You’ve described yoga as a means for unveiling everyday miracles. How does this play out?
Our minds jump all over the place, into the past and the future, and we lose the ability to see what is right in front of us, only reaching a certain level of depth because our attention won’t settle on one thing. Krishnamurti says the first time a child sees a tree might also be the last time he ever experiences it fully. We live in a world of mental symbols, of memories, and of expectations—the brain is always strategizing to help us get what we want instead of recognizing what we have.
The yoga scriptures warn us about the stories we tell ourselves to conveniently construct our own universe. The problem with this is that our brains are limited but the universe is not. To learn, feel, see, touch, and hear things with our senses, without going into story, is where the universe begins to unveil the miraculous of what’s unfolding presently and the miraculous of what can be.
Your relationship with yoga began 1980—what do you think of its evolution and current mainstream standing?
Yoga is a tool and any tool can be used for anything. Overall, it’s wonderful that the movement is strong and large but I hope that it won’t just stay at the superficial level of being a fad, or as another way to show off in public. It’s great that more people are willing to try yoga because of its popularity, but we have to be careful whenever people who are not experts get treated as such. A lot of people get popular too fast, before cultivating a real practice, which results in the general public getting a very stereotypical idea of what yoga is. The real practitioners come through eventually though, and I hope that yoga, like everything else, gets utilized more as a tool that can really provide amazing relief from the suffering that we endure as human beings. I hope that it continues to evolve and becomes utilized across the board, in schools, and in politics, so that people can be more level headed and make good decisions. I really want the people who find yoga to benefit from it and not just turn it into self-promotion of sorts.
You once said, "the best time to break habits is when a crisis arises." Why is that?
When there is a crisis things are unsettled which is an opportunity to see something about ourselves that we aren’t necessarily going to face when things are going well. To break a habit means parting with something that you hold on to as a piece of your identity. That’s critically difficult and yet it’s the very reason why pain and suffering can act as fulcrums that pull us out of the quicksand of our preexisting patterns.
But at the same time, significant changes are always taking place and every moment is a crisis in a sense since we’re moving into the unknown which is almost always unsettling. In some sense, we might be defeating the purpose to be saying you need a crisis to change when in fact all you need is the unfolding present moment.