“How you travel is where you are going.” - Richard Rohr
“Work is love made visible.” - Kahlil Gibran
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"
-2 Corinthians 5:17
I am returning from a great trip to Arizona, the first part of which was my annual 3-day intensive with Darren Rhodes at Yoga Oasis, which we have come to call “The Work”. This year we worked with a poem from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran and included reading, dharma talks, writing and discussion along with the asana offering.
For all of the technicalities of asana and the intricacies of philosophy, the heart of the Path for me is the Heart- the revelation, recognition, and expression of Love. And, as I have come to realize with increasing clarity, I simply cannot bully, force, intimidate, criticize or otherwise hate myself into Love. I must travel towards Love with love.
I am not talking about sentimental, Hallmark-card, pop-song love. I am talking about Love as the ground of Being, Love that is big enough to hold the paradoxes of my beauty and my rough edges, my capacities and limits, my profundity and my pettiness. I am talking about Love in its fire, in its sweetness, in it’s demands and in it’s ever-present affirmation of the All That Is As It Is. So, Big Love. (Not to be confused with the excellent TV show by the same name which is a different topic for a different day.)
As many of you know, Darren and I have spent over 1200 hours teaching in the room at Yoga Oasis together (he added it up a few years ago) and this year felt to me like “old times made new.” I felt like we found the current we used to ride together without having to go backwards to do it.
Truth be told, backwards is never really an option, even if the old times were good ones. After the intensive, I spent five days at my guru’s ashram with three of those days on solitary retreat. On the drive into the retreat center there is a road sign off to the left that reads “Private Drive. No Turn Around.” I remarked to my friend who was driving me, that the sign had good spiritual advice.
At a certain point on the Path, there is no turning around.
I have found that while there is a need for honest self-review, which includes integrating past insights, lessons and experiences, there is really no way to turn around. Sometimes nostalgia comes calling and the innocence of past times feels sweeter than living into the wisdom that periods of disillusionment so often bring.
And still, there is no way to turn around.
Darren and I consider ourselves siblings on the Path. In the Indian tradition, he would be called my gurubhai, which means brother in the guru. We both practice and teach in the lineage of Lee Lozowick, Yogi Ramsuratkumar and Swami Papa Ramdas. And, like any brother and sister, we have had ups and downs; long periods of time when Love was sweet and a few periods when Love tasted a bit bitter. And, through Grace and work, we are still in the game together, blessed with and by, the many students who have stuck with us through our (and their) growing pains.
The weekend was fun, tender, raw, real and full of good company from near and far. One of the closing teachings I gave is inspired by the Baul tradition of Bengal. The Bauls are itinerant beggars whose practice is aimed at the the recognition of the Inner Beloved. They sing, dance, practice Hatha yoga, wander, beg and occasionally come together in small and large groups for satsangs of different varieties. Eccentric, iconoclastic and somewhat radical, their path is a dynamic synthesis of tantra and bhakti, grounded in and through the natural ecstasy of the body. Their traditional garb is a patch work jacket made from discarded, unwanted scraps of material.
I can think of no better metaphor for the old being made new than these jackets.
My own life is a patchwork jacket of past experiences— both joyful and painful, some eliciting pride, while others are more challenging to include in my own loving tenderness. Be that as it may be, these experiences are the pieces of my life and they are stitched together by the thread of Grace which has kept me walking the path even when I wished I could turn around and return to some moment in time when I was not so aware of the cost of transformation. And, as many of you know, while the cost may be great at times, so too is the reward.
As I return home for some R&R and some online work and to finalize the details of my 2020-2021 teacher training program (with deeper, more formalized curriculum and requirements), I do so feeling the rewards of not turning around, of walking forward, of shifting my bearings occasionally to recalibrate my trajectory to align myself with my path and to make sure my path is aligned with me. (Different entry for a different day, but both side of the equation need to be considered, in my opinion.)
And I hope that for you— whether your path feels easy-going or rocky and filled with land mines, whether you have energy for the journey or you have sat down in the road to rest—that you find some way to keep moving forward. I pray that each step forward stitches you together, makes you more whole, provides you with the courage to include what was discarded, to make the old new and to travel toward Love with love.
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"There is a light that shines beyond all things on Earth, beyond us all, beyond the heaven, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in our heart."