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Season 1 - Episode 2

Yoga as Integration

75 min - Talk


Yoga is a time-proven manual for life.  We join James for a discussion centered around how the ancient teachings of yoga can help us move from fragmentation to wholeness of our entire being. To assist in our pursuit of this elusive goal, James recounts the Myth of Future Happiness, touches on the Yoga Sutras, and introduces the text of the Bhagavad Gita as the setting of this life-long struggle for personal peace, harmony, and integration. You will feel inspired and eager along your own personal journey.
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Mar 01, 2021
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Hello, so welcome to Yoga Now on Yoga Anytime. My name is James. I'm here in the north of England. It's just gone 6pm here and I can see people have joined from I know at least eight hours earlier than me so good morning, good afternoon, good evening and really pleased to be here and starting this course, this series, this show on Yoga Now on Yoga Anytime. So to start off, I'd like to say that I feel the name of the show is really appropriate. The first time that I was invited to record a course for Yoga Anytime, I also thought that the name of the platform was highly appropriate because yoga is not just something that we can do at the weekend or when we go to yoga class or when we sit on our meditation cushion or we do some type of yoga technique. Really, yoga gives us so much support for all things that we do in all aspects of our lives and so I'm very grateful to Yoga Anytime for giving the space for us to explore this together and the show being called Yoga Now, this is one of the lovely things about yoga. It's always very, very practical and in yoga we do not have to wait for yoga. We don't need to buy anything in order to practice yoga. We don't need any special equipment. We do not need any particular clothing. We do not even need a yoga mat. If we are an incarnate human being, then we have all of the resources and the equipment we need. In the Indian system, yoga reminds us when we're a human being, one of our distinguishing characteristics is that we have self reflexive awareness. We can watch ourselves, feel ourselves, listen to ourselves. We can notice we have this capacity for self reflexive awareness and so we have the capacity for samadhi, the capacity for deep integration. Sometimes we come out of that innate capacity and we find that we're not inhabiting the present moment completely free, let's say, from some type of filter or some type of conditioning that's getting in the way of us experiencing reality as it really is. Yoga tells us it's a completely natural and normal thing because the human incarnation, this amazing bodily vehicle that is endowed with conscious awareness, itself it's made of the changing stuff of nature and everything in nature is always moving and always changing. Everything in nature, what does nature really mean? If we look at the root of the word, nut means that which is born. Everything that's born, what do we know about everything that's born? Sooner or later, it's going to die and in between those two great changes of birth and death, what's the one thing we can guarantee? Change.

So this vehicle, miraculous though it is, is made of the changing stuff of nature and so it's altogether very easy for us to get identified with change and limitation and kind of forget the deathless essence part of ourselves that is the source of our being able to experience anything at all. So in yoga is the idea, if we were not conscious, how would we be able to experience anything at all? And we are conscious. So here I am in a human body and though I have a capacity for yoga, for this experience of balance and integration, sometimes I can also come away from that experience. I can find myself feeling less than balanced, less than whole. I can find myself feeling spread thin or fragmented. I don't know if you've ever experienced this, but I certainly have and that's why I feel so much gratitude for the supports of the practical yoga teachings. So yoga now, now yoga. Now the yoga sutra, which is one of the classical texts of the yoga tradition, the first word in this text is utter and utter is one of the Sanskrit words for now. Now yoga now is really the only time we ever have. Sometimes we tell ourselves, ah, I'll be all right when I get that thing or I'll see to that once I have that thing or when that happens. Yoga reminds us that if we want to experience anything, the only time available is now. So let's work with the reality of the present moment as skillfully as we possibly can. Now in the yoga sutra, when we have this word utter, meaning now, this word encodes some particular shades of now that might not immediately spring to mind if we see the English word now. So starting a text in the Indian tradition with the word utter is a traditional thing. It means now, but there are different ways of saying now in Sanskrit. This now means basically now that I know that I don't know. Now that I recognise that I haven't got it all worked out. Now I'm owning up to the fact that this being a human being, I haven't quite worked it all out yet and maybe I could do something about it. Now I've come to that recognition I'm ready for yoga. So now I've also realised perhaps that I've been looking in the wrong place and I've looked in the wrong places enough times that now I'm ready to look towards yoga. And looking towards yoga basically means now I'm going to give up outsourcing the way I feel to external things which I know are bound to change and I'm going to actually start claiming responsibility for my experience here and now. So now I know that I do not know. Now I know I haven't got it all worked out. And now why have I come to this recognition? Because I've tried looking in other directions. So the idea is why does anybody come to yoga? Of course there can be hundreds of reasons why a person might start practicing yoga. A couple of classics for example, oh I've got some back pain and I've read or I've heard or I've been told that yoga can really help me deal with this sore back or this lower back pain. And the person may well be right and they start doing some yoga asana, some well taught appropriate yoga asana and not only does the lower back feel much better, the whole organism feels much better. And the person thinks wow this yoga thing fantastic it's really helping me out, wonderful. Another classic example, maybe a person is feeling some stress or some anxiety and the person has heard as the idea yoga could help reduce this stress, alleviate this anxiety and again the person would be right. Yoga is powerful medicine and when applied appropriately with the correct dose it can certainly have a very harmonising, balancing, healing influence in our experience. So we've tried other things, I've not been feeling as well as I would like to feel in this life and maybe I've looked to some other options where I might find satisfaction. I've tried playing that game, the game that we get so encouraged into in the modern world, the game that we could perhaps describe as the myth of future happiness. Do you know the myth of future happiness? The idea that happiness lives around the next corner with the next achievement, with the next acquisition. And this myth is propagated somewhat relentlessly in the society we live in. I mean the whole advertising industry is based on this fallacy, this false story. So story is a very important part of the yoga tradition and during this show I will often refer to, resort to and take support from illustrative stories. And the myth of future happiness, maybe we can relate to it easily in the modern context of being advertised to and told that if we just get this new thing our life will be transformed. However, it is not a new story. And this is one of the things that is very beautiful in the yoga tradition, is that once we start to dive into the teachings, when we look into these ancient texts that were set down thousands of years ago, one thing we can find is tremendous comfort as well as support because we realise, ah, I'm not the first human being to be experiencing this type of dilemma. I'm not the first human being to be feeling like I can't quite see the clear way forwards, what to do about it. We realise this is a perennial part of being a human being. So the myth of future happiness, there is a yoga story and there was a rishi. Now a rishi is a word that we'll refer to a few times I'm sure during this course. A rishi means one who sees. And yoga itself is considered a way of seeing. So yoga is a state of balance, of harmony, of integration. And yoga is a method of techniques, but much more than techniques of principles that are designed to help us cultivate balance, harmony, healing, integration in the grounded reality of a human life. And yoga is a school of Indian philosophy. Not just any school, yoga is the practical school of Indian philosophy. And as such yoga is known in Sanskrit as a darshana. So a school of philosophy is known in Sanskrit as a darshana, which means a way of seeing. And yoga is also a way of seeing. And the idea is that as we work with the principles of yoga, as we keep enquiring into the nature of our own existence and the challenges of our own experience through the yogic lens, we start to expand our perspective. We start to be able to see more than perhaps we were able to see before or perhaps we allowed ourselves to see before. And one of the very basic yoga practices is to look in ways that reach beyond our habitual ways of looking. Now to look in ways that reach beyond our habitual ways of looking. Is this easy? Not always so easy because when we're alive, we experience the power of inertia. And once we start doing something starting, they say in India, the first step is half the journey. As soon as we start something, it starts to generate inertia. So the ways of looking that we have been used to, that we are habituated to, they've already built up a lot of steam. They have a lot of inertia. And yoga often involves noticing how sometimes, perhaps a lot of the time, the way I see is influenced and colored by the inertia of my habits and my conditioned ideas. And so yoga seeks to try to help free us from the limits of these conditionings and these accrued ideas. But we were speaking about the myth of future happiness and this old, old story and the rishi. Now a rishi means one who sees. A rishi is one who's established in yoga, who is no longer blinkered or whose vision is no longer shrouded or veiled by all of these conditionings and ideas and thought forms. A rishi is one who's able to see clearly.

In the old tradition, there is the idea that when a person attains this capacity to perceive clearly, often the rishi becomes almost overwhelmed with compassion. The compassion overflows from such a being. Because once the person is able to see clearly the reality of the human condition and the way that us humans seem to have a capacity to sometimes get in our own way, the rishis often feel like, hmm, what could I do to be of assistance? How could I help lift up my fellow human beings? What could I do to be of service? And so the situation was there was this great rishi and he's there in the Himalayan and he has come to realisation. He has become established in the state of yoga. He can see things clearly. He's no longer veiled by his conditioned ideas. And this rishi looks out at humankind and he sees sometimes the humans, they're not particularly kind to themselves or to each other. They seem to long for happiness and wellness. And yet this happiness thing seems to so often elude them. And the rishi has the sense, often it seems human beings are looking in the wrong place. Maybe there's something I could do to help them. And the rishi notices that of all the people he meets on his wanderings, every human being seems to have some significant interest in being happy. And so this rishi thinks, if I knew the secret of happiness, maybe that would be a really helpful thing to know to then invite human beings into the deeper work of coming to real fulfilment and being free of the needless suffering of existence. Because I've noticed when people are feeling happy, it does tend to help them feel a bit more present and a bit more relaxed about doing that sometimes rather difficult work of looking in ways that reach beyond our habitual ways of looking. So the rishi thinks, yes, let me go and do some research. Let me see if I can find out a bit more about this elusive thing called human happiness. So the rishi sets out on his research project. And that's one way I think of a rishi. The rishi is not only do they see, but once they had this inclination to start seeing what they could do to help other human beings, they started doing research. So we can consider the rishis who bequeathed us the teachings of the old tradition as ancient research scientists. They looked into the realities of life and existence and saw what can we do to help our fellow human beings? What can we do to help cultivate harmony here in the grounded reality of life? And so this rishi, he set out from the Himalaya and he started wandering. He started walking and he thought, hmm, I've heard of this place called the Mediterraneo, the Mediterraneo, the Mediterranean. Now Mediterra, the middle ground. And this rishi, he's a yogin. So the rishi knew that where do you find yoga? We find yoga not at the extremes in the middle. Extreme situations, nonetheless, they can be great opportunities to invite us into the keener state of awareness in which we can experience yoga. But to become established in yoga, we need to learn to establish ourselves in a place of balance, a place of equipoise, a place in which the seeming pairs of opposites that characterize worldly life can meet and draw out each other's potential. And the rishi knows this through all his years of diligent practice and exploration. And so he thinks, yeah, if I'm going to look into the roots of happiness, let's try looking in the Mediterranean, the middle ground. The name is rather promising, after all, I will orient in that direction. And so he walks westward and he comes into the Mediterranean and he's walking through the land that these days is known as Italy. And the rishi happens to be why a school?

And he walks by the school when it's break time or recess, more appropriately known, I would say, and we'll speak more about this later, perhaps not today, but soon enough, play time. So the rishi is walking past the school and the kids are out in the playground and they're playing. And as the rishi is walking by, he sees this one young boy. And as the rishi sees him, he thinks, I don't know if I've ever seen such ebullient joy in a human being before. This boy definitely knows something about happiness. And so the rishi enters the school yard and he says, hello there. And the young boy says, hello. And the rishi says, I have a question for you. I noticed you playing with your friends here and you look so joyful and I'm doing some research. Do you ever give you research projects at school? Well, I'm out on a research project now and I'm trying to find out about human happiness. And I thought when I saw you playing, you look so happy. So are you happy? And then the boy, he was there just full of joy, his face shining. He looked so happy. And when the rishi asks him this question, the smile vanishes from the boy's face. Happy? Oh, no, no. No, no, no. No, I'll be happy next year. We can't stand the teacher we have here. Once I go to the big school, then I'll be happy. And the rishi thinks, well, I've heard something like that before. And he continues wandering, exploring. Yiraso goes by and the rishi comes by that same neighborhood and he finds his young friend once again. He's now at the big school and he meets him again. He says, ah, do you remember me? I came and saw you when you were playing in the school yards down the road at the junior school. And I had a question for you. And the boy says, oh, yeah, I remember. He says, well, you're at the big school now. Are you happy? Oh, no, no, no. It's all exams here. No, no, I'll be happy once I've finished all the exams and I've graduated school and I've gone to university and finished all the exams and I've got a job I like. Yeah, this exam business is terrible. No, no, I'm not happy now. Come and ask me again in a few years time. And so this is what happens. The rishi waits. He comes back and he meets the boy. He's passed all his exams very, very well. He's graduated university. He's now got a job that he really likes. And there is he sees him and he asks him, my friend, are you happy? And now the young man, he looks up at the rishi and he says, well, it's true. I've got a job that I like. Don't have to do any more exams, but no, no. And then he kind of half smiles. There is she and he says, well, there's this lady I've met and I think I might be happy if we were to get married. And the rishi thinks, ah, oh yeah, that one. Okay. I'll see you in a few years time. Anyway, the rishi comes by again and now the young man has met the woman of his dreams. Apparently they seem to have a lovely relationship and the rishi sees them. There's two of them now and he asked them, are you happy? And they look at each other and they say to the rishi, we'll be happy. We would like children when we have children, then we'll be happy. Ah, okay. So the rishi thinks, okay, I'll come and visit them another time. And sure enough, a few years go by, he comes back. Now they have two children, happy, healthy children. And the rishi, this young man is very, very blessed. Everything he wants seems to come to him. And so he asks them, the two of them now says, are you happy now? And they look at each other and say, oh no, no, no, we'll be happy when the kids are grown up and they've got good jobs and they're married and settled down. Then we'll be happy. And the rishi thinks, will it ever end? Anyway, it all comes to pass. The children grow up, they graduate, they get jobs they like, they meet life partners they're happy with. And the rishi thinks, have I ever met a man so blessed? And he sees his old friend and he says, are you happy now? And he says, actually, I really want grandchildren. And the rishi thinks, okay, fair enough. Anyway, it happens. And the rishi waits a while, he comes through the neighborhood and this time he visits his old friend. And he's there, he lives in a beautiful house down in Southern Italy. And the rishi sees him and it's the afternoon time. It's gentle like late summer, early autumn sunshine. And the man, he's no longer a young man. He's reclining in this chair, in his beautiful garden, in the dappled shade and there's beautiful trees all around, including a fig tree with perfect figs ready for him to pluck anytime he wants. And the rishi sees him and he says, ah, I've not seen you for a long time, says the man. And there he says, yes, yes. Well, you know, I'm going to ask you, don't you? And the man looks at him and he's like, yes, yes, that question. You know, when I was happy, that first time I ever met you, when I was at the first school, yeah, we were running around in the playground, no worries at all. We had that teacher we didn't like. Yes, that's when I was happy. And there she sits down and shares some freshly plucked figs with his friend before he carries on wondering and he thinks, what is it? We're always looking to the future, thinking that that's where happiness lives. And then comes a certain point in life and then we may come to this point many, many times where we're not finding what we want with the things that we've acquired and we look back and we think, no, no, that's when I was happy. And so we look to the past and we look to the future. As we look to the past and look to the future, what happens? It's like we deny ourselves the experience of actually being fully here now. And there is, she thinks, this is what we need to overcome.

This tendency for us as human beings to spread ourselves thin, to kind of project ourselves into the future and hark back to the past to such a degree that we actually get in the way of allowing ourselves to experience the fullness that is available here now, that really is only available here and now, because now is the only time we ever have. And so there is, she thinks, well, I don't know if I'm going to come to any novel conclusion about the myth of future happiness and how to come out of it. And so I'm really glad that my colleagues from the yoga tradition have already given so much practical instruction about how to inhabit this present moment more fully, about how to work with the natural tendencies to get spread thin and to deny myself the experience of fullness that's always available if I allow myself to experience this present moment. And so yoga teaches us that in order to practice yoga, in order to access yoga, we do not need to be anything that we are not. Rather, we just need to allow ourselves to recognise more of who we really are. So so often in the modern world, we put a lot of focus on striving for things that we might be able to access somewhere down the line. Yoga recognises that really, there's no such thing as a means to an end. Because really, we'll get good at what we practice. So if we are seeking peacefulness, happiness, serenity, calm, wholeness, yoga is very clear. Let us then practice peacefulness, calm, serenity, wholeness here and now. There's no point in aggressively chasing after peace. I tried. It doesn't work. Because if I aggressively chase something, what will happen? I will likely become somewhat proficient at aggressive chasing. I will become somewhat attuned to aggression. And this is probably going to hinder my being able to experience that peacefulness. And so as Tishnatan, the more or less contemporary Buddhist teacher says, peace is every step. So in yoga, we start as we mean to go on. The first step is half the journey. So when we take that first step, let's take the step in the direction we really long for. Let's orient towards our deepest longing. And if we hear this, and we think to ourselves, yes, but I've been stepping in a direction contrary to my deeper longing for so long, no problem. As soon as I noticed that, well, I'm empowered. I can do something about it. I was in a conversation just the other week, and one of my friends said, he shared a quote that he said, this quote in various forms had been coming to him several times in recent days. And it said, just a small adjustment on the steering wheel can make a big difference down the road. And this is also very much in keeping with the yogic wisdom and the yogic method. Yoga is about balance. Now, when I start to invite balance into my life, what I might notice is that I've been used to a certain degree of imbalance. And as I start to cultivate balance, I noticed that. So I may have been accustomed to being looking at my hands kind of like this. So I've been a skew, but I've been used to operating in this imbalanced way. Now, if all of a sudden I bring myself into complete balance, this is likely to be somewhat destabilizing for the system. And so the idea in yoga is wherever I am, I invite balance as best as I possibly can. And then my system will experience this and it will find it very agreeable. But in order to recalibrate, if I've been used to a certain degree of imbalance, I have to be realistic about coming back more and more towards true balance steadily, not in such a way that I short circuit the system, not in such a way that I destabilize everything. So yoga is very practical. Wherever we are, here, now, honestly, as best as I possibly can, I invite balance. I invite harmony. I invite myself to look a little bit more broadly, a little bit more vastly than perhaps I've allowed myself to look before. And as I do that, I invite a little bit more balance. My system experiences this balance, but when I invite this balance, what happens? The system starts to recalibrate. Now, I mentioned already everything in life has, once everything that has existence has inertia. Once something has taken a particular form, it wants to continue in that form. It wants to stay alive. So just as we like to stay alive, so the plants like to stay alive. So do the ideas that we have taken on and we carry inside ourselves. So I'm going to use a prop now and I'm going to use my trusty water bottle. So maybe you can see this dark blue water bottle on the screen. I'll put it on the white background so it's easy to see. So here I am. And now I've realized that buying a bigger car, getting a promotion, having this, having that, it hasn't brought me to a lasting peace. Now, I've recognized that I cannot outsource my feeling of life not quite being all that I think it could be. I realized that it's not about the external things. It's about me. How is my relationship to myself, my relationship to life, to the people around me, to the place that I interact with? So I start to come to the realization that I have to claim responsibility for my own experience. And this is one of the foundational teachings in your, you human being, you have self-reflexive awareness. You are a conscious being and you are endowed with this miraculous gift called conscience. You have this deep intuitive wisdom and this deep intuitive wisdom of your conscience is always available. Sometimes we have overridden its input. This is, I would say, is one of the tragedies of modern life. So in the earlier story of the Rishi and the search for human happiness, we had a school by. Now, at school, we may learn many wonderful things, but we may also learn some things that may not be so helpful. Sometimes we may be encouraged to disregard the voice of intuition, the voice of conscience, because we have to go along with something that the teacher or the parent or the grown-up is saying. A classic example. When I was a schoolboy and I came home from school, I was in a particular state. Can you guess what the state I was in when I came home from school was? I'd been working hard, playing hard at school all day and I was a young boy and I had a fast metabolism. So I came home from school and I was in a state that we could call hungry. Maybe it was the same for you. I know many of the people who experienced this. You come home from school, you're seven years old, it's 3.30pm or 4 o'clock, you're very hungry. But let's say, for example, you live with your granddad or your grandma or some aunt or uncle or mum or dad. One thing they might say to you is, hold on son, don't eat now, you'll spoil your appetite. Because the grown-up has this idea that if we eat something now at 4 o'clock, by the time we sit down together for the family meal in one or two hours or wherever it is, this will get in the way of us being able to enjoy that meal. And this is somewhat tragic, I would say, because the grown-up has forgotten what it's like to have a seven-year-old's metabolism. It's just like, and what does the child want to do? The child is hungry, the child would like to say, no granddad, I'm hungry now and if you let me eat now, I will have incinerated it all by the time we sit down for our big meal later. I'm seven years old and my digestive fire is ablaze. If we make an offering into it now, it will incinerate whatever we put in and that will be long dealt with by the time we sit down for the meal. But you're seven, so what do you say to the beloved elder who you love and cherish and who looks after you? Oh well, I'll just do my best to go along with this. And then what happens? That digestive fire that's all ablaze, it starts burning a hole in your stomach and then it abates and the fire calms. By which time? It's dinner time and now the whole family gather and the parents and the grandparents, perhaps they remember when they were children they didn't always have food and they are scarred by that and now they're in a position to be able to feed you handsomely and so they pile your plate high with a quantity of food that's really, we might say, rather unrealistic given the size of your seven year old stomach and then they encourage you to eat it all up so you grow up big and strong. But you struggle to finish it and then what do they say? Maybe they say for example, I see you weren't really hungry earlier when you wanted to go for those biscuits or that apple or whatever it was you wanted to go for when you came in from school or they might say something like, there'll be no pudding, no dessert for you if you don't finish up your potatoes or your rice or whatever it is, something like this. I don't know if you experienced something like this. And again, it doesn't really make sense.

It's like on a Sunday when the whole family gather and after the big meal, the boy who was seven years old, what does he want to do right after he finishes the meal? He wants to go outside and play football. And so he asks his granddad and his uncle who liked football, shall we go and play? And they're like, no, no, no, don't go running around now son, you'll get indigestion. Will he get indigestion? No, he won't. And the seven year old knows, no, granddad, I won't get indigestion. I'm seven years old, every day at school, after the lunchtime, literally within a minute of finishing my lunch, I'm making my way outside into the playground. I'm within two, three, certainly within a five minute, I'm running around playing football for the remaining half hour of the lunch break. And I never get indigestion because I'm seven years old. Have you forgotten? This is what the child would like to say, but you're seven, so you don't say anything. You just go along with what is imposed by the grownups, for example. And the consequence of this is that by the time we may be 10 years old, our conscience, our intuitive wisdom has spoken clearly to us, but we have been told or we have learned sometimes I have to ignore this voice, this voice that really is the voice of deep innate wisdom. And so there is what I sometimes call this great dismemberment. We become disconnected from so many of our innate capacities. And because we have ignored our conscience, we start sometimes to doubt ourselves. And this makes it easy to get into situations where we feel torn and indecisive. We don't trust ourselves as much as we might like to, or as much as we could. And yoga is all about overcoming this dismemberment and remembering, gathering all the different parts of ourselves back into a cohesive, balanced, integrated state. So all these amazing gifts of our senses, of our emotional intelligence, certainly our minds, but not just our minds, our bodies, all of these different capacities we have, that they can support each other and work as a whole. Work, if you like, as an orchestra. So we have all these different instrumental powers to see, to hear, to feel, sense touch, to smell, to taste, to move in different ways, to speak, to express ourselves, to digest and assimilate, to also recreate and procreate. We have amazing creative capacities. We've got so many gifts, but sometimes all these different gifts, it's like we get disconnected from them. We have learned ways of disintegration and fragmentation. We needed to learn those ways to get along in the society we grew up in a lot of the time. And yoga is about recovering from those things. Yoga is a recovery project. It's a rehabilitation project. So I come to a certain stage of life now. Now I realize that the way I've been carrying on maybe isn't the smartest. Maybe I could work a little bit more skillfully with the gift of my awareness, with the gifts of my senses, with the gifts of my emotions, with the gifts of my mind and intellect. Maybe I could harness all of these that animate this amazing feel of my miraculous human body a little bit more skillfully. And maybe yoga can help me do that. And I'm not wrong. So I go to yoga class. Maybe I sign up for yoga anytime, and I join one of the very well-instructed classes that really suits me. And I start doing the practice regularly. And after a few days, how do I feel? The back pain alleviated. The anxiety, the stress lessened. How do I feel about yoga? And this is why I brought out my bottle. So if the bottle represents yoga, I had this thing in my life that was troubling me. This pain in the body, this pain in the mind, this pain in the backside, whatever it was. The boss at work always stressed me out. I've got that niggle in my shoulder on my back, whatever it was. And I got the idea that yoga could help. I start working with yoga practices. I start doing yoga asana. I start meditating. What happens to the back pain? What happens to this? It dissipates. I feel better. This thing that was troubling me has been significantly harmonized. So my bottle here is representing yoga. This new influence, this new support that I've invited into my life. And it has alleviated that thing that I was very conscious was troubling me. And I was very conscious I would like to get rid of that back pain. I would like no longer to be afflicted by stress when the boss pushes the button in that way. I would like to be free of these things. And so I turn to yoga and I start practicing. And it makes this amazing, beautiful impact in my life. Now, how do I feel about yoga? And I don't know if you can see this so clearly because of the contrast, but now it's like yoga. I want to hold yoga close. Now I feel, oh, yoga, how did I manage without you? Oh, I will always cherish you now. I'm so grateful you have come into my life. Oh, now I have seen the light. Yoga, I'm so grateful for you. Now we will never be apart. And I want to hold yoga very, very close. And what happened is that as I invited the influence of yoga into my life, sure enough, it upped my quotient of balance and harmony. It had a positive, healing, harmonizing impact in my life and I feel very grateful. But what has happened? As I have now had an experience that is more like yoga, more like samadhi, more like balance, happiness, wellness, easefulness, integration, how does my system feel when I bring myself into that more balanced integrated state?

The system feels, oh, hallelujah, thank you. Yes, this is what I've been waiting for. This is wonderful. And so what does the system want? When we experience something lovely, when we experience something very agreeable, what we want is human beings, a four letter word beginning with the letter M. Yes, we want more. And what happens? The system in its deep innate intelligence, that back pain and that stress issue, we were very aware at the level of the conscious mind, I wanted rid of that habit. I wanted to be healed from that problem. But now we've healed that problem, that surface level problem that we were very aware of. Now we would like to go deeper. And we would like to heal something maybe we didn't yet realize we wanted to heal it. Because now we've started to integrate through down to the subconscious level of our awareness. As we invite that greater harmony, it's like the surface level of our life becomes a little bit more serene. And in that serenity, like we can see deeper into the depths of ourselves. And so the system then brings to the surface the next layer of dis-ease of disharmony or fragmentation that wants to be harmonized, healed, made whole, re-membered, re-configured, rehabilitated. But this time, the thing that arises to the surface, it's not something that had been troubling us so much at a surface level. So that back pain, that stress issue, we knew we wanted to be rid of them. The next thing that yoga shows us, I don't really want to see that. Do I really need to deal with that? Do I have to get into all that stuff? And so now, previously I was holding yoga so close. Now I might feel, well, I'll just put you over there. Thank you very much, yoga. And we might feel that yoga's not working anymore. But actually it's working really well because it's now taking us deeper into this process of balance and harmonization and integration. So another thing to say about yoga and now is that this now is perennial. I mentioned earlier the yoga sutra. Another classic text of the old tradition that I'm sure I will refer to several times during this show is the Bhagavad Gita. And the Bhagavad Gita, sometimes people find it rather puzzling. This is perhaps the most treasured text of the old tradition. But where is the Bhagavad Gita set? It's set on a battlefield between two huge armies. And sometimes people encounter this and they think, wait a minute, isn't yoga all about peace? Sure, it is. But the setting of the Gita is realistic. The battlefield is right here, the field of our awareness. So yoga begins, we said already, when we know that we don't know. Another way we could describe that is that yoga begins when I recognize that I'm somehow getting in the way of my own experience of peacefulness. So in the Gita, the two sets of armies, their leaders are cousins. In other words, they grew up together in the same field. And so when I began studying the Gita, I came to realize, ah yes, have I ever done anything that was not in my own highest interest? And when I posed myself that question, I could only answer, yes. And then when I thought, well, has ever a day gone by when I have not done something that was not in my highest interest? And to that question, I struggled to answer other than, hmm, no, maybe not. And so really I recognized, okay, there is a war, we might say, going on inside me between these tendencies that would help me move towards my deepest longings for harmony, balance, wholeness, and integration. And these other tendencies that cling to these familiar ways, these ways that bring with them a certain comfort because they're familiar. And yet when I'm honest about it, I recognize the way I've been running this system isn't bringing me into that deep lasting wholeness, fulfillment, satisfaction that I feel deep down is what I'd really like to orient towards and move towards and experience in this life. So now I realize there is some conflict within me. I do harbor within me or I carry within me tendencies that get in the way of my deeper longings. I do sometimes act in a way that is self-sabotaging. And so what can I do about that? And this is what yoga is all about. Now that I've recognized that sometimes I can get in my own way. Now that I've recognized that peace is up to me. Now that I've come to realize, yes, I am the sovereign of my experience. Where am I in this is a really helpful question to ask myself. Now I'm ready for yoga. But once I'm ready for yoga, I also have to recognize that as I invite more and more peace into my life, from a certain perspective, I'm also asking for trouble. Because if I'm asking for peace, if I'm praying for peace, if I'm oriented towards peace, I'm really asking to harmonize the tendencies within me that are getting in the way of me experiencing lasting peacefulness. And so yoga is the state of balance, of harmony, of integration. Yoga is the method to cultivate balance, harmony, and integration. And yoga is a time-tested method. So I mentioned the Bhagavad Gita, and I mentioned the Yoga Sutra. Yoga Sutra goes back more than 2,000 years.

And we're still referring to this text and are finding tremendous practical support in it now, all these centuries later. But when the Yoga Sutra was set down, when the Gita was written in the poetic form, these were not novel teachings. The Yoga Sutra was a distillation of a time-tested, time-proven method that had been explored very, very thoroughly over multiple generations. Those rishis who, with an aim to lift up the whole of humanity, bequeathed as the yoga method, they tested it for many, many generations. And so the yoga tradition that we have supporting us now is antifragile. It's been around through so many revolutions and upheavals. It's been time-proven, time-tested. It's perennially valid. And so now I find myself in a situation where, wow, I realize if I'm honest about it, sometimes I get in my own way. Sometimes I block myself. Sometimes I act in ways that are self-sabotaging. Sometimes I feel so confused. Sometimes I come to these moments in life where I feel pulled in different directions. And it's like the rules and the ways of being that I've relied on up to now, they're no longer vast or inclusive enough for the task at hand, for the situation I'm faced with. Now is the perfect moment for yoga. When I know that I don't know, it brings me or it invites me more fully into the present moment. Let me step out of my autopilot ways and step into greater presence. Let me look in a vast a way that is my habit. And let me see what I noticed there. Perhaps I can make that small adjustment on the steering wheel and enjoy a new direction down the road, but right away, right here, when I make that small adjustment, it's its own validation. I recognize, yes, this might not necessarily always feel easy, but yes, my conscience says yes to this. My heart, my mind, my gut, they all align. And so this is the idea in yoga. To feel torn, to feel fragmented, this is part of the human condition. It's normal. But when we harness the capacities of our awareness, we can also bring ourselves into greater cohesion. So before we close today, I'd just like to share a Sanskrit quote. And this quote talks about what it's like to move from fragmentation to wholeness. And so the Sanskrit wise saying says, manas yi kam vachas yi kam karman yi kam mahatmana manas yan yat vachas yan yat karman yan yat duraatmana. So basically what it says, atma is a soul. Mahat means vast or great. So basically one whose manas, whose thoughts, whose awareness, whose mind, whose vacha, whose speech, and whose karman, whose actions are one, is a great soul. But one whose mind, speech, and action are all pointing in different directions is a soul in torment. So do you want to feel great? Or do you want to feel tormented? I think it's a no-brainer. And yoga is a no-brainer. And we'll talk more about that next time. So I think that's all we have time for today. There'll be time for a couple of questions in a moment. Thank you for joining. We have begun. And now we have begun. We can really start to open things up and look forward to continuing next time. First of all, I'd like to say I'm very pleased

Live Q&A

to have begun. I always find with any course, the first session is always in a way the most challenging. And I'm not able to see you all. We'll talk more about that next time because I'd like to... What I haven't managed to get to today is getting a bit more acquainted with each other and with the yoga method. So we'll take that up next time. But this also relates to a question that's come in. I mentioned doubt. But this is a normal part of the human experience. So could I say a bit more about that? Are there different types of doubt? So in Sanskrit, one of the words for doubt is sanshaya. And this basically means like this vacillating between two ways of being. And there's two ways that I often use to illustrate this. One is the pop song called torn. Nothing's right, I'm torn. And the other is the Shakespeare play Hamlet, whose most famous line is to be. Or not to be. That is the question. And Hamlet, he cannot make up his mind. And this whole play is about a human being who cannot make up his mind and the tragedy of indecision. Because Hamlet, his conscience speaks clearly to him. But what it tells him to do, it's just like Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. When the Bhagavad Gita begins, Arjuna, the hero, the protagonist, the thing that his conscience is telling him to do is that which ordinarily he would never imagine he would want to do. And it's the same for Hamlet. And this is often the same for us when we start practicing yoga. When we start looking more deeply into the reality of our lives, we may sometimes see that the things we need to change are things we are really rather attached to. And so this can trigger more doubt and more indecision. And in yoga, the remedy is always, and this is what Arjuna does in the Bhagavad Gita, he owns that he does not know, and he becomes quiet. He comes to the centre as best as he possibly can. And in that space of quiet, insight can dawn, new ideas can emerge. And so doubt is a normal part of the human experience. So is indecision. The idea in yoga is when we encounter this trouble, this difficulty of doubt and indecision, let us invite the presence of awareness to actually stop, look and listen. So stop, look and listen is known in England where I am now as the green cross code. It's the way to safely cross the road and we get taught it when we're at school. In the road, there might be all sorts of traffic. So stop, look both ways, look all around, look in ways that reach beyond the habitual ways of looking and listen, which in Sanskrit or in the yoga method, listen is code for engage all of your sensing powers. So engage all of my powers of awareness and pause and see if I can create the space, see if I can grant myself the opportunity for something that is beyond what I might previously have even dared to imagine, to dawn or emerge in my awareness. And this is something we'll speak more about next week about making ourselves into a vessel for yoga. To practice this spaciousness, to notice how our preconceived ideas, often create a type of limit and how with practice we can start exploring beyond those limits even in the face of doubts. So I hope that was useful. Wow, we've got some, okay, fantastic questions. I'm going to come now to please say more about if we ask for peace, we're asking for trouble. So what I mean here is that we often sing this at the end of a Sanskrit month or at the end of a yoga practice. Now, if I am asking sincerely for peace, then really what I'm asking is to heal or harmonize or pacify the tendencies within myself that are blocking my experiencing peace consistently. So for example, in my own life I have said many, many times and I would like to feel more calm, serenity, peacefulness, fulfilment and satisfaction in my life. And what's happened and it continues to happen and it's happening now as I practice yoga, I bring to the surface my wounds, my scars, my bad habits, in the sense of habits that are not helping me experience peacefulness. So I have, I've noticed for example I may have a habit to overcompensate for things that I have neglected in my life.

And so I swing from one type of imbalance to another compensatory imbalance and in both imbalances I feel some suffering. And so I kind of, as I do that, I realize, ah yes, I'm being a bit reactive there. I need to be a bit more composed. I need to be a bit more stop, look and listen. Calm down James. Look at this more broadly. Yes, I have neglected that but because I've neglected that, whatever that might be, no need to go into an extreme on the other side. Let me take note of this and start to give it some loving attention but steadily, easily. So that's what I mean is we're asking for trouble. We're going to bring into our awareness things that help us actually do that work of harmonization. But the work of harmonization may show up in the form of trouble. I hope that's clear. The other questions I will do my best to weave them into next week's session. Yes, okay, so and I'd like to mention that more generally. If there's anything following this session or generally that you'd like to ask about Practical Yoga Philosophy, please feel free to write those questions in and they may well be in our show descriptions in the weeks to come but I'll do my best to try to weave in responses to the questions as far as possible as we go so this becomes more and more a sense of community and interactive endeavour and exploration together. I'm conscious I'm running out of time now so I'd just like to say thank you very much. I feel very grateful to be here and I'm very grateful that we have started and now I've done the first show I feel much clearer about how we can hopefully continue and explore in a rich and nourishing way together. So with a view to inviting peace and cultivating the steadiness to meet trouble skilfully and with the type of serenity that helps us respond more skilfully I invite you if you'd like to sing Om Shanti Shanti Shanti in a final Aum with me together. Aum Shanti Shanti Shanti Aum. Thank you everyone. I look forward to seeing you next time.


Jenny S
5 people like this.
Thank you James...this was a nourishing talk - lots of food for thought. I also appreciate that the Q & A was included in the recorded version as my current schedule precludes me from attending live. Hoping to join live soon!
James Boag
1 person likes this.
Thank you Jenny, feel free to send in any questions or requests for topics you might like to be explored as we continue. I'm looking forward to continuing on Friday
Kate M
3 people like this.
How wonderful to find you back on this platform sharing your yogic wisdom! Thank you, James Boag . Sending love from Canada!
James Boag
1 person likes this.
Thank you Kate, I am really pleased to be sharing this new series and looking forward to tomorrow's live show!

Thank you for this talk, full of wisdom and humour. Is that a Yorkshire accent? (I am from Huddersfield).
James Boag
Hi Ali, thank you, yes, I grew up in Yorkshire and am here now, for almost a year! First full winter in the UK this century!
1 person likes this.
Brrr. The winter allows us to appreciate the spring though, is the flip-side. Speaking now from balmy Kent! It did feel very grounding to hear those Yorkshire tones, alongside perfect Sanskrit!
Caroline S
1 person likes this.
How interesting that the "happiness" story mentions the Mediterranean - middle earth - I never thought of it that way, and I come from the Mediterranean region - I now feel blessed to have been born there, I already have the right base, coming from the "middle"; now to appreciate it, thank you James for always giving thought provoking talks

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