May 25, 2011

Crimes Against Wisdom: A Yogi Gone Bad, Consciously!

Photo: Vectorportal

An Energy of Mind Experiment:

Introducing an ongoing experiment in natural wisdom and the real life physical, psychological and spiritual results of purposefully ignoring it. This is part one in a series of blogs, to be updated daily (mostly) on RSS feed, here and weekly on Elephant Journal.

Having spent the last three years of my life living in a relatively ascetic manner at a yogic training grounds in Thailand, I have now been visiting the U.S. for 4 weeks. I made a pact with myself before coming to see friends and family that I would not come with any of the baggage I have come with in the past: holier than thou-ness, self-righteousness, indiscreet “weird” health and hygiene practices, refusal to eat what was served to me because of my morals or health practices, etc.

I wanted to demonstrate both an open mind and heart with my family and also put my yogic development to the test by seeing how my state of being would be affected by “doing as the Romans do.”

A few weeks into the trip I finally took the time to get away and do a little yoga. I was startled to see that I couldn’t hold the postures for more than a few breaths, though I am reared in a tradition of classical hatha yoga where long holds are considered essential to experiencing the fruit of the practice. My inability was not due to lack of strength (though I did feel more weak than I normally feel), but rather due to my energy-state feeling like a raging bronco, bucking to get out of the cage. When I tried to go deep into my experience, I discovered the frantic energy that was pulsing just beneath the surface of my awareness.

I was amazed and intrigued, thinking, “Wow! This is why some people are intimidated by classical yoga, let alone why they are afraid to attempt to “meditate.”” So, moved with empathy  and compassion for the state of inner-turmoil that many of us experience much of the time, and never one for half-measures, I decided to make an experiment of going deeper into this madness-feeling.

I wanted to learn more about what it might be like for the people I work with as clients when I suggest to them that they begin a yoga or meditation practice. When I first started practicing I wasn’t very awake to the way I really felt. So, to get more of a sense of the “before and after” I decided to get unbalanced from my time living in Thailand. I have been making conscious choices to act in opposition to the natural wisdom I have come to take for granted in my years of  yoga, meditation and ayurveda training.

Every time my natural awareness has spoken to me, saying, “Do this” or “Don’t do that” I have tried to do the opposite. This experiment is something like the one performed in the documentary, “Supersize Me”. Only, it feels more radical because as brilliant as that movie is, it was so extreme in its examples.

In this “Crimes Against Wisdom” experiment I am attempting to perform mostly behavior that I am directly witnessing others do and that are also actions that I know are cultural norms.

It is important to note – even though I am experiencing many negative symptoms that will likely show up in upcoming medical test results –  that in relation to the whole country I am still living quite a healthy and conscious life. On the coasts, and in University-type, progressive towns we tend to forget that we live in a bit of a bubble. But, even in my “crimes against wisdom,” I am still eating mostly decent, home-cooked food. I am not out drinking it up with my buddies or working 60 hours a week. Rather, I am spending most of my time visiting with friends and family, showing off my 9 month old boy, Rudi and casually hanging out.

The wild thing about what I am finding, though, is even with this fairly normal and relatively healthy lifestyle, I feel awful!!! (compared to what I am used to).

Here are just a few examples of natural wisdom that I am ignoring in favor of an opposite, culturally normal response:

  • Poor food combinations – i.e. drinking cold milk while eating meat! This wreaks havoc on the digestive system!
  • Getting on the computer right away in the morning, or staying on the internet late at night right before bed.
  • Drinking something cold first thing in the morning, or worse yet, having coffee be the first thing to touch my lips!
  • Very irregular exercise, if any.
  • No yoga or formal meditation practice.
  • Choosing to put off hunger to finish “work” online, or even to hold in urine or defecation because I was “too busy.”
  • Multi-tasking!
  • Not cleaning my room, making my bed, etc. (my parents think I have regressed to something awful!!!)
  • Eating nuts and drinking ice-water on the airplane (nuts and cold liquid exacerbate the problem of flying which drastically disturbs one’s “wind” element – leading to anxiety, constipation, fatigue, disease, etc.)

As you can see, these aren’t wild and crazy examples like in “Supersize Me.” But, I assure you that the results, compared to the way I normally feel with a relatively disciplined and “natural” life, are amazing:

  • I am gaining fat in the “spare tire” area, which is known to be a great contributor to heart disease.
  • My temper is shorter than ever.
  • I am experiencing “restless leg syndrome” (i.e. I can’t sit still).
  • I have strange, stabbing pains in my stomach/chest and more frequent headaches.
  • I have more cravings for things that aren’t good for me: late night TV, junk food, alcohol, more coffee — I even felt a pull to watch porn while surfing the internet late at night!
  • Zits, smellier crap and farts, bad body odor, etc!

I will continue to blog in more detail about these negative symptoms and crimes against wisdom, of which I have only mentioned a few. In doing so, I will be mentioning the principles of natural wisdom that I am breaking on purpose. In this way the blogs will also be informative about some tricks of the trade that readers can try for themselves – please do as I say not as I do!

I will live this way for the duration of my stay in America for a total of 6 weeks. Then, for a few more weeks in Asia I will continue to ignore my natural wisdom as much as I can bear it – totaling two months of crimes against wisdom. Then, I will get a full physical, including blood tests, EKG, heart monitoring, cholesterol levels, etc. I will post all these results as well as photos of what I look like physically after this 2 month period. I will catalog my behaviors, diet, symptoms, etc. more specifically in the daily blogs.

Finally, for the next phase of the experiment, in mid-June I begin training to become an acharya in an authentic lineage of classical tantrik yoga. I will be involved in one-on-one training with my Guru, and will be living the life of a full time yogi. I will be performing shatkarmas, asana, pranayama, mudra, bandha, etc. I will have an in-depth meditation practice, a specifically tailored diet, as well as intensive philosophical study, learning of Sanskrit, jyotisa, ayurveda, etc. I will be living in a beautiful, natural environment and working daily on am organic farm in a sustainable community.

I will document my experience of this transition and blog about what goes on in my body, mind and spirit. I will post periodical updates with the medical tests so we can see the physical results as well as time-lapse photos of my body’s development.

Due to the circumstances of of the situation I am in the yogic side of this experiment will be more “extreme” an example than the “crimes against wisdom” side of it. I realize that very few people will go as far as I am going to go with yoga and meditation training, while the manner in which I am living the “crimes” are normal, habitual behaviors that many people wouldn’t think twice about. So, this isn’t going to be hard science… but, nevertheless I think we will come up with some important insights and interesting observations.

Please join me for this journey and offer me your own insight/wisdom, feedback and suggestions for how I can improve this experiment along the way.

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Thanks for supporting me in this venture! I look forward to interacting with the readers along the way!

Best wishes,

Yogi – Energy of Mind: A Sauhu Therapy

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