I Ain’t No Expert…

Name: Emma Todd
Location: Sunshine Coast, Australia
Occupation: Artist, Mama and Student

Emma Todd raysMy new neighbour is a yoga teacher, “or almost,” she says, with laughter shining from her being. I could not only see the sound, but I could feel it in every atom of me, the moment she threw her head back and laughed. Looking back I realise that was when I was first hit by her invisible positive power … her yoga rays. I’ve been infected ever since that moment.

Not that I’m any stranger to yoga. For over 20 years now, I’ve been a haphazard practitioner of Sun Salutations and other asanas featured in magazines I’ve happened to flick through in various waiting rooms. These gorgeous, glossy pages would magically find their way into my bag and have become a little worn and creased and faded, like me. The pages remained in my possession like talismans even though the asanas are memorised by my body and soul. Extended periods of disciplined practice, when I swore to yoga like a new love that this could and would not ever end (because it felt so darn good), were followed by long bouts of yoga droughts where the only practices were hedonism and procrastination in all things. Eventually, with a flabby mind, I shyly hobbled or skulked back to my mat and breathed through each position with love and acceptance and surrender—and always, yes always, within a day or two, I wondered where on this Earth I’d been.

Something mysterious happens the moment I step onto my mat, even when I feel a little tired or uninspired. But every time I finish, I am awake, renewed, and present again. Perhaps the times when yoga disappears from my life in the physical form are just as important and necessary as when it is present, like yin and yang, light and shade, sweet and sour. I can never appreciate something fully till it disappears; I can never see something properly when it’s always the same. Balance has been a dance on a tightrope, filled with high drama, danger, and safety at some point off in the distance. If only I could get there. I’ve come to long for some gentle and sustained harmony, just as I begin to redefine what freedom is.

Emma Todd balanceSo I guess I don’t know all there is about yoga, and I don’t profess to be an expert or highly skilled at it—but with the likelihood of sounding very, very corny, it makes me want to be a better person.

When I’m breathing, I’m alive. Once I begin yoga again after a hiatus, I realise it’s like I haven’t been breathing at all.

When I was told that I had to stop yoga for a period after surgery on my eye, suddenly, despite being sloth-like in mind and body, I was deeply alarmed that I would never be able to do downward dog again. My, did I protest too much. The idea that I may never practice yoga again EVER was inconceivable. I realised how profoundly important yoga is to me and that I needed it in my life.

I guess yoga hasn’t really transformed me. It is transforming me continually, and as time passes and years come and go, I want to embrace yoga more and more. As this slow-moving journey continues, I find I want to go deeper and deeper, not through knowledge gained, but through the greater freeing of my mind—freedom through the physical expression of my body, freedom of my soul through the return to my body, to the return of being present, here and now. Freedom, always, freedom.

A life spent roaming, often fleeing darkness, the promise of hope somewhere new, this time starting over, again and again. The profound dream once had of horses galloping across a broad, unfolding terrain, feeling the earth creating itself, rumbling up through my bare feet, my heart beating hard and fast; feeling the pounding of the earth as the hooves of a hundred brumbies spill out across that wild terrain, mains flying and nostrils flared, getting closer and closer, my ridiculous joy rising with the chorus of their galloping and I long to run with them. I ache to join them running through this place, this world being born, and everything reaches a crescendo of bliss as I experience the beauty of freedom.

“This is freedom,” my soul says, throwing her horse head back and laughing as she runs, her mane flying like kites and I know this is it.

And I don’t know why, but I turn my back on this magnificent scene, and hop into a black plastic garbage bag, with a rectangle cut out for my eyes to see only the clouds in the sky, and I begin to suffocate.

The dream has haunted me. Full of unparalleled bliss and profundity, and a sour ending where I choose to rob myself of breath, I have tried ever since to avoid suffocation, only to seemingly meet my destiny on the path I choose to avoid it. Yet yoga is the path I consciously take now to walk, dance, run in any way to freedom, and it has come from being still and breathing deeply. And it is here I find myself, each day now, breathing, nostrils flaring as I arch my head back and my hair falls down my back and I search for that place in my dream, and occasionally I think I glimpse it.

I choose to hop out of that plastic bag and run with all the wild horses.

 

Emma Todd bio photoEmma Todd lives with her daughter near the ocean where every sense is magnified. Although flirting non-committally with yoga since she was a teenager, last year saw her having to confront her eye health head on and undergo major eye surgery to attempt to stop further loss of sight. A bridge she never wished to cross, ultimately it has been a beautiful awakening that has set her firmly on the path of continuing self-awareness and taking care of her health and well-being. Yoga is now an established part of Emma’s work-in-progress life. Emma is dedicating herself now to her art, wishing to “inspire creatively and be creatively inspired,” as well as commencing the journey to become a Hawaiian Massage practitioner this year. You can find Emma and her art here: https://www.facebook.com/boheme.em.

 

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My Rendezvous with God Through Yoga

Name: Anonymous
Location: Australia

Photo attributed to Flickr user legends2k.

“Darker it gets, nearer the dawn.”– this anonymous quote comes to my mind when I recall my past. My real life story may sound stranger than fiction for many readers and may attract an array of reactions and comments. We live in a world of information technology and with increasing information and knowledge comes great scrutiny and spontaneous comments, without a real life experience. Words cannot adequately describe the actual experience, even in this age of information technology. Only a ‘direct perception’ can reveal the ‘reality.’

When you write about a real life experience, various people from different countries, languages, religions, cultures and beliefs read such an experience.There is always a gap between what is conveyed and what is received because people read them with their conditioned minds, wearing glasses of various colors. If the article is read by a million people, there are a millions views and understandings; yet not even one in a million may really grasp the true reality. Whatever I am writing here is purely my personal experience, and all the opinions and suggestions are my own, and I do not intend to convert or change anybody with my views or expect anybody to concur with my views. You can read them, reflect on them and decide the outcome by yourself. Only direct experience will be of value in the yoga practice.

Sri Nataraja Temple

All my life I studied and practiced only science and engineering. But deep within me there was a great passion for Philosophy, Metaphysics, Occultism and Theology. This deep rooted passion has its origin in my past and it did not just come out of the blue. I am now 58 years old and I was born and brought up in the small town of Madurai, India, right around the time that India gained its independence from Britain. I remember we did not even have electricity at that time. Poverty and illiteracy were common. Our life centered on the great temple of Meenakshi. My dad was able to educate himself and he graduated from American College, a well-known college even today in Madurai. At that time, he was one of the few handfuls of graduates in the entire district. He educated all of us and I graduated as an engineer and I also did my post-graduate work at the University of Madras, now known as Anna University in Chennai, India.

During one of those days in the university, I happened to meet a fortune-teller, who was supposedly able to predict one’s future by simply looking at that person. He stopped me while I was walking past him and he said, “You come from a warrior family, who belong to the Vijaya Kingdom.You belong to a Naik clan and Naidu caste and you speak telugu. You will become a philosopher during the latter part of this life because that is your destiny.” I just laughed at his prediction. I offered him a cup of coffee and he accepted it as a fee for his prediction and then walked away. I never met him before or after this incident.

But in the second part of life, things changed completely. It was a deep, dark tunnel through which I had to travel nearly fifteen years of my life. I was deeply in debt and I had to sell everything to clear my debts before I became completely broke. I decided to leave India for good because I could not see any future there because of my past actions. I was able to migrate to Australia. My educational background and professional experience helped me for the migration. It was the darkest moment of my life.

Photo attributed to Flickr user h.koppdelaney.

During one of those dark days in India, I had a very strange experience. One day early in the morning I got up and looked at the mirror. I realized I was looking at a man in the mirror. It was a very strange, bizarre and scary moment which I will never forget in my lifetime. For a moment, there was no memory of me. My mind was completely blank. Even though it is only my own image in the mirror I was looking at, I could not relate to it. That momentary experience changed me completely into a new person, spontaneously dissolving all of my past. The great veil of Maya lifted for good. That experience taught me: when I was able to witness my own body, then who am I? The image in the mirror is a reflection of me, yet, I did not recognize that moment. There is a subject within me witnessing an object in the mirror, two different entities.

This mirror experience turned my life upside down. That was the beginning of my spiritual journey, because it was the ‘direct perception’ of my ‘self.’ What more evidence do I need to realize this truth that I am not the body but a spirit? Once this veil of ignorance called Maya is lifted, the darkness that engulfed my life simply vanished.

Now, I am a new person and there is a new beginning. During those solitary moments in silence, I can always feel that oneness with Self and experience Sahaja Samadhi. It is an experience where the Jeevatma merges with Pramatma in an eternal bliss. That was my liberation from the clutches of worldly attachments.The purpose of yoga is to prepare one’s body and mind until it dissolves one’s individual identity called ‘ego,’ and merges with the universal divinity called Iswara, in the state of Samadhi. Once you experience this state, there is nothing else to achieve because it is a direct meeting with ‘God,’ the most gracious, indescribable, ever-present and the most compassionate. It is beyond words.

My life today is very simple. I do not need anything and I spend all my time in the deep contemplation of Iswara, who showed me the path. I have been a vegetarian for the past 12 years and I don’t even think about alcohol and I am certainly not concerned about wealth or women. I have deep compassion for all forms of life on earth. I cannot witness any violence and injustice even in TV shows and I am overwhelmed by sights of poverty, hunger, domestic violence and exploitation of nature in the name of science and prosperity. I now view women with great reverence and respect. I see great divinity in the power of women to create, maintain and destroy. It is a great gift of God and cycle of nature.

I must warn the readers that the veil of Maya is very powerful and we cannot underestimate its power. We can overcome the power of Maya only with the grace of Iswara. When Maya becomes all the more powerful, then the world is in darkness and its end is imminent.

Yoga is a practical, step by step instruction manual that teaches people to transform themselves completely into their divine nature. It is not just a physical exercise or posture. The process is long and tedious and the path is full of hurdles and difficulties, but one can certainly attain the highest goal of Samadhi by following three simple rules of Tapa, Swadyaya and Iswara pranidinani ( strict discipline or austere life, deep contemplation of ‘who am I?” and complete surrender to Iswara). Everything else will fall into place for sincere aspirants.

Jesus Christ is one of the highest yogis in human history,  and Jesus said: “Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel and will rule over all.”

This post was submitted by an anonymous author.

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