Chapter 18 – Freedom and Renunciation
Yoga Teacher – Erich Schiffmann
I’m happy to say that I completed the task that I set out to complete. 18 days in a row of yoga (at a studio, not at home) with each day corresponding to a different chapter of The Bhagavad Gita.
It’s been a really amazing experience and one that I’d recommend to anyone. In fact, I’d go so far as to recommend this immersion for yoga teachers and their students. I’ve never done a teacher training but I suspect there’s a lot any fledgling yogi can get from this. There is an amazing amount of insight that you will get into an asana practice through the eyes of the Gita and I’m sure not too many people have done it before. The combination of that much yoga, reading and writing really awakened a lot of stuff going on inside of me and not all of it “good.” I initially thought the experience would bring me closer to bliss, it did that in a way but it also showed me so much of the work that I have to do. All of it “grist for the mill.” Someone once told me “you don’t deal with your problems by not dealing with your problems.” This couldn’t be more true. Most relevant to me was that so much the Gita, especially the early chapters, deal with Karma Yoga. The stuff we do and why we do it shapes our realities. I’ve become very aware of even the small actions and why they matter.
The most amazing part of my experience was without question the letters of support and admiration that I received from my friends. Some even joined me in solidarity and some expressed that because of my “no matter what” dedication that they too found a renewed dedication to their practice. I’m not quick to accept any sort of admission that I helped someone else but in this case, I feel great about it and really proud.
Los Angeles happens to be one of the most profound wells of yogic knowledge in America. There are expert asana teachers who will without question transform your practice if you dedicate yourself. There are teachers who are mystics and bhaktas who can open your heart and touch your soul. There are places you can go to sing kirtan practically any night of the week and above all there is a community that will support your path no matter what it is. Personally, I want to give my pranams to Govind Das, Saul David Raye, Mark Whitwell, Erich Schiffman, Micheline Berry, Annie Carpenter and all of the other teachers who I have ever taken a class with, not all of which I can name here. Thank you for keeping the light on.
In case you wondering the translation of the Gita that I used for this experiment was Eknath Easwaran’s. I found this translation to be the most direct and accessible for this purpose. It’s very easy to understand and uses language that is appropriate for any fledging urban yogi. There are other good translations as well and I know some people get very passionate about this to the point of even calling Easwaran’s “not authorized.” I was so happy that no one choose to use my blog as gateway to debate the splitting of sanskrit hairs by saying such and such version is the only right one. With that said “As it Is” by Srila Prabhupad is an excellent manual for a spiritual life and I highly recommend it. Additionally, Ram Dass’s 12 hours worth of lectures from Naropa University in 1974 called “Love. Service. Devotion” is an endless well of wisdom, humor and insight into the mysteries of the Bhagavad Gita. You can purchase it on iTunes or SoundsTrue as an audio book and trust me that your life will never be the same.
Do I feel like I am a better yogi now after 18 days? Sure. Whatever that means. I’m not even comfortable calling myself a “yogi.” I’m just one person who loves these teachings and am just eager to pursue it to the best of my ability. I do believe that I have some cognitive ability that allows me to share my insights with people in a fresh way so I will embrace that part of dharma as well. So maybe I’ll do another writing/yoga project next? The Yoga Sutras perhaps?
I do know that for me personally writing about these teachings and their experience in the real world is a way of opening doors that I wouldn’t have otherwise opened. So I’ll keep doing that.
Above all, I’ve become aware of my practice and the need to embrace everyone else’s practice too. All love. Thanks for reading!