Last night when I arrived home from my weekend journey to Point Orange, Florida, I breathed a big sigh of relief, knowing that I wouldn’t have to get on another airplane for over a month. Nothing against airplanes, I just don’t think that the human body was designed to be hurtled through space at five hundred miles an hour for long periods of time while sitting in a cramped seat in a pressurized compartment. Personally, I find that traveling is quite stressful and requires a couple of days of recovery time at least to feel reconnected with myself. Over the weekend someone asked me where my favorite place to teach is. I thought for a moment about all of the beautiful and exotic places I’ve had the opportunity to teach at over the years and I realized that my favorite place to teach is my own yoga shala—which is also my favorite place to practice. Coming into the yoga shala this morning at 6am, feeling jet-lagged and sleep deprived, it was very comforting to see a group of dedicated students sitting quietly in a circle waiting for me to lead them through a pranayama practice. Afterwards there were lots of hugs exchanged and happy Valentine’s Day wishes, followed by a good, sweaty First Series practice with lots of good company, and to top it all off, for dessert there was the Hanuman Chalisa. At the end of it all I felt almost human again. I’m looking forward to this long home stand as an opportunity to sit still, deepen my practice, and tend to my somewhat neglected heart and soul.
There is a wonderful poem by Rumi called “The Reed Flute’s Song” that begins, “Ever since I was taken from the reed bed I have made this crying sound.” It’s the story of how something separated from its source longs to return. This feeling of separation is what drew me to yoga initially and continues to inspire me to practice as I continue to seek and sometimes find that Divine connection deep within the Lotus of the Heart. This yearning of the individual soul (jivatman) to reunite with the Universal Soul (Paramatman) is the subject of the Adhyatma Ramayana, an ancient philosophical poem from the Brahmanda Purana composed by the great sage Vyasa. In this poem Sita represents the jivatman that has been separated from Rama (the Paramatman). Hanuman represents bhakti (Divine Love), which has the power to annihilate the ahamkara, or ego, symbolized by Ravana, and reunite Rama and Sita.
There is a hike we take every year in Mt. Shasta to a beautiful alpine lake called Deadfall Lake. I always make a point to walk the trail around the lake and pick a bouquet of wildflowers. Along that trail, near a bed of carnivorous plants called Cobra Lilies, there is a heart shaped rock with a crack through the middle of it that I call “Broken Heart Rock”. In this crack I always find flowers growing. To me the symbolism is obvious: The heart breaks open through the pain of yearning and the flowers are the devotion that springs forth from an open heart. As Rumi says, “God created the child, that is, your wanting, so that it might cry out, so that milk might come.”