Embodyoga®—Overcoming “Otherness”

In our modern “Western” culture, perhaps more so than in any other culture in history, we’re taught to see and relate to surfaces.  Even when we dissect or disassemble things, we find within them more surfaces.  Atom, nucleus, electron, quark…on and on through layers of surfaces.  Underlying qualities and interconnections evade us, retreating from the spade as we dig deeper and deeper into the soil of matter.

We can cut through the trunk of a tree, observe the rings and grain, name the tangible processes through which it derives nourishment from earth and sky, but what does this tree know?  How does it feel?  What is its inner, subjective, experience of the world, and how does it relate to and communicate with the forest?  We learn from a young age that these questions are inherently silly, childish.  We learn to dismiss an investigation into the mind of a tree or the subjective experience of a forest as unscientific and unreal.  And yet when we create a world in which only humans’ subjective experience is real, we become dead to the complex, living web of intelligence that surrounds and infuses our ecosystems, our bodies, and our minds. The illusion of aloneness is at best painful, and at worst the driving force behind Earth’s next mass extinction.

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Layers of Self

In order to fully understand ourselves, we need an understanding of the layers that comprise our existence. And true understanding comes not from theorizing or thinking, but from direct experiential inquiry.  Without this kind of inquiry we can have some ideas about who we are, but they will be based on flimsy assumptions and mental models, rather than a solid and tested foundation. Many have trod this path before us, and we can use their gleanings and discoveries as a basis, or even a kind of map to guide our own exploration, as long as we don’t confuse the map with the terrain and lose ourselves in the abstract. The Upanishads offer such a map, and the Taittiriya in particular paints a fascinating picture of the layers of self.

The Taiitiriya Upanishad describes the layers of our being as sheaths, each successive sheath contained within the others. It speaks of life as the inner being or soul of matter, mind as the soul of life, and wisdom (or gnosis) as the soul of mind. And the Upanishad also describes the most fundamental layer of manifestation, the soul of wisdom and therefor the soul of mind, life, and matter as well, as Ananda: bliss, comfort, delight.

So as we seek to understand ourselves, we can inquire into the nature and qualities of these layers, seeking direct, experiential understanding. The Upanishad gives us a clue in its articulation of the sheaths, and then we need to track down the prize through a deep, persistent inquiry. We can stand back from our habitual self-identification with mind, and stare into the frantic pulsing mental web, watching its workings and limitations, noting how it takes in sensory information, filters it through a sieve of past experience and rigid models, and feeds it to our faculty of discernment, which sorts and dissects and deduces. The mind is an incredible tool, allowing us to make sense of our environment, plan for the future, build beautiful and terrible devices for engaging with and controlling the world around us.  But remains only a tool, a faculty, a limiting power of division that be its very nature removes us from our environment and places us outside of it, alone encased within our skin. If we take the mind for who we are completely, then we commit ourselves to a cage with impenetrable bars.  But if we take it as a faculty, a layer of ourself, then we can benefit from its gifts but transcend them.

From our customary perch within the mind itself, we can look above and notice the downward pour of intuition that illuminates the mental cave with flashes, and then watch the mind grasp and grapple and reduce the flashes into a substance it can manipulate. Climbing up we can enter directly into a more expansive way of knowing, a wisdom that exceeds the mind’s escapades, vast and fluid, where a subjective knowing of the world around us becomes possible. What was ‘other’ becomes known as ‘self’, division becomes simply differentiation, our aloneness dissolves into an empathic experience of unity. Or we can peek up further still, squinting in the light of pure, unobstructed Delight of being. Being infused and inseparable with consciousness/force and joy – Satchitananda.

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Why Do We Make New Year’s Resolutions?

Quan Yin in her Glorious Imperfect Beauty

Quan Yin in her Glorious Imperfect Beauty

What is the nature of a resolution? What does it do for us? Do resolutions prove to be effective? Do New Year’s resolutions assist our growth and evolution in the way that we hope?

Usually resolutions are designed to help us improve in one way or another – to assist us in cultivating healthier patterns and habits. We often resolve to quit something or take-up something new, something we think will benefit us. Commonly, the subject of resolutions have to do with simple changes in behavior. We resolve to eat more healthfully, stop being so impatient, or late to appointments. We resolve to exercise more, do more yoga asana, meditate regularly, start a pranayama practice,  or maybe, quit drinking coffee. You get the point.

Why do we do this? Is it helpful to look into the past and the future to plan our moment to moment behavior? Somewhat, yes. We do learn about how our actions in the world affect our experience of it. However, obviously, because these resolutions never hold, there is an inherent problem with them.

The problem is that all of the behaviors that we would like to alter, actually take place in one moment after another and involve some kind of outside-in control. “Don’t do that” or “Do this”, we say to ourselves until around January 20th by which time we have totally let go of our plan.

By then we have added the extra- great bonus of feeling bad about ourselves when we don’t succeed with our endeavor. Perfect set up for increasing the suffering around our own recognized unwholesome patterns.


Start where you are in each moment. Pause for a few seconds to recognize the vibrating mix of awareness and life-force that you are sitting in. Let that be the field from which you make a decision…in that exact moment about what action to take. Then do what you want.

You may be surprised by what you “want” to do.

Try it.

Introduction to Embodyoga— Part One

It has not been easy for me to say what embodyoga is. I do know that the inclusion of the inner body as both subject and object in movement meditation is a fairly unique approach to practice. I cannot take any credit for this approach. I personally, developed yogicly over the past 40 years within the hierarchical structure that I have previously mentioned. The idea that I could better myself in some way through my yoga practice and then, due to that improvement, would be able to see life more clearly, was the model I accepted as the way to achieve my goals in yoga.

Part of the problem has been the misapprehension that the mind is somehow more refined, and maybe even of higher intelligence, than the body. My teacher of the last decade Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, introduced me to the vast intelligence of the body (and the mind) as they exist in the continuum of space (embodied anatomy) and time (embodied developmental movement). It is her work — experiencing, witnessing, noticing, and fully embodying all of who and what we are, that I have tried to incorporate into my understanding of yoga.

Here is the first installment of an Introduction to Embodyoga®. Thank you for taking the time to read it.

Embodyoga® is a radical and inclusive approach to the ancient science of yoga. It is an evolving tapestry woven from the deeply healing, therapeutic, and spiritual essence of yoga and cutting edge studies in the field of body-mind-consciousness. Embodyoga® fuses the emergent wisdom of Body-Mind Centering®, which was  developed by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, with Hatha Yoga practices and Tantric Yoga philosophy.

Embodyoga® begins with the premise that our entire personal self—body, heart, and mind— is a sea of vibrating creative awareness. Practitioners of Embodyoga® recognize that each aspect of our physical, and energetic form is an expression of awareness manifesting through, and as, individual qualities and traits. We experience these aspects of self as gradations of awareness, all made of the same stuff, all having equal value and importance, and all interwoven to form a system that is perfectly equipped and primed for self-realization. In other words, through the gift of human consciousness we are able to witness our very nature as it is: creative, bright, alive, and self-aware. 

When we practice Embodyoga®, we harness the powerful forces of curiosity and desire to guide our exploration of the body-mind system. Our inquiry initiates and leads the journey. Whatever route this inward journey takes, it leads to the revelation of the unity that underlies all form. Even as we are obviously individuals with our personal qualities and traits, we are also universal in that all that we are is awareness at its source.

Embodyoga® practice provides us with a direct experience of unity – the unity of recognizing the universal and the personal as one integrated and inseparable system. This perception of the inseparability of the universal and the personal, remains with us on and off the yoga mat, manifesting through our relationships with self and others.

When we have had a direct and profound encounter with our inner, true self, we can then effortlessly share this experience as an offering in all our interactions. A sense of love and responsibility for the wellbeing of all humanity expands outward from our self, through our family, friends, community, and beyond. This outward expansion results directly from our ability to perceive our essential self more deeply. Continue reading