Last week I published an article in Elephant Journal, How to Know When it’s Time to Make Like a Buddha and Flee the Palace.
But the question remains….then what?
Fleeing the palace, or in my case, loosening my ties with the Ashtanga yoga community, is not really something that can be decided. It’s like suddenly, one day, you wake up and realize you need to leave the nest, go out exploring, looking for birth, old age, sickness and death. Or rather, you realize that they are already looking for you. In other words, this life passes fast, and when you realize that, the search for truth gets a bit more urgent.
From a practical perspective, I was forced to shift my view due to a severe hip injury from an overzealous hike to Guru Rinpoche’s cave at Taktsang in Bhutan. It simply was not an option for me to continue the intensive asana practice that has guided me through the past 20 years. But I was ready for a shift. The same daily routine was only showing me my weaknesses; it wasn’t giving me any insights into how to work with them.
Isn’t it interesting that the injury happened on my journey to this sacred Buddhist site. I’ve practiced Buddhist meditation for 20 years, and I’ve always considered this to be my primary practice. The many months of sitting practice I’ve done in intensive retreat over the years have shifted my perspective profoundly, and isn’t the full flowering of meditation is the culmination of the Ashta-anga path?
Ironically, this made me even more dedicated to Ashtanga practice, in that I am wholly committed to practicing each of the eight limbs, and moving mindfully and with awareness through the vinyasa of each moment.
Any system has it’s limitations, but that doesn’t mean all are bad. It also doesn’t mean you have to stick with one system for the rest of your life. Ashtanga Vinyasa as a system is brilliant. And in my twenties, I’ll go so far to say that it was life-saving. But I find that, these days, a simple practice that includes asana, pranayama, bandha and dristi provides the ground to look deeply with awareness, and settle into incredibly peaceful states of meditation.
And I certainly don’t need a certificate to prove that.