spiritual journey, the art of living, spiritual teachings, yoga wisdom

The inspirational writings and spiritual teachings of Yogi E are an enlightening and entertaining romp through yogic philosophy. His unique wit and uncommon insight makes these ancient teachings particularly relevant and practical for use in our everyday lives, helping readers to understand the art of living.

Yogi E, aka Eric Walrabenstein, is the founder and director of Yoga Pura in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the architect of Yoga Pura's year-long Advanced Studies Program and trains yoga teachers nationally. E regularly travels the country holding workshops on the process of the spiritual journey to enlightenment and translating ancient yogic truths for daily living. He is currently at work on a book on unreasonable happiness.

January 1, 2013

The Promise of Heaven

Filed under: Uncategorized — yogamaster @ 9:08 am

 “Come with me to the palace of nowhere, where all the many things are one.”

-Chuang Tzu, Taoist Master

 

 

Years ago, a young and eager yoga student approached the great master Sri Paramahansa Yogananda with a question:

“Swamiji,” she humbly asked, “does hell exist?”

Swami Yogananda beamed with a grand and loving smile before leaning in close and saying “Where is it that you think you are now, my dear?”

 

 ***

 

Hell, Swami Yogananda was trying to nudge his student to understand, is not a place, so much as it is an experience, an experience rooted in conflict, struggle, anxiety, and fear. Hell, it turns out is where most of us live, at least to some extent, every day.

 

***

It’s not that you need to be living a life of tormented desperation with flames lapping at your heels every moment of the day to be in hell. No, hell like any experience comes in many shades of gray.

 

  • Hell is the perpetual need to prove one’s worth and competency to the world.
  • Hell is the apprehension and worry that comes from a constant struggle to get ahead.
  • Hell is the anxiety and self consciousness about how we look in the eyes of others.

 

Yes, hell comes in many flavors.

 

***

 

Yet if all of this is true, it does beg a question or two; chief among them: “If this is hell, where the hell is heaven?”

And it’s a good question, if not a bit misguided.

You see, this question “Where is heaven?” is one that betrays, what is for most of us, a deeply held misunderstanding about the nature of both heaven and hell. When we ask “where is heaven?” the word where tells us that the question is one of geography, as if heaven and hell were located at some specified geographic coordinate:

“Heaven? Oh yes, take a left on the frontage road, you’ll follow that about 15 miles until you pass the dairy with the big red barn, take a left onto the gravel road go another three miles and when you begin to see the palm trees and hear the harp music, you’ll know you’re close….”

 

***

 

Where then is heaven? It’s here.

And hell? Again, here.

Everything is here and now. Both heaven and hell, they are here for your taking. It is up to you which you choose—and as for actualizing that choice, this is where yoga comes in.

 

***

 

Yoga is the technology of spiritual alchemy.

It has been handed down through the ages as a broad set of tools that, when used skillfully, can help us transform our experience of the here and now—and in a way that is at once scientific and replicable. In fact, this is the Fundamental Point of our practice of yoga: the transmutation of our experience from conflict to harmony, struggle to peace, separation to oneness, hell to heaven.

 

***

 

Unfortunately, the process is not as simple as it may seem. Simply using the tools is not enough.

 

***

 

In the same way that simply using a hammer is not enough to build a house; that simply using the English language is not enough to write a novel; that simply using a camera is not enough to make a Hollywood blockbuster; so too simply using the tools of yoga is not enough to transmute a life.

As with all tools, understanding must be combined with skillful use. And this is where so many of us fall short.

 

***

 

Doing asana (yoga postures) is one thing. Understanding how standing around in funny shapes is designed to transform your life from hellish to heavenly is quite another. And so it goes with pranayama (breath practices), meditation, chanting, and a whole list of other tools.

Sadly, so rare is this understanding that the vast majority of yoga practitioners (and teachers) end up using yoga’s powerful techniques to merely make their experience of hell mildly more tolerable.

 

***

 

Here’s the problem: The process of transmuting our experience from hell to heaven is one that requires us to transcend the separative ego. The problem is that the separative ego is the one running our lives—and therefore using the tools of yoga.

Unfortunately, when the tools of yoga are placed in the hands of the ego without the requisite understanding, we simply get more of what we’ve always got—a hellish proposition indeed.

 

***

 

To truly transmute your life, requires a base understanding of a whole range of issues:

 

  • What are the processes that perpetuate our hellish experience?
  • How can these processes be interrupted?
  • How to the tools of yoga work to create this interruption?
  • What does a heavenly experience look and feel like?
  • In what ways are these tools likely to be misused?
  • How does this understanding relate to the concepts of heaven, hell, and sin from other traditions?

 

To name a few.

 

***

 

Yoga recognizes you are the creator of your own experience of life. Truly. And to help you, it offers a broad and complex set of tools and techniques you can use to sculpt an experience of happiness, fullness, and peace. All that is required is the proper understanding.

 

***

 

This year I am personally recommitting to the Fundamental Point of spiritual practice and to helping the Yoga Pura community connect with the real depth that yoga has to offer. To do this, we’ll be taking a break from training new yoga teachers in order to focus on programs, and more importantly practice opportunities, that will reinvigorate our community with a renewed focus and understanding of how to actualize this greatest of gifts in our everyday lives.

 

To do this, we are launching our Fundamental Point Series. It’s a series of new and exciting programs that will be held throughout the year to help you get the very most out of your practice—and your life. Look for The Fundamental Point logo on workshop announcements. Programs will include:

 

  • Daybreak meditations
  • Regular satsangs
  • Meditation retreats
  • Special practice programs
  • And more

 

Remember, to truly be transformed by this ancient and powerful practice, we must understand that it is not about new and better, the latest and greatest, or achieving and accomplishing. Instead, it’s about here and now—and realizing the innate and unrecognized perfection of this very moment.

 

In this coming year, I invite you all to join me in reconnecting with the Fundamental Point, the here and now, and the spontaneous and effortless fulfillment that it brings with it. Echoing the words of Chuang Tzu:

 

“Come with me to the palace of nowhere, where all the many things are one.”

 

Many Blessings,

E

 

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