Here is another article which appeared in the June-September 1990 issue of The Kripalu Experience.
Entering the center of experience is like being at the hub of a wheel in motion. A wheel is functional because the hub remains steadfastly in the center. When you identify with your physical, mental, or emotional experiences, you move away from your center. Life then becomes a bumpy ride.
When you hear, see, smell, taste, or feel something that disturbs you, you lose energy. When you speak words that create a disturbance, either in you or in anyone else, you lose energy. Yet your ears, eyes, and nose, etc. do not have the facility, in and of themselves, to create a disturbance within you. The mind creates its own disturbance through its interpretation of that which comes to you in life.
You have within you a facility that protects you from elements that could be harmful. For example, you obviously do not like certain smells because they signal that something is dangerous to your health. You learn to dislike many things, however, through your self-made, individually developed resistances.
In life, you constantly come up against the wall of your concepts and beliefs. If you have preconceived ideas or expectations, even a totally neutral situation can become a disturbance for you. This is because your own concepts are often in conflict with reality as it is revealed to you from moment to moment.
Look and see how many different ways you create disturbance within yourself. You establish a leak of energy every time you encounter a situation you have chosen to dislike. When you "hate" someone, for example, do you see how quickly you feel incapable of functioning effectively or even thinking clearly?
If you have a concept that running is good for you, but you actually hate doing it, you will still receive mechanical benefits from breathing deeply. But you can spend so much mental energy in not liking it, that the energy you get from the exercise is little in comparison.
As you are trying so hard to build more energy through exercise, proper diet, and finding vegetables that are not sprayed with chemicals, consider the spray pump you may have going on inside of you. Your anger, frustration, and fear can create a built-in chemical factory of internal toxins that is inconsistent with the life you are trying to create for yourself.
You can get so worked up by situations you don¹t like, and expectations of how it should be, that your work seems to be much more difficult than it actually is. By the time you have finished a job you dislike, you may have mentally squandered 70% of your energy when you only needed 10% of it to do the job.
Just ask yourself how many things you do that do not fulfill you. Then ask an even more important question: Is the lack of fulfillment a result of what you are doing or the way you are doing it?
Every time you begin to interpret something as "bad" or negative, whether you perceive it as coming from outside of you or within you, you begin to react to it. And that reaction consumes your real life energy. Understand that what you experience "out there" is happening within you. That is why you experience external reality in many different ways, according to your various moods and states of consciousness.
If you have built-in resistances, you will see problems where they do not exist. You will create problems out of nowhere by holding on to expectations, dreams, and fantasies of what you believe "should" be.
Seeing problems where they do not exist is one of the biggest problems in the world. On the other hand, seeing solutions where other people see problems is the result of being attuned to reality. That does not necessarily mean being free from all conditionings; it does mean, however, being willing to let go of any fixation or expectation that you may have about a given situation.
Unless you direct your life energy in a conscious way, for the fulfillment of your real needs and purpose in life, it dissipates. In fact, it not only dissipates, it establishes a pattern that is likely to be repeated. When repeated again and again, the pattern creates an enormous, ongoing energy leak.
Once your energies are engaged in avoiding, resisting, or fighting reality, you don¹t have that energy available for your creative expression. Your energy supply comes from your source and is limitless if you use it consciously. When you absorb yourself fully in things you find satisfying or fulfilling‹things that allow you to be in touch with that inner source‹then your energy is replenished naturally.
Yoga is a way of conserving energy in all different forms. It is a process of learning to protect and direct your energy so that it doesn¹t constantly leak out.
While Kripalu Yoga begins on a yoga mat, it has the potential to be a very powerful life training. You learn how to be in this world, with all the problems it seems to have, by learning how to simultaneously encounter disturbances and conserve your vital energy.
External situations often appear to be the cause of internal disturbance, but if you find a way to remove the inner disturbance, the externals stop creating conflict. You may deal with external disturbances by choosing to be in a very quiet place, but having a quiet place does not automatically provide for inner quietness.
And outer quietness is only "the tip of the iceberg." Inner quietness is what we all need. Kripalu Yoga offers a way home to that inner source of quiet and strength that exists within everyone.
Kripalu Yoga is a science. One aspect of yogic science is pratyahara‹the withdrawal of energy from outside attachments. With the practice of Kripalu Yoga meditation in motion, even if you live in the midst of many external disturbances, it can be as if you were sitting in the eye of a cyclone. There can be turmoil everywhere, yet stillness prevails within.
A witness state of consciousness is what gives you that protection. In such a state, sounds and other disturbances that come to your senses do not affect you. Even the disturbances that emerge from within do not affect you because you learn how not to react to your own mental and emotional conflicts.
When you practice witness consciousness, you begin to see some of the weaknesses, limitations, concepts and conditionings within you that hold you back. Witnessing means that when you see them, you do not react to them and, therefore, are able to see beyond them.
If you hate them, fight them, or wish they weren¹t there, then you are creating new disturbances to go along with the original patterns and conditionings. Your old concepts continue to survive and you continue to add new disturbances to them. When you can simply watch all that is revealed to you in life without reacting to it, what you are really relinquishing is your rigid hold on the expectation of what it should or should not be. The source of much internal conflict is thereby removed.
Understand that this is not a process of ignoring disturbances. It is an act of acknowledging them fully without reacting to them emotionally. In this way, when you disengage from participating in the disturbance, it may take place around you, but it has no way to get to you.
With consciousness acquired through meditation, you learn how to experience but not identify with your fears‹or with happiness and unhappiness, pain and pleasure, or success and failure. Retaining a choiceless awareness helps you to relax in life and, when you relax fully, your energy stops leaking out through your mind.
Practicing pratyahara and becoming centered in witness consciousness, therefore, plays a vital role in transcending your perceived physical, mental, and emotional limits. You begin to access the great power source within you that is self-sustaining and unlimited. That profound power can be directed toward whatever it is that you want to achieve in your life.
Kripalu Yoga, when practiced in the right spirit, is so much more than physical exercise. When you learn how to use it as a vehicle to go inward, whole new dimensions of possibility become available.
As you change your awareness, your experience of the whole world changes. You realize that when you see harmony, it¹s in you. When you see love, it¹s in you. The beauty is always "in the eye of the beholder."
As your interpretation of people changes and relaxes, your experience of them changes also. For the first time, you begin to interact with the people you meet rather than interacting with your ideas about them or your reactions to them. Your perception of life, your choices, and the way you make choices all change. Everything becomes a reflection of your inner change. All this doesn¹t happen suddenly. It usually happens gradually, but you can begin to see definite changes in your consciousness very quickly. Every little bit of progress you make is a very rewarding and fulfilling experience. And you don¹t have to wait until a goal is reached to celebrate. No, life becomes a celebration all along the way‹a great joy.
This article appeared in the October 1988-March 1989 issue of The Kripalu Experience.By Gurudev
The purpose of yoga is to return to the inner source‹to that part of your being which is beyond the workings of the mind‹that place in which you experience complete harmony, well-being, and peace.
The real practice of yoga extends to everything that you do throughout the day. That means becoming conscious and living consciously in all your interactions, and in the expression of your heart through your work, your play, and your relationships with others. Those are as integral a part of yoga as the formal practices.
The formal practice of hatha yoga postures is a very concrete way of contacting prana, the life-force energy that is working through your body. Yogis say that what is in the macrocosm is in the microcosm. That means that once you understand the workings of prana in your body, you will also know how it works in the entire universe.
From your experience of this universal energy in your body, your perspective and your concepts of life will begin to change. Through the simple practice of hatha yoga postures, your interactions with yourself and others‹your entire way of living‹will be transformed.
So the awakening of prana is the whole purpose of Kripalu Yoga. From the earliest stage of learning the postures, you are also practicing all other aspects and stages of yoga simultaneously. You are using the breath to attune to prana, and learning to withdraw the outgoing attention and energy‹to concentrate the mind. In the later stages, these practices mature into the inner stillness of meditation. That is why Kripalu Yoga is called Meditation-in-Motion. Meditation is the process of returning to the inner source. It is a way of listening to God within. And that is what brings great ecstasy and joy to life.
In the science of yoga, there are many disciplines, but they all have one intent‹to still the restlessness of the mind. The whole reason for spiritual practice is to become conscious of the many different ways we disturb our minds, and learn to remove those disturbances.
When your mind is free from disturbances, you have the facility to focus your attention wherever you are. No matter what is happening, you will be able to make it work for your highest intention. Your life will be constantly filled with joy.
Kripalu Yoga is a whole new concept of yoga which leads you back towards the real purpose of spiritual practices‹which is union of the body, mind, and spirit. I have not created a new yoga. I have only revived the old spirit of yoga, and developed an approach which integrates the disciplines of the body and mind simultaneously.
In Kripalu Yoga, the results that you experience during the practice are so fulfilling and so grounding into that very moment that you forget about trying to achieve anything. There is no restlessness of mind, nowhere to go, nothing to prove. Your joy is coming from being totally absorbed in that moment, and your practice becomes a satisfying and nurturing experience in and of itself.
Kripalu Yoga teaches you how to act directly from your inner being, so that your expressions emerge undistorted, fresh and spontaneous.
When you perform slow-motion movements with focused awareness and attention to the breath, your mind begins to tune in to the body. When you move slowly and very consciously, engaging all your attention into the internal experience of what is happening, your mind remains in the present moment. Then your practice brings the realization of unity‹of oneness and harmony.
Spiritual practice takes us back to our own inner roots, from where our mind and body draw their life force. But so often we work on perfecting the posture or perfecting the technique, and we forget that the purpose is to nurture our roots, to turn inward. We are so enchanted by the form that we forget the spirit.
So as you perform your yoga postures, always pay attention to your internal state. Know that all spiritual practices must enhance your ability to concentrate your mind.
And when you go to the very core of your being, when the inner force of prana begins to flow through your mind and heart, you begin to feel at peace with yourself. So let your sadhana, your spiritual practices, be directed inward, for inner awareness and change. That¹s the true spirit of sadhana. The external expression is only the form.
As your practice of yoga becomes a way of being that touches all aspects and expressions of your life, you will experience the fullness of its transformational power. From this consciousness, your life becomes a naturally consistent, effortless, and spontaneous flow.
This particular article appeared in the May-October 1992 issue of The Kripalu Experience.By Gurudev
Gurudev has often said, "You are responsible for your life. You are the creator of your life." Sometimes people interpret those words to mean "I'm to blame for my problems or my unhappiness." Because of their special interest in this topic, I invited two Kripalu residents, Megha and Kajal, to join me in interviewing Gurudev. Out of our penetrating and lively exploration came his yogic perspective of what it actually means to take responsibility for your life.
Varsha (Barbara Edison)
Kripalu Experience writer/editor
When I say you are responsible for your life, I don¹t mean responsible in the sense that you should feel guilty for whatever has happened to you in your life. People use the idea of "being responsible" to punish themselves, rather than using it constructively to empower themselves.
The true sense of responsibility is based on our inborn facility to move beyond all the inhibitions and limitations of our lives‹whatever we have previously felt unable to do anything about. We have disempowered ourselves because we have assumed that either some person or some experiences have made us the way we are, or that there is something inherently the matter with us that prevents us from living the kind of life we seek. And we believe there¹s nothing we can do about it.
The truth is that we can discover our ability to resolve our problems only when we give up blaming somebody else or feeling guilty. Blame, shame, and guilt are what prevent us from finding the true solutions to our lives.
We Are Born Seeking Freedom And Bliss
Basically, the embodied soul is on an evolutionary journey to its true Self. This is the ultimate Source of love, wisdom, freedom, and bliss. As we learn how to remove all that blocks us from that Source, we realize our capacity to fully express our potential and resolve our self-created suffering.
What blocks us from our Source are all of our unresolved fears. We all have "unfinished business"‹painful events in our lives that we have been unable to experience fully. Whatever we have not wanted to experience registered in our bodies as tensions and blocks and in our minds as unconscious resistance to what is. It is this resistance to reality that holds us prisoner. All that we have suppressed, denied, and avoided invariably returns again and again in our lives until we choose to complete the experience.
We Do Not Know Who We Really Are
The fear that blocks us from our Self distorts our perception of reality. More than that, it prevents us from knowing who we really are. We identify with a false perception of ourself. And it is this false identification that lies at the root of our dilemma.
Take fear itself. Fear is natural and healthy when it protects me from life-threatening situations. But when I identify with a false self, then everything that I attach "I" and "my" to must be protected. My desire for freedom and happiness, my possessions, my opinions, my status‹everything I identify with must be guarded. Since this is a false self that I believe in, most of my fears are, therefore, false. But in my unconsciousness, they feel very real.
Since we do not know our true self, we do not recognize that the freedom and bliss we are seeking lie within. We do not know we have the inborn power to create our own happiness. Acting out of the limitations and inhibitions of our false self, we feel we must depend upon others or on outside circumstances for happiness.
Invariably, then, we try to control or manipulate to get what we want and avoid what we don¹t want. We resist, suppress, deny, blame, feel guilty, try to be something we are not. These are all control mechanisms. Either we¹re trying to control our surroundings, the people we work with, the person we¹re in love with, or we¹re trying to control our own emotions, fears, and compulsions.
All these efforts to control are called reactions. Reactions are the ways in which we avoid experiencing life directly. It is our attempt to escape the pain of unwanted experience.
Living in reaction is living in unconsciousness.
The more we react to life, the more we reinforce the unconscious fears that keep us from our Source. We deepen our sense of powerlessness to resolve our problems.
How Do You Empower Yourself?
The first step towards empowering yourself is accepting the fact that the source of your happiness lies within you, that no one can resolve your problems except you. The next step is giving up trying to control the events of your life. Because the only way to learn the lesson from any given event is not to resist it. And that means dropping all blame, guilt, denial, and fear.
Taking responsibility means that you choose to consciously experience what you have previously run from, avoided, ignored, or suppressed. It is these blocks of suppression and denial that have held you prisoner, not the painful events themselves. If you can open yourself to directly encounter your blocked feelings completely and fully, it will make you free. Through conscious awareness you can clear the obstacles that are blocking you from your Source.
There are methods to help us develop our capacity to become more conscious. One such method is Kripalu Yoga. It embodies the true purpose of yoga, which is to free us from the bondage of our self-created suffering.
Through this practice, we first learn how to hold the postures in the appropriate way. As we continue to hold, we begin to encounter the energy blocks lodged in the body‹the physiological counterparts of our suppressed fears. We experience these blocks as sensations, perhaps uncomfortable or painful. Memories and emotions may surface. If we remain open‹not judging the experience, identifying with it, or trying to change it‹we will experience an energy release, which is freeing, empowering, and integrative.
You can take this method into your daily life. When you are learning to become conscious, events will continue to trigger your reactions. Having these first reactions is not the problem. It¹s what you do with them that makes the difference.
"Witnessing" Versus Reaction
When you are caught in the heat of your emotional reaction, the best thing to do at that time is to go to the physical blocks in your body, open to the physiological impact of your emotional state of anger or jealousy or hurt. Feel the changes that are triggered because of your emotional state‹tightness in different parts of your body, the rush of energy, or the closed down, uneven, shallow breath. Pay attention to all of that. And just simply relax. Breathe deeply.
This is known as "witnessing"‹not reacting to or judging what you are experiencing. When you are "witnessing" a reaction as it happens in your mind and body, you are not buying into it by believing in it, nor are you making it wrong and trying to suppress it. You simply observe it, experiencing it fully, present but detached. In this way, you disidentify with your experience. Your reaction dissolves. Your resistance to reality disappears. And you can allow yourself to experience fully and completely whatever has been hiding behind the reaction. Thereby you complete the unfinished experience and release yourself from its effects upon your mind and body.
But if you believe in your reaction, buy into it, feed it with emotional thoughts and justifications, you will only intensify the reaction. If you try to be righteous and tell yourself you shouldn¹t be feeling the way you do, you will only suppress the reaction. Neither approach frees you from the grip of the experience, because in both cases you are still identifying with your experience as being a threat to yourself. All reaction comes from identification with this false fear.
Only through "witnessing" can you disengage from this identification. As soon as you start this process, you begin to experience internal freedom. This freedom is not only freedom from the sense of being controlled by others or by circumstances. It is freedom from being controlled by the fears, compulsions, and addictions that keep us from living a fulfilling life.
Again and again events trigger your habitual reactions. Every reaction is your opportunity to experience‹in that moment‹what you did not fully live in the past. When you allow yourself to fully open to that experience, the fear buried in your reaction dissolves. It no longer controls your behavior or distorts your perceptions. You can then respond to life with greater calmness, clarity, and freedom in everything you do.
The Journey To Your Source
When you begin the conscious journey to your true Self, you will invariably encounter everything you have been hiding from in your life. That¹s part of the evolutionary process. That¹s the way we all grow.
There will always be the temptation to hold something or somebody else responsible for your internal experience. But unless you choose to be responsible for your own growth, you do not have the freedom to discover who you are.
There must be a commitment to who you really are.
This is called faith. And it is this faith that must be nurtured, not your habitual beliefs about who you are. You are not your body. You are not your mind. You are not your interpretations. You are not your concepts. You are not your perception of events. You are not any of the changing aspects of yourself. They are all false. Each is a part of the "story" that you have identified with.
Who you are is the eternal and unchanging Self. And choosing to be conscious is the pathway to the Self. The basis for this commitment is trust. Whether it¹s trust in God or trust in the purpose of life, trust is your willingness to accept whatever happens to you, in whatever way it happens. Because the secret of life is not having only what you want. The secret of life is developing your capacity to engage in it fully, moment by moment, as it presents itself to you.
When we¹re unwilling to stand in our experience, then invariably we will spend our lives justifying our unhappiness or trying to understand why we are the way we are. But we¹re not looking for justification or understanding. We¹re looking for freedom. And freedom lies in removing the obstacles that veil the inborn spirit. When you take responsibility for your life, you choose to face and dissolve the fears that have created your suffering. It is then you experience the reality of your own divine nature.