Yoga is of The Mind, for The Mind, to go Beyond The Mind.
By: Ryan Keating
Ryan Keating is a recent graduate from the Kula 200 HR in Guatemala! In each 200 HR, we participate in a "Karma Day" where we offer selfless service to support our community. During the training, we volunteered at a small local business that makes Cacao. Ryan was inspired to help them so he created a fundraiser for them!
Kula is happy to support Ryan in this fundraiser... please read more of his story here or donate here!
Love & Light,
- The Kula Collective
Yoga is a practice of returning to intention. Returning to the original stillness. We bring our mind to rest upon stillness, like a blank canvas. When the mind is still, it reflects truth, and pure consciousness. When still, we find the mind to be open, relaxed, spacious, calm, present, at peace. We find we actually can attain this still, luminous silence and become ever more aware. A mind filled with constant awareness has become awakened to its true nature.
Such thought-provoking passages and topics were a daily occurrence in the yoga classes during the three-week teacher training I just completed in San Marcos La Laguna in Guatemala. The actual site was in the middle of a jungle overlooking a giant lake and volcanoes. It was an outstanding location and, overall, positively energetic environment to do any sort of training in.
The Kula Collective is also an admirable collection of yoga center locations and teachers and other practitioners who all have come together to spread their very positive mission of spirit and yoga to the world. When one comes across an organization that is overflowing with good people, programs, positive intentions, etc. one knows it and treasures it. I will most definitely be working with them and supporting their missions in the future. So fortunate to have crossed paths with such an amazing entity of communal energy!
My favorite parts of the training encompassed bridging paths in life for learning how to ‘respond’ vs that of ‘react.’ Learning how to respond includes actively listening to someone while reacting does not. When we feel a reaction occurring within ourselves it usually has something more to do with ourselves than anything the other person expressed. Catching ourselves in these trigger moments is key in becoming a more positive, aware person, hence, more capable of spreading positive spirit and yoga.
Triggers can often lead to us saying negative things to others or ourselves and when this occurs it is super important to ramp up self-love to overcome the negative thought loops or reactionary trauma states that follow. Notice when and what you are telling yourself or others in these states, while having an awareness that it’s not your fault, it’s nobody’s fault, really, and all is just there as conditions, as information, as intelligence expressing itself through your body. From there, we can learn to manage it all. If we can get to a place where we can say, ‘thank you’ for showing me when such triggers and information arises, we have blossomed into something truly powerful. We are all capable of becoming alchemists and transmuting negative energy into positive.
When our awareness takes upon identifying itself with the patterns of the mind we lose something very special. We lose a connection to source. It is like a stone being dropped in water where we become distracted and defined by the ripples and lose sight of how the stone originally created the splash and energy. Do we want to focus more on the energy of the stone and the splash, or the ripples. Our minds take the shape of whatever it is we choose to dwell upon.
Yoga is the uniting of consciousness in the heart. It is in recognizing the balance between the heart, mind, and gut for learning, managing, and acting in life. All of this unites in the heart as the heart makes a great overseer, a boss if you will, then does the brain, which is all too common in our world of unbalanced-ness towards brain control. The problem is not in ‘thinking’ itself, but in not knowing we are thinking.
Such phrases that define our culture from enlightenment era history such as, “I think, therefore, I am” can easily be misleading in that it gives too much credit and power to the mind. If we give the mind too much power and control it will overwhelmingly make a mess of most that it comes into contact with, leading us down distracting wormholes upon wormholes. Western philosophy seems to stop here with the mind power being the ultimate achievement, while yoga and eastern philosophy go beyond by focusing on the heart and felt sensations in the body for more accurate information and intelligence about the who, what, where, why, how of purpose and meaning all humans have in common and seek in their lives.
With absorbing the trainings in yoga, one allows their mind to become pure and calm by cultivating friendliness toward the happy, compassion towards the unhappy, delight towards the virtuous, and equanimity (the space, the non-reaction) towards the unrighteousness. Loving without understanding and with a light heart is crucial. Yoga teaches that nothing comes instantly. There are no instant ‘fixes.’ The practice is a will that is filled with steady and persistent effort. It is honest and confident, yet humble. It is in learning that eventually effort becomes effortless.
The term ‘Abhyasa’ used in Yoga is a generation of that momentum where the concentration of one’s efforts soon find themselves in natural flow. There is then the term Vairagya Bhyam which means, with allowing the flow to continue moving naturally we practice non-attachment by not clinging or grasping or holding onto expected results. We can’t become obsessed with controlling the flow and where it’s going. Change is inevitable and by continuing to hold things lightly and responding to life, vs reacting, we continue to allow for this flow to carry us to expansionary states of being.
As any person knows, it is very hard to continue on our paths while not holding onto expectations for how things should turn out. Yoga fully goes into this in the study of the ‘Kleshas’, which are the common afflictions that plague people that distract and lead them astray in their ‘Kriya’ yoga (yoga in action) practice.
The ‘Tapas’ is the burning and fire that rages inside of us as a result. It is the self-discipline and will power that emerges for not partaking in what addictions present themselves. We refrain and continue to learn how to respond to our life vs react, while keeping our energetic center in the face of all that is external that tries to pull us out. The burning and fire that comes from encountering our addictions is the purification process.
Training in yoga includes ‘Svadyaya,’ which is a constant self-study of awareness and knowing thyself. As this inquiry moves forward a surrender occurs which encompasses the yoga term ‘Ishvara Pranidan;’ surrendering into the divine and trusting the universe. Whatever moves the universe is beautiful and one can trust in this bigger picture and the flow that is happening all around us. In the short term, when we sharpen ourselves for being a force for good, there will be moments that occur when this falls away, and in these moments we continue trusting in the universe and big picture.
This concentration and meditation is known as ‘Samadhi.’ The directed attention that leads to a stable attention and which generates ‘Samatha,’ which is tranquility, peacefulness, calm abiding. With this new attention ‘Sati’ now can more easily emerge which fosters being more mindful of present moment experiences, and overall more aware in our lives. We can focus our attention on something while our awareness is still maintained in the periphery focus of our surroundings. The two don’t distract each other.
Continuing on the yoga path, ‘Vipassana’ occurs which is clear insight and having the ability to step outside of our minds, outside of our comfort zones, our habits, our addictions, our personalities, etc. It is the ability to transform and become different people while always maintaining and valuing who we were and our process as a beautiful means to a never reaching end. Life is lived in the process and journey in yoga.
All of this was amazing to encounter at the Yoga Forest with the Kula Collective. The facilitators and entire staff fit the teachings and were people who embodied the spirit of yoga. I was helped in my life path greatly by them and am so delighted to have learned that all of life is yoga! It’s not just the physical postures and the Asana flow, which are amazing too of course, but really just a small part of it all.
By focusing on the mental part of yoga we really allow ourselves to be healthy and flourish while the physical part naturally follows suit. When we give our mind free space to be still and do its thing and not obsess about the positive and negative ups and downs (as they all inevitably pass) we don’t get stuck in the mental mud of thinking we have ever lost momentum. As we sit with this more in meditation a vast freedom and lightness emerge as we see the path we are supposed to be on.
Little did we know, but we were on it the whole time! The training left me being more capable of sitting still and enjoying the moment while psychologically diving into absorbing health which will blast out to all avenues of my life making me a better student and teacher of all things. I believe that is the true teaching of yoga as it permeates everywhere on and especially off the mat. I am thankful for being trained in this dynamic, holistic scope of all-encompassing yoga.
Ryan Keating is a writer and teacher who runs a wellness practice called Keating Bodyworks, which encompasses physical and emotional well-being and other healing techniques that empower people and their communities. He spends most of his time in the U.S. in Utah and California and currently spends a lot of time traveling and learning in Latin America. He is committed to embracing 'beginners mind' in being a lifetime student and feels enthusiastically purposeful sharing and teaching to others what he has found most healthy, beneficial, enjoyable, and authentic in life.