Greetings! I just finished a spectacular Healing Power of Yoga, Level 2, Advanced Ashaya Yoga Therapeutics Training Intensive here in Lenox, MA. It was an awesome experience and the teachers were extraordinarily receptive, dedicated, and creative! One highlight was the session where the local community was invited to volunteer to receive semi private therapeutic sessions from the trainees. We had 18 volunteers and each person came in with pain and left pain-free or close to it. In addition, they were given 4-6 yoga therapy exercises to practice at home. I supervised the whole event and was blown away with the skillfulness, love, and compassion of the teachers!
Throughout the course, we had many deep contemplations about what makes healing happen. Here are some of the learnings and teachings we explored:
Grace Is What Heals Us
We don’t heal ourselves or anyone else. The best we can do is put ourselves “in the way of grace” and align such that we allow the healing energy of grace to flow unobstructed. What obstructs grace? Misalignment, especially with attitude. Attitude is power. If your attitude is negative, pessimistic, and riddled with self-doubt, fear, or unworthiness, then grace gets diverted into these downward spiraling beliefs. For healing to happen you need to shift from the negative to the positive, from hopelessness to hopefulness, from life is happening TO me, to life is happening FOR me.
The attitude of the yogi is that everything in life is for my awakening. Within this attitude, nothing can arise in life that doesn’t have some higher purpose. Instead of blaming something or someone else for my discomfort, this attitude gives me the power to look within myself and reflect more about who I’m being. Only when you take full responsibility for creating your moment and your reaction to the moment can you truly heal.
Grace is a Paradox
It exists simultaneously to us in every moment, yet we are mostly unaware of it. You need two things to gain access to grace in your life – awareness and desire. Without awareness and desire grace remains dormant and un-activated. If awareness and desire are absent or low, healing will not happen. You have to be awake and aware of the subtle energies of nature and life. Grace is subtle and whispers its wisdom into your ear all of the time. But when the mind is so busy and preoccupied, you can’t hear it.
Tapas is Your Will to Heal
Tapas is your longing for freedom, longing for something greater, longing to expand. Tapas runs on desire. Not the superficial desires of sense pleasures. I’m talking about the deeper longings of your heart and soul.
Healing Happens in the Middle
In the space between the polarities, you must seek to find the place where all contrasts become complementary. There is a hidden power in the threshold between these two things. It’s like the space between the breaths or the subtle space between your thoughts. When you become still, peaceful, and calm, insight opens up naturally. This healing threshold is a doorway to the beyond which gives you direct access to the expanded universe of all possibility.
I’m currently doing the Colorado Cleanse with my wife, Ann. It is a two week cleanse using the principles of Ayurveda offered by international author and acclaimed teacher, John Douilliard. The cleanse is awesome, by the way. We are more than halfway through it. His whole approach is to become good digesters because our consciousness lives in our gut. When we have good digestion we have good assimilation and good elimination and then all of our organs and systems, including our brains, work better. As I went into the cleanse I began to detox too quickly. I know this because I felt awful, dizzy, and extremely nauseous. Although I was discouraged, I kept going. The next day I emailed for advice and Douilliard staff said to stop taking the herbs and eat more food! Once I did that I felt better and by the next day I felt great. The key to this cleansing process is to stay in the place of the middle and not go too fast. The idea is that if you stress out about the cleanse or put your body into a panic, the cleanse stops being effective. Your digestion reacts to stress. When you are stressed out or uncomfortable you become a poor digester. So the trick to the cleanse is to modify it to your personal comfort level such that you can tolerate the detox that happens. What a beautiful lesson in life! Stay balanced and you receive more of the healing benefits.
It Takes Courage to Heal
Why courage? Because healing brings change. You have to ready to change yourself or your life in some way if you want to heal. We normally do not like change. Change is moving from the known to the unknown, from the familiar to the unfamiliar. Fear often arises with change because when you don’t know where or when your next step will land, you get insecure. It’s natural. Fear is an evolutionary instinct that wants you to survive. From Douglas Brooks, “You are only as stable in the world as you are in yourself.” Do you remember going from grade school into junior high? Or from high school to college? Or from one job to another? Or ending a relationship?
Fear becomes a common companion. We need to learn about fear if we are to heal. What is fear? Fear is a coercive agent to the heart. It eats away at the heart and makes you feel uneasy. Fear is contractive in nature and renders the consciousness inoperable. We can’t think normally when we are afraid. But we can’t just rid ourselves of fear. I’ve tried that for years and it doesn’t work. What does work is to embrace fear.
Believe it or not, I’ve often been afraid of getting up and speaking in front of others. I had to embrace my fear and overcome it. I used to say to my fear, “Okay fear. I feel you. I’m not going to abandon you. I’m here with you and we’re going together.” Now instead of trying to get rid of my fear, I bring it along for the ride. But I don’t let fear stop me from following my heart. The acronym I use for fear is: Feel Energy And Release. Imagine this were true: Everything in life is either love or a call for love. This fits nicely with the theory of quantum physics that everything in life is interconnected and interpenetrated with energy. There is one unified field of being – energy. This energy is love. If this is true, then fear is just love not yet brought into consciousness.
Shri is Your Vision of Healing
Shri means divine beauty, auspiciousness, or goodness. Shri is your capacity to maintain a vision of positive affirmation and abundance. Shri is always expanding and becoming more of itself. Shri says that life is indomitable. Life seeks to live well. I remember seeing a poster years ago of a city of cement – cement streets, sidewalks, and buildings. But there was a thin and tender blade of grass growing up through the cement. For healing to happen, you need to have a vision of abundance. There is enough healing energy to go around and you are worthy of receiving it.
Healing is Seeing the Forest Through the Trees
In the Therapy Level 2 training we had a conversation about how much anatomy and medical science there is to know and how overwhelming it can be since there is so much knowledge and so many methods of healing available today. For the Ashaya teachers, we are gaining more and more knowledge. But don’t forget about the 4 Essentials of Ashaya Yoga: Open, Engage, Align, and Expand. Don’t forget how much you know about the five elements and their application in the body. This is the forest, the bigger vision, the macrocosm. Good therapy is just good alignment. If you can get someone into Tadasana: Mountain Pose with good alignment, they will begin to heal. Don’t get lost in the trees. But without the trees there would be no forest. The forest represents the universal energy. The trees represent your individual nature. The universal needs the individual to be known. They need each other. But you will always be able to learn more technical knowledge. There are always more trees. But real healing only happens when you remember that the forest is in the tree, just as the ocean is in the wave, the universal within the individual, and the divine is within you!
May you remember the forest and align yourself with nature sinking your roots deep into the earth and holding your head up high in the sky. May you find the place in the middle, in the heart, where you recognize your divine nature which is joy.