I spent 27 days in a closed spiritual retreat.
It was a place lost in space-time and hidden from eyes that “do not see.” A place not marked on any travel guide map—where life stops, where the external world disappears.
This is a place for meeting one’s teachers and oneself, an opportunity to hear what our inner truth has been telling us all along.
Twenty-seven days without a phone or the internet. (I beg the understanding of those whose calls and emails went unanswered.)
Twenty-seven days of practicing in silence and piercing stillness, a restructuring of the mind’s function and a deconstruction of knowledge accumulated over the years, which upon my return materialized in the form of three new books, a multitude of articles and boundless gratitude for the chance to stop and find myself again.
There comes a time when it becomes impossible to go on as you used to. There comes a time when you must choose whether to support a system aimed at fame and renown—a system that popularizes the teaching of yoga and the instructors themselves, who freely employ mental and social knowledge as a substitute for spiritual knowledge—or to step back and stop wasting time on the insignificant.
There comes a time when you understand that there is no way if there is understanding. A self that starts upon this way will never reach its end.
Whatever we do here on earth—whatever we may consider it to be and whatever we call it—this is nothing but a karmic school whose essence is only in graduating from it. We all have the power necessary to do so.
The issue is in having the will to. The choice is yours. I’ve made mine.
There are no masters left in the earth’s material plane. The masters have left for a different plane and now, after the transition of 2012, we have been left to our own devices.
The freedom of will and self-expression we strove for out of a greedy desire for power and following our ego’s ambitions is now bestowed upon us in all its glory. We have received that which we desired and for which we struggled.
But where has that brought us, and what has it become for us?
We have learned to use the right words, to say things that will touch others and resonate with them. We don’t need to have a Ph.D. in Economics to do it. We all know what is sold and how—even in yoga.
No, we don’t do it on purpose, or even consciously. Quite on the contrary—if only we could see, in a single moment, all of this in its entirety, our place and our role in it, its influence on us and on others, then we wouldn’t do it. We wouldn’t participate and would not be able to go on supporting it.
But we do not see.
We see it in fragments, agreeing with some, disagreeing with others, sometimes feeling something. But we do not see it fully, holistically.
If we could see, then the entire hellish mechanism, this entire wheel of spiritual samsara would stop immediately and never move again. If even one of the famous yoga instructors that supports, cultivates, desires and encourages their own self’s spiritual decay—or all the new-fashioned and tried-and-true gurus—were to truly be enlightened for a single second, this mechanism would crumble.
Vision is itself action. So long as there is no vision, there can be no action.
After all, we only nourish this mechanism and bring it to life in order to playfully struggle with it. We fiddle with it, rolling it back and forth, like children with their toy cars.
All of these yoga systems, yoga organizations, yoga projects, yoga conferences, yoga festivals, yoga federations, yoga platforms, yoga missions and other toys in the hands of spiritual adolescents, are all deeply corrupt, to their very essence.
We must ourselves be corrupt down to our cores, if we can make a game out of spirituality itself.
The relationships of yoga-disciple, disciple-teacher, teacher-studio, disciple-studio and teacher-teacher have been corrupted. These relationships have no purity, no spiritual essence, no love, and thus they are unnecessary.
Unnecessary, no matter how pure and yoga-appropriate the phrases in which we disguise ourselves and by which we deceive others. Unnecessary, no matter how hard we try to silence our conscience and consciousness with phrases from the books of Advaita Vedanta that “all must be as it is,” “all is already perfect,” and, thus, “nothing needs to be changed.”
Yes, all is exactly “as it is” on the outside, but at the same time completely different within us.
In the depths of our souls each of us knows our weaknesses and knows that inside everything is already different. Just that the internal does not match the external and, thus, something needs to be changed. This is the eternal juxtaposition of good and evil inside each of us, choices we make every second. This is the balance and unification of opposites, for each of us the balance is different.
A yoga instructor tells himself and his students:
“This is my mission. I only wish to share and help people.”
And he believes it himself, preferring not to see it any other way. A mission wrapped in a cover of captivating videos, thought-out PR-campaigns, SEO-optimized websites, colorful yoga photo shoots, bestselling texts, flashy announcements that “space is limited,” purchased Facebook likes, and one’s own daily “struggle” to perform a handstand.
That’s a slightly different kind of mission.
It’s convenient to cover up with the mission concept, the spiritual shield of ignorance, so long as you don’t know, despite all your enlightenment, that there is no other mission for every human being other than to move toward oneness.
This mission is within us—and it is the only one. This battle happens on the personal level, within you, within me, within each of us. Only on the individual level.
It is the inner relationship between identity and spirit, which concerns only you—no one else should have any business with it.
Free yourself of the ridiculous idea that you need to do something worthwhile and important in this life, that you need to leave a trace or help as many people as possible. Free yourself of the desire to achieve lofty goals—these are all tricks of the mind.
There is no mission, and there never has been, for anyone and to anyone. It’s merely a spiritually-justified mental trap.
The ego invents a myriad of missions. It’s the new drug for the modern yoga-junkie.
We cannot help anyone in any way as long as we haven’t reached it ourselves. And we cannot teach anyone anything, as long as we haven’t achieved the understanding on our own.
We cannot walk their path for them. Otherwise, it is nothing more than intellectual knowledge passed from one person to another. There is no point in it; in fact, it causes more harm than good.
The way is only inside, and this battle happens only on the personal level.
Spiritual supermarket shelves are full to the brim of intellectual knowledge about yoga and spirituality. In their various packages, we all keep consuming new intellectual product-knowledge—empty, endless knowledge that sucks out our time, strength, hopes, money and energy and only to lead us away from ourselves and our direct connection with our spirit.
Perhaps, for some, it will eventually suck out illusions as well—but not all are so lucky.
Spiritual knowledge cannot be transferred from person to person. It always descends upon us from above, directly into our being.
To listen to it, to hear it and to follow it in every second of our lives—this is our only mission and the only straight and true way for man to reach oneness.
As long as students accept middlemen between themselves and spirituality, as long as teachers rant about their missions, people will keep failing their one mission on Earth. Instead, they will spend years following others, imperfect mortals, who are also losing time stuck in their own illusions.
How long will you go on wasting time and encouraging others to waste it as well? How long will you go on wandering around yoga studios without admitting to yourself that yoga is not a group activity, not a party or group entertainment?
Yoga is an intimate, sacred practice—a quiet and tremulous communication between us and our own spirit that has nothing to do with unknown people sweating around us.
How long will we go on creating and seeking out teachers—finding them, becoming infatuated with them and disappointed in them? How long will we go on choosing them by their mass appeal, appearance, photos, numbers of likes, emoticons, comments, shares and pins on their social media pages?
How long will we go on admiring their “legs behind the head” pose (as though that could ever put anyone’s head back in its proper place)?
How long will we yoga teachers go on killing our soul and each other with competition, throwing each other about with words about our truth? How long will we keep pushing each other away with Bali seminar prices, crushing each other with loads of Instagram handstand photos or all-the-same ridiculous home-made YouTube videos, blinding each other with bright Lululemon leggings, Coolpix effects and Yoga Journal covers?
The choice is ours.
We choose what and whom to follow; how to practice and why; how to teach and for what purpose; what to revere and how to spend your time.
I’m not a teacher. I have no mission, no intent to enlighten. Not anymore.
I have no system, no school, no instructors. All I can do is to show how I practice.
But, even that is no longer necessary, ever since I wrote a book in which anyone who may be curious can find out.
Creators of systems ruin their followers. Followers ruin the creators of the systems they follow. No one does it on purpose. It’s just that no one is aware of it.
The choice is yours—I’ve made mine.
Nina Mel is the author of the books The Book of Asanas: Energy Geometry of the Human Body, The Art of Attention, The Unknown Chakras, and The Lessons of Insider. Nina has a Ph.D. in Psychology. She is an intuitive and a specialist in the creation of Individual Asana Codes—personally-tailored yoga programs which are unique, safe and personalized self-practice experiences for those who believe that the sacred process of yoga practice is a spiritual discipline that cannot be effectively practiced at yoga studios and group classes.
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Asst. Ed: Amy Cushing/Ed: Kate Bartolotta, Bryonie Wise