Today I Start on a Year-Long Journey
The letter each week has, inevitably, a personal element to it. It is by me, not about me—yet it is about me even if I do not intend it to be. Writing like this comes from within and bears an imprint of me. It also bears an imprint of my relationships, because my relationships live in my core—the relationships with Urmila, with my sons, with those I meet and those I relate to in a more distant way, by zoom or by my writing. My relationship with you, my readers is critical to what I write.
While my writing holds these relationships at its heart I want what I say to be relevant to you and your relationships, to your life. To do this I try to move beyond me and write about something of general interest. Maybe this week I do not quite achieve that… we will see.
Today I start a year long yoga training, a year of focus on yoga and what it means to me. That's quite a prospect…
It's a long time since I've spent a year focusing on anything specific—I find it very scary. For much of my life I have been able to focus for short periods—that is intensely focus—then I swerve off onto something else, something new. As a lighting designer I would work on an average of 9 to 10 projects all the time. All day I would shift from one project to another, holding them all in my mind but always thinking of one I was not working on. At times it drove me bonkers.
Only recently have I come to realise that that I have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and always have had it. It explains so much about when I was young as well as when I grew up. An inability to stay focused for any significant period is part of ADD. But what I have also realised is that awareness is a crucial part of moving beyond any condition that is not simply physical. So my awareness has led me to where I am today.
Self-knowledge is the beginning of wisdom. This self-knowledge is not to be gathered from books, but you can find it for yourself through observing your daily relationship with your wife or husband, with your children, with your boss, with the bus conductor. It is through awareness of yourself in your relationship with another that you discover the workings of your own mind, and this understanding of yourself is the beginning of freedom from conditioning.
Enquiry and Discovery
Today I start a year long yoga training, a year of focusing on myself and my practice, a year of enquiry and discovery.
I am also embarking on a process of documenting it without apparently doing so. I am writing this weekly letter to myself and to you. A letter to document how I look at life and how life looks at me. An exploration of the balance point of my life.
I first wanted to undergo a yoga training around 50 years ago—half a lifetime or more! I didn't! Instead I dived into my career in the theatre and eventually became a respected lighting designer. It has been a career I have been intensely proud of, but it still wasn't as a yoga teacher.
My diving into yoga is about diving into myself, my career as a lighting designer was about diving outside of myself. As I struggled to deal with life I sought refuge in what I could achieve in the outside world, in the respect and praise of other people. I hid away from myself.
I didn't hide away all the time, I kept touching back in to what I had always been avoiding, but I never stayed there. Over a decade ago I started writing and I started exploring me—occasionally successfully. It was only when I discovered the ADD that I realised there was far more in there than I had known.
So today I start on this journey, a deep dive into yoga, into myself.
Why is exploring yoga exploring myself?
Yoga is about the core of the self. Once you move beyond the technicalities of the asanas, once you dive below the meaning of the texts, once you leave behind the styles of practice or the extent of your dedication, you are left with what is in your heart and soul.
For me, anyway, I'm not too concerned about doing a great downward dog, or sitting in Padmasana, I'm concerned about my balance. Not my physical balance, that's almost non-existent, I cannot do a simple tree pose without the support of three blocks. It's my spiritual and emotional balance that interests me. Balancing my interior and my exterior, balancing my abilities with my desires, balancing my focus with my distraction.
I will be studying with J Brown, a teacher I have come to admire over the last few years, a teacher in the tradition of Krisnamacharya and Desikachar. He calls his yoga yoga for self-care,
Imagine yoga before it was transformed in its journey to the West. Imagine a personalised, breath-centred practice, passed down from individual teacher to student. Yoga for the well being of the whole person; not only the physical, but also the mental, emotional, and spiritual bodies. Something that would provide a vehicle for slowing down and learning to truly take care of ourselves. Something to ease the pains of life.
That is the yoga that speaks to me. I have been practicing with J for nearly three years now, and can say that it is transforming my life. I am spending more time with myself—more productive time with myself—and am discovering new depths.
At my age—in my seventies—it might seem too late to delve into a deep yoga practice. The body is stiff and fairly fixed in how it moves, gone is the suppleness of youth. All that is true, but my yoga does hold further physical degradation at bay, it keeps me moving and feeling fairly young. But crucially it brings me some balance, some ability to live with myself without the normal guilt and regret of age. It allows me to live and be happy with my life.
So today I start a year long yoga training...