I will miss the last day of The Gathering but I think I have the gist of the direction of things and while I would have liked to be there for the final day, I am also ready to meet up with Kelly and change gears for a few days. The last two days were a bit more focused and clear than the first two days, in my experience. John continued to clarify what he means by "The Art and Culture of Anusara Yoga" and to ground his vision a bit more for all of us.
John has always been interested in asana as an artistic expression and has always talked about living life creatively, artistically and intentionally from the recognition of our Essential Self. (Chit-ananda, right?) As he began to actually call that idea something more concrete like "The Art and Culture of Anusara Yoga" it begged a question of "what exactly does that mean?" Many people seemed worried that there would be some Anusara Yoga Way that they would be expected to conform to and so on.
From what I can tell, his vision is not some clear cut set of "ways" as much as it is a context to hold and to live. The Art and Culture of Ansuara Yoga is not meant to limit or to prescribe as much as it is to invite each one of us into an inquiry and experiment about living our dharma as authentically as possible in the spirit of Divine Creativity. After all, the hub of Ansuara Yoga is a set of Universal Principles that can be expressed in many ways through each of us and our various endeavors. Those various endeavors- from asana to parenting to teaching to reading to painting, to accounting to cooking to gardening to sculpting to hoola hooping and beyond would be considered art in this context, so long as they were reflecting the core values of Anusara Yoga.
I think this idea will require some skill to bring to life in a meaningful way, although we are already living it in many ways, truth be told. To me, I love that we have an expanded view of "allowable yogic expression" as a community. I love that we play the edge. I am into it. I also worry that in the expansion, the validation of the traditional, the validation and recognition of what creates the deepest stability in sadhana will get lost. I do not think this has to happen, and I think its a risk worth taking for the potential freedom playing the edge offers, but I still have a stake in claiming our traditional, sanity-producing, formal practices in a very public way.
Take a very common asana expression as an example--Once we started back bending poses like vasisthasana, trikonasana, virabhdrasana, etc. more often than not, people take that expression as their option. It feels so good to so many people to bend back in everything that they lose their taste for the straight lines of the classic forms. Or, how many people are working on balancing in handstands but not working with timing them? And how many people practice vinyasa but not long holds? And so forth.
In tantra playing the edge was only ever possible in sadhana when the center was strong. And the center is only strong through discipline, dedication, focus, commitment and so forth. (yes, I am old school on this and probably unpopular.) Alchemy, transmutation and transgressive practices stood on the solid foundation of meditation, pratyhara and deep, disciplined discernment. So its a spanda and I may end up being the voice for the center, not the edges. Who knows?
Anyway, all that is a lot to think about.
Yesterday, Vedic scholar, Bill Mahoney came to speak to us about some of the Vedic roots of Shiva-Shakti Tantra and about what he calls The Artful Universe. He wove teachings from Anusara Yoga with verses form the Vedas, the Upanishads and Narada Bhakti Sutras with a masterful understanding of Sanskrit to give us a solid scriptural basis for this evolving vision. It was fantastic. (And for me, whose hackles come up when anything out of any yoga teacher's mouth smacks of fluffy, New Age sentiment, I find this kind of thing very reassuring, grounding and delightful.)
For instance, the Sankrit word rita speaks to this idea that there is an underlying order to the Universe. The word also relates to dharma and is linguistically related to our English word for art. Pull on this thread a while and you get to what he calls rita visva- the Artful Universe and he suggested that the Divine Principle that supports the entire Universe is art. Continue down this line of grammar and linguistics and you get to the word "right" also which takes you to "ritual" which can be understood as "artistic behavior that is performed in order to keep the world Holy." And that was the tip of the iceberg. It got much better from there.
So- there is more that I could say but my plane is going to board soon.
One thing for sure, is that this was one of the best years (in my opinion) in terms how cohesive the community of teachers felt. So many people remarked to me that they felt closer than ever with their colleagues, more unified with one another and more supported than ever in the practice. What a blessing it is to keep this company.
Okay, more soon.