How do I know what I really want? | Mark Whitwell on Yoga as the refinement of desire
Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga
A Yoga teacher is not a teacher in the conventional sense of the word like a school teacher or a ‘knower’. Why? Because a Yoga teacher is solely concerned with helping the student determine for themselves the only question in life that is of any interest: What do you want to do with your unique life?
The key word in this sentence is want. It implies desire that is truly yours — not what you should do, not what your parents or society want you to do, but your autonomous desire.
What is the life that you would like to live?
For the most part, our schools have not prepared us to go in our directions of choice. We have been prepared us for the factories, offices, and universities. We have learnt how to be productive and to fit into a consumer culture.
By force-feeding us knowledge that we have expressed no interest in learning, by punishing us for making mistakes, and by ranking us within constellations of higher and lower, most of us leave school without any idea of who we are and what we want.
As the reality-realizer John Lennon starkly sings,
“As soon as you’re born they make you feel small/ By giving you no time instead of it all/ They hurt you at home and they hit you at school/ They hate you if you’re clever and despise a fool/ Till you’re so fucking crazy you can’t follow their rules/ When they’ve tortured and scared you for twenty-odd years/ Then they expect you to pick a career/ When you can’t really function you’re so full of fear.”
We have not yet learnt how to be intimate with life.
The Yoga teacher or guru operates according to a different logic.
Firstly, the Yoga teacher recognizes the student as Life itself: as the peace, power, harmony, stillness, and beauty of Mother Nature arising in individual form. The teacher lets the student know that there is nothing they need to do or know in order to be what they are, which is Reality itself. The teacher holds the student’s hand so that they can recognize this fact continually as they move through their life. It is the mutual love between teacher and student, within a relationship of utter equality and friendship, that lifts the patterns of fear off of our lives, one tender layer at a time.
For thousands of years, we have lived within civilizations predicated on the assumption that we are separate from Reality/God/Source and we need to work really hard within the methodologies of the patriarchy in order to eventually, one day, become whole, valid, human beings — one with God, enlightened, finally at peace, whatever you want to call it.
Such a psychology creates an existential tear in our lives, a sense of precariousness and fear that there is something we do not yet ‘know,’ or have not yet realized about life, and that if we don’t find it we might never arive at this mythical destination. And so, we never really rest. These thought-structures create our identity as a loser, a seeker, as somebody less, as one who does not yet ‘know.’ Our lives seem to be held ransom to a marvelous idea. And we waste time trying to get this special knowledge from an authority figure or an institution rather than happily merging with our own, already given in-born desires.
So the Yoga teacher relieves us from the crippling axiom of culture that we are separate from Truth. Any true teacher just wipes it off the table, by affirming, radically, that which we already ARE: Reality itself — the extreme intelligence, beauty, and harmony of Life; one who is utterly connected to and made up of the nurturing flow of Mother Nature; the being who is unconditionally authentic; who belongs here on this earth as much as a tree obviously belongs.
Even in the midst of the patterning and the fear that has been put on us through the education system and school, our natural state as nature herself is given and cannot be taken away. Relieved now, of the false desire to discover supposedly absent secrets, our attention is freed to participate in the secrets that are already given. I like to repeat over and over again, “the secrets of the universe are in you, as you.”
Your Personal Practice of Intimate Embrace
The Yoga teacher then collaborates with the student to create an appropriate daily Yoga practice that is right for them. A practice that is the student’s direct embrace of Life/Reality. Not a future seeking for Reality, but the functional direct embrace of the peace, power, and harmony that is our natural state. The practice is totally suited to the individual: to their body type, age, health, and cultural background.
Through the unitary movement of body, breath, and mind, the mind gets linked to the whole body. The whole body is, of course, the sublime intelligence and power of Mother Nature herself. The intelligence of life enters the mind and releases the acculturated intellect’s reign of control. Mind relaxes now into the source flow of the hridaya heart; mind relaxes into its function as a servant of the heart, of life.
It is here, in the body, that our authentic desires turn and swirl and yearn to be acted upon. Through the steady practice of moving and breathing, we become intimate with what we really want. Every inhale draws the mind down from crown, face, throat, chest, to belly, and genitals, the breath is steeps the mind in what each aspect of the body is expressing. Every exhale releases and flushes from our system the false desires and the rubbish that has been put in us by consumer culture and religious dreams.
My teacher U.G. would say,
“The extraordinary intelligence of the biological organism is all that is necessary for good living.”
So gradually and then suddenly and then gradually, through our practice of intimate connection and in our relationship to our friend/teacher, we come to know what is truly ours. Clarity of mind and clarity of desire comes spontaneously and unpredictably but it does come. There comes a point where you realize that you just know what you want. You know what to do. You know who you want to be with. You know your directions. And then you are away and laughing.
The teacher/friend holds the student’s hand as they undertake the superb practice of discovering, refining, and acting upon their desires. The teacher is there for the student as they go through their life with all its joys and extreme difficulties. There is no dependence only mutual affection. The teacher helps the student live their autonomous life. That’s all.
Such a practice has nothing to do with the physical and spiritual gymnastics being sold in the marketplace today under the name ‘yoga’ which is merely the ongoing patterning of the public within the logics of patriarchal ascent, self-improvement, and the hysterical drive to try and know something about life when no question has been posed.
All knowledge contained in the bookshelves and all the information online becomes useful now as it is made available to individuals who are moving confidently according to their desires; individuals who can use it to further their desires and deepen their enjoyment of life. Knowledge is placed in service to our desires, rather than as a suffocating blanket.
Thank you dear Yoga teachers out there. Know that you are doing the most important and the most difficult job there is. You are the hope of humanity.
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