Yoga: The Land of the Lost & Confused.

Via on Jun 3, 2012

“When your intellect, that is confused by the conflicting opinions and the ritualistic doctrine of the Vedas, shall stay steady and firm with the Self, then you shall attain Self-realization.” ~ Bhagavad Gita 2.53

Have you noticed something?

Look around in your yoga class, at the yogi happy hour, at the chakra cleanse workshop and kirtan. Look at yourself. Look at everyone. Do you see us?

We are lost and confused.

Our individual entry into the land of yoga all look different, but maybe it resembles this:

We took a class and it hooked us like a coke line hooks overzealous partier. We were in. We bought the twenty class pack, even though our budget did not agree. We hoarded Lululemon wonder-unders in every color as a child does Skittles. Our thirst wasn’t quenched with just one coconut water, so we bought out the Zico stock at Whole Foods.

Two classes a week turned to five and then seven, with no day of rest. The yoga retreat to Tulum looked enticing, so we packed a bag along with two grand on our credit card and off we went to learn and discover what we sought after.

We met some cool chicks in flowy Saint Grace pants, mala beads secured to their wrists like handcuffs, so we suited up in yogini goddess wear and shackled ourselves with Bodhi beads too. We friended the yogi dudes who declared their attainment of Jnana (knowledge) with Sanskrit inked all over their skin. Swami in his freshly steamed robe and sage cloaked words guided us into the harbor of transcendence. All of these people knew something we didn’t, they could give us the answer.

Next thing we know, we are circling inside the corralled waiting room of Samadhi (“highest state of consciousness” (yes, I know there are as many levels of Samadhi as there are in Zelda, but for this article, let’s just boil it down to one “higher” level, ok?) like a bunch of mooing, overheated, hypnotized yoga cows thinking we’ve found the answer.

We are now heightened and enlightened. 

I hate to burst your coconut water-filled udders, but we are a bunch of livestock stepping in our own sh*t, locked up in a holding cell of our own construction, following a fellow cow who is leading us on a carousel to nowhere.

We are utterly confused. We’ve defecated all over our own authenticity and brilliance with the feces of opinion and perspective. We believe we’ve found ourselves, but now we have become imprisoned and segregated from the purpose of yoga and the Universe.

We have separated ourselves from the pastures, the rolling hills, the other animals and our freedom and birth right to roam and get lost. The fellow cow we are following may have years of direct experience, understanding and wisdom, but it is his or her experience, understanding and wisdom. We can listen to his or her moos and eat from the same grass, but the way we hear and the way we digest is going to be different for each one of us.

We need to experience life for ourselves, to understand.

How do we do that? We saunter out of the corral and step onto the soil of yoga. Yoga is meant as unclaimed land for all to inhabit. The land of yoga knows no borders, religion, belief or method. Authenticity is the only prerequisite for citizenship, and experience is the only civic duty.

There was a time when we were not citizens of yoga. We found the land of yoga because we were looking for something, for a place to fill us with validation, confidence and understanding. We became devoted, a devotee to our search. We were determined to find what we were missing. We think yoga is where we will find it—we believe the answer is yoga.

Yoga is not the answer. Yoga is the key to our personal toolbox. Yoga is not the handyman nor is anyone else. We are.

We have to use the tools we already have, to fix ourselves. Our toolboxes are already full, we don’t have room for more tools. Buying more tools won’t remedy our brokenness, it will destroy us and transport us to the junkyard of confusion. Instead, we must use the key to unlock the box, grab the wrench we own, turn it ourselves and reassemble our parts that have disintegrated, loosened and caused us to stall.

We can practice seven days a week, attend workshop after workshop, retreat after retreat, sit in the presence of Swami and Guruji—but none of that will secure our wrench and tighten our bolts.

Yoga is not the answer, it is the question.

Yoga is the question that leads us to the answers within us buried under the loose nails and rust.

The asanas, the meditations, the teachers, the scriptures—they are not the answers. They are the hints to the questions we must compose and ask ourselves.

The only way to find an answer is to get lost in questioning. The answer that arrives however, is elusive, we can’t catch it. To quote a very smart lady, Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, “That’s a slippery lil’ sucker.” The answer is always changing. Change propels the journey. The answer will never stay the same, it will transform, morph and evolve as we do, through our direct experience.

Experience is enlightenment. 

The journey begins when we ask the first question and quit thinking we have the answer. When we know we don’t know, is the moment our fuse (of not knowing, of being lost) ignites the electricity of passion and adventure. It is the fuel that runs our engines. There is more power and voltage in the question than in the answer, it keeps the spark flickering.

We will always have use for yoga, because when something is used well, it will need to be lovingly cared for and maintained. Our job is to continue doing the handiwork by questioning. As we question, we tune up our engines so our mind, body and spirit can run efficiently and easily together.

In regards to the bovine to divine waiting room, I chose to leave the corral and roam the pastures. I was tired of stepping in everyone’s sh*t including my own. I still occasionally step in sh*t, but now I have the freedom to mosey over to any hill, any cow, any animal and learn from them, knowing I will continue on my own path and get lost again.

My years as a yoga citizen have gifted me with faith. The faith that if I keep up on my maintenance, I become steady for long enough to find the answer I need at that moment, before it sets below the horizon and I have the privilege of walking on and discovering another question to ask.

By Rebecca Lammersen

Like elephant yoga on Facebook.

~

Editor: Kate Bartolotta

About Rebecca Lammersen

Rebecca Lammersen is the founder of Yogalution, a donation based yoga studio in Scottsdale, AZ. I love being alive. I love being a mother. I love teaching yoga. I love to write. I love to know. I love to not know. I love to learn. I love to listen. I love to read. I love to travel. I love to dance. I love to help. I love to serve. That pretty much sums me up. Check out Rebecca's website and her articles at The Huffington Post. Subscribe to Rebecca's feed and never miss a post!

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22 Responses to “Yoga: The Land of the Lost & Confused.”

  1. Raj says:

    Interesting. Thank you for your view. What you failed to mention is the overwhelming sense of community that goes along with this rising yoga culture. When I look around at kirtan, I see something completely different- a true merging of souls and communion with sound and each other, a rare experience in our modern, disconnected world. And Yoga. I see beautiful souls on a beautiful path together. Seekers yes. But not lost. Found.

  2. cathy says:

    I would feel better if you used"I" instead of "we". Especially since you afforded so so so many dumb unthinking herding actions to the collective 'we', though fronted with a 'maybe".

    "livestock locked up, stepping in our own.." you are getting pretty um insulting in my view..
    Maybe consider saying "at times, it has felt like" or " I think".. instead of judging all of us, this big yoga crowd, claim your own shit stepping corraling, but please dont blatantly categorize or judge or blame everyone else.

    Then you continued with hhow yo left the corral, leaving all of us dumb ones behind.
    I know you have some point, but I never found it. I am however, not going to knowingly take a class from you because thi sarticle makes me feel that you are superior to most yoga practitioners- that would definitely include me and I seek a much different relationship with my co-students and teachers.

    I am not trying to be deliberately mean…

    • Guest says:

      you sound like you're the one classifying yourself as among "the dumb ones"….that phrase was ever used in the actual article. Please stick to commenting on what was actually stated in the article – the bovine metaphor was used because cows either roam pastures or are corralled – as humans have a choice in the matter.

      You can choose to be part of a group but also think for yourself. It's refreshing, but some people don't ever embrace this point of view, especially when they're seeking outward validation.

      If you aren't trying to be deliberately mean, then why the knee-jerk comment complete with an "I would never take your class" closing?

      The last thing that is trying to be expressed in Rebecca's article is superiority. In fact, the "better than you" mindset is almost always symptom of groupthink, excluding and alienating others. Your reaction was a bit backwards, in my opinion. She is not lashing out against anyone, she is advocating everyone's own intelligence, resourcefulness, and ability to heal themselves through self-discovery, rather than seeking refuge in a community setting.

      • Dear Readers,

        My intention in this piece was never to make anyone feel lesser than, quite the opposite (equal to).

        I also want to clarify that I respect and honor all of my teachers. They have shined the light on my abilities and my knowledge and continue to, every day.

        My purpose of writing this article, is to illuminate the idea that we all know what we need to know. It is inside of us, yet the path to the understanding comes from not knowing first. We must ask the questions.

        Everyone around us is our teacher. We must expose ourselves to as many people, experiences, methods etc as we can, when we do this, we will inevitably learn and release the wisdom within us.

        I consider claiming a Guru as staying in Kindergarten year after year(this would be the corral). We must move on to first grade all the way to university; by following this path, we roam the pastures.

        I was trying to be a bit comical and I love being analogous and metaphorical, maybe a bit too much;)

        I appreciate everyone's responses. I hear you. I always say no response is good or bad. They don't hurt me or bloat me, because they are your feelings and your thoughts, just as my article is my perspective. I am open to all ideas, criticism and thoughts.

        Whether you agree or disagree, thank you for taking your time to read this and share. Have a beautiful day, Rebecca

    • guest says:

      I disagree, beating around the bush would make this piece weaker not stronger. And an observation like this needs strong, not weak to wake people up.Sometimes, being PC doesn't cut it.

  3. Edward staskus says:

    I am not sure you are being accurate about Julia Roberts, maybe she is smart, and maybe we do have all the tools in our toolbox that we will ever need, although I doubt that, too, but as for living a yoga life, meditating, asanas, all that, I respectfully disagree with you.

    I realize you are raging against the herd mentality, but practicing at any level at any time anywhere is at the heart of it, otherwise you are not practicing your beliefs.

    There are borders, beliefs, and methods to yoga. To say there aren’t is naive. Yoga is not every man for himself and God against all. It is other way around. It is not unfettered.

    I did find your article provocative, and enjoyed reading it.

  4. Rogelio says:

    The article and the response are very interesting and makes me think about my path in yoga…thank you…
    i agree with the heard mentality how some people only practice when they go to class, but when recommending that the real lessons are learned on the mat by your self, in your own private practice….people look at me stare and either say nothing or i dont have time….. Those that do try and start with a few poses get it….
    As Prashant Iyengar said in one of his classes, you come to Pune and take classes, not to do but to learn how to do, to learn how to learn….not exact words…..another one of his is, you do do and die…..another one of my teachers said my job is to teach you so that you don't have to come back to class…..for me meaning you know enough to learn on your own… of course this isan't good for the business of yoga….

  5. Gumiflex says:

    You missed the point of yoga, and I feel sorry for you.

  6. Guest says:

    A lot of ego involved in these responses to the article here. The author's point was simply everyone's path is different, and to that to explore and question is everyone's unique privilege, rather than get involved in a circus of affirmation that sometimes occurs in any community, especially some close-knit yoga and religious settings.

    Be yourself, be humble, question all of your teacher's methods, and never stop learning. That's what we're all here for.

    • Erin Buggy says:

      Exactly! The juice comes from the exploring and questioning, and the exploring and questioning must extend BEYOND the yoga mat of our regular place of practice, with our regular teacher, and doingyour regular asanas. When we begin to place too much significance on any one person's words, perceived knowing or degree of enlightenment, we begin to strip our own selves of our innate ability to increase our own knowing, move further on the path of enlightenment, etc. While it is certainly fine to have the guidance of a regular teacher, and we may enjoy the community that having a regular yoga studio practice offers us, we must still remember to extend ourselves beyond the confines of that environment. If your learning stops there, your understanding stops there. If your questioning stops there, your spark stops there. If your experience stops there, and you place too much emphasis on the words of a single teacher- who is speaking from THEIR experience, not yours- your evolution stops there. It's important to remember that experience trumps everything else, when it comes to attaining that deep sense of knowing and understanding (which are the catalysts of our individual evolution), and so, while we can certainly enjoy a regular practice, studio and teacher, we must not look to others to give us what we already have inside of ourselves (teachers can help, but we must not forget that we are our own teachers, too), and we must allow ourselves the freedom to roam and question, so that we can attain the experiences we need that then help us grow and expand in the ways that we need.

      Anyway, this is the message I get from Rebecca's article. I'm surprised by the knee-jerk responses posted by some. Though provocatively written, if you try to suspend the ego (that gets bruised when you're likened to a cow shitting in a corral :-)), you see that there are many, many pearls of wisdom in this piece, as well as a healthy dose of humor. I appreciate the rawness. It's refreshing, and it forces us to stretch ourselves by thinking in more abstract terms, rather than grasping at the literal.

      Thank you, Rebecca!

  7. yogasamurai says:

    Great piece, Rebecca.

  8. Danielle says:

    I did enjoy this article, because I get what Rebecca is saying insofar as the ultimate goal of individual union with the Divine within yoga has gotten lost amidst the hustle and bustle of competition and guru seeking.
    I do feel that some of the negative comments may stem from the use of too many different analogies (barns, cows, tools and toolboxes) within which the direction of the article may have been lost to some people.
    That's just from a writing perspective.
    Otherwise, yes, great piece!

  9. Dear Readers,

    My intention in this piece was never to make anyone feel lesser than, quite the opposite (equal to).

    I also want to clarify that I respect and honor all of my teachers. They have shined the light on my abilities and my knowledge and continue to, every day.

    My purpose of writing this article, is to illuminate the idea that we all know what we need to know. It is inside of us, yet the path to the understanding comes from not knowing first. We must ask the questions.

    Everyone around us is our teacher. We must expose ourselves to as many people, experiences, methods etc as we can, when we do this, we will inevitably learn and release the wisdom within us.

    I consider claiming a Guru as staying in Kindergarten year after year(this would be the corral). We must move on to first grade all the way to university; by following this path, we roam the pastures.

    I was trying to be a bit comical and I love being analogous and metaphorical, maybe a bit too much;)

    I appreciate everyone's responses. I hear you. I always say no response is good or bad. They don't hurt me or bloat me, because they are your feelings and your thoughts, just as my article is my perspective. I am open to all ideas, criticism and thoughts.

    Whether you agree or disagree, thank you for taking your time to read this and share. Have a beautiful day, Rebecca

  10. Kevin Keegan says:

    Thank you for the insightful post Rebecca, and I very much agree that there is a heard mentality in Yoga culture. I think most seekers get to a point, once they have reached information overload, that they decide to either give up Yoga all together, or make a cornerstone of their life. I personally think that the age of the Guru is coming to an end, since we all become disciples of our "inner guru". Once this happens, it's fairly easy to interpret scripture into your own context. Personally, I have not found a yogic community that I fit into, so I choose to do my practice alone.

  11. guest says:

    Thanks Rebecca, I loved your piece, very insightful and so true.
    I have to say I am grateful for my yogastudio, there is no esoteric bead wearing going on or constant chakra searching. people wear everything, from lululemon to old ratty sweatpants and no one seems to judge..
    Only one of my pieces of yoga clothes is lululemon, I decided early on that I don't want to be part of the herd wearing lululemon everything. (I also despite coconut water ;) ) I am glad I didn't end up in that kind of crowd.

  12. [...] Once during a class, the room was getting hot. I hadn’t quite figured out how to control the temperature and the room was heating up quickly for what was not supposed to be a heated yoga class! After getting water for everyone, I returned to the front of the studio. Looking out at the students as they eagerly awaited instructions the only words I could find to say were, “I have no idea where we left off.” [...]

  13. [...] My practice is not a feel-good system of warm-fuzzy free association. It’s raw and physical. It’s how I exist in the world, how I open every door and put one foot in front of the other to move forward. It’s doing, not believing, and it’s the framework by which I create meaning in my life. [...]

  14. Chris Fici Chris Fici says:

    Thank you Rebecca for a piece that is a breath of fresh air in many ways.
    I have to admit that, while I very much appreciate the commitment you express to one's own individual journey and integrity, I wonder if you think if it's possible that becoming "lost in questioning" will ever lead to being found in an absolute and certain answer.

    I say this because I am always suspicious of the "cult of relativity" in which people refuse to commit to any one path or teacher because of suspicion, fear, or lack of knowledge. I think this mood is as damaging to one's spiritual journey as being to eager to commit without proper context or knowledge.

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