Tag Archive: siddha yoga

The Importance of Doubt (and Shrada)

I was just led by a friend’s Facebook posting to the website for an upcoming movie about the Siddha yoga ashram (Siddha yoga was part of the teaching and practice lineage of John Friend and Paul Muller-Ortega, and both have told stories about how useful the fierce ashram  discipline was for them, but who adopted too much of the ashram style in their yoga organizations for me ever to have tried to be in the inner circle).   In watching the trailer and reading the background materials for the movie, it struck me that the most important point for me is that the followers who were most injured were those who doubted least and who were the most hungry for an authority and love figure.

As a born and bred doubter (how could I not be one who consistently doubts as part of my spiritual practice, given that I am a culturally jewish, New York intellectual who was raised on the Quaker system of queries and advices, who studied western philosophy and law, and who works inside the Beltway?), I believe that you will always be able to get the good out of teachings without losing your own control, sense of self, and discriminating (viveka) ability to evaluate your commitment to a teacher or organization and the teachings offered, if your faith is in your own intuition and education and not in any one human or organization or specific teaching.

Faith (in Sanskrit shrada), in order to serve us well, needs doubt; it needs questioning; it needs testing at every point of the way or it is superficial faith.  Don’t let anyone–particularly someone with whom you study or engage in religious or spiritual practice ever tell you otherwise.  Sometimes doubting with faith means getting involved or staying fully committed to an organization or teacher despite misgivings or despite troubling  behavior (assuming you are not sticking with being abused yourself or standing idly by when witnessing the abuse of others).  After all, no humans, organizations, or relationships are without their shadow sides.  Sometimes doubting, even with faith, means a radical and complete separation–quietly or loudly.  Sometimes what is best for you is something in between.  Learning to be in community is part of the practice, after all, keeping in mind that you are the company you keep.

All I can say is this:  Please doubt.  Please doubt with sincerity.  Please doubt with love.  Please doubt with respect.  Please educate yourself, and with appropriate doubt, have faith that there is good in connecting and in the teachings, no matter how challenging is getting and sharing the teachings and the practices with and through the filter of others.

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“Inspiration Cards”

I adore having a library and will rarely say no to a philosophy text or a book about anatomy, therapeutics, or yoga methodology.  I am less interested in “self help” types of books or gadgets.  Every once and a while though, I come across something that truly supports my practice and my teaching.  When I first went to Inner Harmony to study with John Friend in mid-2003, there was an altar in the corner of the practice room, just at the entrance.  On the altar was a set of cards (a little smaller than 2″x2″).  Each card had a word in English, the devanagari, and the sanskrit of the word transliterated into our alphabet.  Following the lead of others who had been to Inner Harmony for previous retreats, at the beginning of the day, I would select a card and think about how the word on the card might inform my practice and intention.

At that time, I was first starting to use Anusara’s “heart-oriented posturing language,” using a theme for class that was designed to lead the students into a deeper place in their hearts through their asana practice, and I found that the cards were an excellent source of inspiration.

Even though I first bought the cards in 2003 to serve as a basic class preparation aid, I have continued to use them regularly for my own practice and contemplation.  Often, the word that appears resonates with something that is of immediate concern.  The day after Becky (my beloved cat who lived to be 21) left her body last year, I went to the set of cards, which I’d not used in a couple of months.  The card that I selected at random (like picking a card from a deck when someone is showing you card tricks) was moksha — liberation, and in classic yoga, literally liberation from the body.  I was moved to tears.

This summer, with myself and my students, we have been working on manifesting intention.  As I’ve blogged about previously, I invited us to think about an intention.  Whether an intention is something basic with the body or mind or something more universal, whenever we seek to manifest an intention, ultimately it is because we want to be more blissful, more open, and more at peace with ourselves and others.  The question becomes how do we use our practice both to discover an intention and to seek to make it manifest.  To help me with the contemplation of this question, I have gone again to the cards as a source of inspiration.  This week, the card that turned itself up was racanatmakata — creativity.  “Perfect,” I thought, when I saw the word.  Creativity is a human reflection of the wild, pulsing, diverse and ever-extraordinary dance of all being.  When we open to our creative impulse to allow things to unfold, we can witness the fullest range of possibilities and the variety of paths to manifestation.

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