Monday, September 8, 2014
Spiritual Calisthenics, part I: only God is the teacher
This disease of exercises has infected modern yoga so thoroughly that the entire practice seems, at times, to be predicated on a kind of spiritual boot camp, in which arduous physical effort and workout becomes the aim of the practice. It becomes, subtly and without fanfare, a form of body worship, investing great effort in "feeling good" physically. Time and time again, when I attend yoga classes or listen to those who do, I hear them talk about how great they feel after doing yoga.
It rarely dawns on folk that inner work isn't there to make one feel great; and in fact even outer work shouldn't be performed because it makes one feel good. Work is performed out of duty and obligation, out of obedience to a higher principle. Here's the issue: if work of any kind, inner or outer, made one feel bad, it would still be one's obligation to perform that work.
Christ's work was to die on the cross; and He did not shrink from it. Yet all of the work we do today seems to be aimed at feeling good, as though that were the only intention God could have for us; and the question of what feeling bad, of inner and outer suffering is for, falls entirely by the wayside.
Exercises cannot bring us to God. Opening one's heart to spiritual practice is not achieved through workouts, inner or outer; and yet this delusion infects everyone in esoteric practice, including yoga. Gurdjieff, we note, "sterilized" yoga and removed much of the language in order to objectivize it. Yet even he offered exercises.
Belief in exercise takes us away from belief in God. It becomes a talismanic activity, leading us into belief in the exercise, not understanding. The fact that one should engage in exercises sparingly, cautiously, and only in order to gain a specific understanding, after which the exercise ought to be given up entirely, has been forgotten, because the people who teach exercises these days are, in large part, not real teachers.
Only God is the teacher.
I feel quite confident that Meister Eckhart would entirely agree with me when I say that if a human being were to abandon all exercises, but instead devoted all of himself unreservedly to God, God would rush into him at once without hesitation, and fill him at once with everything that God is. No exercises would be necessary. All of the exercises come from my own will, you see; and I say this speaking from my own experience. The critical point in inner work is to see my own nothingness; and there are no exercises for that. My exercise regimen stems entirely from my own will. In other words, it emerges as a sales agent from that very part of me which cannot do anything at all; and that is my own will and my own willfulness.