After all these years to have to state publicly what you believe in – seems somewhat distasteful to me now. Yet, we want people to know that there are alternatives. And who really cares if some doors are closed in front of you, you’ll find others to open. That is the way of life and definitely about believing in yourself. But…people are wondering is there something else? Hearts and eyes are beginning to open and there is no reason to run away from such beautiful and powerful teachings. We know they can change you in ways you couldn’t possibly have imagined before. The world can and will come to your door. You just have to find that place where you’re comfortable.
I begin and yet I know not where this will lead me. Is it the way of the Guru or is it the way of the Heart? I think they are probably the same path. And I write not only because my family wanted me to but, perhaps, because now I am ready to say what my heart has always wanted to.
If you don’t mind, let me talk in the third person now; it might be easier to tell the story.
Some years ago, now more than ten, a man looked at his life and decided he had to make a change. He had already passed the midpoint of his life. His life had been that of an eternal student, a disciple really. He had followed in the path of his teacher bringing a message of hope, inspiration and a belief in the teachings to his own students. His teacher, having left his body four years before, had left a deep memory in his soul and a profound responsibility that he could not shake from his being. Nevertheless, something was stirring inside of him and the old ways meant less and less to him.
For some reason unknown to him, there had always been a rebellious streak inside of him. Maybe he was impulsive by nature or just spontaneous, which he later learned from Latin meant to follow your own heart. He couldn’t help it, if he didn’t feel comfortable with something he was prone to change it.
Perhaps, in a very direct way after his teacher’s death, he realized he was free and now had to stand on his own two feet. He was now the father and had to act like that for his own students. Remember, this awakening came rather late to him in life. The turning point came for him when he realized he didn’t share the same vision that others had regarding the teachings, especially, coming from so far away. He was, after all, the one who lived and breathed with his students. He came to understand that he couldn’t teach what was true for others but not for himself anymore. And it got to the point where he said to himself, “If I can’t decide for myself now as a man entering into the autumn of his life, when will I ever be able to?” What became important to him was to be able to teach everyone who would come his way to be free of all belief systems, and to be free to think for themselves.
But he still loved the practice, the yoga, the fact that you could meditate with these teachings and sing your heart out chanting the very mantras he had learned. For human development, he didn’t think there was anything better. Even though he was to leave the organization his teacher had created, he wondered if it wasn’t necessary to say to the world that there was more than one way to look at these teachings. One year later, he took another step forward – he took off the turban he had worn for more than 38 years.
He had worn the turban with pride all those years because he wanted to be like his teacher, but now things had changed again for him. He no longer wanted to be associated with the form and the religious connotations that it carried with it. He thought to himself, “I don’t know exactly why or what will become of me, but I am doing this for my tomorrows.” And as the years have passed since then, he wonders if he didn’t do it for his students and the generations that would come after him to practice these beautiful teachings.
There were times he was openly criticized and people, for some reason, tried to discredit his work. He thought to himself, “Is it that I have chosen this path and now have to walk alone?” He did his best to try and not let the opinion of others upset him or even have to defend himself; there was no need to do so. He was, after all, only following his own heart. And he felt secure in that thought.
He realized that he might have been misunderstood during all of these years, that people really didn’t understand the reason for the decisions he had taken. He had tried to share his opinions but there were few who were seemingly open to him. He thought again to himself that as everyone must follow his or her own path, this is the path I have chosen for myself. Yet there were times when his heart would ache because, once in awhile, his students weren’t accepted as teachers because they didn’t have the same paper as others did. They had studied with him for over two years and had more than 500 hours of teachings and teaching practice; yet it seemed it wasn’t good enough. People thought that what he was doing wasn’t the same as what they did. It was as if you said, “this is the only way and your way doesn’t count.” Luckily, it didn’t happen often but then one day it did and his heart cried out again. A dear student of his went home to Singapore and offered to teach in a center with the old mentality of before – if you didn’t have the same certification, you couldn’t teach here. Was there no stopping this? Where were the teachings taking us?
In a world of increasing polarization and human thought bordering on religious fanaticism and far-right ideology; is not plurality of thought something desirable? Especially, you would think, if you were teaching about non-violent behavior as a way to leave behind intolerance and to be able to talk about the long sought after goal of living in peace.
Yoga is the path of union, a path for all of mankind to follow in order to know oneself better. It is about human development and learning to think for oneself. It is about being able to find the answers to your own questions about life. It is accepting that someone else’s path in life might be different than yours, but that is okay and rejoicing in the fact that we are all on this planet together. If we are true to these age-old teachings; then, how can we see ourselves better or above others? It would seem the antithesis to the very meaning of yoga.
This man, me, will be fine. I am surrounded and supported by a beautiful family and team who look upon the world as being full of possibilities. It is a world where the ability to incorporate these universal teachings in a free and open environment is the only thing that matters. In the end, all of us choose how we want to live our lives. And from our perspective, we imagine all of us following our own dream. We are still too young and innocent to think differently.