Saturday 9th November Patrizia Gregori held a seminar on Centered Yoga at the Centered Yoga Academy – Dhyana Studio: 20 students took part and at the end there was a discussion on awareness. The meeting offered an opportunity to exchange opinions both with students of our school and with non students, who came to us interested by the subject of our meeting. There was a buffet offered to everyone at the end.
This was the first of a series of meetings planned for this year at the Centered Yoga Academy – Dhyana Studio. The next meeting is planned for the middle of December and the debate will be about the subject of freedom.
As a teacher I often wondered about the problem of awareness within teaching and within the different types of yoga and, talking about it with my students and with other teachers I have realized that the Centered Yoga method focuses on awareness. This has lead to the idea of dedicating an entire day to this subject.
I opened the debate with a question: What’s awareness? We generally mean awareness in the sense of conscience. In theory as everyone has conscience how can we explain unawareness in terms of conscience? Should we imagine there are people without conscience even within the yoga world? I thought it necessary to distinguish between when someone knows something and the way one gets to know about that thing and look for a key in there.
Dona Holleman’s Centered Yoga takes inspiration from Krishnamurti and has at the forefront of its main principles a meditative mind. What does this mean? A meditative mind is an aware mind, which acknowledges and embraces, a mind “ free from the renowned” just to quote a famous book by Krishnamurti. And the renowned is what’s normally called the ego, what people know about themselves and of the world around them. Living basing life on what’s known is the same as not really looking at reality but interpreting it through what is already known. For Patanjali avidia is the biggest hurdle. Therefore we can identify the ‘renowned’ as an influencing factor.
I asked myself what awareness means, I looked for an adequate image to express the state of mind I would be in after hearing the word. Somehow I imagined a gorge, falling into a gorge. Immediately and easily I connected the link I made to the little awareness, that is the widespread unawareness of the world nowadays (or rather the western world). The solid values of the crumble to give way to ever more superficial and faint relationships. Embracing and choosing awareness means getting rid of influences, every selfish influence which ties us to our neighbours. This free fall from space left me speechless: there must be some support, a positive thought that helps me on the way! Actually there is, at least in my past, my powerful ally has always been my body.
Our body brings us back to the natural dimension of existence. Whilst our mind thinks our experiences over and over again, and therefore is anchored to our past, our body is capable of bringing us back constantly to the present, exactly as it happens with animals. As Dona Holleman has repeatedly highlighted, animals have taught her a lot as far as perfecting her yoga method is concerned because, not having the possibility to speak they express themselves through their body language.
Your body awareness equals natural laws awareness. We can say we’re fully immersed in our awareness because there is a greater intelligence than our brains’. As Osho says “nature knows she is more intelligent than you because all the main bodily functions have not been put into your own hands but have been transferred to her”. Also Mabel Todd has an opinion on the matter in his book “The Thinking Body”, in which he refers to William James’ studies on human energy reserves, according to which just 15% of the total energy is at our disposal for aware proposes; 85% of it is used in vegetative functions.
We’re immersed in awareness because we’re part of nature which means that awareness equates to being in a relationship with everything. Therefore it’s in within a relationship that we can express awareness, in a relationship with the world, with people, with nature. This very relationship is awareness. Minds tend to separate and distinguish: bodies reunite. The relationship is union, pure consciousness, pure awareness.
Paolo mentioned that in order to widen our awareness we need to let go of something, our ego has to go: the smaller it gets the bigger our awareness becomes. For me practicing yoga has meant letting go of a series of tensions in my body and in turn this has allowed me to face very difficult situations in my life without my body reacting directly (as usual) to emotional impulses. It’s like living on various levels: your body and your spirit on one level, your mind on another whilst your emotions are on yet on another one.
Putting some distance between yourself and the strictly individual aspects of your life gives you a feeling of completeness and power, of being able to interact with the world on different levels. Being multidimensional is a human trait and much effort is made to flatten that individual dimension which we call ego. So our ego is not a “thing” whilst awareness is something else! Our ego doesn’t have a true identity and if we decide to give it one, for example thinking that we must diminish our ego or destroy it completely, it becomes stronger, more focused. I believe it’s more appropriate to envisage the movement of awareness like a light that shines on a smaller or bigger part of our conscience on the world of the various relationships that we are.
Luana’s question: So can we say that the smaller our ego becomes the more we are aware?
We can certainly say so, but we cannot consider ego and awareness as two separate objects. One is within the other, and therefore if our renowned (ego) diminishes our awareness increases. Our awareness is therefore a way to enter fully the dimension of conscience. As Don Juan a Castaneda says, the only difference between them is that whilst he’s aware of being a magician, Castaneda is not (Castaneda text). Various teachings suggest “the reduction” of our ego, and in this sense we can interpret the words of John of the Cross (theologian and poet). His doctrine wants man going through the three stages – cathartic, insightful and uniting) to rid progressively from any attachment and any possession in order to be pure and free, beautifully expressed in his famous poem “dark night”
Public question: What does ‘bliss in Yoga’ mean for you?
I’m going to answer with sutra II.47 from Patanjali yoga sutra: «Grace, beauty, strength and stability adorn our body through yoga practice».
Awareness is a path that leads me to spiritual growth, internal research, acceptance of my limits and weaknesses. These should not be removed, cancelled or ignored, because they are present in our being, they are part of us, the ones can’t exist without the others.
Our being includes positive and negative sides (no one is perfect)this way we have internal peace, harmony and our being is centered, we gain energetic balance: the same balance that yoga and eastern disciplines teach us. All of this is not easy, in fact it’s very difficult, it’s like a jump in the pitch black or in a gorge, like Paolo said. We sometimes chose “Not To Act ” because it’s often easier, instead of pulling our socks up and ACT. But then something happens and we understand that the frame of mind we’re in needs to be changed: we’re understanding, which is the first step of awareness. We are now ready to take that jump that was so scary before, we’re much braver, we understand we need to move.
Understanding the movement makes us aware of the importance of action and invites us to live the present, the here and now, to appreciate all the things around us and above all to appreciate our qualities/skills.
Reaching this objective shouldn’t be solely the main objective of our life but it means achieving a goal where the primary importance is to walk along a path full of difficulties but experiencing also great satisfaction.
The most important point is not to be static. And here comes another miracle, as soon as we are aware of our being “we are” we immediately find that “we can”.
And this is exactly what Dona means when she speaks about “spontaneity”: If we rid ourselves of all influences, if “we let be” whatever has to happen to us occurs immediately and naturally, it’s not a skill we can acquire and therefore there’s no need for time, no need for external meditation. It doesn’t even mean to do the right thing, it’s just a question of “not doing “ the wrong thing.
And this brings us back to the vital principle of Centered Yoga: the meditative mind is a quiet mind which learns to listen and together with “not doing ” it leads to the integration of mind-body which is Yoga’s final goal.
The meditative mind in Dona’s method, is at the base of Yoga practice, it’s the beginning and the end and the foundation on which all other principles rest. Amongst Dona’s merits (and the Centered Yoga’s) there’s certainly the ability of having connected, with one big line, some concepts which had so far been examined separately (body language, alignment, breathing, rooting) and intent (seeing and foreseeing). She has also found an effective synthesis which everyone of us can refer back to in our own yoga practice and life experience.