The following is a preview of the first chapter, Getting Real, from Rohan James’ new book, The Yoga Revolution: Bridging the Gap between Spiritualism and Materialism.
I was sitting in my hotel room in Sydney, Australia in a half lotus position meditating the night before the first round of the 1993 Australian PGA (golf) Championship when I was overcome by an incredible hollowness inside. It felt as if my stomach region, in fact my whole being, was completely hollow and the ache was so intense I burst into uncontrollable tears. I hugged my arms around legs in the foetal position and rolled on the floor in agony. I imagine the feeling I experienced was similar to the grief that someone experiences when they lose a wife, husband or child. It is the only way I can describe this unbelievable ache inside and I felt as if my life was completely empty and I didn’t want to go on. I found myself sobbing on the floor of my hotel room, “I just want to be happy, I just want to be happy”. I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. Here I was, a full-time professional golfer competing against the likes of Greg Norman and company, and yet here I was sobbing uncontrollably alone in a hotel room wishing my life would end.
A week and a half later, I quit my four-year career playing golf professionally and began the search for true happiness. In March 1993 within a few days of quitting the pro tour, I found myself saying, “I just want to be happy”. “Oh and by the way, I would like a large house overlooking the ocean and have a nice car and a beautiful partner and family.” Does this sound familiar? Well of course, who wouldn’t want to have such a lifestyle? It is inherent in human beings to seek happiness and every activity that we undertake in our lives is a means to this end. Everything we do is in order to create more happiness in our lives. We have a good job but then we decide that we want a higher income so we go out and look for another job or attempt to climb the corporate ladder; why? Because we think it is going to gives us more happiness. We land the job and the higher income. Now we should be happy, but the new position carries more responsibility and we have to work longer hours than we previously did, meaning we have even less time for our family and to do the things we really enjoy.
This is the difficulty in searching for happiness outside of ourselves. The outer world is ever-changing and fleeting in nature. We place our happiness in a beautiful loving partner and then over time our beautiful loving partner is not the same person they used to be because they are working longer hours to make more money in order to provide “a better life”, a happier life and the stress of the long hours is wearing them down and they no longer have the energy to give to us and our needs. Or maybe they are at home looking after the three children you decided to have because you felt having children would somehow make you complete. Now your partner (who has also put on a few pounds) is exhausted by the time the kids are in bed and has nothing left to give you. What now? You become unhappy because you feel unloved and the person you married is no longer that relaxed sexy, carefree adventurous soul you once knew.
Your needs are not being met, so what are you going to do now? You start by giving hints to your partner that you need more attention but this goes unnoticed because they are too busy in their own world just trying to cope. What next? You start demanding more attention and begrudgingly they try to do this for you, but you feel that their heart is just not in it and the resentment continues to build. All of a sudden the work colleague that you get along well with is starting to look more and more attractive as the days go by because you feel that they give you more attention than your partner, and so the complexity continues.
Most of us in the Western World have been chasing our tails for far too long. We have been conditioned to look outside and chase after all the things that are going to make us “happy”. Television and magazine commercials show the latest designer jeans, handbag or sports car cleverly marketed and oozing with sex appeal. “If only I could have these things I will be happy. Just one more pair of jeans will do it.” But then you get the pair of jeans and guess what? After two or three wears you are looking at the new season’s black skinny leg jeans that will make you look even slimmer and sexier!
Happiness is always “out there” in the future and the advertisers understand full well the weaknesses of the human being and they prey on these weaknesses by dangling the proverbial carrot in front of our noses, treating us like the donkeys we have become.
This is why most people spend ten per cent more money than they actually earn. They over extend themselves financially trying to buy something that simply can’t be bought.
It’s time to wake up. Contrary to what advertisers and most major religions teach, happiness is not “out there”. There is no power outside of ourselves that can make us happy. Happiness has never been out there and yet day after day, year after year we go “out there” looking for it. I remember attending a dinner party of a friend of mine who was very successful in the outer sense of the word. He was very outgoing, handsome, threw great parties, had heaps of people around him all the time, he owned many businesses including a very successful insurance company, had a beautiful home, drove a luxury car, had a house on an island in the Mediterranean Sea, an ocean-going power boat and a beautiful wife. He had it all!
After all the guests had left he and I decided to have a final nightcap. We sat on the kitchen stools and drank a couple of glasses of very expensive Cognac and had a heart to heart conversation. He seemed quite sad and tired and he said to me, “You know what Rohan, I am sick of my life”. Here was a very successful multi-millionaire with absolutely everything anyone could imagine having in his life and he says, “I am sick of my life!” He went on to say that he knew that the people around him only liked him for what they could get from him, i.e. his money, and that he would give it all up in an instant if he could have just a few more genuine friends. He was a multi, multi‑millionaire with lots of people around him all the time yet he was sad and lonely because he had no real friends.
This is just one example of scores and scores of wealthy people I have met who were actually very sad and lonely even though their outer circumstances would seem otherwise.
Is striving and struggling for these objects of success worth compromising your happiness? Are stress, anxiety and depression just a part of being successful in the world? Is being obese a fair trade off for a few more dollars in the bank?Is a new car worth losing a beautiful relationship over? Is a few more dollars on the bottom line worth not spending time with your children as they move speedily through their childhood?
Now let’s get something straight right from the start. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a big house, an expensive car or taking exotic holidays. As I write this I have just returned from three weeks in Hawaii and a week of snow skiing in the Australian Alps. I am sitting in my home “office” overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and every day I give thanks for the amazing position I find myself in these days.
So you see I have nothing against money or what it can do for you and more importantly what it can do for others. I am all for money and more money. The more money you have the better. The more money you have the more you can be of service to others and the more you serve others, the happier you will be. This will become more and more obvious as you discover (or confirm) the life you were born to live as you move through this book.
Imagine if you could have a large beautiful house in your most preferred location.
Imagine if you don’t have already, having a passionate and loving relationship with the partner of your dreams. Imagine driving the car of your dreams, enjoying quality time with your children every day and being there for them through their most important formative years.
Imagine being able to turn to your partner and say, “Hey honey, let’s go to the Bahamas first class”, and not even having to think about the cost involved. Imagine having all this and imagine doing it all stress free. Imagine feeling more and more at peace every day as your income increases as you do the work that really satisfies you and makes a real difference in the world. Imagine your family relating well with one another and creating lifelong bonds with other amazing people.
You can have it all! This is possible because there is a new “success paradigm” and it no longer equates with driving yourself into the ground to get results. It no longer requires sucking up to a boss you have no respect for in order to get a promotion or having to drop your pants and bend over in order to provide that customer service that rates you ahead of the competition.
The world is constantly changing and evolving, as are human beings. We are becoming more intelligent every day and operating at new levels of consciousness all the time. We now want more from our lives than the nine to five grind and a weekend that passes all too quickly. To keep up with changing human consciousness we must provide new and improved tools for us to use in order to create the life we have always dreamed of. We are searching for more and more contentment and a better life balance because we haven’t found it in the things we have accumulated over the years and in a lot of cases these things just tie us into the same revolving cycle of work, accumulation, debt and more work.
There has to be a better way. We all know too well the stressed out corporate executive who suffers from obesity, stress, anxiety and maybe even depression and this is not limited to only male executives. These problems are rife in their female counterparts too. I have assisted both male and female clients who have come to me with heart problems, stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, constant migraines and others who are simply tired and rundown seeing no light at the end of the tunnel of drudgery. In a lot of cases these people have trapped themselves into the work and lifestyle they believe is expected of them. Whether the expectation came from family conditioning or what is expected by society is not important, but just the same these people find themselves on a treadmill that is difficult, if not almost impossible, to get off.
Over the years I have met so many executives who also live double lives. I played golf with a timber tycoon many years ago and during the game he confided that he had spent over $1m on girls in the previous twelve months. He then advised me, “Rohan, whatever you do, don’t do what I have done. My life is a mess, my wife divorced me, took our children and none of them will talk with me anymore. Now all I have are my “girlfriends” and those relationships are not very fulfilling”. How many people have secret affairs thinking the next person is going to make them happier?
A lot of people who behave like this get off on the adrenalin rush of doing something “naughty”, just like the kids at school who used to hide in the bushes and smoke cigarettes. Most people who have affairs aren’t “in love” with the person they are seeing on the side. It’s just a quick rush of adrenalin, no different to driving at 120 miles per hour in a 60 mile an hour zone. You know you shouldn’t be doing it, it seems like fun at the time but when you get caught your world is turned upside down because you no longer have a license to drive. Next time you are tempted to have an affair go on a ride at a theme park, it’ll give you the same rush with the only downside being an upset stomach.
So much for the corporate scene, what about people who are very “spiritual”?
There are two types of spiritual people…
Spiritual Type 1 ‑ The Organised Religious Person
The organised religious person is the person who attends a group meeting of some sort usually on a weekly basis and who listens to someone repeat passages from a book in monotone and they live their life in fear of some great power outside themselves doing something to them if they are naughty. Grow up! Most people who attend formal gatherings in the name of “religion” are no better off than someone who makes money their god. And let’s be honest, most of the people who deliver the regurgitated information to the masses are people who mean well, but have not lived, tried and tested all the theories they set down, as they “shalt” do, so how can they possibly deliver this information with any expertise or authority?
For example, it has always amazed me how a priest can give marital advice. A priest is supposed to be celibate, but a true celibate person is one who has tried sex, lived with sex and has experienced the absolute limitations of a sexually active life and who has naturally let it go with no more thought of or desire for sex. Celibacy is a natural and normal “letting go” of sex at the higher levels of spiritual evolvement. There may be some priests who qualify as true celibates, however most of our priests do not and have repressed their sexual energy due to misinterpretations of their scriptures. They become like a (human) dam that has not been regulated properly through the correct use of sluice gates. You don’t need to be Einstein to work out the result of such repression; this enormous power is going to begin to leak and eventually overflow uncontrollably.
Sexual energy is very clever. It is the creative energy inside us; it is the energy from which we are born, and it is the energy on which our universe is built, i.e. the interplay of the masculine and feminine, the yin and the yang. If it is not given a safe healthy outlet for expression, it is going to find some weird and crazy ways to be expressed. Added to this natural pressure cooker is the confessional box where the priest will sit and listen to all the bad thoughts and actions of those who come for forgiveness.
Consider what has been created in the name of religion; we have priests who are effectively a pressure cooker about to explode simply because their sexual energy is suppressed. To make matters worse the poor priests’ minds are programmed daily by every deviate thought and action known to man whilst listening to the confessions of “normal” human beings. I don’t think I need to say more on this subject, as our newspapers do a much better job at covering the effects of this than I ever could.
If a priest has not been married or indulged in intimate relations with another, how can he or she possibly give expert advice on what is required to sustain a long-‐‑term happy relationship? If you want advice on how best to run and service your car you go to a qualified reputable mechanic whose life is devoted to bringing out the best in cars. If I want to know how to sustain a long-‐‑term happy relationship I go to my parents who have been married for fifty-‐‑four years! Do the people who stand at the front of these congregations really have the understanding of what it is they are talking about? Most religious books are and were written as poetry, symbolism or in code so that only those who are genuinely ready can interpret the true meaning of these texts properly. Rarely are these books meant to be literal. For example let’s look at the story of Adam and Eve of the Christian faiths. Adam and Eve are usually depicted as a man and a woman standing either side of a tree with a snake or serpent of some sort wrapped around the tree.
I have to laugh here because it reminds me of a time when I was a professional golfer sharing a taxi with another pro golfer and the tour chaplain. The other pro I’ll call David asked the chaplain, “If you subscribe to the Adam and Eve theory, where do black people come from?” This was a genuine question from someone who took this teaching very literally and quite a good question. The chaplain was stumped. He had no reply other than to say that nowhere does it say that Adam and Eve were white folk! How many of our religious leaders really understand the symbolic meaning behind Adam and Eve?
Adam & Eve Explained
The “tree of life” represents the human body, Adam represents the masculine energy in our bodies (yang in Chinese Theory) and Eve represents the feminine energy in our bodies (yin in Chinese theory). The snake or serpent represents the sexual / life-‐‑force energy inside our bodies (known as “Kundalini” in Yoga which is also represented as a snake or serpent). The teaching behind this story is that through proper control -‐‑ and by control I don’t mean suppression (remember the sluice gates) -‐‑ of our sexual / life-‐‑force energy we can become a fully liberated human being and live in a state of complete bliss, i.e. the “Garden of Eden”, like a Jesus, a Buddha or any of the thousands and thousands of other not so well-known saints. However Adam (male aspect) was tempted by Eve (female aspect) to taste the forbidden apple, i.e. his own sexual energy. By wasting his own sexual energy he (humanity) was led on a downward slide, i.e. banished from the Garden of Eden. This parable indicates that the unwise expression of our sexual energy is very detrimental to our wellbeing and causes a lot of unhappiness in the world. Wasting our sexual energy means that we can never live in paradise (Garden of Eden), i.e. we can never live in the blissful state experienced by a Jesus or a Buddha. On the other hand this story is also the key to our liberation. But unfortunately not many religious leaders understand this and if they do they will probably not share this information. Why? Because it will give the power back to the individuals where it belongs and the organised religions will no longer be required. Yes they will be out of a job and there will be some prime real estate up for sale!
How does this story of Adam and Eve relate to Yoga? Yoga is a scientific, practical and experiential approach towards man’s happiness and wellbeing that has been proven over a five thousand-year history (that we know of). Yogis believe that most of our unhappiness is created by too much “thinking” or “incorrect thinking” which leads to wasting sexual / life-‐‑force energy. Too much thinking causes too much stimulation of the Ida and Pingala nadis and too much stimulation of the Ida and Pingala nadis (caused by emotional imbalance) causes too much thinking, which in turn creates an even busier and more unbalanced mind.
This vicious cycle of thinking--stimulation-thinking becomes self--perpetuating, dragging the individual down physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. In order to break this harmful downward spiral, Yogis use a combination of dietary adjustments, physical postures, breathing techniques and creative visualisations to slow down the movement of energy through the Ida (female) and Pingala (male) Nadis. As the energy in these two nadis slows down and stabilises, the mind becomes quieter and the excess (sexual/life-force) energy that was previously wasted in the unwise expression of sexual energy and in useless mind chatter now becomes “stored” within the body.
The “storage” occurs at the triangular bone at the base of the spine – the sacrum. It is interesting that we in the West use the term “sacrum” to represent this area of the body because sacrum etymologically means “sacred” and this area of the body is the seat of the organs of procreation i.e. the home of our sexual energy; suggesting that our forefathers were well aware of the sacredness of our sexual energy.
With continued regulation of sexual energy, together with the purification (balancing) of the Ida and Pingala nadis using Yoga practices, the “dormant (balanced) serpent (sexual / life force) energy” stored at the sacrum will enter the Sushumna at the base of the spine and with ongoing (Yoga) practices the energy will rise up the Sushumna nadi to meet the Sahasrara (Crown Chakra) at the top of the head. When this happens the Yogi becomes a fully liberated human being, enlightened, Self-‐‑realised, living in a state of complete inner bliss, i.e. living in the Garden of Eden! This state is represented in the previous illustration by the wings sprouting from the centre at the top of the head. Don’t be concerned if this doesn’t make total sense yet; this process will become clearer as you work through this book.
The similarities in these two illustrations are amazing and yet in organised religion the power is always given to something outside of the individual when in fact the power has always been there, right within us the whole time.
What is also interesting is that many medical associations around the world also use the same symbology. Most people have seen the Caduceus; yesterday I saw one on the window of an ambulance. Why is the Caduceus used as a symbol for medical care? The Caduceus is not only the symbolic secret to our spiritual liberation as I have already explained, but is also the symbolic secret to perfect health. Balancing the energy in the Ida and Pingala Nadis leads the energy flow into the Sushumna creating balance in the central nervous system. Balance in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) leads to the correct functioning of the peripheral nervous system (cranial and peripheral nerves), which then creates balance in the somatic nervous system (voluntary movement) and autonomic nervous systems (involuntary movements such as cardio vascular, digestion, reproduction etc.). Having achieved balance in the autonomic nervous system means that we will have the correct functioning of the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) and parasympathetic nervous system (regulating internal organs and glands) resulting in perfect pathological health!
Of course no one in the medical or pharmaceutical industries, if they actually understand this, will ever tell you because again, if they did, they too like the preachers would be out of a job. And by now it shouldn’t surprise you that the composition of our DNA is a double helix. Isn’t it spooky at how closely it represents the model Yogis gave us for our spiritual liberation thousands of years ago? Thoth, the “keeper of the records”in Egyptian times dating back to 10,000 years ago, who is claimed to have written the Emerald Tablets (oldest known spiritual teachings), stated the universal law… “As above, so it is below” meaning that the microcosm represents the macrocosm and vice versa. Here we have the symbolism of Adam and Eve as the key to our spiritual liberation being an identical “symbol” of our DNA. Thoth couldn’t have been more correct. Lack of understanding and misinterpretation of scriptures is not limited to the Christian faiths. In Hindu scriptures it says that Krishna had 16,000 (16,100 or 16,108) wives but yet he was considered to be an “eternal celibate”. How can this be possible? I have heard this interpreted by very learned men that Krishna was not attached to his sexuality and not controlled by his desire for sex (which is probably true) so therefore could be considered to be a celibate.
But 16,000 wives? Why such a large and specific number? The meaning of this is simply that Krishna had 16,000 disciples or followers. The reason for the word “wives” being used is that in order to be a devoted disciple or a follower you must be very open and receptive which is a feminine trait.
Please don’t misunderstand me; I am not saying organised religion is always a bad thing, far from it. What I am saying is that if you are going to attend religious gatherings make sure that the “preacher” really knows their stuff. Question them if you don’t really understand what they are talking about and if they become uncomfortable and defensive when trying to answer your questions then the answer is obvious. Even if they do appear to know their stuff, do not apply the principles into your life without first testing the relevance to your circumstances. For example, “turning the other cheek” in an abusive relationship is not really a great idea. One thing that you will come to understand if you are a true seeker of inner peace and you also follow an organised religion, is that at some point you will have to drop your religion and go beyond it just like Jesus, Buddha and Krishna who were not members of any organised group of worshippers. They were not followers of “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not” they were followers of universal laws i.e. spiritual laws that do not change with the times and the people. The importance of this step will become obvious to you by the end of this book.
Spiritual Type Two – The Lone Warrior
I have met “spiritual” people who can’t afford the small fee for a Yoga class, who scrounge rubbish bins at the back of restaurants at closing time in order to get a feed of reasonably fresh food and generally live off the goodwill of others. As these people search for inner contentment they shun the material world and refuse to participate in the economic reality of our world. Their belief is that “money is the root of all evil” and that if you live in a spiritual world you don’t need money. The unfortunate thing for these people is that while we are in a physical body our physical world is governed by economics. It is true that you can’t take it with you when you die however while you are here money is a very useful medium of exchange. Just ask anyone who can’t feed or clothe his or her family.
These kinds of spiritual people live in a fantasy world of perfection that doesn’t yet exist on this planet. This means from time to time they are going to bump into the harsh realities of the world we live in, e.g. if rent is not paid you get evicted. If you don’t have cash you can’t buy fresh food. If you don’t eat enough food and are cold at night how can you possibly find inner peace?
When I was in India last year I met and saw many Sadhus (Renunciates) who had given up all material wealth and responsibilities and who live off the charitable donations of passers-by. Looking into the eyes of these beggars on the side of the streets in Rishikesh, one of the holiest of cities in India, I saw a lot of pain and anguish caused by the obvious malnutrition these people were suffering from. They certainly did not look like people who had the answers to living happy and contented lives.
A few weeks later when I was in Vrindavan, the birth place of the Hindu god Krishna, I was told a story of a Sadhu who for two years held his arm up in the air to show god that he can go beyond pain and beyond the body, which was a miraculous feat. But now some twenty years later his arm remains in the air as it froze in this position and he has never been able to use it like an arm should work since achieving his mission. I was told that these were men of god because they have achieved “renunciation”, i.e. they had renounced the material world and even their bodies.
But as you will learn in Chapter 8, in the Yoga tradition renunciation does not mean giving up the world and everything material.
Renunciation is an inner attitude that automatically develops as you begin to become more and more satisfied with who you are and where you are in your life. These Sadhus of India have completely misinterpreted the meaning of the word renunciation that is read in their scriptures. But on the other hand some of them do know the true meaning and they choose that way of life because they can make more money that way than they may be able to in a normal low paying job in India.
This was brought home to me in no uncertain fashion again in Vrindavan when I placed three rupees in a Sadhu’s begging tin. As the coins clattered inside his tin he looked down into the tin and again up at me and said in almost perfect English and with perfect white teeth, “What? Only two or three rupees?”
Neither the corporate executive nor these so-called “spiritual” people are operating to the full potential of the human being. The corporate executive puts his company and family ahead of his own happiness. Some may say this is commendable and is being selfless because he or she is providing for their family, which is wonderful if they are able to maintain their own physical and mental health and inner contentment in the process. If their career and commitment to supporting their family is having a negative impact on their health, how can they possibly be there for their family when their family really needs them?
You cannot be of service to anyone if you are having your own health problems. This corporate executive is missing the biggest part of his life, which is “himself”. He really has no idea who he is. I have taught people who, until they began the techniques I showed them, had never been able to separate themselves as an identity from the work they did. Simply changing their perspective from “being” their career and job title to “someone who performs a task in service to others and then goes home”, has had a tremendous positive impact on their health, their ability to perform even better at their current work and has created more recreation time for them because of their new improved efficient work habits.
The so-called spiritual person is also not operating to the full potential of a human being. The first type of spiritual person is operating no better than a donkey with a carrot hanging just in front of its nose; looking for the answer in the sermon next week. The second type of spiritual person, by refusing to participate in the material world of work and relationships, forgoes the opportunities of opposition that the real world provides, i.e. opportunities and experiences that would actually accelerate his spiritual growth.
For example, when our spouse says some nasty things to us we have a choice, a choice to react aggressively and feed the downward spiral of negative energy or we can choose to not react emotionally and to calmly inquire as to what is really going on for them that has caused such an uncharacteristic outburst.
Developing calmness and centeredness in this situation allows us to transfer the skill learnt into say, our work environment when our boss is pressuring us to do something we know is unethical or to have something done to a deadline that you just know is not possible. In other words the resistance and opposition presented to us by the world can help us to develop our emotional stability (spiritual strength) in any circumstance. Of course if you are in an intimate relationship in which your spouse frequently has angry outbursts or if you work for an unethical boss, you must decide intelligently whether it is a relationship that is going to support your growth or not.
When you put your power and therefore your happiness outside of yourself, you are trying to establish your identity in things that are inherently not real.
In the Yoga tradition the definition of something that is real is something that does not undergo any change. Does your job change? Does your partner change? Do your possessions and your enjoyment of them change? Do your thoughts change? Yes, so none of these can be real. Does your body change?
Yes, it moves through childhood, adolescence, adulthood, old age and then it dies. Therefore, it cannot be real in an absolute sense, and there is no point putting your happiness into your youthful good looks. What happens when they go? Now you are unhappy. In order to be truly happy you must anchor your identity into something that is absolutely real, changeless.
Once you ground your identity into something that is real, not only can you be effective in the world, you will remain calm and centered at all times, unshaken by the world and the people around you. You will create change in the world by setting a wonderful example for those you come into contact with and you will be of service in a manner that is conducive to your individual nature, i.e. you will be living your true life’s purpose. It is only from this place of true identity that you can enjoy unshakeable inner peace, joy and contentment.
Now it’s time to find out who we really are.
This article was prepared by Sheri McCord in support of the Elephant Yoga Editorial Staff.