I have recently returned to NYC after a week-long trip to the North County area of San Diego, California. The main reason Dana and I went was to study/practice with Tim Miller of the Ashtanga Yoga Center in Carlsbad. Tim is the first American certified by Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois to teach Ashtanga Yoga and began studying with him in 1978. Guruji (Jois) teaches according to the methods taught to him by the legendary Sri Tirumali Krishnamacharya. Ashtanga Yoga is an ancient system of Yoga that was taught by Vamana Rishi in the Yoga Korunta. This text was imparted to Sri T. Krishnamacharya in the early 1900's by his Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari, and was later passed down to Pattabhi Jois during the duration of his studies with Krishnamacharya, beginning in 1927 - courtesy of the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute. Guruji also calls Ashtanga yoga Patanjali Yoga because the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are the spiritual and philosophical foundation of Ashtanga Yoga.
Tim is a sweet, funny, humble and supremely generous and gracious teacher and his studio has a light-hearted and yet profoundly dedicated vibe to it. A very different energy than that of NYC yoga studios in general. Almost the polar opposite – very nurturing and light (sweet? playful? feminine?) as opposed to the frenetic and dense (driven? competitive? masculine?) energy of NYC. It was a magical vacation and I have a very special place in my heart for Tim and the Encinitas/Carlsbad area. The surfing, the fish tacos, the yoga, the California beach-town vibe, etc. Not only is this area the birthplace of Ashtanga Yoga in the U.S. - I should also mention that there is a long spiritual tradition in that area, specifically that of the Self-Realization Fellowship founded in Encinitas in 1937 by Paramahansa Yogananda. It is at the Hermitage where he wrote the spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, one of my transformative influences. Because of this trip and the experiences, I feel as though I’ve had a breakthrough of sorts. I had been feeling rather stuck for a very long time prior to this vacation and I feel that I’ve finally taken another important step in my own progress along the path (I wrote about feeling stuck in a previous posting). I don’t know if was Tim, surfing, the big fight I had with Dana, walking in the footsteps of Paramahansa Yogananda or what - but I felt a lot lighter coming back into NYC and I’ve been able to hold (somewhat) that feeling since. I spoke to a friend about this feeling and I think it’s about recognizing the fact that no matter what transpires, that we always have possibilities in our lives. I forget who, but I remember a great teacher speaking of the fact that because we’re alive, that anything is possible. I couldn’t see a life for myself in any place other than New York prior to the trip, and now I see that there are other places that would (could) sustain me. Not that I’m through with New York by any stretch, but it’s nice (crucial?) to have another possible home - even the fantasy of it. It’s the associated feelings of expansiveness that I’m trying (with great difficulty) to describe. It’s as if due to this trip, that I’ve expanded the boundaries of my perceptions in inumerable ways – ways that I hadn’t anticipated. Travel (experience) really is the greatest teacher one can have. The famous cook book author Anne Willan taught me that - but that's another story...
Sri Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Ammachi) was just here in NYC for her Summer 2007 tour. I again tried to receive her darshan only to fail due to my own impatience (cynical ego?) and scheduling conflicts. You really need to set aside an entire day (or night) to see her. You can get a token for the darshan line and then time/estimate how long it takes for a few of the letters of the alphabet (represented on the tokens) to cycle – each alphanumeric combination representing a large group of people waiting to receive her darshan. You can then leave and then go back to the center at the appropriate ETH (estimated time of hug). I tried this methodology, but came back too late and missed my opportunity. This is my second attempt. The first time on her previous tour, I went at night and was looking at a very, very long wait – into the early morning hours at the very least. When you’re looking an early start and a long one at work the next day, it becomes an issue of resolve and dedication. I bailed that time too. A dear, sweet friend was able to go and I’m happy to say was successful in her quest. She attributed my advice and tips to her successful experience, but we both know that there was another guide at work. She related to Dana and I a story that sent shivers down my spine – that a complete stranger commented on her tatoos (symbols for enlightenment) and said that she “needed to do more work on that”. Prior to this point my friend was on the fence about going to see Ammachi – knowing very well the possibilities of a formidable undertaking. Upon hearing the admonishment of this complete stranger, she made a bee-line to the Manhattan Center and in under an hour was able to embrace the living saint who has embraced somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 million people (talk about LinkedIn!). According to my friend this was no ordinary embrace and her story (and glowing aura) was testament to the blessing she received by the divine mother. It was an amazing recounting and one that filled me with joy not only for her, but also that I had a small part in such a profound experience. There are no coincidences. Thank you Blessed Mother and all my teachers, pranams at your lotus feet.