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Grounded in Change

June 6, 2009 by claire
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Five Days of Yoga

Five Days of Yoga

“So it’s still the Teachings but now to me it has, I don’t know, a radiance – something that penetrates at another level.” Carol Collier, Silver Frith, and Patricia Hurdle reflect together with Gef Tremblay on what they gained from their recent experience of the 5 day Advanced Retreat Intensive, and explore the question: What makes the Teachings timeless?

Gef:  So the three of you just finished the 5 day Advanced Retreat Intensive. The advanced retreats seem to be unknown for a lot of people – how would you describe, in your own words, how these 5 days have been for you as far as teachings and learnings?

Silver: I was wanting to go deep and I did, and it was intense.  It built, the intensity built. I loved it. I loved the pacing and the way the days were structured. The amount of time that there was to do the practices – they would be presented and then we were given lots of time to actually work with them – I was hoping for that. And it seemed like that that’s what advanced meant. It wasn’t so much an introduction to the Teachings as an encouragement and support to do your own work.

Carol: I think one of the really big differences between this and, say, a regular 5 or 10 day retreat, is that in those you have people who have never been here before so a good part of the teaching is in teaching the Teaching. Whereas in the advanced, everybody has done at least a certain amount so everybody is aware of the Teachings. So you don’t have to have all the explanation and people’s experiences flow much more deeply, because they have already been doing these things. It’s like a language that everybody understands.

The first time I came, and people were talking in terms of the Divine and the inner Light and a lot of the terminology that just becomes second nature once you’ve been here, I was skeptical. But when you’re in with 3 people who have all done it, it’s just smooth and flowing because you all understand each other and I think that’s a big difference.

I also did the 5 day Advanced Intensive last year, and I still got just as much out of it this time.  You can do this over and over again and you are just taking off another layer of the onion, getting more, going deeper and deeper.

PatriciaPatricia: I’ve been coming here since 1996 – I’ve done the Yoga Development Course and taken the Teacher Training almost every year, but the last 2 years I’ve been having some personal challenges and haven’t been able to come. I was also teaching in Victoria until last summer, and then for health reasons, I decided not  to teach. Although we still have a small Centre, I was really feeling the need to come back and refresh and renew. I am going to do the Teacher Training again in August, but what I felt I needed right now was more a personal retreat. The timing was right, and I was curious because this is a fairly new course, and I’ve done a lot of the others. So I chose this one and it has been very revealing, and I can see how the Teachings have been really polished here and made new in a way. It has awakened a new creativity in me and I want to go back and teach.

I was re-reading my diary from last year, and in the first part I was teaching a Kundalini class once a week, and I could see how my reflections and the teaching were all part of my practice. The teaching and the practice are really one. And I could see how important it was for me to be teaching, because it gave me that discipline, and a daily practice, because I would work with what I was going to teach the following week and then I would reflect on what I taught, and what people’s responses were and what my responses were. It was almost like a structure or a thread that lead me right to the summer and then all of a sudden I wasn’t teaching, so my practice changed and was looser.

So I’ve come back feeling inspired, after this course, with new ideas. Every time we did something, I’d think, “Oh that would be a good thing to do. Or we could do this in the Centre, in our own reflection.”  So a lot of ideas came as I got excited about the process as well as my own process, what I am going through and how the Teachings just sort of totally get me there.

I am always amazed at how the Teachings… they are just so… I read other books, and I listen to other people’s practice from different lineages, but I always come back. It’s all here. They’re amazing.  They’re brilliant, that’s the word. Brilliant in the sense of the intelligence and brilliant in terms of the inspiration that comes from there.

Gef:  We’re in the office where we work on Timeless Books, and we often reflect – timeless, Her timeless teachings… and that is something that you mentioned – that you can come back here and redo the courses, and they are still useful. There are not so many schools of yoga where you can come back and do the same course and get as much every time. I’m wondering if you can explain a bit in your own words how you have understood that timelessness of the Teachings in this course or any other courses you have taken.

CarolCarol: Well, I think of something that Deborah said on Sunday night on the beach, about the Life Strategies group.  She said every strategy came from inside the person. I did the Life Seals a number of years ago, and then I did it again last year, and it was much the same teaching but it was totally different. Because the Teachings are teaching us to draw on our inner resources, and we’re always changing. We’re always in a different place. Our current problems, the situations we are dealing with are different so it is going to be a renewal. The Teachings are a method, more than a system of truths, and in using that you are drawing from inside yourself. Every person’s experience is different and if it’s something like Life Strategies, then every person’s strategy, as Deborah said, is coming from that person at that time.

I think that is a large part of the timelessness of the Teachings: they are not timeless in the sense that they don’t change. They do change. But they are methods that are adapted, each person fits them to him or herself, at the time of taking the course. That’s how I see it. So you never get bored with it.

Last year I remember we did the Divine Light Invocation all day and I said, “What? The Divine Light Invocation all day?” And I had experiences with the Divine Light Invocation that I had never had before. Physical experiences, putting Light inside certain parts of my body for example. It was astounding. So it is possible and I’m sure it is even possible to spend a week on the Divine Light Invocation. I haven’t tried it.

Silver: I have never been given the assignment to do the Divine Light Invocation for an entire day – that would be a lengthy one – but I have been blessed sometimes with the briefness of the practice. It can be very brief, maybe chanting for 5 or 10 minutes, and so much can come out of that. You don’t have to stand on your head for 10 hours or do pranayama for 5 days. It’s very brief and it’s like a trust that that intuitive part of ourselves, that whole place inside us, can come forth, it can flow forth easily.

For me there is such trust in the Teachings, and it’s also been an awakening of trust in myself. So that’s one thing that has really, really impressed me, struck me, and moved me this time, that somehow there is a trust in the wholeness of each of us. And the practices are there so that that can come forward. It’s beautiful.

Gef: That’s part of the ‘Namaste’ – it teaches that the Light is in everybody, and we can shine forth.

Silver: …and that’s in all the traditions. It’s there, but somehow for me there is something about these teachings, I think I would agree. They’re brilliant – there’s a brilliance or purity.

Patricia: It seems like there are layers and layers, so in the Teachings, there is that purity and it’s important. I’ve seen people wanting to add harmony to Mantra because they are bored. But I feel like you have to stay with it as it is. And then it goes deeper.  And it opens up, like there is a whole other realm to a simple Om.

But I can see, not having been here for a year and a half, that the teachers have done a lot of work in terms of the Teachings. I’ll use that metaphor again of the diamond – it has been polished. Different facets have been brought out, and that’s what makes it so exciting. I really feel the care and the love of the Teachings is deeper. So it’s still the Teachings but now to me it has, I don’t know, a radiance – something that penetrates at another level. Maybe that is the warmth and the brightness of them from the care and the teachers’ own experience of them coming forth.

I used to come back from Ottawa every year and I’d see the Ashram flourishing. The Youth Program was just beginning when I came in ’96, it had just started. And then you know, I’d come 5 years later and I’d say ‘Wow – that’s flourishing.’ But this time it’s more than that – it’s still flourishing, but there’s this other level. And it is more of an invisible level that I feel. It’s hard to explain, but I could feel it throughout the 5 days.

I think it’s the inspiration that I’m picking up as well. Yesterday I took four women on a tour who were starting a Kootenay Co-op around fibres, and they said they are trying to build harmony in the co-op. They said they could feel harmony here when they walked in. But then they just stopped at the bridge and they said, “Oh, it’s more than harmony.” They said, “Oh, there’s  inspiration.” They had only been here 20 minutes and they were picking it up.

Gef: Something I’ve always been pretty amazed by is that every time I come back to the Ashram, everybody is changed, even the Swamis. They are different in their practice, different in their reflection. And I say, ‘oh, everybody is evolving.’ And I think that is a major part of the Ashram – everybody keeps on evolving – everyone is here for that. There is a true feeling of change everytime that I come back.

SilverSilver: This really struck me too. I mean I have only been coming here for a year and a half, three times. But I’ve noticed that, and I love it – It’s so inspiring and supportive. Maybe that’s what the timelessness is, because everything changes always. It’s like riding that wave of change.

Carol: So it’s almost a different meaning or connotation of timeless. Because usually when you think of timeless truths, you think of truths that don’t change, but the way you are describing it, the timelessness is something that is evolving, but that something is always there at the core or at the heart of it.

Patricia: Well the Teachings are actually, there is a constancy in the Teachings. It is like this pillar almost.

Silver: But their foundation is change.

Patricia: Yeah, yeah!

Gef:  So to close the interview, if there was one thing, one teaching or one learning that emerged during these 5 days, what would it be?

Patricia: What is coming to mind for me is making my practice alive, keeping it alive. It’s pretty simple. It can be 5 minutes. But it needs to be alive, not mechanical. Not, ‘Oh, I’d better do that.’ No. It’s to find the same… what I am feeling now, here. That same aliveness, and shimmering radiance – to find that in my own practice.

Carol: I think I would agree with that. It’s not how many minutes or hours I meditate or chant. I just picked up a book in the bookstore called, “Let Everything Be Your Teacher.” And this is the lesson that I’m trying to learn in the Karma Yoga. Working in the garden is a practice, and therefore the things that I do way back in Sudbury can also be a practice. That is much harder than going and meditating and feeling like ‘I’ve done my practice today.’ The day has to become a practice and that is very difficult. So I am coming back in January for the YDC to get more practice.

Silver: For me, it’s to live that trust. The awareness of that, the importance of that has been awakened in me over these 5 days. And so, to trust myself, the Teachings, and to trust that wholeness that’s in everyone. I have always tried to do that since I discovered yoga. For a long time, but there is a new depth, a new awareness to that for me.

***

Related Links

To watch Swami Radha’s talk on the Divine Light Invocation Click here
To view courses and retreats offered at Yasodhara Ashram Click here
To read “Polishing the Diamond and the Ascent Transition” Click here


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