The Path To Bodhichitta

You start where you are, the practice will meet you there.

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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Monday, August 31, 2009


I suppose there are better ways of spending a Monday night than by eating hot baked beans and dry toast alone on a darkened balcony. But tonight I welcome the simplicity, solitude and silence. It has been a hard week.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More Excerpts From Farhi

It may come as a shock to find out that our personality doens't change very much through all this practice.

Regardless of how mature we are in our spiritual understanding, at any time we can experience a descent. Some people describe this as the dark night of the soul, others a crossing over, others a breakdown. I believe that the intensity of these experiences, especially when they occur well down the road of a spiritual quest, comes from our proximity to rather than our distance from our authentic self. If such experiences can be welcomed as part of one's spiritual work rather than derided and held up as proof of one's spiritual failure, a tremendous internal shift occurs.

Whether we are a beginner or a strongly established Yoga practitioner, there is little variation in the experience of hitting the edge. Even in simple physical terms, this is true. A beginner with the flexibility of an ironing board may bend forward twenty degrees, and there it is, the sensation that says, "That's it, I'm stuck." He feels a tightness, a constriction, an uncomfortable resistance in that moment. The most advanced hatha yogi trying to fold forward also hits that edge and the physical sensation is exactly the same. The beginner looks at the advanced student and believes his adept comrade is having a different and undoubtedly better experience, but in truth they are having the same experience. The only differences are the places where the experience occurs and the choice in the response. The apparent beginner can have an advanced response: listening, accepting, inquiring into the nature of this edge of resistance. The seemingly advanced practitioner can have a beginner's response: refusing, deriding, forcing or injuring. As long as we are tyrannized by an ideal of perfection we will always be at war with ourselves.

How do we know whether our path or action is our dharma? Our dharma is almost always the option we choose last because it is the most challenging.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Off The Mat, Into The World

Been reading a book that I picked up one year ago in Borders, Singapore. It was meant to be my airport book since I was doing quite a bit of travelling at the time. But my travelling companion turned out to be extremely delightful and the book gradually grew dog-eared in my hand-carry. Last week, looking for a good book to sink my teeth into, I dug it up again and decided to begin from scratch. This time I couldn't put it down.

I had never heard of Donna Farhi before, but I bought Bringing Yoga To Life because I liked what I saw in my quick browse. Later on, PDN mentioned her as one of his favourite reads and now, I understand why.

Farhi doesn't embellish. She writes with a simple grace and truth. There are no attempts to be entertaining and no words that require a dictionary. Her writing is clean and profound. And most importantly, it's real. There are no airy concepts that will excite your inner skeptic. And this is why, you will find yourself putting the book down from page to page as you contemplate her words with no small amount of wonder simply because you realise you have gone through exactly what she has described and only now you understand what it was all about.

My copy of Bringing Yoga To Life is not only more dog-eared, it also bears the scars of fervishly underlined sentences. Here are some of my favourites:

Yoga has less to do with standing on our head than standing on our own two feet and that the physical practices of Yoga remain mechanical gymnastics until transmuted by our intention to clarify the mind and open the heart.

Unfortunately, what we want is what we most fear: we yearn for a larger life but we're not so sure we want the consequences.

Whether we're just beginning a Yoga practice or have had an established practice for many years, the form and content of our practice needs to reflect where we are in our lives. If we hold to an immutable ideal of what a Yoga practice should be and an equally unchanging idea of who we think we ought to be, our time on the mat will become a rote exercise in recapitulating who we were or propagating who we might be. If we do not trust who we are in the present, we will forever create a practice for someone who does not exist.

The tendency with learning anything (good or bad) is that once we have our collection of facts, figures, theories and techniques, we start to see ourselves and others through this lens. We may try to fit the people we meet into the box of tricks and treatments that we have learned rather than deduce moment to moment what is actually happening and what is required of us.

If you're looking for a way to take yoga off the mat and into the real world, Farhi is one teacher whose work you should read.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I Hope You Never Fear Those Mountains In The Distance

Found this little gem of poetry in The Healer's bookshelf. This nugget jumped off its page.

Mountains and oceans
Seems like there's always another of one or the other
It's crossing your fingers when the map doesn't make sense, when the compass doesn't know truly north from truly lost; and it's up to you - you and your gut and your mettle, and your level of resilience and your wealth of wisdom - to persevere.
To get to the other side.
To hope.