Creation and Destruction of Yoga in the West

Creation and Destruction of Yoga in the West

Trolma takes me to places of refuge – isolated forests, deserts and hot spring. Trolma is to be found wandering the charnel grounds in the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. She is also referred to as a the Black Ferocious Mother. Sometimes glamcamping in resort settings, sometimes hankering in the storm while my mobile home moves side to side in the gusty wind. Each time the elements are vivid, alive, evoking and invoking the highest potential of every cell of my body. There is a practice of the wandering ascetic monk in Buddhism. In Thailand they are called dhutanga monks. It is hard to get attached when you stay no more than three days at a time in one place. Very rapidly, the succession of identities show up clearly as well. It is excellent for seeing impermanence as the nature of reality.

Walking through this old grove after a week of rain, the earth is giving, receptive, inviting reminding me to develop and cultivate these qualities of the feminine. The spider webs lacing the forest catch the rays of light while winged insects are luminescent against the towering bay trees. I hear the running stream that a few days ago was a galloping buck along its banks. The giant oaks and buckeyes are silent, long term friends over the course of almost two decades when I first visited these grounds. This time, the emerald moss on its trunks are soothing and comforting the rough patches of my soul’s yearnings.

I first heard of this place from Colin, a fellow meditation in the Thai monastery. I’d walked the dark path to the meditation room at four in the morning with a candle protected in a tin can. There were four of us die hards – silent, strong, committed – persevering to know our minds amidst the buzzing mosquitoes. We listened to the leaves dropping in the tropical forests and the torrential rains pounding on the corrugated roof. I remember him lovingly joking with me that I should ask the abbot for a better walking path. In his estimation, bricks would be good. Besides he added, he will say yes to you because he wants you to be the abbess of the new women’s center.

Years later when I returned, I heard that Colin had left and returned to England where he was murdered. Out of the four, two had already died, while the third, Martin, is in his eighties so I am not sure if he is still around in this body. Good dharma friends are very important on the spiritual path. It makes the journey lovelier and less lonely. Hence I value each and everyone of you!

 

This time as I walked the old forest, the deer assuaged me with their gentleness as the blue jay and sparrows played hide and seek amongst the bushes reminding me that I too shall be cared for as the lilies of the fields. Remember the songs of songs.

My nomadic chariot is lovingly named after Trolma for i after all visit thought formations of charnel grounds all across the spine of California. In the decades of my twenties and thirties, I followed a practice on death – visiting cemeteries and crematoriums all over the world. It is part of holding impermanence directly as part of our life. Part of my spiritual practice was to reflect on the different stages of the decay of the body. You can imagine how powerful this discipline was especially for a young woman in her prime. With long dark tresses, I visualized them being the color of day old soup rice noodles then. Of course, three decades later, I now have gray hair!

What this practice provided me was to see that death could come at anytime. Of course it wasn’t about death, but about life. It made me live fully everyday as though it could be my last. It made me appreciate deeply each encounter I had with another being with less and less agenda. It opened my eyes to the delightful, luminescent, replendescent beauty of creation, even in the midst of knowing and seeing its dissolution in this dreaming world.

The charnel grounds now I visit are not where the corpses lay silently in graveyards. My practice takes me to the charnel grounds of the demi gods on treadmills in the gyms of Marin County and the coffee shops with multitude of coffee choices from around the world. The physical bodies are still pulsating, yet many of their eyes are vacant. Even though the affluence is bountiful here, the presence sometimes is obscure. Yoga is mostly taught as a series of core movements without the essence of death-rebirth that comes with yoking the mind and the body. Instead of the pelvic bowl being referred to an offering bowl, we are instead reminded of Jane Fonda’s famous movie of thrusting her pelvis in an exercise class. So I take it in with a deep breath seeing the mirth and true nature of thought rising and falling on its own accord. Mahamudra no matter what environment is the greatest seal of seeing the true nature of mind.

Certainly, the sexual force is a powerful motivational tool and yet I still imagine yoga being taught beyond the physical even as I hold the downward dog. After all, there are seven more layers beyond the physical body. What if the teachers refer to the nadis (the subtle channels of the body) activating as one folds the upper body unto the lower body? And as we go into the warrior pose, we activate our hearts opening in love as we commune in this practice together?

If we are to look at life force as a whole, rather than limiting it to sexuality alone, what would that look like? For starters, we would embark on an initiation of experiencing our bliss body, literally drinking the nectar of ambrosia released within when we reach certain stages of yoga. We would see spectacles of light show within our vision that we wouldn’t need to go to a a 3D movie to get more of a lived experience because we will be living it already. We wouldn’t be ravaging the earth of its resources to fill our starvation for worth and value because we are fullness itself. Lies and deception will not make sense in the scheme of things. Clarity, instead, abounds married to wonder. Delight will beget children of devotion to the play of consciousness or God!

Oh divine Mother, where is the ministering kindness of your inner sanctum? Men and women move mechanically as the machines of modern living. A malady pervades.

The great Indian sage Ramakrishna once passed out, and when he came back into consciousness, he uttered, “Mother, why have you brought me here? They are hedged around and not free. Can I free them?”

This is the gig I am assigned to right now – a beautiful, engaging opportunity of contrasting forms, to be a lover of God in myriad forms. How cool is that!

Ramakrishna continued, “The janis who adhere to non-dualistic Vedanta, say that the acts of creation, preservation and destruction, the universe itself and all its living beings, are the manifestations of Shakti, the Divine Power. If you reason it out, you will realize that all these are as illusory as a dream. Brahman alone is the Reality, and all else is unreal. Even this Shakit is unsubstantial, like a dream.

…When we think of It as inactive, that is to say, not engaged in the acts of creation, preservation and destruction, then we call it Brahman. But when It engages in these activities, then we call it Kali or Shakti. The reality is one and the same; the difference is in name and form.

In the Vedas creation is likened to the spider’s web. The spider brings the web out of itself and then remains in it. God is the container of the universe and also what is contained in it.” (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrisna)

The dawn lingers as the mist filters the early light, breaking it into a bright reflection, bathing everything in its embrace. May we each offer our virtues and vices, our knowledge and ignorance, our purity and impurity in exchange that only the light of pure love remain.

The great rabbinic sage Maimonides from the 12th century wrote, “Know that the Lord desires the heart, and the intention of the heart is the measure of all things.”

May peace with you.

Mischievously yours in the truth, love and light,

Kathrina Kasha Peterson

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