Cosmic clichés - is that all they are?
August 1, 2009 3:07 PM   Subscribe

Every time my (Sikh) yoga teacher talks of enlightenment this and infinite wisdom that and cosmic love the other (ie often), I have to turn a mental blind eye because I don't know what these things are and they kinda defy definition and as such I don't think I ever will know. And part of me feels alienated by this - here is this teacher and this class; the teacher claims to know of these mystical things, and the class (I'm guessing) is divided into (a) those who pretend to also know of these things, and (b) those who know they don't but wish they did. From a distance this seems absurd. Am I missing something, (perhaps something awesome)?
posted by forallmankind to Religion & Philosophy (39 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm not sure if you're missing anything, but this is exactly why I've never tried yoga.
posted by rhizome at 3:10 PM on August 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


I did some yoga and thought all that stuff was annoying. But I liked the stretching and I really enjoyed the trippy dreams I always had during the little naptime at the end. So my advice would be to take that you take and leave the rest. You can just blithely ignore the more spiritual stuff, or cherrypick it for what's meaningful to you, or believe it all wholeheartedly. Any way you look at it, you're gonna get more bendy, and as long as you have the social grace to talk about yoga without deliberately popping or falsely inflating other people's spiritual balloons, I don't see what the harm is.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:17 PM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think that even if you don't understand or care about what he's talking about, it's a reminder to you that the labor of yoga is more than just a physical labor. Especially the longer you do it -- after a while you don't have to concentrate quite as much on your muscles because they know what to do, and you begin to move on to the psychological and spiritual aspect of your yoga. You don't have to understand it in his terms (though I'm sure he'd probably be happy to point you toward a book or two so that it's very clear). But on your own, in time, you will intuit your own answers to the questions you have now. Just take it one class at a time.
posted by hermitosis at 3:20 PM on August 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


Also keep in mind that he's not just a yoga teacher, but a yoga practitioner just like yourself. The things he thinks and says are just his way of expressing where he's at and what he's learned. You can't really expect to understand that, just like as a second-year student I can't expect to fully understand a kung-fu instructor who's been doing forms for decades.
posted by hermitosis at 3:22 PM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


There is a class (c), of course: those who think they also know and aren't just "pretending".

Eastern mysticism is what it is. I actually found this site that goes into an ecumenical direction WRT inner enlightenment. The precepts don't look that involved to me, which is the whole point of this community I surmise.
posted by @troy at 3:38 PM on August 1, 2009


These things can be expected to produce strong emotional responses within a certain subset of the class; if they don't have that effect on you, don't worry about it. Also, just for the hell of it, if you want to make yourself unaccountably popular, burble these same phrases to other members of the class.

If you find yourself thinking that these concepts seem hopelessly abstract... well, again, don't worry about it. Your teacher probably thought the same thing at first... until he one day just accepted that, yes, his teacher probably had a reason for saying that stuff over and over again... and then proceeded to notice that, when it comes to affecting a certain subset of a given class... they work.

> Am I missing something, (perhaps something awesome)?

You might want to start paying attention to how often your (I assume male) instructor talks about "cosmic love" when attractive females are in earshot, compared to how often he does this when only males are in earshot.
posted by darth_tedious at 3:46 PM on August 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


A lot of people believe in things that don't seem to exist. If you don't tend to have such beliefs, well, welcome to the club. If you learn to turn off the rational part of your brain that tries to ascertain the rational truth (or lack thereof) of what he's saying, you'll probably have a better time at yoga.
posted by kathrineg at 3:52 PM on August 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yoga is like the martial arts -- both were developed in context with the religiosity of their day, but both have, if not at their core, a purely physical component. You're perfectly OK to turn a "blind mental eye" to this aspect.

Buddha and Guru Nanak Dev would both agree that you should go to a different class if this one isn't working for you.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:00 PM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Would it make sense if I related that I don't think it's about the understanding, but the path in getting to the point of understanding? As noted above, this is related wisdom from a fellow practitioner, (hopefully) not just a set of regurgitated folk wisdoms.

In my meditation practice I've found that attending formal sittings and retreats helps my practice immensely, if not just because of the leaps in understanding that come from really listening to the leader.

It sounds hokey, but it really is all about the journey and not the destination. I agree that if you're not getting what you'd like out of this class, try another - but be aware that you may find later on that you were looking a bit far ahead of yourself. :)
posted by kcm at 4:09 PM on August 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Something I didn't make entirely clear in my first post: you don't have to share beliefs with the teacher, but understanding why they are thinking how they think at this point in their practice may help your own practice - if not just for the practice in being empathetic.
posted by kcm at 4:16 PM on August 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't know what your teacher is saying exactly, but terms like enlightenment, etc. can be understood in a modern framework as mythic language for relatively prosaic (yet still immensely valuable) experiences accessible through practices like yoga. Assuming your teacher's actually on the right track and not just posturing, you might find this series of podcasts helpful for putting his or her teachings in a modern context.
posted by Coventry at 4:41 PM on August 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you don't understand, then you are missing something. Maybe something awesome, but probably something worth investigating so you can decide if it's awesome or not for you. Yoga is a much bigger thing than just the asanas you are doing in the class. It's so big that, really, you need an overview before delving into whichever areas interest you more. Wikipedia has a pretty good foundational article.

Hermitosis is right, too. If you keep doing this long enough, you'll actually start to understand the psychological and spiritual aspects. It comes after you've done it enough that you don't have to think about the postures themselves.

Given that there is a potential upside, and no real downside, why not ask the instructor for additional information, or read a few of the Wikipedia articles? Your teacher would probably be thrilled that you show a greater interest in something he teaches.
posted by Houstonian at 4:46 PM on August 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


The spiritual certainty and peace with oneself probably has a major effect on your brain and well-being. But I think that the same thing can be achieved with something more fitting with your worldview. So when they speak of infinite wisdom and cosmic love, you may as well think that there is a pudding in the fridge. The pudding is there, not bothered by any outside force, calm, cold. It is certainly there, I love the pudding in the fridge. It just is. It is so sweet. I like it how it just is there... and so on. Aim for the emotion they are trying to achieve, not the facts.
posted by Free word order! at 5:01 PM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


OOOOoooo. How fortunate!

I just listened to TWO podcasts today that speak directly to your question! Fab:))

Listen to this one FIRST

And this one SECOND

Neither one of these interviews deal directly with yoga - but they do speak to your question in ways I'm astounded by.

The first is an interview with Georgia Lambert, an expert on religions and secret mystery schools, eastern religious dogma, etc. Her entire interview will interest you immensely. She explains things easily and won't speak "above your head."

At one point about 2/3 in, she talks about how all religions (processes and traditions for following a path towards enlightenment) are basically the same at heart - if only they knew that! She gives the analogy of all these folks from different traditions being around the base of a mountain. From the bottom, no one can see their neighbor because they are all spread out. But as you climb towards the top, the summit is the same. Everyone gets there. Furthermore, no one path is correct, because there are valid points and techniques to be learned from all the variations (religions or traditions.)

A lot of the interview is contrasting ancient views with modern day interpretations - again - something you will find intellectually accessible.

The second interview is with some guy named Aeolus Kaphus. He wrote some book.

I wasn't expecting much in the beginning, and I am only part ways through - but the guy ROCKS.

If I may extrapolate.... I think your yoga teacher is all, "Only the chosen are enlightened and Blah Blah." AND, "If you have to ask, then you don't know!"

Aelous' view on all this is really great. He kinda pinballs around in the interview between talking about folks into the older religions/traditions vs. people who are all about conspiracy theory (911, Bilderburg, the Zeitgeist movie, etc) and his basic point on alternative consciousness collectively is: Those people usually think they are really COOL because they are into something "SPECIAL" - but actually, that isn't so different or special. In fact, there is always a certain percentage of the population in any given age who are thinking "outside the box." In any given era, sometimes, those are the folks most susceptible to being co-opted.

I think the message so far in his interview is, "With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility."

I also recommend the book by Joseph Chilton Pearce, "Cracking the Cosmic Egg, New Constructs of Mind and Reality"

Joseph Chilton Pearce is about 90 years old and totally wise. He also has a few interviews on the Red Ice Creations website. I must confess, though, that Pearce's interviews were so fraught with ideas and intellectual deduction about how culture, society, and consciousness works... yeah. I had to listen to them 3x's each.

Joseph Chilton Pearce is best known and HIGHLY respected for his work in Child Development. But he took a turn somewhere and started discussing human consciousness, as well. Thank God. He lives in the mountains now in West Virginia. The guy is TOTALLY cool and thinking things through.

----

In short. I love yoga and have had some AMAZING mind/body experiences as a result of my yoga practice. But with all things... if any one person pretends to "know it all".... I suggest you take what is valuable in whatever they offer, and walk away from the rest.

GOOD WORK that you are even questioning what you are being told.
posted by jbenben at 5:02 PM on August 1, 2009 [12 favorites]


For most of my life I thought all that spiritual stuff was silly. But recently I had a meditation experience that has changed my outlook.

There's a lot of specific meditation approaches that people take. I'm quite new, so I'm simply working on silencing the constant stream of mental chatter/inner dialogue in my brain.

Two months ago I completely silenced the chatter for two minutes. Those two minutes rank among the best in my life. Once I halted the stream of thoughts, I was left with a profound sense of peace, calm, and bliss. I felt very connected, not just to other humans but all life.

From what I understand, the goal of many religions and movements is to feel that awesome all the time. And oh man, I can see why.
posted by dualityofmind at 5:05 PM on August 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


You might want to start paying attention to how often your (I assume male) instructor talks about "cosmic love" when attractive females are in earshot, compared to how often he does this when only males are in earshot.

sadly, must I nth what darth_tedious wrote
posted by jbenben at 5:05 PM on August 1, 2009


Find another type of yoga. I was turned off form yoga for years because I couldn't feel one with the earth. Then I tried vinyasa yoga and the instructor wasn't telling me about enlightment, just telling me how to breathe. After a few months of getting used to the physical challenges of it and getting used to breathing correctly I actually felt enlightment on my own. Kind of. Not exact enlightment, but definitely the good mental benefits of yoga without feeling weird about forcing myself to 'look' for them.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 5:11 PM on August 1, 2009


Read "Breath Sweeps Mind". That should help.
posted by Zambrano at 5:17 PM on August 1, 2009


the class... is divided into (a) those who pretend to also know of these things, and (b) those who know they don't but wish they did. Am I missing something, (perhaps something awesome)?

The phenomenon you're describing is very common, and not just in cosmic yoga classes. You've just described pretty much every religion, for example.

(And I'd guess 80:20 on the a:b.)
posted by rokusan at 6:02 PM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Though I'm Indian and a Hindu, the last time I went to yoga class and the (white) yoga teacher started talking about all the cosmic kind of stuff, I just stopped listening to him. It was very annoying and maybe it was meaningful to him, but I just found him absolutely ridiculous.
posted by anniecat at 6:20 PM on August 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Try taking this perspective. All the cosmic love BS is actually genius. If you can accept something as far out as cosmic love in your life you can accept any crazy or ridiculous thing ANYONE says to you. You don't have to believe it, but you can listen to their ideas without rolling your eyes or writing them off instantly. It's conditioning you to stop judging people.

The goal of acceptance and belief in cosmic love isn't to get you to go around telling everyone else how great cosmic love is, which is what the bandwagon hopping frauds do, it's to get you to just let go, much like the physical release involved with yoga.
posted by laptolain at 6:21 PM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I agree with KateHasQuestions - try another type of yoga or a different teacher. The classes I've taken have never made me uncomfortable. Occasionally one teacher talks about chakras, but mostly in the beginning trying to get us to slowly relax each part of our bodies.
posted by radioamy at 6:21 PM on August 1, 2009


I spent a long time trying to become enlightened. I read a lot, tried many techniques, took many drugs. Finally, I got it. I could try and tell you what it is but it's not really tellable. I'll try anyway, but first let me just say that it's not useful. It won't solve any of your problems or even change them substantially. From that perspective, you're not missing anything.

In brief, enlightenment is the intuitive understanding that the logical every day way of looking at the world is just a bunch of conventions and limits what you are able to experience and know. You can easily see this in other people, bound to their cultures, belief systems and histories, but enlightenment is the visceral discovery that you're in the same boat. The filthy eastern ways call this bondage "attachment." All the yogic exercises and meditations are in essence ways to try and let go, but they all ultimately fail in the short run because there's always one part that won't let go. It's the part in which you think you can do anything at all because as long as there's a "you," you haven't let go. Who you are is a collection of attachments.

Even this form of the understanding itself is an attachment as is my wish to tell it to you and the language in which I am forced to try and couch it.

People make a big deal out of enlightenment but it's only a big deal if you don't get it. It's not even a permanent change in the sense that you can lose this understanding and not remember until you find it again, though it does seem to become more present over time.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:22 PM on August 1, 2009 [8 favorites]


forallmankind: Every time my (Sikh) yoga teacher talks of enlightenment this and infinite wisdom that and cosmic love the other (ie often), I have to turn a mental blind eye because I don't know what these things are and they kinda defy definition and as such I don't think I ever will know. And part of me feels alienated by this - here is this teacher and this class; the teacher claims to know of these mystical things, and the class (I'm guessing) is divided into (a) those who pretend to also know of these things, and (b) those who know they don't but wish they did. From a distance this seems absurd. Am I missing something, (perhaps something awesome)?

There might be things that defy definition, but if your yoga teacher is telling you things about them, then there's at least some extent to which they don't defy definition. He's not talking just to hear himself talk, and I suspect that he's not just saying these things to the people who already understand them. He's teaching; as such, he seems to expect that you, yes you, you individually, will get something worthwhile out of what he's saying.

My advice? Listen to what he's saying. If it's all just so many words, and you can't make heads or tails of it, go to him after class and ask him about it. I'm not certain, but I really believe that he won't just smile and tell you that you'll never understand. I have a feeling it's more likely that he'll happily answer your questions and try to help you grasp what he was getting at, even if it's impossible to completely understand.
posted by koeselitz at 6:29 PM on August 1, 2009


Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.
After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.
posted by flabdablet at 6:36 PM on August 1, 2009 [7 favorites]


Can you discuss your doubts with your teacher? He can probably recommend some good reading material or at least give you some hints about his (and your) path to spiritual enlightenment. And...maybe don't phrase it like "are these just cliches lol."

> those who think they also know and aren't just "pretending".

Didn't Steely Dan write a song about this? I'm totally buying the "clueless Westerner" angle.
posted by ostranenie at 6:40 PM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


On preview, koeselitz said it so much better, and without involving Steely Dan even. Go ask teacher.
posted by ostranenie at 6:41 PM on August 1, 2009


Also, I've mentioned here before that I don't believe in Yoga, but I really want to encourage you to try to overcome your sense of alienation and engage with your teacher's lessons, most importantly by discussing them with him and others and by thinking them over yourself. Your post title asks whether Yoga is all just 'cosmic clichés' - but I don't think that's something any of us can tell you. In fact, not even your Yoga teacher can tell you, although talking with him personally might get you closer to knowing yourself. If I may say so, I believe he'd say that that's something you have to determine on your own.

Think about it: what are your options? You can just ignore what he's saying and have a happy little workout every week; that'd save you whatever mental effort actually listening to him or pursuing a line of thought would require. If you do that, what he's saying might be the greatest thing in the world, or it might be bunkum; you'll never know. But if you actually step out there and try to learn about Yoga and what it means, the worst thing that can happen is that you'll know all sorts of interesting things about an incorrect or flawed spiritual path, things which might be of great value in themselves; and maybe, just maybe, you'll discover something beautiful and joyful in Yoga that you never thought you'd find, something that changes your life for the better in some deep and personal way.

Whenever life presents me with people who have a wholly different and strange set of beliefs that make absolutely no sense to me whatsoever, I find it's most rewarding to dive right in and try to grasp what it is they're on about. Strangely enough, this usually results in me adjusting my own perspective; and the more I do that, the more I try to understand the things that other people find most important, the more I'm able to make sense of the world and able to get great benefits out of being around other people.
posted by koeselitz at 6:49 PM on August 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


When I'm in a class with someone who wants to talk about that woo, I just tune it out.
Like I tune out the content and smile politely when people talk about American Idol before yoga class starts.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:36 PM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


(Warning, I am a complete lay person about all this). I nth finding another teacher. Before I found a great instructor, I would mostly just tune out and focus on making sure I was positined correctly. In college I took a class that changed all that. I don't remember what what else she taught academically, but she was everything I was looking for. She taught me to breathe correctly and relax without a bit of "woo". So yeah, I'm sure you can find someone else (unless, of course, you want all that)
posted by lizjohn at 8:14 PM on August 1, 2009


i suggest you read siddartha and stop worrying about it.
posted by klanawa at 8:50 PM on August 1, 2009


(a) those who pretend to also know of these things, and (b) those who know they don't but wish they did. From a distance this seems absurd. Am I missing something, (perhaps something awesome)?

You are missing option (c) People who know of these things. People do find that sense of unity. People do find the 'cosmic love', and it isn't necessarily a religious thing, either. A secular experience of 'cosmic love' is similar to the sense of unity that large groups at rallies or concerts sometimes experience, or the moment at a really good party where everyone is just in that groove together. A sense that everything operates in unison, that we are all part of the whole, for better or worse. You don't need to be seeking Nirvana to appreciate that.

I've experienced that sort of understanding in both religious and secular settings, and I get the impression that by denying option (c), you're going to close out anything else he's teaching you that seems a bit like woo. Even if you don't care about the cosmic love aspects, there's a lot in yoga that's difficult to express in a useful sense without sounding wooish.

You can find another teacher, one without as much of a spiritual sense, but we are a conciousness trapped in a body, and whether that conciousness is a soul or a fleeting collection of memories and emotions is irrelevant. It's still there, and there is much to be gained to tending to it at the same time you tend to the body. Entertain the notion that there is a (c), for just the duration of your lesson, and you may walk away with something great.
posted by Jilder at 9:19 PM on August 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I agree with what ObscureReference said, especially this part:

I could try and tell you what it is but it's not really tellable.

Your yoga teacher is pointing at things that you cannot see, cannot grasp for yourself. For him, yoga might be the path to these things. For you, yoga may be the path to getting limber and healthier. In Zen we call this bompu. Nothing wrong with either of these paths, but he is speaking from a different one.

Personally, I'd have a rough time attending a class (on any subject) where the teacher was a devout Christian who kept expounding on her beliefs, not because I think they're wrong, but because I'm lacking the prima facie beliefs for Christianity to make any sense to me (i.e. God, Jesus). It sounds like you're lacking the basis for believing what your yoga teacher is talking about. If you want to know, I'd ask him. If you don't care, I'd find a secular teacher.

they kinda defy definition and as such I don't think I ever will know.

You definitely won't ever know by hearing someone speak, or reading someone's words. :) See the quote from ObscureReference above.
posted by desjardins at 6:49 AM on August 2, 2009


I'm not sure if you're missing anything, but this is exactly why I've never tried yoga.

True that.

No offense to anybody, but what the teacher is telling you has a purpose. The purpose is to separate the teachers who claim to have this divine/metaphysical/mystical knowledge from those who don't. Chances are, people who are already interested in yoga would flock to those that have that knowledge.

Kinda like "Well I'm not LICENSED...but I do have a third mind's eye".

"SOLD! Who do I make the checks out to?"
posted by hal_c_on at 7:21 AM on August 2, 2009


There is a class (c), of course: those who think they also know and aren't just "pretending".

Exactly. If you don't connect to this sort of talk, feel free to find another yoga teacher, there are more and less spiritual-types of yoga classes. If it helps, you might want to listen to Bill Hicks talk about taking mushrooms where he describes the drugs effect on his brain as suddenly making him feel sort of "one with the universe" and all other people and etc. The only reason I mention this, not to say you should take a lot of mushrooms, but that there are chemical reactions in the brain that can cause these feelings. Since these feelings, and feelings generally, pretty much exist "in the mind" or "in the brain" its possible, the way some people grapple with higher degrees of anxiety or higher amounts of stress, that others may have a surplus of a cosmic love feeling and want to try to share that with other people. The feeling is real, I don't think you can ascertain whether there's any more objective truth to it than that. I sometimes feel that this feeling is sort of what people are feeling that leads them towards religion, the feeling of being looked after or taken care of or loved by the universe in general.

So I'd say that you're not missing something awesome per se -- I think it's always better to learn to adjust to the brain you have rather than wishing you had a different brain -- but that doesn't also mean that other people are faking it, necessarily. You can also do yoga in a lot of ways without being on board for this particular brand of spirituality.
posted by jessamyn at 7:44 AM on August 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I could try and tell you what it is but it's not really tellable. I'll try anyway, but first let me just say that it's not useful. It won't solve any of your problems or even change them substantially. From that perspective, you're not missing anything.

My experience is a little different from Obscure Reference, but I'm in agreement with the above. A lot of the talk about Enlightenment is a seduction, and I'm not talking about the teacher changing subjects according to gender ratio. Most of the discussion implies that it is a peak experience, or an instant transformation. This is Enlightenment as Orgasm. It is not. It is seeing who you are. It answers the question, 'What kind of thing am I?' through experience not argument. That is all. My experience felt like an 'A-ha', the release of tension that arrives when a problem is solved. Thinking of it as some sort of peak experience is completely wrong headed. A 'valley' experience would be a better way to describe it, somewhat banal and underlying every last moment whether noticed or not.

Believe it or not, hard work, expert guidance, and lots of time are completely unnecessary. Don't believe the hype - millions of people have recognized this aspect of their experience. You can do it quick, easy and free. See for yourself. This website promotes the approach of Douglas Harding. There's a store and they'll sell you some books and what-have-you, but the innovative experiments (linked above) are free and that's the whole ball of wax. A hint: be sure to distinguish between looking at your finger and looking at what your finger is pointing to.

If you take a look and see, you'll still have all your insecurities and hangups and flaws. They ain't going anywhere that easy. There's something of a connection to meditation in that if you get curious and keep looking, it can become meditation. But most people find it boring and forget about it completely. On the other hand, you can meditate forever and not get it. Seeing what you are might increase your sense of wonder and make it easier to feel gratitude, especially if you keep at it. But neither meditation, nor Enlightenment will necessarily transform you for the better. Read Zen at War for ample evidence of that.

As in everything else, the particulars of people's experience vary. Perhaps some 'get it' alongside some very powerful kinesthetic hallucinations. Fine, but once you see it, it's always there - always accessible. Consider what someone may have to gain by using vague language that purports to direct you towards experiencing bliss, and then attributes to a few fleeting minutes of sensation, some cosmic significance. Not that all teachers are malicious but they have a vested interest in maintaining their positions. This book comes on a little strong, but it covers the subject nicely.

I'm very suspicious of those who focus on moments of cosmic consciousness (a peak experience) and make spirituality some sort of quest. It's easy to throw nominalizations, e.g. 'wisdom' and 'love', on others' experience. The name giver then helps shape the experience. Stick with the sober minded; three examples thereof: Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Charlotte Joko Beck and Toni Packer.
posted by BigSky at 8:26 AM on August 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have one more thing to add. I saw an amazing TED talk that jived exactly with what I experienced while also taking a more sciencey angle to it. For me it really bridged my spiritual understanding with my scientific background.

Jill Bolte is a brain researcher who had a stroke while completely conscious. She had the good luck (or terrible misfortune) of having that stroke on the part of the left hemisphere responsible for running the brain-chatter. The feelings she describes having as that part of her brain died sound eerily like how gurus have described their enlightenment experiences.

I highly suggest watching it.
posted by dualityofmind at 9:40 AM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


dualityofmind, that is indeed a wonderful talk. Thanks!

Possibly not a generally advisable path to top of mountain, though :-)
posted by flabdablet at 9:18 PM on August 2, 2009


(a little late to this askme party, but...)

The Jill Bolte Taylor talk above is spot on. Done right, the meditative part of yoga will allow you to tell your left brain to STFU for a while. This can be kind of frightening at first but it is an amazing and cathartic thing, and to people with spiritual/"woo" leanings it WILL feel like the Enlightenment that the religious talk about. When you come out of it, there is a sharpness of the senses and a euphoria in the brain that I have not felt from any other experience to quite the same degree.

My advice is to keep an open mind to the mental and physical mechanics of what your teacher is telling you. You don't have to believe in the theological/metaphysical/woo explanations, but it helps to know that the feeling is very real and overpowering in a positive way.

There was a quote from Gravity's Rainbow that has stuck with me for over a decade because of how well it describes the experience:

Only at moments of great serenity is it possible to find the pure, the informationless state of signal zero.

Speaking as a Sikh-turned-atheist, I wouldn't entirely discount the idea that your teacher believes this stuff. From everything I read while researching Sikhism, it became clear to me that Guru Nanak could drop into this state at will. That must have felt awesome.
posted by vanar sena at 12:45 AM on September 7, 2009


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