Anahata Rising 200hr YTT- Chapter 4: A Warrior’s Path

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This writing was submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the Anahata Rising 200-hr Yoga Teacher Training course at Bliss YogaSpa.

Namaste, everyone.

When I began my Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) journey this past January, I could not have anticipated the exhilarating and turbulent ride that it would become physically, mentally, and emotionally.  I cannot believe that the end of this process (or perhaps the beginning) draws near. Were it not for this YTT, I would not have been reunited with my soul family. I would not have come to my seat of the student to be edified by the teachings transmitted to me by my wise, compassionate and learned teachers.  I would not have learned about how to handle recovery from injury with grace and humility. I would not have been exposed to the subtler and often terribly self-reflexive dimensions of the practice of yoga.  In short, this YTT has changed the trajectory of my life. It has offered me the possibility, indeed the choice – through one small course correction at a time – to rediscover who I am, one day, one moment at a time.   It has helped me to arrive closer to the highest seat of my Self, my Truth – in a word, my dharma.

How have I come to discover this, my dharma, one might ask (and rightfully so)? Like many before me, and many more before them, I have done so through the act of self-observation and inquiry.  This writing aspires to articulate a conception of my life’s trajectory based on the yogic conception of one’s spiritual calling or “dharma”. I seek to affirm, here, my life’s dharmic path as that of the way of the warrior advocate – derived from the Latin root advocatus meaning “to call for”.

This essay suggests that analytical reasoning and rational thought cannot claim to found the basis of one’s personal Truth (which must reside in a state of subjectivity and nuance).  Only through the practice of self-observation may we begin the solitary return to our authentic, original and untarnished Self, a realm that offers us a state of consciousness that is without attachment or judgment; a realm in which we may achieve true liberation from the limitations of our worldly thoughts. If we consciously choose to walk the path of our personal dharma fully and utterly, the possibility of alleviating our individual suffering becomes manifest; and, thereafter the possibility of alleviating the suffering of those around us also becomes manifest. It is only in this state of chaos, flux, and turbulence that we may undertake this deep work of self-reflection, self-observation, and self-discovery.  It is here, in this state of groundlessness that we may harness the capacity to see with clarity who we truly are and begin to live our rightful Truth in the seat of our highest Self.

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What is dharma?

Stephen Cope, founder of the Institute of Extraordinary Living at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, describes dharma in this way in his transformative work The Great Work of Your Life:

The yoga tradition is very, very interested in the ideas of an inner possibility harbored within every human soul.  Yogis insist that every single human being has a unique vocation.  They call this dharma.  Dharma is a potent Sanskrit word that is packed tight with meaning, like one of those little sponge animals that expands to six times its original size when you add water. Dharma means, variously, “path”, “teaching”, or “law”.  For our purposes in this book it will mean primarily “vocation”, or “sacred duty”.  It means, most of all – and in all cases – truth. Yogis believe that our greatest responsibility in life is to this inner possibility – this dharma – and they believe that every human being’s duty is to utterly, fully, and completely embody his own idiosyncratic dharma.

If you bring forth what is within you, it will save you; if you do not bring forth what is within you, it will destroy you.

These are the words found in the Gnostic Gospel of St. Thomas which Cope cites at p. xviii of the introduction to The Great Work of Your Life.

When I read these words, I felt at once that St. Thomas was speaking directly to me. Since beginning my journey in yoga and mindfulness, I have unabashedly expressed to my close friends and family that yoga has saved my life in so many different and profound ways.

What is appealing about Cope’s work on dharma is that he succeeds in making this rich concept (indeed intimidating for many) accessible and palatable for yogis and non-yogis alike. For that reason, this writing draws its inspiration from Cope’s framework that he masterfully lays out in his book in the form of four main dharmic “pillars”- they are: (1) Look to your dharma; (2) Do it full out; (3) Let go of the fruits; and (4) Turn it over to God.

In reflecting one each of these four pillars, my task shall be to articulate a view (as best that I am able to at this juncture) of how a series of “small course corrections” positioned me to be able to see with my heart the possibility of my life’s calling, my dharma, as the warrior advocatus, called forth to defend and protect the voice of the voiceless.

  1. Look to your dharma

Cope draws upon the beloved treatise on yoga affectionately known as the Bhagavad Gita (or Song of God) as his central didactic reference to unveil the four pillars of dharma to the reader.  In particular, Cope eloquently describes the dharmic tale of God, disguised as the charioteer Krishna, who helps mentor the doubting warrior Arjuna to achieve his personal dharma on the eve of battle.

Cope admonishes us all to remember three things in discerning the first step towards discovering or knowing our dharma – they are:

  1. Trust in the gift
  2. Think of the small as large; and
  3. Listen for the call of the times

In an example outside of the Bhagavad Gita that resonated deeply with me, Cope describes the path of Brian, a Catholic priest who aspires to be a musician despite doing his work as a priest with deep reverence and respect from his parishioners.  Here, Cope introduces the reader to the term “false self” as indicative of Brian’s situation in the following passage:

Brian discovered deep in midlife that his gift of music was still calling out to him from someplace deep insideAlong with it there was a growing ache.  And a growing unwillingness to live out the rest of his days without going for it.  The older he got, the less able he was to maintain the ruse of the false self.  As we get deeper into life, we become more aware of life’s finitude.  We discover the truth taught by Krishna: You cannot be anyone you want to be.  Your one and only shot at a fulfilled life is being yourself – whoever that is. (p. 37)

The older he got, the less able he was to maintain the ruse of the false self…You cannot be anyone you want to be. Your one and only shot at a fulfilled life is being yourself – whoever that is. 

This is a simple yet profound teaching, and one that my YTT training has helped me to embody more and more in my everyday affairs. You see, when I began my yoga and mindfulness journey nearly 19 months ago in the fall of 2014, in many ways I found myself in a state not unlike that of Brian. I was lost – spiritually, emotionally, and physically despite having a good paying job as a busy downtown lawyer, owning my own property and car, and having clients who appreciated the quality of services I provided to them on their files.

In my mind’s eye at the time, I believed I was happy and fulfilled; but, in hindsight, I was feeding myself a destructive lieI had maintained the ruse of the false self for four long and agonizing years. In this way, Brian and I are not so very different.  Like Brian, I felt a growing ache in my heart; there was a thirst for something greater than that with which I had surrounded myself.

Rather miraculously, a series of small “nudges” (my words, not Cope’s) and “small course corrections”(Cope’s words) set the pathway for me to begin my journey home to the practice of yoga and mindfulness.

The beginning of the path home to yoga and mindfulness

I still recall the day that my life’s trajectory charted a new course towards the yogic path.  One of my best friends (who was aware of the heart condition I had developed while in private practice) encouraged me to apply for a position as legal counsel with the Alberta Court of Appeal (where he had worked for several years).  Up to that point for nearly four years, I had worked virtually six days a week and had abandoned virtually all of my friends and family in the name of moving up the firm ladder towards partnership (because, as it turns out, everyone did this as a matter of habit, not a matter of intention in most cases).  I had just finished a lengthy trial in the summer of 2014 and was intellectually, physically and emotionally spent.  I was looking for something to fill the void in my heart.

The possibility of something completely new planted a seed of curiosity within me at that moment in time. I thought to myself: I surely have nothing to lose.  And so it came to pass that I applied for the position the following week and was invited for an interview shortly after that. By September of 2014, I was packing the last of my boxes to transition to a new career in the Alberta public service.

Through the practice of mindfulness and yoga, I have discovered how self-deceived I had become in harboring this false view of my Self.  In reality, the practice of yoga and mindfulness has allowed me to not only learn but see the danger of thought working in itself as a form of inauthentic belief system. These false belief systems or samskaras cast a net of self-deception of such terrible proportions that I had convinced myself for many years that the only measure of true success and happiness was found in the number and type of material possessions I owned. In this frame of mind, the notion of the non-tangible, the spiritual and ethereal were endeavours only ever to be countenanced and undertaken by the soft and weak-hearted.

What I recognize now as a heart witness through my yoga journey is that while I may have successfully served my clients to advocate a particular position on their behalf, I failed to advocate for the needs of my heart.  My authentic voice was lost for so long in this desert wilderness of habit, default, and story.  In that barren place, I was constantly seeking someone or something to soothe my parched throat. But, I never discovered the potent and elusive elixir that could quench my thirst. Until I found yoga (or yoga found me, I’m not sure which).

The ‘nudge’ home to yoga and mindfulness

It was by happenstance that on the way home from my new career in the public service that I felt a sense of peace and freedom I had not known since my time years earlier in Montreal (where I completed my graduate studies in law at McGill University).  I recall passing by a yoga studio near my home in south Edmonton (one that I had passed by hundreds of times in the past without ever looking twice) and decided to try a drop-in hot yoga class.   I never looked back. Once again, for the first time in my adult life, I felt a sense of total peace and communion with myself and my surroundings.  I was content to dwell in the nectar of the present moment. I recall thinking: why does every single part of my body feel so good right now? I did not want this feeling of elation to leave me.

My (be)coming to yoga and mindfulness occurred precisely in conjunction with my transition to the Alberta public service.  I do not believe at this juncture these two things occurred in a vacuum but that these two “course corrections” were meant to happen as the impetus – the nudge – for me to begin my return home towards my authentic self.

In January of 2015, I journeyed to the Red Rocks in Sedona, Arizona with one of my best friends after only recently undertaking my yoga and mindfulness practice. At dawn, we drove to the top of the highest mountain. I remember feeling a sense of total gratitude (a feeling that being there at that exact moment in time was something completely out of my reach) as the morning sunlight enveloped the crimson rocks while a lady carried out her morning asana practice, paying homage to the sun’s life-giving energy. This same feeling overcame me as I watched the sun set over the immense and meandering chasms of the Grand Canyon.

I just knew in my heart without needing to prove anything to myself with physical proof or evidence that my life had set sail for a path towards inner peace and light.  The evidence was in my heart. And I didn’t want to give up this blissful feeling for anything.

2. Do it full-out

It is, therefore, the sacred duty of every individual human soul to be utterly and completely itself – to be that jewel at that time and in that place, and to be that jewel utterly. It is in this way – merely by being itself – that one jewel holds together its own particular corner of Space and Time. The action of each individual soul holds together the entire net. Small and large at the same time. (p. 47)

As his example of the second pillar of dharma, Cope focuses on the early life and times of the beloved American poet, Robert Frost. Why does he select Frost as his archetype?  The essence of Cope’s explication is found below:

Frost, of course, became the most lauded American poet of his century – winning no less than four Pullitzer Prizes (a record) and single-handedly remaking American poetry.

His Life is, then, naturally, a treasure trove of stories about dharma. But to my mind, the most interesting story is the series of courageous early choices Frost made in support of his dharma.  When one examines Frost’s life closely, it becomes clear that this man became more and more himself through a series of small decisions that aligned him with his voice. He had a gift, of course. But his power came into focus through his commitment to this gift, and through a series of decisive actions taken in support of it.  Each one of these acts was, for him, like jumping off a cliff.  He jumped not entirely blind – but not entirely seeing, either. And each of Frost’s leaps ignited more of his power.  In retrospect, it is clear that each one of Frost’s difficult decisions helped create the perfect conditions for the full flowering of his genius.  He chose relentlessly over and over again – in small ways and in large – for his dharma. His remarkable career was the fruit of these decisions.

When I arrived back from Arizona, I dove into the practice of yoga head first. I wanted to soak in as much knowledge as I could from my learned teachers.  I attended yoga class 6 days a week and felt like I was on cloud nine.  This feeling of total elation and wonder did not dissipate for the next 10 months.  In that period of time, I experienced additional benefits from the practice including: significant weight loss (i.e. over 50 lbs), improved sleep, increased energy levels throughout the day, and a change in my diet (from high-sugar, high sodium diet to a paleolithic ancestral diet with heavy consumption of vegetables, legumes, low dairy, no sugar/salt and organically raised animal meat protein).

As I reflect on this period in my yoga journey, I am drawn to Cope’s description of the second pillar of the dharmic path which he captures in three statements: (1) find out who you are and do it on purpose; (2) unify; and (3) practice deliberately.

When I reflect on how I had committed myself to a new yogic lifestyle of health and wellness– which involved a series of small and large decisions affecting all facets of my daily life – I believe that each of these decisions helped allow me to see the path that I was to take (and which was always there) to begin the journey home to my personal dharma.

Towards Expansion in Spain 

The next step in my journey yielded an even greater sense of fulfillment and inner peace that I was truly walking the path of something deeply profound and good and right.

In November 2015, I made the decision – based largely on that intuitive nudge in my heart – to travel to Spain to attend a week-long yoga retreat led by my teacher, Lindsey Park, whose classes I had only been attending for a short time at Bliss.

This would mark the next phase of my journey in yoga and mindfulness. I remember Lindsey telling me that I was ready. In Spain, I made the commitment to myself to decide whether I felt completely ready to undertake my first 200-hr Yoga Teacher Training (as I had been thinking about this for some time).  In brief, Spain was a magical experience.  I received several affirming experiences in that wondrous country that solidified my commitment to this ancient and transformative practice of yoga (which I have written about elsewhere in my blog). For example, I learned about the sanctity of the teacher-student relationship during my time in Spain.  Under the guiding hands of my wise teacher, Lindsey, I experienced a period of spiritual growth in which, as a yoga practitioner, I became armed with lifelong tools to live my life honourably and well, on and off the mat.  For that, I am deeply grateful.

Perhaps most significantly, I learned about the power of yoga to challenge one’s most basic assumptions about his or her life in the bare and open venue of yoga nidra (or yogic sleep). The experience shook me inside out; it left me with more questions than answers about the trajectory of my life. This is how I left Spain – intrigued, empowered and a bit confused; but also I felt incredibly grateful to have embarked on a journey that helped me to fall more deeply in love with the practice of yoga.

On one of the last days of the retreat, I remember very distinctly turning to Lindsey and telling her that I had received an answer: I would enroll in the upcoming Anahata Rising YTT course upon our return to Canada. It was one of the most precious and important moments in my yoga journey

3. Let go of the fruits

On the battlefield, Cope eloquently guides the reader back to the conversation between Arjuna and Krishna – this time, invoking the third pillar of dharma – to let go of the fruits.  He explains the exchange between Arjuna and Krishna in this way at p. 130:

Krishna makes here an important link.  When the mind is not colored by grasping it is free – free of disturbance, obscuration, and separation. The mind is at ease. It is seeing clearly. And it is in union with all beings.  Nonseparate!  And when the mind is in this excellent and most refined state we are free to truly absorb ourselves in dharma.  When there is no obsessive concern with outcome, with gain of any kind, we are able to become completely absorbed in what we’re doing – our actions and thoughts undivided by worry.  All of our energy can become concentrated on the task at hand.

“When consciousness is unified”, says Krishna, “all vain anxiety is left behind. There is no cause for worry, whether things go well or ill.”

All vain anxiety is left behind! These are moments of peace, and possibility.  “When you move amidst the world of sense, free from attachment, and aversion alike, there comes the peace in which all sorrows end, and you live in the wisdom of the Self.”

I have written elsewhere (in my personal blog, for example) about how I believe the process of yoga teacher training has exposed me in a most vulnerable way – that is to say, in a place where our deepest fears, doubts, and anxiety reside.  Two years ago, I would have told anyone who asked that to dwell in fear, doubt and anxiety is to invite weakness, cowardice, and suffering into one’s life.

Instead, it is beyond doubt that the practice of yoga and mindfulness teaches each of us that the realm of true inner peace lies within the places that scare us the most – these are the words of the beloved Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön.  Why? Because, at base, it forces us to face ourselves at our most vulnerable and to acknowledge that where there is light, there is also shadow and darkness.  One is not superior to the other.  They are one and the same.  Therefore, we must necessarily observe the quality and aspect of each of these dimensions of our mind.

The Way of the Warrior Advocatus

In recent months, I have attempted to journey downwards, rather than upwards, into the deeper caverns of my mind, to see what lies beneath the storyline of my life. The undertaking is not one to be taken lightly; I have fought myself long and hard as to the limits of my own analytical and rational mind and have concluded that the places in which our deepest – indeed, darkest – emotions reside cannot be fully understood without journeying into the places that are unseen. Although we may be supported by our teachers and mentors in this endeavor, only we can steer our mind towards the places where the shadow lives and breathes.  This is a conscious choice that we all must make at key moments in our lives.

Put simply, we must consciously abide in the unseen to see the authentic path that is meant for each of us to walk in our life.  We must be willing to be vulnerable to the subtler, darker aspects of the mind in order to step into the light of our truth.  It is here, in the realm of the unseen, that I have begun to see that my true calling is to live my life utterly and always as a warrior advocate in service as a voice to the voiceless.

Dreams of a Chinese Warrior

In the first of a series of yoga nidra practices led by my learned teacher Sheena, in these deeper spaces of my heart, I awaken inside a lush green bamboo forest.  I push the bamboo leaves away to find myself in a beautiful open valley by a creek surrounded by hundreds of faceless soldiers lined up next to each other, holding their long sabres crossed at the tip. At this moment, I gaze up to the sky and can see and feel thousands of rose petals falling down from the sky. There is a gazebo-like structure at the end of this long line of soldiers. I can see the image of two personages underneath this gazebo.  To my left, I see a temple nestled high up on the side of the mountain.

These are all the images that I see in this first dream.

I believe I awoke in this dream to find myself observing a royal wedding in Ancient China.  I do not know whose wedding I am witnessing. But, this place feels so familiar to me. That is why I do not feel scared. The experience, although unsettling, left me wondering what it meant, who are these people being shown to me in my dream, or am I simply making the whole thing up in my head? I try my best not to intellectualize this experience too much (but it is very hard!).

The details become clearer in my subsequent dreams.  When I awaken in my next dream, I am guided over a bridge separating two mountains.  I can see the temple on the other side – the same temple that I saw in my first dream.  There is a cave with a large opening.  A bright white light radiates from within this cave.  I slowly enter and find my way to the center of the cave. There, I see my four grandparents standing in front of what appears to be a stone box of some kind. I am asked to open the box where I will find my sankalpa – or intention – located inside.  I lift open the cover and discover there is nothing inside the box.  It is completely empty.  A feeling of surprise and anxiety overwhelms me in this moment. Then, I look up to find my grandparents are no longer with me inside the cavern.  I cross back over the bridge and the dream ends.

After this yoga nidra practice, it soon became apparent to me that my grandparents – in particular, my paternal grandfather – were trying to show me something that I am supposed to know about my life. I enter a state of utter confusion and bewilderment.  I have never met my paternal grandfather before.  All I have ever known of him is a picture that hung in our basement when I was growing up as a boy. What was my “Yeh Yeh” trying to show me? Tell me? Why was the image I saw of him so powerful?  Why now?

It was not until my fourth nidra practice that I journeyed into a realm I have come to know as the shadow.  There was nothing pleasant or joyful about this particular dream.  In fact, the only emotion I can use to describe it is fear.  I am incredibly fearful as I awake in this dream.

I scan my body and realize quickly that my arms and feet are bound and chained to the floor.  My breathing is constricted and I feel paralyzed in this place.  I believe I am inside a prison cell of some kind.  There is no one here but me.  This vision lasts only a few seconds and then it goes completely white. I remember thinking and feeling as though I was held in captivity, but I did not know who my captor was.

This feeling of complete abandonment and helplessness in my dream haunted me for the next several weeks.  I could barely eat, sleep, or talk to anyone about what I experienced.  I did my best to avoid confronting the meaning of what I saw in this latest dream and what it meant for the trajectory of my life.

It would be another month before I would attend my fifth nidra practice. In this nidra, I am guided sweetly into a large, open field. This is not an ordinary field, however, I awaken to a large clearing inside a lush bamboo forest.  The sun has just begun to rise over the forest. I recognize this as the same forest I visited in my first dream. In this clearing, I see my grandfather, my Yeh Yeh, standing silently with his arms crossed behind his back.  He is watching someone in front of him, a man, practice what appears to be a form of martial arts. I recognize very quickly that it is kungfu that he is practising because of the weapon he has in his hands – the long staff. This person I quickly come to discern, is me.  I am dressed in long white robes.  I feel a wash of emotions pour over me. I know in this moment I am preparing for battle.

I then divert my eyes from this clearing to a mountain creek that lies to the west. I make my way to this creek and quickly fix my eyes upon a large ornate bed that is positioned next to the creek. I can see there is a beautiful woman sleeping in this bed, but I can only see the silhouette of her face, only the outline of her naked body. I turn my gaze again and see myself bathing in this creek while the woman next to me continues to sleep.

Then, all of a sudden beside this image I see another image of myself. I am lying inside a bath tub of some kind; it is a dilapidated wash basin, made of some kind of metal.  I realize quickly I am back inside the prison cell I experienced in my fourth dream.  There is an elderly lady washing my body with soap. She is silent. The vision then suddenly fades to white.

A Warrior’s Lineage in Ancient China?

I have thought long and hard whether I invented these visions in my head, whether I fabricated these impressions so as to convince myself of something that cannot be real.  Notice here the irresistible desire to move to the default position of the analytical mind.  It simply isn’t possible. These are fantasies, Alex, elaborate fantasies you have conjured up in your mind. And yet, I am not convinced they are not real. I cannot rationalize to myself why I have seen my grandfather’s face staring at me countless times in my dreams – a man I never knew as a child and had absolutely no relationship with that I could speak of?  Why do I see my grandfather in the bamboo clearing watching over me as I practice my martial arts in the morning sun? Why can I still smell the roses that are falling down from the sky in my first dream?  Why do I feel so at ease bathing in the mountain creek next to the woman sleeping angelically in the bed? Why can I feel the cold chains around my wrists and feet so vividly?

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Emperor Yiu
 

(reign: 2333 BC – 2234 BC)

 Over the last several weeks, in my haste to find answers to these and many more questions, my fear, anxiety and trepidation have morphed into a deep and abiding interest and curiosity in my family genealogy.

Turning back to my analytical mind, I conducted some initial research into my family history and have discovered some truly astonishing facts about my ancestral lineage.  For example, from various primary and secondary sources, I discovered that my family surname “Yiu” is ranked as the 101st name in the ancient Chinese text known as the Hundred Family Surnames in China.  To my surprise and amazement, I discovered also that my ancestor was Emperor Yao (or “Yiu” in the Cantonese dialect), who reigned as one of the beloved Five Emperors of China for nearly one hundred years from 2333 BC to 2234 BC. He is depicted in the picture above.

In the research I have conducted, I was surprised to read in one source that Emperor Yao is extolled as the “morally perfect and intelligent sage-king” and that “Yao’s benevolence and diligence served as a model to future Chinese monarchs and emperors”.[1] Below is another depiction of Emperor Yao and a statue of him that sits today in the Guanyun hall of the Yao temple in Linfen (Shanxi, China).

My sankalpa: I am a warrior

It is difficult for me at this juncture to believe that the dreams, the visions I have had these past few months are not somehow connected to the man you see above. My heart tells me this is true, not my analytical or rational mind.

You see, what I have not mentioned is that the sankalpa – the intention –that I have been working with throughout my YTT journey has been: “I am a warrior”.  It is these three words that have resonated so deeply with me in this process, and only now am I beginning to understand why that is so.

Indeed, the events of these past 20 months, of my (be)coming to yoga and mindfulness, leaves me with an overwhelming impression that I have been guided, one decision at a time, to this precise moment in my life in which I must make another conscious choice with my heart – a choice between furthering the path of expansion and self-discovery, or contraction and self-denial.

Here and in this moment, I consciously choose to embrace the possibility that I lived a past life in Ancient China, thousands of years ago, where I served as a soldier, a warrior, in the imperial army of my forefathers, and that I was captured and died in captivity.

I believe in the possibility that my grandparents have been trying to communicate this truth to me – perhaps my whole adult life – but I was not ready to receive this message until now.

I see now the possibility that the empty box my grandparents surrounded inside the mountain cave is a foreshadowing of my death as a warrior who fought for my family’s honour in Ancient China.

4.Turn it over to God

The thought of these possibilities at once intrigue me and paralyze me.  There are still thousands of questions swirling in my mind about that fundamental question that plagues us all: who am I?  Where do I go from here? What is next? What does this all mean?

Cope’s final chapter addresses the fourth pillar of dharma which he encapsulates in the phrase:  Turn it over to God.

I was drawn deeply to the way that Cope expresses Krishna’s teaching at p. 211 – he writes:

Krishna reiterates his earlier teaching: know your dharma.  Do it with all your passion. Let go of the fruits. And now he adds a fourth and final teaching: And turn it over to me.  Surrender the whole process to me. Surrender your life’s work to God – to the divine within you, and to the divine within all beings.  In this way your forgetfulness and delusion will slowly disappear. When you are immersed in your dharma, the wave becomes the sea again.  Don’t you see? Dharma is your path home.

And turn it over to me.  Surrender the whole process to me. Surrender your life’s work to God – to the divine within you, and to the divine within all beings…Dharma is your path home.

I do not know what the future holds for me.  Before (be)coming to my yoga and mindfulness journey, I placed significant stock in the proposition “what if” and such other contingent formulations as “if this, then that”.  My yoga journey has taught me that all I need care about and pay attention to is what I consciously choose to do with the moment that is presented to me.  Do I meet the moment with advertence, doubt, anxiety and fear? Or, do I meet it with grace, compassion and humility?

I have learned in this process to surrender these questions to the (sometimes very painful but enriching) task of self-observation, so that the divine within me may emerge. At this moment, I believe I have reached a moment of clarity in my life.  Although I do not have all of the answers to all of the questions that I still remain in my mind, I believe these remaining answers may lie in my ancestral family roots in China.

A part of me feels incredibly drawn to return home to the place where the bamboo forest, the beautiful mountain valley and creek have appeared so many times in my dreams. Could this place actually exist in China? Could it be in Linfen, in Shanxi province, China, the former imperial capital where the statue of my ancestor Emperor Yao is located? I feel called to the possibility that the next chapter in my dharmic path may lies there, at the temple in Shanxi (pictured below), my ancestral home in northern China.  I firmly believe that one day I will return to this place in China and pay my respects to the memory of my ancestors.  I will receive what answers await me there with gratitude, humility and curiosity.

yao temple

In the interim, I will seek out with alacrity the counsel of the elders in my family to see what insight they may have into these matters.

I believe more strongly than ever that there is indeed a connection of some kind between the life I may have lived as a warrior in Ancient China, and my life today as a legal advocate to the judges of the highest Court in our province (the warrior advocatus) fighting to ensuring that legal errors are corrected – errors that uphold the rights and freedom of those who have become entangled in the judicial system.

To serve as a warrior advocate – a voice for the voiceless – this I believe is my life’s calling, my sacred duty, my dharma.

I suppose it is fitting that in August I will travel to the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living in Lennox, Massachusetts (pictured below) where I will meet Stephen Cope who is guiding a weekend workshop on the teachings offered in this transformative work The Great Work of Your Life.

About_Shadowbrook_Kripalu

Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health (Lennox, Massachusetts)

I hope to express how grateful I am to Stephen for writing this book, and for the opportunity to learn so much more from him and through him about the concept of dharma. Perhaps too, I might come to gain further insight into my personal dharma at Kripalu.

I have attempted to demonstrate in this essay that the path towards one’s true calling, vocation, or dharma, is not often made manifest in that which can be seen. Instead, what is required is the deep and honourable work of self-observation.  This practice of yoga and mindfulness is a practice of self-observation which allows us to remain steady in our mind when chaos swirls around us in our daily lives. It teaches us to meet each moment – however turbulent or tumultuous – with equanimity, self-compassion, and love.  This, I believe, is the path that can lead each of us to personal liberation, enlightenment and freedom from our habits, our defaults, and our belief systems that do not serve our highest seat of Self.  This is the path that can – and will – lead us to the great work of our life, one small or large course correction at a time.

And it can all begin with a simple choice to begin living purposefully in the wonder of this present moment.

To my YTT teachers and soul tribe members– thank you for your deep listening, your compassion, and your strength of character as I continue to grow into the seat of my highest Self. This has been an experience that has changed my life, forever.  We are together, as one. Always.

I wish you all love, happiness and hope, always.

Namaste,

Alex

p.s. I share with you the below song “Overlook” by cellist Julia Kent. This piece resonated with me deeply as I prepared the above writing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Emperor Yao, Wikipedia free encyclopedia, online: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emperor_Yao&gt;.

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