He never told us to open our hearts.
He told us we each had a part of God, “smaller than an atom”, located on the right side of our hearts. And baby let me tell you, when he said those words, they took life. You felt God inside you from his eyes. Sri Dharma Mittra spoke those words with a conviction you just never see.
It was not born of emphatic gestures or a raised voice. It came across from the place of knowing. Given as a teaching, it swiftly took root within you, born from the experience of the teacher. Dharma opened our hearts.
Dharma Mittra is arguably the most accomplished yoga practitioner alive.
Nobody we know has equaled his physical conditioning, as clearly reflected in the breadth of his asana work. But more importantly, the clarity and focus of his approach to living the ethics of yoga are balls to the wall awesome.
But let me stop there, this isn’t an Urban Dictionary bio. Take my word for it, the guy is yoga asana on wheels, and more.
The important thing is, I love Dharma.
My commitment is that when he teaches, I will learn.
I’m not a disciple or a devotee or anybody’s flag waver, but Dharma doesn’t call for that anyway. He has always held that “The best teacher lies within.” So having said that, I love the guy. I love him for how he makes me feel. Good beyond any good I knew before.
I went to Sri Dharma’s “Being Receptive To Grace” immersion at Omega Institute last year. The three days left me higher than you were at that after-party you’re not telling us about. I floated away from Omega, gentler than a kitten on mushrooms.
You would have loved me then. I would have given you no choice. Mastery and divine love were swirling around me like things in motion around a carbon-based life form. The effects were, of course, short-lived. Life has a way of re-inserting itself.
Dharma’s New York studio, an impressive space in Chelsea, left me cold. I love this teacher, and so vowed to return to Omega annually for his gem of a weekend. Sad to say, it is not on for this year. Our teachers do not always offer what we “want” to learn. Are we big enough to nonetheless learn? How much can we look to content, rather than messenger? Are they the same?
Is our trust placed in the teacher more, or more in the process of learning?
Dharma is funny in the best way. Come to the retreat for a sec. We are all doing our chatty thing during break on day two, and Dharma starts stretching. His poses get deeper and deeper into the “ninjas only” realm, until finally not a sound is heard, and we are all breathlessly watching this man, in his seventies, peacefully floating on the tips of one hand. Dharma, for all the world unaware of us, feigns spotting a bug on the floor in front of him, picks it up with his free hand, and pretends to eat it. We all crack up, and the sparkle in his eyes when he looks up at us could stun a whale. Not that you would want to use it for that.
So what would this
one-man love force
have to say about
in the yoga world?
Fortunately, I own an imaginary phone, and I just rang him up on it. He wagged his finger when I asked about sexual wildness and lies. (That imaginary phone has Face Time.)
“Keep Yamas and Niyamas. Every religion ever has had its ethical rules. Yamas and Niyamas are the foundation of yoga. The best of yoga.”
(He also mentioned that Ahimsa is the very heart of yoga, and that not eating flesh is foundational to any serious practice. He mentions that a lot)
Now in his seventies,
he runs two Manhattan studios and gives more than two classes a day. He embodies devotion and love of the divine force in all beings like a Japanese Whaling Boat Captain embodies lust, greed and blind, insatiable hunger. If that’s the metaphor I’m after.
Asked by magic phone what I should do regarding recent events and stories in the yoga world, Dharma would remind me of Karma. Of all the bicycles which have been stolen from him over the decades in New York, and of his certain belief that each theft was a karmic release from wrongs he committed lifetimes ago.
I believe Dharma would tell me to mind my business, to trust absolutely in karma, and to lock my bike.
Child’s pose is a good place to start. The return, again and again, to the centuries-old practice which heals, opens, and stretches me, holds all the answers I need.
I love my teacher. There may be things about him (in my case, the enormous studio on 23rd street) which fail for me. They will either be enough to drive me from him to another teacher, or they will be something I endure to be near him. In any event, they will be lessons from my beloved teacher.
The practice of yoga invites us to wake from a dreamless slumber. Ideally, awareness of this body, harnessing of the attention, and occasional glimpses of the force which animates us combine to eclipse the dramas and diversions which our sleeping selves so ceaselessly seek. Or, we are getting a firmer butt.
Dharma might tell me that when I am learning from the teachers around me, and using this understanding to fuel my practice on the mat, my yoga is pure. That when I view failings and shortcomings in others as opportunities to explore the practice of humility and the cultivation of grace, I am on the path. That when I am assimilating events and excitement around me by constituting myself as a source of love, my yoga is perfect.