. This becomes their conditioning and habits of being, coupled with bio-genetic proclivities, their karma. The strength of these accumulations stems from their being largely unconscious. My feeling is that through her yoga practice (about an hour/day), the substance of which was only generally disclosed - asana (yoga posture), dhyana (meditation) and pranayama (breath work) — she has been able to maintain and expand upon the gift of Sadhguru's physical presence. The keystone was the guru himself. He opened the window for her. This is uncomfortable terrain. Contemporary culture is full of people falling for the charismatic personality and it turning out badly. Yet, such is the character of numinous and spiritual history. Jesus had disciples. Moses & Buddha had followers. Mohammed ... the shamans of indigenous peoples, the gurus of India, ect. But I actually don't think yoga is a religion. It's a practice, rather than an institutional structure, that leads one toward mental and physical balance and potential spiritual realization. The practice has made a powerful difference in Cheryl's life. For now, proximity to Sadhguru seems to brighten her light. It will be interesting to see how long she will need that proximity and where her journey leads. But my feeling is that she walks her journey as a free being.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Adho Mukha Vrksasana — Downward Facing Tree Pose

This is probably my favorite pose. There is nothing more invigorating than being up on the arms inverted to gravity and stable. To make it happen the hands must be spread wide and suctioned to the ground, arm bones flush in their joints, scapula set on the back ribs. From this base the myofascial core, deep and superficial, from the diaphragm to the pelvic floor contracts around the spinal column. The inner legs, through the heels, cut back. The knees open. Calve muscles lengthen toward the heal and the skin of the foot tightens, length and width-wise, from the heel to the toe roots. Thus, the core is effectively a continuum, from the base of the lungs to the ends of the feet. The launch position is downward dog. You can kick up with both legs to a pike before pulling upright. Or kick up one leg at a time. For example, from downward dog, bring the right foot a half a step forward. Feel the sense of spring in the joints of the toes, ankle, knee and hip. Kick up a few times just for practice. If this is new for you, kick up against a wall. In our example, the right leg is the spring leg. Being long and internally rotated within the hip joint, the left leg leads the body up into the inverted position. Blood roars to the lungs, heart and neck glands. Basil receptors kick in to regulate blood pressure. Confidence fills the body.