I’m in a Mysore room like always. As usual there are several pair of practitioners’ eyeglasses on the windowsill. One of them magnifies the liminal world of spirit beings. I know the spirit-realm is a little pathetic: more hungry ghosts than angels; get a body already, folks. Still, I slip on the glasses.
The room dances. Chaos vinyasa. Each practitioner stays in his own space with the mind on the breath, while the collective subconscious roils. My own subconscious as displayed in the dream-state is a jumble of others’ big ideas (after all, it’s images’ shared nature that makes them archetypes), so the dream-mind makes out this scene in tempera-laserlight loops, like a dynamic Alex Grey Van Gogh.
A woman with 80 year old skin and a 30 year old spine stands in the middle of everything. Her hair is soft, grey pincurls. She’s wearing a ragged housecoat covered in small round flowers, each of which is studded with a sapphire. She says in my mind: “I’m going up. Want to catch a ride?”
I stand before her with my hands on her ears, and lock in to her grey eyes, which have sapphires for irises. They roll back in her head, Game of Thrones style (another borrowed idea). As her eyes roll, I FEEL mine stop twitching inside my 3-d body head (the one resting on a pillow), copying hers as they lock into the center of the skull.
THIS IS A DREAM AND NOW YOU KNOW IT. WE CAN GO ANYWHERE.
The choice is overwhelming.
It often is, unless I have an astral to-do list on the night stand. The first time I woke up in a dream was on the floor of a senior Ashtanga teacher’s home shala in 2008. There was someone who I thought had hurt me, and who I was desperate to forgive. The psychic ache for letting-go was enough to make the magic happen; turns out that taking care of karmic business is (almost) fun in Technicolor.
Simulated forgiveness is no simulacrum though: it is real. When I reported the adventure, my host said: “Yes. The yoga’s working.”
Sometimes at the brink of lucidity, for all the intention to wake up in the dream, I lose my nerve because overwhelmed by choice. It’s not just that we could fly to other galaxies, or become alien dinosaurs, or take on the body of light. It’s that EVERYTHING, the whole gestalt, is subject to choice. The mind’s design goes all the way down. Any and every bit of it can be chosen.
Anyway. This time with the sapphire-woman, I stay liminal. Awake in the dream, but choiceless. Changing nothing. My hands are still on her pincurl-lined ears, but I’m looking out from behind her eyes and we are birds, flying in the dark, inside the vast set of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.
I peel my body up off hers, becoming a big-eyed baby bird growing up out of the back of a great raven. There’s an icy wind. I detach and wheel back to gaze on her. She’s Kali, the High Priestess; she is Nancy Gilgoff. (Later I want to decide she was my biodynamic cranio-sacral therapy teacher, who I meet days after this dream… and with whom I will be studying for years to come. She appears to be the crone I’ve been watching for….)
The reason I bring up the moment of choice is that some people are having strong, clear downloads from the subtle realms. Dreams, intutions, sixth and seventh sense phenomena in meditative states. These feel like messages. The mind wants to use them to make decisions in the three dimensional world. Kind of like oracles and chicken entrails – we will do anything for a line on the unknown. We want to think deterministically. As if everything happens for a reason.
But what if every possible thing is true, and every possible thing is false? What if everything and nothing happens for every reason and no reason? If everything and nothing are true and not true? Our minds have one thin line of apprehension on the chaos of the subtle realms. We can bear down on these information-streams and use them to narrow down our lives; or we can stay open, and hold back from turning dreams into belief systems.
So far, my way is to try to tolerate as much freedom as I possibly can, and then a hair more. Freedom is hard. But I’m working on increasing my tolerance, and at the same time balancing the dreamstuff with the tenor of my gut. That’s where the bullshit detector lives: the gut. And it helps with sorting through space trash from the astral realms.
A yoga teacher is a common being in nature.
If you spot one that seems interesting, one possible thing to try is to keep your distance a while. Trace out the root system. Does he have a teacher? Does she know how to remain a student? Has he been trained in teaching? Has she been explicitly blessed by those who trained her? Does she practice every day? What are his true motives? Does he know how to keep the ego in check?
Someone who is rooted in these ways probably has a stable mind and a strong-flexible nervous system. In someone whose roots do not go deep, soon the teacher-identity may die on the vine. As well it should. Or worse, without any tap on real groundwater, the teacher will find an alternate energy source. A couple of obvious shallow root-systems are popular culture (working on the “celebrity,” “self help guru,” or “charismatic leader” templates) or becoming parasitic on students themselves (cultivating a following, and drawing energy from that crowd in a narcissistic feedback loop).
A really interesting thing to consider when observing a yoga teacher is one’s own motives. What am I looking for? Do I want someone “important” to associate with? Or someone to make me feel good about myself? It feels like these are very common default motives in our shared culture – motives that have a seed in every one of us – so we actually have to work against them if we’re shooting deeper than that.
So, what about asking whether a teacher actually loves, or can actually can act as a mirror, or whether she actually practices the aspects of the path where you need inspiration? There must be a dozen other good questions like this, once the more superficial motives are identified and set aside.
But back to love. At the zenith of the ooey gooey new age, M. Scott Peck said this not at all woo-woo thing. “Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth… Love is as love does. Love is an act of will—namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.”
Jackpot. Admittedly I do have warm fuzzies for my teachers. But that’s because I find them to be perhaps-inadvertent ego quashers, and this lightens my load. They are as they do. It’s not ushy gushy.
So far the very good beings I have met do not announce themselves. They can make themselves invisible at will; and groupies give them the creeps. They don’t often look like much, on the physical level. Joseph Dunham talks about the 11 years he spent in airports as the escort to a small, strange man in a sheet: that’s how Patthabi Jois looked to western eyes before he was a thing.
Anyway. If you do tag and bag a live one, it’s helpful to give a teacher decent care and feeding so they can thrive in domestication. Respect their energy. Don’t kiss ass. Draw the best out of them. Love is as love does.
Speaking of invisibility, a note on something way more esoteric than nightly psychedelia: watching people self-alchemize. It’s a simple, slow process.
Someone decides to clarify her mind, and to actually do an ethical practice. She gets the words and the actions lined up. She starts watching to the way she uses energy, time, emotions and relationships; and suddenly she’s wasting WAY less life force than she was before. She stops customizing information, or amplifying emotion, to try to get what she wants. Communication is no longer a tool to induce desired effects in others. Emotions are now allowed to come and go on the transparent screen of the energy body. Efficiency and transparency make this person increasingly trust-worthy.
What’s interesting here is the way that the world responds. It reveals itself.
If you are not trust-worthy, there is a whole high integrity reality that is hiding itself from you. People who are living their best lives and doing great things in this world can detect the fact that you aren’t the best collaborator. They can tell your circuits are a little mucked up: the ego is a natural born huckster, after all. So the excellent world makes itself invisible to you. Not because you’re a bad person; just because you don’t have your shit together. So you miss out on the full force of epic love, support and relationship beauty that is happening all around.
As people get their ethical trip together, the world of excellent play comes forward. Lila pandava. The are creative opportunities everywhere. Increasingly. Not opportunities to get stuff or be somebody: that’s huckster mode. I’m talking opportunities to buff out the edges of the self. To serve. Intellectual-creative-caring eros abounds; and everyone is a trusted partner.
It’s not magic, or synchronicity, or grace: it’s that the sincere world that was always there sees you can handle the truth.