Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Meditation, Yoga and discussions from Nepal

i got to participate in a 3 day weekend retreat at the Ganden Yiga Chopen meditation centre in Pokhara. It is a sister monastery to the well known Kopan monastery in Kathmandu. Our schedule consisted of wake up, meditation, yoga, breakfast, teachings with the monk, lunch, break, questions for the monk or discussion, yoga, dinner, and meditation, followed by silence. This is a cake walk compared to Vipassana meditation retreats. In my group i was the only one who had completed a Vipassana sitting, and it was looked upon seriously by the monk Yeshe. Yeshe is an american who has been teaching Buddhist theory for over 30 years. He has been in Pokhara teaching for over 4 years. He was a great teacher asking us questions like: "What did you live for when you where 6, 17, and now? and what has changed?" Also, "Who are you?" which he warned would stress some of us out, and i was glad that i have had this question before in yoga because it is a tough one. How does one define themselves? A lot of us define ourselves by our careers, this is usually the last thing i bring up in a conversation. I find it uncreative. Who i am, it is not what i do to pay the bills. Some people think i have been humble in the past, amazed that i am not bragging about one career path i chose, but it truly wasn't who i am.
I am a being, on the path, seeking, learning, absorbing, and giving back as much as possible. I am constantly changing. You don't see it day to day because we are not aware of the changing, but skin cells are dying and regrowing, brain cells are doing the same thing. I can't quantify what i am either and because science changes constantly, so what i know could be totally false, but i am ok with that.
A fellow student on the course who has come to Nepal to learn how to take care of himself better asked me on the last day "Do you consider yourself a buddhist?"
It was a tough question because i have never liked to conform to titles that would define me. The more i learn about Buddhism, the more i would like to say yes to this question. Buddhism is not a religion but very basic principles which i have unknowingly gravitated to without that much thought.
Buddhism believes in the idea of Karma, something that was discussed heavily in the course, mainly because we misuse this term quite a bit. If someone steals my computer it doesn't mean it is a direct result of my karma in this life (even though at the time i thought it did). The fact that i even have a computer in the first place means i have been born with good karma, unlike most of the people in this world. If something really bad happens to me it can be because of something that has happened in a past life. Buddhism believes we are reborn many, many times, and thus believes in not harming any being intentionally. Of course we may kill bugs by accident, or someones pet, or even a human, that your soul is pure during this action is what matters. If you have the intention of harming someone, this is the where the karma comes into play. There was a bit of debate on the buying of meat for our consumption and how easy it is to get it, and technically you are asking for this animal to be slaughtered but because of mass consumption you don't need to ask anymore, the animal is already slaughtered and in the grocery stores waiting for you. In this sense Tibetan Buddhist have rationalized or maybe not that this is ok and you karma is pure in this because you don't have to ask for it to be slaughtered. I question this theory, mainly because it doesn't make sense to me.
This course is a great beginner course. The yoga teaching was very questionable, and not in a good way. I am not to sure where Nepalis get their training or if it is even considered training, but we did multiple poses i have never seen or heard of before, and many things that could result in both short or long term injury, or turn a beginner off of yoga for a long time.
I was warned about doing yoga in Nepal, but i didn't really understand why. Now i do. A lot of it feels made up and still costs around $7usd (which is expensive for Nepal), which is fine if you are stretching safely, but usually you are not. I have only had two different yoga experiences so far so don't get me wrong, their could be some good teachers out there. The course i am attending with Yogi Nomad is an organization that is part of the Yoga Alliance which from my experience seems to follow a very systematic and strong practice, and outputs amazing teachers.
I have read a few articles over the years where the Indian teachers give western teachers a hard time because they are not following the practice as it has been passed down, and from what i have read (mainly from Iyengar), what i have seen is that the western teachers are more in line with origins of yoga then that of the whishy washy east where anyone can be a teacher.
My experience is limited so i can only speak from that, but if you want to come to Asia and do yoga, make sure it is a reputable organization. If you want to come here to practice yoga, just ask around, but sadly you won't like what you hear. I am missing doing a good practice with my community, but in less than a week i start my 6 week intensive training. I am very excited for this new chapter in my learning, and meeting everyone.
last sunset in Pokhara

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