I must admit, I'm at a bit of a loss of what to say right now. I log onto social media and there just seems to be so much available opinion and information, I really don't know what to believe. Honestly, I'm a bit overwhelmed. I certainly don't want to add to the chaos. When I started this blog, I decided that I had no intention of trying to reach the masses or gain millions of followers. I simply wanted to create a platform in which I could stay connected with my local yoga community in more ways than just on the mat. Social media can be a wonderful tool for this, but it also exposes us to so much more "stuff" out there. It's very easy to get a bit lost in news articles, blog posts, and videos. Social media also has a wonderful way of calibrating with its sophisticated algorithms to show you exactly what you (or "it") want to see. Law of Attraction maybe? We keep getting more and more of what we THINK we want, as individuals, as a community, and even as a nation.
With the elections, it's been a very interesting couple of weeks teaching hatha yoga. Everyone seems a bit on edge. I've walked into class with students saying "Alright Wes! Make us feel better!". The truth of the matter is, it is not my right nor responsibility to tell anyone what to think or believe. Sure, I have my ideas on what I think is right or wrong. However, when I step into the role as teacher, my goal is to create the necessary space for Awareness to take hold. Something quite magical happens when we allow our minds to become quiet and our body and breath to take the lead. Sometimes the practice we do is called a "moving meditation", which isn't exactly accurate but it does convey the message that our mind is given an opportunity to take a break.
Sometimes yoga is described as the process of moving from the gross to the subtle. It increases our inner sensitivity. We gain an internal reference point and a feeling of centeredness. Quite frankly, if done well, it makes us less reactive and more responsive. Information is constantly coming into our being from the outside via the five senses. Our ability to process and assimilate this information is greatly impacted by the quality of our physical, mental, and emotional health. With yoga, we improve our health and thus our processing power. More importantly, we gain the ability to discern what comes in and what goes out. My teacher compares this to building a castle with a moat built around it. We develop the discipline and will power to decide when to raise and lower the drawbridge. We develop a healthier relationship with the "outside" world and a clearer understanding of who we are as individuals in relationship to that world. The word for this in yoga is "viveka-khyati", the power to discern who we really are.
So, who are we? Strangely, it may be better to begin from who we are not. The simple answer according to classical Yoga philosophy, is everything and anything subject to change. It's kind of like playing a game of elimination. Some things are rather easy, like "am I my cute outfit?" Or "am I my car?" Some things become more difficult as we have identified with them for so long, like "am I a mother or daughter? A father or son?" "Am I a decent and moral person?" "Am I right and that person wrong?" The list can really go on indefinitely. What Yoga teaches us is that this mistake of misidentification is the root cause of all our suffering. It's the cause of all discord within ourselves and with everyone not in agreement with us. The practice of yoga essentially aims at removing this very misidentification.
Sometimes this misidentification can veil itself as moral superiority. It is a very dangerous game when we start to think of ourselves as being more "right" than somebody else or even more "open and accepting" in our views than another. I am in no way claiming to have a full grasp of this yogic teaching, but the teachings are there for us to grow from! It's also important to note that one may actually be correct in one's idea about something, but the very notion that "I am right and you are wrong" is where we start to get in trouble. This is important because it does not mean that we should not take action in the world to do what we feel is just and good. In the Bhagavad Gita, a very important yogic text that takes place on a battlefield of all places, we are reminded to perform our dharma, our duty in the world. We cannot just sit back and be passive. We must take up our sword and fight! But, this can be done skillfully. A blade in the hand of a murderer will do great harm, yet in the hand of a surgeon can heal. The Bhagavad Gita reminds us that "Yoga is skill in action" (BG 2.50). Through yoga, we learn to be skillful in the world around us. Simply because we have a better understanding of who we truly are.
It's probably reasonable to ask why having a clearer understanding of who we are as individuals would change anything. If we are not all the things that are subject to change, the very things that make us different from somebody else, then who are we? This is not so easy to put into words; however, yoga practice gives us an opportunity to feel and discover it for ourselves. One thing that has become really clear to me with practice is how very similar we all are as human beings. The very identities that we so strongly cling to can be quite divisive. It's important to remember that all beings want to reduce pain and suffering in their lives, all beings strive towards happiness.
Again, the teachings make it clear not to sit by the sidelines and refuse taking action in the world. Most of the people I know who practice yoga are living in the mundane world. We have jobs, responsibilities, families and friends, communities we identify with. None of this is going to change unless you decide to become a renunciate and move to the mountains. However, we can certainly live our lives in the context of spirituality. We can act in the world from a place that sees the bigger picture. This is certainly not easy, it's actually very challenging! But, that is why we practice yoga.
Wes Linch was introduced to Yoga and Eastern philosophy over 8 years ago in a desire to know more about himself. He quickly discovered the benefits of Yoga far exceed open hips. Wes is a Vinyasa Flow instructor, having received over 700 hours of training through Yogaworks and Yoga Sol. He completed a 6 month mentorship with Mynx Inatsugu and continued to assist her for a year. In 2011, Wes received Shaktipat by Shri Anandi Ma and began studying a traditional tantric lineage called Kundalini Maha Yoga.