Updated: Feb 9
Let me tell you why I now believe that the Yoga path is really a circle, and why what can only be the doorway to Seventh Series awaits on the other side of the modern day Samadhi!
Let’s talk about Samadhi, the end of the yoga path. What is it and why is it so important? and what happens afterwards? Are we really supposed to remain in blissful consciousness and turn our backs on the material world we have broken free from? The world that contains our family, friends, our story… I don’t think many modern yogis would go so far as to renounce all but God; today the yogi returns from the absolution of Samadhi to act in the world, and with this decision I believe begins the most challenging path yet; Living in a sleeping world as an awakened one is no easy task, I believe that this MUST be the Seventh Series!
If we choose not to live as a full time samadhi-seeking renunciate we cannot simply reverse the yoga switch and go back to who we were before this process of yoga changed our idea of the truth! We are in a sense stuck in this kind of purgatory of mental states; We question who am I? What am I? For we see the world differently and yet the world sees us as the same, all is not as it seems! Can we go back to being the old us we were now that we’ve reached the yoga ‘end’? Can we enjoy the world like we used to again ? Do we still have to live a life of discipline and restraint and constant observations?
My theory is that the yoga path is really a circle, and after years of diligently working away at it we arrive at the heart of it, the irreversible penny drops. Then what? We start again. Only this time we are different. Now that we have a clear vision of the world we are hyper- sensitive; this world may seem more turbulent and unpredictable than ever before. For before we only dealt with the confines of our own body and mind, we learnt the ways of yoga there, it was our safety net, our controlled environment; now we have learnt the yoga we must use the yoga!
After so much self- discipline, sacrifice and arduous mental mountain climbing to achieve success in yoga, the modern yogi must be braver still! She must make herself vulnerable to fully experience life again! The self- mastery of yoga puts her in the eye of the swirling storm of prakriti, but where is the sense of willfully remaining apart and withdrawn when this yoga love and wisdom shines out of her? What good is the yoga if bound up and locked away like a box of jewels or a great secret? And so she flings open again the gates of her body and the senses of his mind to experience this world that is out of her control and always will be. For she is alive and is here to serve!
I feel like I have come full circle and I am back where I started, or so it appears on the outside, only my eyes, my perception and my soul feel different. I look the same but i have this feeling of not quite knowing who i am anymore, but within me there is this electric current of excitement. I want to talk about this unexpected new turn in my yoga path, or should i call it a circle, or a sphere?! I know I sound like I am talking in riddles but that’s how it feels! Somehow I have stumbled into a new ‘layer’ or ‘depth’ of understanding reality and all here is not as it seems, I am pretty sure that I am facing my first hesitant and brave steps into Seventh Series! I am wary and alert like a lost thing in a new planet but i am somehow tingling with a freshness and interest in life, an exuberance that I haven’t felt in years! I feel a great change here, let me explain….
I have forthcoming blogs ‘The emergence’ and ‘Pratyahara OD’ explaining the wake up call I got these last few weeks. To sum it up quickly this is what happened; Over the last four years I became totally and willingly absorbed in the study of yoga, that is to say not just the practise of it, but constant ongoing curiosity led me to study relentlessly, the obsession calmed after about two years but still , with the practise study and also teaching I had yoga on my mind 24/7, I was a full time yoga student! I now feel that this phase has come to a natural end, yea, i know that yoga study is inexhaustible and rightly so with so many areas to examine and three thousand years behind it, but I feel that my studies have answered what I had to find out and understand. I am satisfied with the knowledge and it is clear to me, I have peeled back layers of yoga study and also my self and have journeyed right to the centre, to its root, as one should to truly know a thing. I feel that I have now graduated from my self- made yoga degree! I have ‘completed’ the subject of yoga, and more importantly I know the state of Yoga. I have read about it in the scriptures and now understand what I read there and why we must seek it. More importantly I have been there, I have touched the void, I have been the void.
And having made the journey I now I return to this world and this reality, I leave the yoga bubble that has surrounded me all of these years, I am born again it seems, for I have been away somewhere, separate from this world, my focus withdrawn and one- pointedly focussed on my yoga quest. Now it is over, the quest has revealed the truth and I face a new reality, outside of my yoga bubble the world still swirls, my yoga blinkers are off and now we begin again, to be a yogi in real life!
Let’s talk about the goal of Yoga, the state of Yoga. Enlightenment or Samadhi means union to God and a state of pure consciousness, to become nothing and nobody. It is to know the truth, to see what is, to see that we do not exist but only in form, to see the transience of time and matter and the immortality of the soul. Some say that it is not possible to become enlightened, only to become aware of the truth of what we are, to see it for what it is. My troubles are these, What is the use of Samadhi? How is it helpful to anyone? How is it Practical? Functional? Why would anyone want to seek immortality if the life is solitary and confined by rules? It may bring peace and free us from the bonds of karma and the wheel of Samsara but do we still lead a full and meaningful life if we are spending increasing amount of time in samadhi or in samadhi like states as in meditation, prayer and kumbhakas? Here is the Catch 22 right?
For many years the yogi works diligently, self- focussed he turns his back on the world, for there there are many distractions, his world becomes small and increasingly inwardly focussed. Over time in fact he starts to forget about the greater world, so focussed is he on his quest for success in yoga. Does this sound familiar? It goes like this, we focus on our practise, and this practise, if we are serious about it, makes changes in our ways, our habits, our behaviour, our social routine etc…. And of course this is why the spiritual path is a lone one. A good yogi wants a space and a mindset that facilitates yoga and so we set up the sanctuary, the clean healthy space and lifestyle that facilitates the practise. In this controlled environment where we work only with ourselves it is easy to practise with the yoga as we have the control panel to our limited variables, the variables are known ie food choices, sleeping habits, how we use our bodies, what we dedicate our time to. We grapple with ourselves through yamas and niyamas, asana and pranayama. We gain control of these senses, we observe the play of the material, the gunas, the pairs of opposites, we learn about kleshas and avidya and the what is the source of human suffering, we gain control and steadfastness as yogis who stand in the eye of the storm and yet we strive to evade the storm, we draw away from it and seek refuge within ourselves, in to that place of nothingness, emptiness, to the place where no mind or senses exist. And further we go as we try to stop the breath itself and cheat death and become immortal, to exist forever as pure consciousness!
Read the scriptures they will tell you to restrain from pleasure, pain, desire, lust, passion, greed, laziness, unhealthy food, sex, then mind and breath itself so that life force and prana are not wasted and we cheat death itself, but is this a life? To restrain from everything that makes us feel human and alive? Is it blissful to be a nothing? Be like a pot they say, empty within, empty without, make the mind supportless and think of nothing, meditate on emptiness, be absorbed in the space of consciousness, sit in the lotus position and look at the tip of your nose, the mind dies and you successfully become a sky rover!
‘The yogi who is completely released from all states and free of all thoughts remains as if dead. He is liberated. Here there is no doubt.'
'The yogi in samadhi know neither smell, nor taste, nor form, nor touch, nor sound, nor himself,nor others’
How do you feel about this? I love to read these passages but I live in a world we need all the help we can get to eradicate human suffering and reestablish a healthy harmony between living beings and the world we are part of. Note that i do not say live in for the planet is not something that is separate from us. I feel that anyone who has gone through the process of Yoga, for it is a process with lots of wake up calls and realisations along the way, will naturally desire to help the world and not turn their back on it. Also once the teachings of yoga have been acquired, that is understood and experienced, there is no longer the need to abstain and stay separated, the work has been done and now the decision has to be made whether to keep the work to oneself and head to one’s own samadhi through a restrained lifestyle or whether one wants to return to the whirling colourful excitement of the world and do good there. This is where I am right now. I embark on the Seventh Series, being a yogi in the world outside my body, my head, my mat.
‘Until the practise is complete, the yogi should resort to a restricted diet. Without doing so a wise man will be unable to practise in this life. The clever man should shun conversing with good men in the assembly. He should do so only to take care of his person, avoiding excessive chatter. The yogi must avoid all company. He must completely avoid it otherwise he will not get liberation. I have spoken the truth. The practise is to be performed at home, indoors, shunning company. Outside, people must be met for the sake of everyday business, but without attachment.’
‘So a householder should engage himself in the struggle. Living in a house filled with children and a wife and so forth, internally abandoning attachment and then seeing the mark of success on the path of yoga, the householder enjoys himself once he has mastered my teaching.’
And so it is clearly written in the texts, all of this isolation, abstaining and discipline is only fully necessary when one is striving to learn the yoga, or whilst on the path of yoga. Once the process is complete we then return to the world. Pattabhi Jois used to say Seventh Series is having a family, Krishnamacharya was told by his guru to to go back to the world, teach and start a family.
Though I have met many souls who choose to stay apart from the world, safe in their inner yoga world. Aloof, equanimous and somehow separate from the world, other may perceive them as strange or arrogant, I believe often people confuse equanimity for dispassion, and there calmness leads them to appear dull or disinterested, as if they were taking a back seat in life, but of course this would be useless to help society if we all wandered around in this way. But people may be afraid to step out into the big world, for here we do not have the controls as we do when we are only concerned with ourselves. But this is the challenge of the Seventh Series. It is hard to enjoy the world and yet be yogic, the yogic path is a fine one, who says we must lead a dull and austere lifestyle to be happy and peaceful. Who says we cannot enjoy the world with all of its pleasures? We know that those pleasures are not the source of our pleasure so we are safe! Who says we cannot feel emotions deeply? To be real humans we must experience the fullness of life, we will never be able to avoid pleasure and pain, love and sorrow, we must invite them in, again we are safe as we know not to let them become us! We can own nice things and dance and let loose every now and then so long as we do it consciously. As yogis we are hypersensitive, we know what we do and why, we make careful decisions and life choices, we are more alert and aware of what is happening around us but we must not hide from it. I used to wonder do we come to Yoga to lose ourselves or to find ourselves? I think the answer is both, in that each are interdependent, but having gotten to the bottom of it we must start again and be in the world
And so here I am, having touched and understood the true ‘point’ of all of this Yoga and now I am faced with what to do next as i feel myself on the brink of stepping into this new place i must go.
I am not who i was, and yet I want some of that person back again, Yoga study consumed and eclipsed my personality, people say now I am calm and confident, I used to be bold and brash! I want some of me back, I want to have fun again and get back in touch with friends and places I used to know. I will not be the scholar hiding in the books, the ashtanga practitioner in the darkened room, I cannot be alone and awake with all of my senses, emotions and thoughts bound up, I want to live a multidimensional life again where yoga and my own personality make space for each other. For to help others I must understand the world that we live in, I must experience my senses and emotions, I must have the gates of the body open.
I said in the title how the yoga circle takes us from suffering to samadhi and back. The suffering comes again because now that we have returned to start again we are equipped with this new vision and perception. I cannot point out the mistakes of others or judge them just because I can see the cause of their suffering, nor can I tell them how to fix it. We must fix ourselves by ourselves this is known. I despair at the disregard of humanity for the natural world and for each other, I am made sad by the division and confusion that separates the people. I even get depressed at the state of the Yoga in the West and how the the whole idea of yoga is so often wrongly conceived. But as my friend pointed out, i cannot take it all on! On the outside of course it all still looks as it was, It is I that has changed, it is like a sixth sense, or is that a seventh sense, oh that is interesting, a bit like if you have ever taken magic mushrooms, or you have seem the film the Matrix, or that feeling of having a really good secret that nobody knows! It is spooky and yet thrilling. The change inside is unseen, it is invisible, like yoga itself it shows itself in our actions.
‘What is night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled, and the time of awakening for all beings is night for the introspective sage’
‘Use all your power to free the senses from attachment and aversion alike, and live in the wisdom of the self, such a sage awakens to light in the night of all creatures , that which the world calls day is the night of ignorance to the wise.’
Some say that Seventh Series is like having a family, I can understand why as this challenges the yogi also to step outside his sanctuary and accept that he cannot control everything, no practise will probably be perfect and instead the practise is of acceptance and love and sacrifice. That is a hard lesson to learn. We cannot apply everything we have learnt within ourselves and our own practise to the greater world and those in it for they have different sets of standards and different experience and knowledge. If someone is happy, be happy that they are happy and do not judge why! I feel that this Seventh Series is the yogi’s ability to live amongst the wider world and relate to it and it’s people. The web of samsara is too invisible and to navigate it and all of these people and problems that are stuck in it is no easy task, to avoid judgement and comparison or intervention or arrogance, that is the Seventh Series, and all the while to not fall back into the trap. Is is wrong to judge those pleasure seekers who are ignorant of the path to joy? The yogi is in this remarkable position where he sees and knows that which he was before, during and after the process of Yoga happened to him. This is indeed a useful person to society for he truly understands ! The difficulty is how to use this understanding.
The great Krishnamacharya also understood this dilemma with samadhi and so his focus was instead on the health of the practitioner and bringing them closer to God. His guru urged him to start a family and to continue to teach Yoga as his payment for seven years of study. His student Pattabhi Jois used to laugh and say that Seventh Series was having a family. Pattabhi Jois did more than have a family, he spread Ashtanga Vinyasa throughout the world and among all the teachers I have never heard that anyone encouraged the student to remain in Samadhi, the teachings are always turned back on to life itself.
‘Yoga is not an escape from life, it is facing life without flinching from what is happening’
-Raghu Ananthanarayanam, student of Krishnamacharya and his son Desikachar
Since having recovered from the stark contrast of getting out into the turbulent world after spending three months of study and solitude more or less I have started to enjoy life hugely! I feel my eyes are wider! I am different and so of course, practise is different, I smile as i practise with both happiness and enjoyment, i am grateful for the practise as it makes me a better person and my day is always better if i practise. It is never about postures anymore, how fickle! It is just something that I do in order to know myself. And now words I heard last year from a practitioner ring true ‘leave what happens in practise and get on with your day’ ! I was of course carrying the yoga practise around with me all day 24/7, I loved it of course, I was enthralled and fascinated, I plundered all the facets and tangents and wormholes and sources of all and each would lead me deeper into the wormhole until actually in the end it eclipsed my actual practise too on several occasions! I forgot about the world, and myself, and having fun, I actually became that quiet, timid, caring person, compassionate and calm and devoid of a full range of emotions and experiences. Well now I have made it back and I tell you how I intend to move forwards.
I am not going to put Yoga into a little box to be guarded like a box of jewels or a precious secret no one is worthy of, nor can i turn Yoga on and off as i choose, as in i can’t see through my old eyes anymore, the change is permanent, invisible and resides in the heart. I need to be that yogi that fully understands her place in society, with these people, doing those things, acting that way! I need to be able to communicate, function and be fully operational and immersed in the world for this yogi is here to serve!
‘Loving attention is the very essence of an embodied yogic consciousness…. It invites a feeling of intimacy with something divine, an experience that stays with us when we open our eyes, and this is what really matters when we face the reality of other beings...Our capacity for channeling the loving current that sustains the mind and life of every living being, when that current begins to flow it holds us in perfect alignment, THIS IS THE YOGA OF RELATIONSHIP, THIS IS THE SEVENTH SERIES.
This blog was written after deep inner experiences throughout Covid 19 isolation at home. I would love to know how this period has changed you, if you also took the unique opportunity to journey inwards, if you managed to confront and process what you found there and how it has changed you? If you are also struggling to transition back to a moving, changing external world.