The Dharma invites us to investigate what our understanding of the human situation is and what might be the most intelligent way forward. How we make sense of where we find ourselves shapes how we live. We draw on the exquisite insights and essential teachings of the wisdom traditions and the more contemporary integral understanding. These insights are rich and very useful but from the yogic perspective real understanding can only arise through direct experience so the dharma is really revealed to us in the living engagement and understanding of our relationship with life, moment to moment. The dharma is the self revealing truth that arises and guides our way forward.
Asana, or yoga posture practice invites deeper and more intimate ways to enter and inhabit our bodies. There are many ways one can approach asana, for us it is the process of discovering the innate and natural energetic dynamics of the body. We learn to understand how the body self organises in relation to gravity, ground, space, the mind, to feeling and to others.
We are in constant relational engagement with the world, both "inner" and "outer".
Grounding is primary. Grounding for us means being in relationship with the ground literally and also being established in the reality of the immediate felt experience. Being grounded in what is actually presently happening. This means permeating the “body image” and inhabiting our bodies directly. Asana is a way to help us recognise and release our bodies from the grip of habitual mind and learn to trust and be responsive to the organic intelligence of bodily life.
Meditation is an intimate art and takes us to the very heart of yoga. Meditation brings a profound stability of awareness and a deeper appreciation and understanding of the mind. Meditation is not about controlling the mind but opening beyond all preferred perspectives of the mind, even beyond so called spiritual perspectives. Through consistent practice we slowly unglue ourselves from habitual fixations of mind and discover a way to release ourselves into the intimate recognition of Being, uncontrived, open and natural.
To breathe is to live. Pranayama is essentially about our relationship to life, the direct living pulse of life, freed from the habituated currents of our past. Pranayama is not about controlling the breath but about opening, being available for, and participating in the living current of life itself. We use the breath as a way of exploring our relationship to life. Pranayama expands and enriches our capacity for feeling, it invites us to be more available for the subtle felt sense of our inner lives, which brings a rich delicacy to our experience.
Another important element of practice is the voice. The voice is one of the main ways we open our inner lives to the world. Our hearts need a voice. Through mantra and kirtan we learn to open our hearts and loosen our tongues.
Mantra is a potent way of working with energy and feeling.
Svadhaya or self study is a very important part of the yogic process. Understanding from a yogic perspective is not conceptual understanding but a bone deep recognition in the immediacy of experience. To study the wisdom traditions without practice is futile. The wisdom traditions are very practical teachings and their subtleties and insights are only revealed to us in the vivid intimacy of direct experience. It is the deeper reaches of human experience they are talking about so to understand the wisdom traditions one has to be familiar with the terrain they are referring to. In essence, that is the unfolding reality of life. This familiarity only comes about through practice.
All the various methods of practice are forms of inquiry. We explore the field of the body with asana, we explore the field of the mind with meditation. Inquiry invites us to do our practice with our eyes open, to practice with intelligence and curiosity, to investigate at the frontier of our lives. Inquiry invites us to ask the right questions and opens in us a faculty for understanding, Inquiry, when released from the constraining force of habit, is itself an expression of the natural intelligence of life.
Sangha is community. We do these retreats with others, it is a shared inquiry. It is relatively rare to find a space to open and share what is of most concern to us, to find together a way of understanding the parts of our lives that are still subtle and barely open. Together we find a language to bring into form, to clarify and to claim our lives. The sangha provides support, nourishment and inspiration to help us engage the world and the many issues we face with fresh eyes.
Elements of Practice
At Yoga Dharma Life our aim is to draw more and more of ourselves into the transformational process by opening ourselves to the whole mandala of practice. Each of the methods of practice opens us to a different field of experience.