2018 has been and gone(!) On a global scale, so much transformation was packed into a mere 12 months. We Humans seem to be on the brink of either a major awakening, or perhaps, annihilation... Global warming, the threat of nuclear war, the extinction of privacy. On one side of the globe we attempt to inflate a dysfunctional patriarchy to bursting point. Closer to home, we embrace the potential of a matriarch to restore balance.
And while all this goes on, we must somehow navigate our individual journeys within the confines of present life circumstance.
For me personally, 2018 was a very full year (hence the internet silence over the past 6 months or so). Raising my two young boys took precedence. But while I kept focus on the near-field, I also aimed to align with the wide-angle view by continuing my personal journey of awakening. Some of the highlights below.
After a great deal of reflection, I made a decision at the beginning of 2018 to stop 'flying the flag' for Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. Initially this was because my personal practice had evolved away from this traditional form, so I no longer felt I could be an authentic flag-bearer.
Then I became aware of the accusations of physical and sexual abuse related to Ashtanga's founder, Pattabhi Jois (pictured below), which surfaced on the back of the #MeToo movement.
Reading the statements and viewing the evidence, I developed a sense of dis-illusionment towards the tradition. By this, I mean that any illusions I had been harbouring about what the Pattabhi Jois tradition is or isn't, seemed to fall away. The Ashtanga practice is still dear to me on some level, and I have a great deal of respect for many of the senior teachers and practitioners who remain devoted to the practice. But personally, I no longer feel a sense of allegiance to the tradition.
This is a very complex topic and it is not my intention to explore it in depth in this post. However, I do wish to acknowledge the women, including Karen Rain who courageously stood up against institution and tradition, and made their voices heard - as well as those who have supported an open dialogue, despite any potential 'conflict of interest' due to their investment in the tradition.
Drawing back from yoga teaching in 2018 allowed me the space to deepen my study of biodynamic craniosacral therapy. In many ways I consider this to be an evolution of yoga teaching for me.
The View of cranio is very much aligned with my personal experience both practicing and teaching yoga-asana. Particularly in terms of the 'biodynamics' of healing, subtle anatomy and 'relational fields'. Principles that I believe, though highly relevant, are not very well understood in the yoga world in general, where the focus remains very much identified with the physical body.
It's also interesting to note that cranio seems very well aligned with the Taoist practices I have been studying over the past few years, including qigong. It is always encouraging to stumble upon a framework that both accommodates and advances one's present understanding.
As my allegiance to the Ashtanga tradition was fading, my connection to another was ripening. 2018 marked five years of close study with my main Dharma teacher, Lama Mark Webber. This includes a total of about twelve months in retreat / receiving direct teachings.
In March 2018 this culminated in me taking the vows of a 'Ngakpa Yogi' - a committed practitioner of Vajrayana / tantric Buddism. The vows are unlike those of a Monk. There is little explicit restriction on outward behaviour, one can be non-celibate, a family man, a businessman, and still hold these vows. They are essentially a commitment to do one's best to continue resting one's heart in 'Bodhicitta' - the aspiration, conduct and realisation of the mind of enlightenment.
My connection to this tradition led me in August to travel on a five week pilgrimage to China / Tibet with Lama Mark, Ontul Rinpoche, Ratna Rinpoche and an international group of Dharma students (see photos above and below).
Although steeped in joy, the trip was challenging on many levels: physically, because of the high altitude; emotionally, because of the grief that is still palpable as a result of the Chinese occupation; culturally, because the essence of Buddhism is often expressed in Tibet through elaborate ritual and language unfamiliar to me; and spiritually, because, while I could sense the experience was having a profound effect on me, it seemed to be operating at a far deeper level than I could clearly discern at the time.
Returning from Tibet, life seemed to get very busy in a worldly sense, but at the same time, it somehow seems simpler. The conceptual distinction I had previously held between 'worldly life' and 'spiritual practice' seems to have slipped away some. Perhaps this is the fruit of working with a lineage anchored in non-dual wisdom.
Upon my return to NZ, I also became aware of an unexpected parallel. While in Tibet, my self image was naturally aligned to the Tibetan cause. But in New Zealand, being of European descent, my heritage is naturally aligned to the other side of historical injustice. This has, on one level, given me a much deeper appreciation of the struggle of New Zealand Maori. On another, it has revealed to me that, in spite of any superficial identification with the stories of this current life, we are all perhaps an unfathomable mix of oppressor and oppressed; of victim and perpetrator; of sinner and saint.
We Humans are complex beings. Many, many waves of influence wash through us in every moment, altering our perception of the world around us, and conditioning our response to life circumstances. But underneath all this, and unstained by it, I have no doubt that we all have the potential to manifest boundless wisdom and selfless compassion.
Now more than ever, it seems the future of Humanity is in the hands of the collective and our ability to work together - to make choices that serve the Whole rather than continuing to satiate our personal desires. It is my sincere hope for 2019 that more and more people orient their lives so they may seek out, develop, and express this deepest Human potential, drawing from whichever teachings and traditions they resonate most clearly with.