“LOVE IS THE WILLINGNESS TO RECOGNIZE WHAT IS REAL”
I had the good fortune last week to attend Erich Schiffmann’s training, “Going Deeper” at the Santa Barbara Yoga Center. It just so happened that two workshops I was scheduled to teach at a new studio in my town were canceled. So being able to fly for free to Los Angeles, getting a rental car on credit card points, and using a $150 gift card toward a hotel stay, I said “I’m outta here” for some Erichji Yoga.
“Going Deeper” was described as….
Freedom Style Yoga as taught by Erich Schiffmann is about growing into your own personal, authentic expression of yoga. It is an intuitive approach to LIFE with three strands: 1) Meditation, 2) Asana Practice, and 3) the rest of the time.
It’s about learning to be “Online” all the time. The teachings and practices culminate in the ability to channel Online Knowing. This looks like you and me living our lives with creativity and wisdom. The idea is to listen inwardly to your heart and conscience, so that the intelligence of the Universe becomes your common sense. This can be summarized as, “Do not decide in advance about what to do or not do. Instead, listen inwardly for Guidance and trust into what you find yourself Knowing.”
This is not an inherently strenuous practice, but it is advanced. It requires that you be brave enough to follow YOUR deepest impulses about what feels right and what doesn’t. This is not always easy. It involves the development of self-trust based on the growing conviction that YOU are the specific and unique self-expression of that which is ultimately trustworthy: Life, Love, Truth, Presence, GOD.
Of course I loved it. Erich’s teaching speaks to my heart. I realized last year when I attended his weekend in Yellow Springs, Ohio for the first time that I’ve been teaching “freedom style” for years. Because like Erich, my yoga ain’t all about the asana, it’s about going deeper. “Advanced” yoga isn’t about putting your leg behind your neck. It’s not even about doing a headstand in the middle of the room. Or doing a headstand at all. The biggest learning from yoga is that it’s a lifestyle. The more “advanced” you are, the more it should come back to the simplicity of things. Mentally being “online” all the time and according to Erich, the way to do that is what he calls “silent mind it.” Or as I have written here numerous times, “shut up and do your practice.” Just. shut. up. Be mentally online from wherever you find yourself being. “Think less, feel more”, Erich said. “Silent mind it” does not mean you become unconscious — you become super-conscious and then the wisdom of the Universe can flow in and become your common sense. Isn’t that what the root word of yoga — yuj — is all about? Yoking? Yoking with the Infinite?
When you silent mind it and stop the mind chatter, clear seeing occurs. When Erich mentioned that I thought about how often during the day I notice my own empty mind. Not dull mind, not spaced out mind, but just…clear. Clear is an excellent word. Clear like a glass of water with the dirt settled at the bottom. When I notice the clarity my mind immediately says “wow. no thoughts.” Then I usually start thinking about something but eventually empty mind returns. It’s nice. It’s liberation.
As Erich says I don’t feel unconscious but it’s a heightened awareness that allows me to notice things in a different way, to see things differently, clearer. Indeed, Erich says we should practice saying “I see you” whenever we see anything. Not just see but really see. Think about that. Saying this again and again interrupts the habitual mental commentary. Look at a rock: “I see you.” Look at your cat: “I see you.” Look at a homeless person: “I see you.” You can go around all day saying “I see you” to everyone and every thing. We always look but do we really see? Then it becomes not just “I see you” but “Ah….I SEE you….” A WOW moment.
I can tell you from my own experience that silent minding it has led to more than a few WOW moments of the realization of interbeing. Not merely paying lip service to the concept, but in my bones KNOWING that I know this to be true.
Then take it up a notch. After practicing saying “I see you”, then say “I love you.” Ouch. Wince. Loving your boss? Loving someone who abused you? Loving your partner who cheated? Really?
What’s your definition of love? Erich said his working definition is the quote at the beginning of this post. What is real and true? It’s about seeing reality as it is.
Erich speaks a lot about relaxing, not clenching, because when we clench physically, mentally, we are always bound up. If we’re bound up, tense, how can the download of Infinite Wisdom occur? It’s like trying to put something into a plugged up bottle, you can’t do it because there is no room.
When he talked about love being the willingness to recognize what is real, I thought about what the Buddha had to say about it: our suffering is caused by our wish for reality to be different from what it is. Dukkha is commonly translated as “suffering” but my Buddhist teacher (a Theravaden monk) said that the truer meaning is “discomfort” or “dissatisfaction” about the way things really are. In that regard, think about how many times during the day we are dissatisfied or discomforted. Our inability to see what is real IS the clenching that creates our dukkha. More clenching, more dukkha, more dukkha, more clenching. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Endless cycles, more samskaras. Now think about Erich’s definition of love: being willing to recognize what is real in ourselves and others.
It feels good when someone sees us and loves us for our own reality. Erich’s advice is to say “I see you and I love you” to break the habit of not seeing and not loving.
Practice the yoga lifestyle:
1. Silent mind it. Be aware of what you’re doing in each new now. Every moment.
2. Relax. Unclench. Mentally and physically.
3. Practice love, i.e., seeing things as they are with a clear mind.
A friend told me today about someone she knew who returned from a group tour of India. She said she hated India because it is so filthy. Yes, that’s certainly true — India is filthy in many places. It is also beautiful and these qualities exist side by side at the same time. That’s the reality of India: the Taj Mahal and legless beggars, side by side. But the woman only saw filth. I thought, how would that woman’s experience be different if she followed Erich’s advice, “I see you and I love you”?
Be love. Be real. Because there is no other way to be.
“Ultimately you must choose between the discomfort of becoming aware of your mental afflictions and the discomfort of being ruled by them.” — Mingyur Rinpoche