Sunday, December 5, 2010

Spiritual alchemy

I remember the first week I took to a daily yoga practice. Purely physical and pure fucking torture to this unconditioned overweight body, oddly within a couple of days i was hooked on it. I was studying from this cryptic old manual called "Richard Hittleman's Yoga: 28-day Exercise Plan". As dated as it was, this manual helped to create the foundation on which i practice some 14 years later. 
There was never really this huge shining moment or grand realization that a daily yoga practice was what i needed for myself. There was never a teacher that suggested i try this stuff out, and in fact there was really very little in the way of prompts that steered me in this direction. It just sort of happened organically.
I was always of a "spiritual" mind, meaning that i intrinsically felt that there was much more beyond skin and bones, birth and death. I never took to the notion that i should fear any sort of wrathful God or that there was even this all encompassing God entity that gave us life and could snuff it out in a heartbeat. There was something at work that moved through us but i didn't have a clue what it looked like. Living in the question always seemed to be the road i traveled down and when something made sense to me or fit in with the ever malleable ideas i already held i would take it in and look at it and apply as needed. So when yoga came my way i was open and ready for it. My first introduction to the word "yoga" and the surrounding branches, meanings, bits and pieces etc was in the form of the book "Autobiography Of A Yogi" by Paramhansa Yogananda. It told the fantastic tale of an Indian mystic and the various signposts and teachers that brought him to enlightenment. This story was so incredible, his experiences so out of this world and beyond my imagining that i couldn't put the book down for months. Once i had finished i went right back to the beginning and started again. I must have read that book four times over in half a year and it never got tired. This amazing story resonated with me on so many levels, as unbelievable as entire chapters might have been i knew in my heart that i had stumbled upon something big, and that something big opened my heart just enough for me to stumble upon something bigger. As little as i knew about the meaning of yoga, i knew without a doubt that i was on my way home and that the path was slowly being etched before me.

Yes, that first week was pretty rough. I remember clearly how racked with pain my body was as i tried to take a seated forward fold(Paschimotanasana). Tears flooded my eyes as i huffed my way through series of twists and stretches and weird breathing exercises, cursing myself for committing to a month of this shit. Then that first week turned into the second, and then the third. Almost every day i took a half an hour to an hour and did my exercises, marveling afterward about how calm i felt. Suddenly i was sleeping better, smiling more often and not getting so worked up over the small stuff. My relationship to the breath started changing and my lungs began to take a more healthy shape. Most importantly i began to not only see my own potential and power, i reclaimed that shit for my own! 
Weeks turned into a few months and as my life changed drastically i rode the crest of this new found love through some tough terrain. Taking my power back the whole way. Making it mine again.
Months turned into a few years and still i took to a yoga practice every day. I knew not why, i just did it. It felt right for my body to be taking these movements, it felt right for my lungs to be breathing and expanding and being utilized fully. It felt right in my mind to be embracing the beginning of each day with a an hour or more of this stuff, the result being a calmer, fitter and happier Nathan.
Years turned into more years and eventually practice became prayer. The right teachers showed up at the right times and with them i was guided into deeper levels of being. Along the line this "exercise plan" became the most potent thing in my life. 
14 years and i can count the number of days i have missed on less than five fingers. That to me is incredible. I still don't understand it fully, and i doubt i ever will. All i know is that it makes me a more effective human being. It makes me a better lover(in all respects). It keeps me present and ever in the question. It has made me stronger of mind, body and soul. And it's just plain fun. 
To think that i can roll out my stinky little yoga mat, feeling like a bag of shit, full of chunky icy gross behind the eyes feelings, and within 10 minutes it's as if i have been dipped in liquid silver....that to me is a huge reason as to why i keep coming back to it, every day. Day after day.
It's amazing to me.
Those that know me know that i am probably not your typical yogi. I like to swear and say gross inappropriate things. I'm a bit of a violence enthusiast and hardcore music is flowers to my ears. I get angry at people and when not in my heart i can be quite hard on them when i want to be. I've stolen things in my day, I like to eat meat and I'm not ashamed to admit that I have had my fun with drugs and alcohol. By all accounts I am probably not the living model for yogis everywhere. 
But i do my best. And i am humble. And i am real. I am truthful and loyal as all hell. I have a lot of love to give and apparently i make people happy. I must be doing something right. 
I will keep on trying for the sake of my fellow human and for the health of my being. It feels absolutely excellent to have an open heart. To love without condition. To be getting older while feeling years younger. 
I may be far from perfect and honestly i never want to be, but i am happy and have tasted joy.
Every day i taste joy and give thanks.
That is one of the greatest gifts this practice has offered me.
14 years. Here's to many more.

Thank you i love you.


  1. As N's mom I knew he was serious about his yoga practice, and i knew it had a calming effect on him. What i did not know was how it moulded itself into his being thus thinking, seeing, touching, feeling, tasting were now being experienced through clean filters, almost as if it were the first time each time. I have watched him doing his daily living when he visits, i see him put his training into his life and i have learned from the watching as well. No words were said - I have learned a few lessons from him that have had a huge impact on how i perceive different parts of my life.

  2. I'm his father and I love him more than words can express. I rejoice in his beingness.

  3. I am his girlfriend and I love him more each and every day <3 your yoga and you are a beautiful pairing and a great inspiration :)