The ancient teachings tell us that our true nature is sat-chit-ananda: truth, eternal consciousness, and bliss. There is no separation, no independent existence. This nature alone is permanent, everything else is illusion. Furthermore, this true nature is already inside us; we have just forgotten it.
Hard to understand. Harder to internalize. Even harder to achieve this Truth.
But if we shut up once in a while, we can see glimpses of this.
I have been thinking a lot about coincidences lately. When coincidences keep happening, something else is going on. Those of you who know me are probably singing Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” right about now. If the shoe fits, I’m happy to wear it.
When I was in my early teens, my aunt took me to see a psychic. The psychic told me a bunch of expected generalities, then said “You need to learn how to stand on your head.” 20 some years later, I was the only student to show up to a yoga class, and the teacher said: “Do you want to learn how to stand on your head?” I count that day as the day I truly started practicing yoga.
I used to listen to a lot of punk and NY Hardcore music. The teacher who amplified my asana practice at the exact time I needed it to be amplified was the lead singer of one of these bands I listened to 15+ years ago.
At a time when I didn’t know anything about kirtan other than recognizing it as background music in yoga classes, a line from Krishna Das’ “Sita Ram”—“Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram” suddenly roared in my head with as much clarity and volume as if I was standing next to a speaker. I didn’t even know who Krishna Das was or what the words were—I had to hum it to a friend to get the name of the artist and song. This mantra has stuck with me ever since.
Speaking of Rama, once I knew the line, I sought its meaning. A little interweb searching, and I had the basic story. Funny thing, there was a copy of The Ramayana sitting on our bookshelf. My wife had read it for a class in college and it had been in our various living rooms staring at me for 12+ years. I had, and still have, a profound, uncontrollable emotional response to this work.
My practice shifted toward Sivananda’s method of Hatha Yoga, and, through research, came across The Complete Illustrated Guide to Yoga which is the main text for the Sivananda Teacher Training program. I never spoke of this to anyone. Less than a week later, a student comes to class and offers me several books, saying “Something told me you could use these.” Among them, The Complete Illustrated Guide to Yoga. The first yoga book I ever bought was about the Sivananda method. My practice had come right back to where it began.
And the inspiration for this whole tirade: Last weekend, my Mom and Aunts came to visit. We were in my son’s room, and my Aunt (the one who took me to that psychic, now 25 years ago) asked about a sticker on my son’s crib. I explained it was the name Rama. She almost fell out of the chair. She said that many, many years ago, when she began taking meditation classes, the teacher (who is now deceased) instructed her how to meditate on the word Rama. My Aunt never knew what the significance of the word was, but she practiced what she was taught.
Everything keeps coming back to Rama and Sivananda. So I keep reading the Ramayana and Sivananda.
Part of the aim of our practice is to train ourselves to be aware of and receptive to these “coincidences.” Don’t continue to ignore those big flashing arrows that point you in a certain direction!
Once is coincidence, twice is conspiracy, three times, well that is just someone shouting WAKE UP!
Speaking of headstand and waking up: Training for Students Session 3 is coming to Hudson River Yoga on Saturday October 15th! Turn your world upside down with an introduction to Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras and an inversion primer. No matter where you are in your practice, I will give you the tools to do headstand, shoulderstand, and just maybe handstand away from the wall!