Practice Meets Science in Further Studies
I have a strong belief in the practice of yoga and its effect on the body and mind. This is a conviction beyond a mere faith based on a developed trust from committed practice over an unbroken, long (relatively) period of time. As part of my development and care of the heart I practice everyday. Though what is practiced changes over time and some days will require less or the full routine, it is still done. Done, I might add, out of a deep interest and love for it and the inner growth. This eventually has an effect on our behavior, though may take time. So as I wrote in the last letter, the ability to take care of what needs to be done, I feel, has grown strong due to the continued inner development. And taking care of things now, today, also adds to that strength and clarity. So it is a circular fulfilling process. As is life.
Following on from this, I am taking this interest and commitment to what we practice and what it means to a new level. This August I will join with Emory University's Biological Anthropology Department to complete a doctoral study (PhD) on these practices and their scientific effect, reveal any possible values and join this science side of it deeper with the traditional descriptions as found both in the classical texts and taught to me personally in this tradition. Emory is based in Atlanta, USA, and considered one of the leading institutions in the US, with a very strong reputation in both the physical and social sciences. What drew me to it was meeting the Dalai Lama there. He is an honorary professor at Emory and has had a big influence on them being a leader in the contemplative science field, which I now enter. I feel a humble gratitude to be accepted in and accept the responsibility to complete this work. My own teacher, Tiwariji, is fully involved with me in this study. In a sense, the aim is to pick up the work of Swami Kuvalayananda (Tiwariji's teacher) and continue this deeper look into yoga, its practices, the nature of being, the effect of what we practice, its value, if any.
It will involve interaction with neuroscience, biology, physiology, psychology and the classical texts and traditional practices. The unique aspect I am able to bring to these studies is being a highly trained and experienced practitioner in the field, with direct experience and exposure, so as to understand what to look for while keeping the scientific objective hat on. My look into the field thus far has revealed much great work being done but very few from a strong practice background. Though it may be in some cases seen as better science to not practice, such an argument falls short in this field. If one does not know the real practice then a whole study will reveal an incorrect conclusion or finding, as I have seen. Also, having experienced the inner effects directly gives a clear direction in what to look for scientifically and thus find a way to state it. The advantage of such a revelation would be to clear up misunderstanding and delusional statements about the greatness or uselessness of yoga and the meditative process.
On a personal level I also sincerely hope it has a positive effect on the growing environment of yoga practice and teaching. I feel this area needs a lift as the field has become quite diluted with anything being termed yoga and very casual justifications given to certain practices, one's supposed level of development and the deluded division of "this type of yoga is better". Though I welcome the growth and continued spread of yoga and its practice I feel it has been downgraded by people teaching things they have not yet properly learnt or understood, due primarily to insufficient practice. This could not, or rather should not, happen in a regular school or college. How could one teach math if not having studied it and understood it? Time is taken to learn and understand and teaching follows. It comes down to what level is one qualified to teach at. In the field of yoga it seems to come across as a grey area and the delusion itself limits an honest reflection and response on it.
However, I am optimistic about the future of humanity, the growth of yoga and personal development, and the values society chooses to embrace. All of that is highly malleable and is influenced by what we do. So I will try and do my bit. I will continue to teach at Samahita Retreat - Yoga Thailand and grow the programs of Centered Yoga. This is my life calling. I will also do some traveling-workshops though for the next two years it will be less. As the studies continue I hope to offer some aspects of it in the form of articles, these newsletters, videos and perhaps a blog (no promises there). I intend the research and studies to continue long past this term of study, making much out of the next 50 years :) I am open to how things move along. Ten years ago Jutima and I were starting Yoga Thailand. Now two kids and a grown center later the next phase of its incarnation comes. I have learned don't waste time and make the most of this life, which involves the double of true inner development (for want of another phrase) and being nice (but true!)
So be open and embrace life. Look forward to sharing with you.