“All wisdom traditions insist upon a healthy mistrust of other people’s answers—or even the revealed experience of others. Yoga, at its truest, insists upon giving us not answers, but a way to find our own answers.” ~Stephen Cope
I love books of all kinds. I love to read them. I love to be surrounded by them. But scattered among the many beloved books in this world, there are those few that touch me so deeply that they absolutely take my breath away. These are the ones that make my heart sing as I find Truth shown in them in ways that help me more deeply recognize it. These are the ones that ignite my soul as I see myself and my world mirrored back to me in ways that allow me to see more clearly and more deeply.
I found another book of this kind in Stephen Cope’s The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker’s Guide to Extraordinary Living. This is one of those books that makes me come alive inside. I long to rush through it to be able to experience it in its entirety in a moment, and I ache to take it slowly—one chapter at a time—to savor every drop of truth and wisdom there is to be had.
So far, I’m managing to keep myself to the slow chapter-by-chapter method of reading and savoring. I believe that I can make that process even more fruitful for me if I share my reflections on what I am reading over time, and I will giving that a try here. I can’t begin to share every bit of brilliance I am finding in this book unless I were to simply quote the entire text verbatim (which I obviously will not do), but I will share some of the highlights for me that capture my attention enough to be able to reflect on them at some length.
One of the most amazing things I have found in this book so far is the way it is tying together so many parts of my lived experience into one framework that is mirroring back to me myself. How can I not love something that quote the shaman Don Juan alongside Thomas Merton in explaining the wisdom of yoga?
One of the first things he points out int his book is that the roots of yoga came from a group of seekers that had become disillusioned with the traditions of the religion currently dominant in their time and sought to find a way to the true Self through personal experience rather than through the doctrines or dogmas of any given religious tradition. They treated their own bodies and lives as living experiments to discover the truth. Some of these experiments were more successful than others, and over time, a loose tradition that was a combination of shamanistic practices and psychological understandings that had been consistently replicated by many of these seekers became known as yoga.
However, as we look at the foundational discoveries of this group of seekers, we discover that they are the same ideas that appear repeatedly in other systems of human transformation, including Buddhism, mystical strains of Christianity, several famous philosophers, the American Transcendentalists, and even the shamanic ideas of Carlos Castaneda. In their purest forms, all of these in their own way emphasize the value of personal experience of truth and have remarkably similar views about the human condition—what causes suffering and how it can be avoided.
Looking back on my own journey from fundamentalist Christianity (where doctrine and dogma held sway over all other possibilities, even personal experience) through the world of mystical Christianity and into shamanic practices and Buddhist thought before arriving at this place in my life as a yogini, I am elated to find so much of my thinking all coming together into something that now values my personal experience, encourages me to think for myself, and so much more accurately describes my experience of the human condition in a way that brings hope in the here and now and not just in the hereafter.
It brings me great joy to find that I am not walking as alone on this seeking path as it so often seems that I am; there is actually a vast crowd of contemporary and ancient pilgrims who have walked this same path. I am still committed to finding my own answers on this journey, but it is so helpful to find hints of where and how to look for those answers from other experimenters who have come before me.
A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a very fragile place, and it takes a good deal of vulnerability to share this personal journey of transformation so openly. Therefore, I need this to be a safe place for exploration and sharing for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight—or the expression of that experience or insight—are NOT welcome here and will be deleted.