48 teachers, 12 destinations and 1,000 hours later, here we are then. Where to even begin? As you can imagine, it’s been one hell of a journey! I’ve experienced euphoric highs and some very lonely lows. Though, throughout all of it, Yoga was my anchor. Every hour of every day, Yoga was the focus. Practicing on the mat, if not on the mat than reading a book, if not reading a book, then sitting to meditate. Complete absorption into one singular activity. With such consistency and intensity, progress was bound to made. Now what constituted as progress was the interesting part.
Let’s rewind to March 2018. Prior to this, a little voice in my head would emerge every now and then and tell me to drop everything and pursue Yoga fully. Back then, I was a complete beginner and actually had a greater interest in meditating. I had this idea that Yoga was about turning the body into an elastic band and somehow this would result in a tranquil state of mind. After which, I’d attain superpowers and be able to read minds and levitate. Suffice it to say that my Yogic knowledge was merely my own imaginary idea. I did know one thing though, I wanted to become my own master and for this to happen I had to first master my addictions. So, I made a mental pact to completely cut them out until further notice. With the groundwork laid, I left London and headed to birthplace of Yoga, India.
Going from western life into an ashram where you wake up at 5:30am, practice 5 hours of yoga and have minimal technology proved quite the challenge. Bad habits and mental tendencies, were getting suffocated and their screams were loud and clear. My mind was much like the aftermath of taking sweets away from a child. Wild, dark thoughts started to flow. At first, it was scary and I went into deep state of analysis. Of course, this was a viscous cycle as it was impossible to find exact causes. I needed an answer and so gave myself a dodgy self-diagnosis and labelled all unwanted thoughts as withdrawal symptoms from monkey mind. I did contemplate on coming back home but quickly realised that this would only be a distraction, not a solution. The solution was right in front of me, that was to continue practicing Yoga. Every time I stepped on the mat, I felt the monkey mind was getting just that little bit weaker. Later, I came to know this process as Tapas. Self-discipline as the input and the burning of impurities is the output. On a literal level, certain poses create what feels like fire, for example, the lactic acid felt in engaging the core. Metaphorically, the longer the pose is held, the weaker the monkey gets. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, hold a plank and observe which thoughts emerge. Your mind will vocally oscillate between two opposing states, one is the monkey who hates the plank and the other who embraces the burn. With the help of Tapas, it took 2 months before the withdrawal symptoms eventually ceased.
At this point, my definition on progress had not changed. Progress meant becoming more flexible, gaining strength, fixing back issues, balancing longer and nurturing a beastly core. Yoga was the vehicle to achieve this. Before I knew it, I was hitting 30 hours a week. All energy was going directly into me. Working, investing in no one else but myself. Forget about growing my bank balance, my body was the focus and the measure for growth. Eventually, I began to hit physical milestones. Touching my toes with a straight back, holding a handstand for 10 seconds or actually enjoying a wheel back bend were all examples. With each accomplishment, I got a small hit of dopamine. However the happy state of satisfaction soon passed away and my focus quickly moved again to something more physically demanding. One of my teachers dubbed this phase as Yogic consumerism. I engaged in a small thought experiment by extrapolating what I was currently doing for the next 10 years. Where would I be? Most probably, something similar to a gymnast. It became very clear the physical accomplishments were not the goal, if they were, you’d have enlightened gymnasts and contortionists. What was the goal then? To help answer this, I’ve employed the use of a diagram.
Yes, I’m an engineer and think graphs are undervalued. You’ll see that the vertical axis is labelled increasing awareness. Why is this important you may ask? Well it seems to be the most accurate measure if we are delving into advanced concepts such as enlightenment. We are only really aware of a very small percentage of what we can actually perceive. I’ll crack this wide open in another post, don’t you worry. Like most people, my journey started off seeking physical transformations. Here is the gateway for common folk, like me. Arguably, the most important space as it is the entry point. As the rabbit hole deepens, you have forms such as Yin and Iyengar. Go even further and you’ll exit the matrix through Meditation. Here is where the most serious seekers tend to hang out. They have minimal physical aspirations and you won’t find them striking some picture perfect post on instagram. Meditators seek to only understand the external, not change it. How? Through observing the internal.
What I’ve found is that Yoga is like a network of roads then. One takes different routes to different destinations. There is no correct route as all roads serve a purpose at different times.
Now, my definition of progress is entirely different. Silence of mind, equanimity to stimulus, heightened awareness, actions towards others are just some a few metrics for growth. For cultivating these qualities, meditation is the most direct route. I still practice the more physical forms of Yoga. The reasons will change day to day. If I’ve had a naughty meal then I’ll probably want to sweat out the grease with some Vinyasa the next day. If I find my self anxious or impatient then the stillness in Yin is the perfect remedy. I now see Yoga as a way to compliment and at times turbocharge my meditation.
Around 700 hours in, is when I began to take my Meditation seriously. At first, it took me a while just to nail down the logistics. Sitting on the floor in a cross-legged position brought with it a wave of discomfort. Flexed knee joints would often shoot bolts of electricity before settling into what felt like a ball of molten lava. Itches, back pain, dead legs were all common occurrences. Whilst battling to sit still, I also witnessed the unruly habits of the mind. Although I had vowed to remove external addictions, the subtle addiction of thinking remained. So subtle, I didn’t even know when my mind was pleasing itself to thoughts. It should be made clear that the goal of meditation is not to eradicate thoughts, rather to simply become aware and as a byproduct of observation results in a natural state of silence. Through all 1,000 hours, the most magical, intense, scary and frustrating experiences happened whilst meditating. It seems that when the eyes are closed, a part inside of us opens up to feel something greater. After all, we kiss, dream and even sneeze with our eyes closed. Meditation is no different. While, I can’t claim to have made serious spiritual progress, I have come into contact with it’s phenomenal benefits. Meditation is a practical portal to experience the other 99% that life has to offer. Yes, it is true that there is so much more on offer. So much so that I’ve wondered whether it is my very purpose to unlock the other 99% of life. I don’t want to believe it just yet as I’ll have to swallow some very hard pills with it. However, when I look at the facts there are endless reasons for and precisely zero reasons against. This scares me. For now, we’ll just leave this segment as to be continued…
My time in India couldn’t have concluded in a more special manner. I organised a Yoga & Meditation retreat for my closest friends and family at my home in Gujarat. I’ll just let the photos do all the talking.
Our family home is a very special place for me. It was built 10 years ago on secluded farm. A whole lot of love and attention has been injected into the space since then. The land has certainly given back. Mangos, tomatoes, chillies, herbs, spices, veggies, you name it. Besides from the fresh food, the space seems primed for spiritual development. Under the influence of a Yogic potion, it was if we were on some kind of trip, like kids getting high off the present moment. The hourly chai’s probably helped too.
So where do we go from here then? Whats next? You didn’t think the 1,000 hours would be the end did you? Oh no, I’m just getting started! One thing is for sure, I will continue to practice daily. I’ve been so very fortunate to directly experience the power of Yoga & Meditation. I feel obliged to share these ancient techniques to the world. I’ve got on idea on how to best do this and I’m sure it will materialise very soon. When it does, you’ll all be the first to know. As for the blog, the writing will take a new direction in the form of a written series. The series will make it easy for anyone to understand the core principles of Yoga & Meditation. In the mean time, I just wanted to send some love to my family for supporting on this ride. Mum & Dad, I know it was painful for you to watch me leave my job and blow my life savings in the space of a year but check out my chakra activation, I’m lit like a firework! Someone has to be a rebel right? Also, thank you to all those who took the time to read my posts. I’m not a natural writer so I applaud you on making it this far. The blog has been all about me and so I’ll end by turning the attention on you and ask the same question I often asked myself throughout:
Are you currently growing in the way that you want?