Recently, Yogacharya spoke with Kripalu’s Stephen Cope on her The Yoga Hour podcast at Unity Online Radio. They spoke about his book, “The Wisdom of Yoga” and the ways in which this ancient tradition is relevant to everyday life.
Ancient Yoga Wisdom Is Highly Relevant to Modern Life
Kriya Yoga meditation, the discipline Yogacharya teaches, is not just a theory but an experience relevant to our lives right now. The goal, Yogacharya explains, is to “get to know your innate joy by experiencing it regularly after meditation. Avoid thinking that you cannot experience joy because of some situation or challenge. With a calm mind, affirm your blissful nature and let go of any beliefs that interfere with your ability to access it.”
In her discussion with Stephen Cope, Yogacharya revealed that her own path to yoga came from a deep soul yearning. In college, she thought about studying religion, but she wanted to do more than read about philosophy. “I was looking for an experience, which is what yoga is about, that we have to walk this path and experience it.” Yogacharya teaches that yoga wisdom “helps us explore the questions that the ancient sages raised, what is it, in a sense, to be a human being? And what is an optimal human life? And what would it actually be like to function optimally?”
Yoga Wisdom is the Capacity to Know
Kriya Yoga meditation is a powerful practice with immediate results. Yogacharya explains how meditation works. “We learn that we have the capacity as human beings to know, to really be conscious of that spiritual truth of our being.” When we apply yoga wisdom, she says, “we develop a sense of what it is to live optimally, which is to experience that freedom, that liberation that yoga points us to.” In other words, it’s not just theory, it’s real-life practice.
For many people, the idea that we can learn to be truly happy with the help of yoga wisdom, and specifically, a Kriya Yoga practice, may seem out of reach at first. This is because we get caught up in craving. “We keep looking for the next fix,” Yogacharya explains. Yoga wisdom takes us out of that trap of being driven by desire.
Stephen Cope describes an important goal of yoga in his book. "Yogis studied the structure of ordinary human unhappiness and found that the sources of everyday suffering could be entirely extinguished, leading to a kind of freedom we ordinarily think impossible,” he says.
Yoga Wisdom is The Truth That Sets Us Free
For yogis, liberation is “freedom from all the sources of conditioning that bind us to small ways of thinking and being,” Yogacharya explains. “Liberation means being entirely awake and fully alive."
So, how do we go about the journey to liberation when our humanness often gets in the way? Does the struggle mean we’ve failed? Yogacharya sheds light on this misconception. “We shouldn't be necessarily trying to rise above the struggle, but yoga can actually show us how to work with it,” she says.
A quote from Swami Kripalu in Cope’s book also speaks to the value of struggle that beginning meditators often experience. "It's all right if we cannot receive struggle with love. But struggle should never be discarded. To discard struggle is to discard God's grace," Swami Kripalu said.
Yogacharya’s teachings show us that by allowing the struggle when we are learning to meditate, we begin to see that yoga wisdom is not just philosophy, but an illuminating practice. She says, “Yoga shows us that when we experience suffering, when we feel the grasping, we may not have identified the root of it or where it's coming from, but as a practitioner of yoga, we can identify that as a moment to stop, as a moment to begin to unravel what is creating that felt sense of suffering.” Over time, we learn to make better choices.
Yoga wisdom, like any wisdom, is simple, but not easy. Yogacharya points out, “There is a trajectory in the beginning of practice, where we feel the suffering and we see what's arising. And we may know that what's arising is not a wise choice. And then we watch ourselves do it anyway.”
Yoga Wisdom Shows Us How to Delight in Truth
Yogacharya teaches that Kriya Yoga meditation is a powerful practice for moving past our tendency to be driven by desire so we can discover who we are and delight in that truth. It’s “the delight of our own essence that's being revealed in meditation and when we do other yogic practices,” she explains. “The magic of yoga begins to happen when we can learn to cultivate nonjudgmental awareness. In other words, don't dig in. Don't participate, that there's so much power in awareness itself.” Losing focus is part of the process. “There's that moment where we become aware that we have lost concentration. And then we bring our attention back to concentrate, to meditate.”
Yogacharya’s teachings on Kriya Yoga wisdom offer a great reward. “We get to taste that pure essence of our being, which is transformative. And then we grapple with, okay, how do I have more of that experience? How do I have less of the experience of clouded mind and confusion?”
Yoga Wisdom Leads to Unconditional Happiness
After awareness, an important aspect of Kriya Yoga practice is renunciation. Yogacharya describes it as the “insight of seeing that those things I thought were going to bring me unconditional or forever-happiness actually don't have the capacity to give me that. So, where do I find it?”
“The capacity of consciousness, to be awake, is really the definition of being fully alive,” says Yogacharya. And that’s what Kriya Yoga meditation can teach us — “to be able to see the way things are, to be able to make wise choices, and to be able to access joy within us.”