Concerning Christianity and Yoga

Doctor R. Albert Mohler is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the primary seminary and theological backbone of the Southern Baptist Convention.  He wrote an essay on www.albertmohler.com discussing Stephanie Syman’s book The Subtle Body: the Story of Yoga in America in which he makes a pretty dramatic statement.

“When Christians practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga.” Dr. Mohler brings this conclusion due to a number of fallacious yet deeply-held assumptions within his own Southern Baptist culture that need to be addressed from a yogi who comes from that same tradition.

Let’s look at his argument, shall we?

In my humble opinion, this all derives from his understanding of kundalini.  Kundalini is, as we all know, the basic primal life-energy that resides at the base of the spine and is channeled into higher energy so we can reconnect to the Divine/Universe.  Its a deeply spiritual yet non-religious path.  This, I think, is where Dr. Mohler gets lost.  The good doctor feels like this channeling of kundalini (which is also called sexual energy because its also generative energy, what makes new life through sex) is just using sex to raise our consciousness, conflating red tantra (which uses explicit sex to raise and hold energy) with other yoga paths.  What this practice actually does is transmute the primal energy into more etheric energies, to better connect with the higher Power/Universe.  Think of prayer – connecting to God – and know that this is just another means. 

Dr. Mohler, you can’t conflate one path into every yoga path’s methodology.  That would be like claiming that all theological leaders are gay because Bishop Eddie Long was playing with boys in his spiritual retreat.  Is that unfair to conflate one leader’s activities with the whole?  Yes, it is.  Therefore Dr. Mohler should not conflate one path with the whole.  Shame on you, sir.

Let’s move on, shall we? 

Let’s look at meditating.  Meditation, according to Dr. Mohler, is when the mind is empty and looking inward for answers.  However, this is not meditating in a yogic sense.  In yoga, the silence we achieve is to create a mental space to rest and be at peace.  In this peace, we can find the answers, but they don’t necessarily come from within.  Take the Biblical example of Elijah – he looked for God in the hurricane, the earthquake, and finally heard God in the quiet breeze (I Kings 19:12).  So, in this, In yoga, we make space to hear that quiet breeze when we meditate. 

So, I call bullshit on you, Dr. Mohler.  You can’t tell people something that meditation contradicts the Bible, or you are wrong.  You are being hypocritical at worst, or blissfully ignorant at best, in telling people that God does not talk to us in the quiet of our minds.  Its also somewhat hypocritical to practice dwelling in the presence of God, as Kevin Martineau discusses here, when Martineau is in essence telling his people how to meditate and feel the presence of the Divine.

I guess its a matter of DADT, right?  If you don’t ask, we don’t tell you that you are meditating…

So, let’s talk about the other thing, the thing that scares Christians.  Sex… that insidious beast that thunders in our loins and drives us to greatness, recklessness, and the need to marry.  We lust after beauty, we desire to sate our lust and bring ourselves to ecstacy.  We are human, rooted in a body that desires these things in order to perpetuate the human race.  Christianity’s fear of this primal energy can be traced to Paul of Tarsus, who apparently had an issue with women in general.  Pauline Christianity – which is an appropriate designation for most forms of Christianity – takes Paul’s teachings as amplifications and clarifications of Jesus of Nazareth’s teachings… which contradicts Dr. Mohler’s primary belief – Jesus’ divinity.  If Jesus was God, then why does His teaching need clarification. Can’t God talk clearly to everyone?

Therefore, the paradox exists – either deny Jesus his divinity, or accept that Paul was an undue influence in Christianity and either reject his influence… tough choice for people who have internalized their rejection of their own appetites. 

Look, we get that you are struggling with – how to maintain this elevated discourse with God while wanting to take your mate and give her some hot love… do these have to be separate?  God gave you a mate to slake that heat and taste the bliss involved when you and your mate quit being two and become one for that split second of incredible pleasure.  God gave that hot, torrid embrace to taste what ecstacy is like so you can share it with your partner forever. 

To take that and transmute it into something that elevates you spiritually to God should be something you would want – imagine instead of stroking furtively in the dark, that energy was focused into communion with God… why again do you not find that desirable?  It’s bound to be better than endless stained sheets and other clothing. Besides, I guess no one pointed out to Dr. Mohler that meditating is good for the brain.

To finish this response, Dr. Mohler concludes with ” Christians who practice yoga are embracing, or at minimum flirting with, a spiritual practice that threatens to transform their own spiritual lives into a “post-Christian, spiritually polyglot” reality.”  In this, Dr. Mohler feels that Christians are at risk of becoming something that he doesn’t recognize, and therefore is not really Christian.Yet more bullshit.  This fallacy occurs because Dr. Mohler thinks he is an authority of what Christian is… and the only thing he really has expertise is in being a Southern Baptist.  This is like saying all tires are Michelin because Michelin makes tires.  Christians will never stop being Christians because of yoga because yoga is not a conversion.  It’s just a practice that helps clarify the person’s connection to the Universe/God/Divine.  the polyglot part applies to those who don’t subscribe to Christianity, though, and this will give them another tool in a vast chest to find God.

Maybe, Dr. Mohler, you should take your limited view and instead of condemning without understanding, learn about what you are talking about.  It’s clear that you are neither as conversant with your Bible as you think you are, and definitely not educated beyond some sadly held misunderstandings of what yoga is.  You should fix that, sir.  You are a Christian leader, and instead of unifying your people, you added a new fracture in a mosaic of cracks, simply for feeling like you had a good, easy target.  By doing this, though, you simply tarnished an image of Christian leaders that’s still cleaning egg off its collective face.  Most Christian leaders marginalize themselves from other spiritual leaders simply because they speak authoritatively without understanding, so in essence those who get maligned end up shaking out heads in amused disbelief…

I see that you are trying to lead your people to a closer walk with God.  We all want that, sir.  Maybe instead of condemning, you heard some dialogue instead.  Its worked for Billy Graham, and the Pope. 

I offer this – I teach Kundalini Yoga, a yoga designed to help you in your path.  Come take my class and compare what you think you know to what you find… you’ll be surprised how much of what I teach is just another version of what you teach or intuitively know about your own spirit already.

Sat Nam (I see the truth in you)

the Motorcycle Yogi.

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Why “the Motorcycle Yogi?”

Sat Nam!

The question was posed to me – why call your blog Motorcycle Yogi?  I thought this was entertaining, so I did what I like to do – turn a simple explanation into a yarn.

Firstly, people who know me know I ride a motorcycle.  Yes, I wear leather (I don’t particularly like wearing dead animal skin, but leather is tougher than I am, so I’d rather damage dead animal skin than my tender living skin) and I ride a motorcycle (a Yamaha V-Star, to be exact).  I’d like to address that first.

Most people feel that riding a motorcycle is dangerous.  I tend to agree – San Antonio is not known for the high caliber of driving skill, and everyone thinks a cherry bomb and some rims is all you need to make a tuner out of a POS (piece of s***) car.  For me, then, I have to bring all my awareness, all my thinking, and focus clearly and concisely upon what I am doing, which is riding my motorcycle.  I can’t think of how crappy my day was, or how hungry I am.  These non-critical things go away in the face of flying at seventy miles an hour on a highway with people who think they can tune out and drive home on autopilot.

In other words, in order to be a safe rider, I have to be totally in the present, in the now, and focused precisely on what I am doing, while being aware of what is going on around me. 

Riding a motorcycle, then, becomes a form of meditation.  For me, that means that the more time I spend in that meditative state, the calmer and more at peace I am.  Therefore I find myself almost completely lost in the act of Being as I ride.  It’s very peaceful, although a little sticky during the summer.

So… a thought on the word Yogi.

I tend to shy from titles… I don’t want to be Master, Siri, Sahib, Swami or any other title.  I’ve seen the guys who claim these lofty titles (sadly, the English equivalent is Sir, but Sir as in Knight or other elevated person) and when they fall, as they do… you find piddly, venal little sins that led to their downfall.  They were screwing the help, or the parishioners, or whoever.  Maybe they dipped into the cookie jar instead of their pockets for a car, or a plane. 

Often they have a wife who has to deal with the infidelity or fraud and put a brave face on, because previous wives from others who fell did.  Either way, they fall down, and their loved ones have the fallout to deal with.  Lives get ruined.  People get hurt.  Folks lose their way because instead of realizing they are the servant of the people, they think they have power, when in fact their authority derives solely from their service.  Isn’t that ironic, all these people with Bishop and Cardinal and Father and Pastor with pretensions of grandeur when they have it solely to minister to those they look down on? 

I think that titles are pretensions.  I am on a path to mastery, but I am not a master, so I should not have aspirations to that title.  Those that need a title to reflect themselves perhaps aren’t suited to be in power.  I don’t need someone to drape me with the accourtrements to be what I am inside.  Mastery is a path, not a destination.  The moment you think you got there, and you stop, then it’s gone.

I would rather be humble than lofty.  My bath spigot brings hot and cold water regardless of whether its steel or gold.  My bike serves me as well as a Rolls-Royce.  I still pull my clothes on one limb at a time.

I do, however, use the title Yogi.  Why?  In Sanskrit, Yogi means someone who does yoga.  karateka is a karate practicioner.  Judoka is someone who does judo.  So, I take Yogi as a title.  Its the most basic of terms… no Guru for me, or Swami, or any other title.

I teach because I think I can do some good in the world by teaching what I know. 

I don’t need the power of a title, or want one.  I’m the Motorcycle Yogi just because it helps other people distinguish me from the other yogis and yoginis (male and female yoga practicioners) in a person’s head.

That’s it.

Week of October 3rd-9th

Sat Nam!

This week’s sets will focus on balance, bringing equality to our lives, and balancing the aura.   

Todays Class Sets:

Balance and Equality
Balancing the Aura

Balance and Equality (meditation)
Mudra: Ravi Mudra (tip of thumb and ring finger meet, rest are straight)

Sit in Easy Pose (Indian style, crisscross, however you want to think of it) and bring your hands up to shoulder height.  Keep your elbows close.  Begin using Cobra Breath (draw in through nose sharp enough to hiss, and exhale) and raise hands as you inhale til your arms are all the way up, palms facing each other.  Exhale and bring arms down to shoulder level.
Continue for 11 minutes.
This works by balancing the interior forces that often manifest in the outer world.  By bringing our own internals into balance, we can often bring the outer world into balance around us, as well.  Think of locks of water in a water way.  Often, the water is not equal in length, so by doing this set, we bring our internal energy locks into level equality, to better move to that in our lives.

Balancing the Aura

1.  Sit in Easy Pose, elbows out level with shoulders.  interlace your fingers but don’t lock them together.  With eyes open or closed, begin moving hands apart as you inhale, and together as you exhale.  keep arms parallel to floor.

2.  Stand in Archer Pose.  (right leg bent with knee over toes, left leg straight and back at 45 degrees to front foot.  Right arm in front, straight and hand fisted with thumb up, right drawn back like pulling a bow).  Exhale and sink the body downwards, then come back up as you inhale.  Continue with power and rhythm.  Switch sides for equal amount of time (avg. 3 mins) then switch each side again for 2 more minutes.

3.  Move to Cobra Pose, stomach first on ground with hands under shoulders.  Lift up with shoulders and extend chest out.  Inhale as you rise into Triangle Pose, exhale into Cobra. Five minutes.

4.  Sit in Easy Pose, hands on knees.  Breathe in for five count, root lock for five count, and release as you exhale for five counts.  Then pull three Great Locks for ten seconds each time.

Rest in Corpse Pose.  Then close and long Sat Nams.

This set balances the aura and strengthens it.  Our aura is the mental and spiritual defense mechanism, like a shield naturally generated out of our life-energy.  If you immerse yourself in seawater, your body’s aura magnetizes, creating a discrete field which strengthens as you swim.   Your aura, if its weak, leaves your prey to energy drainers (you know, the people who make you tired just by being near them) and others’ negativity.  The aura is influenced by your physical and emotional well-being, so maintaining it is important in times of crisis.  Keeping it strong keeps you strong!

Thanks for everybody who turned out to yoga class!  I hope to see you soon, and may hope and love lead and follow you.

Sat Nam.

Beginnings

Sat Nam!

Let us begin.  I am a trained Kundalini Yoga teacher.  I completed my training two years ago, and I have been slowly building my own practice and group.  I was trained in Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan, but in my own sadhana, and my own beliefs, I have moved in different ways than as I was trained.  I believe that all teachers are able to grow and find what works for them and what doesn’t.  I also know that when you decide to break with tradition, people will swear up and down that gloom, doom, and all sorts of destruction will come forth from the deviation.
Let me say this – Kundalini Yoga is powerful, direct, and that is what scares people.  In training we hear of people who have been irrevocably damaged by Kundalini energy improperly raised and improperly channeled – and I say bullshit.  I’m a kinesiology major, with a strong interest in yoga and martial arts.  I spent time in the psychological journals, records, and in my humble opinion, I think I have to call bullshit on this. Move carefully with a mind towards your goals, and you will likely get there without major psychological damage.

So – in this path, you’ll hear a little about me, my life, and my sadhana (practice).  I still use the format I was taught, and although I have a ‘spiritual name’ (a topic for another time) I still use my given name in my classes.  This blog will also contain the kriyas I have and even some that I have developed.  Am I a master?  No.  Am I capable of learning, understanding, and working with the techniques?  Yep.
I am no one’s master.  I don’t want to be the master.  As part of a alternative spiritual group, I have seen what happens when too much power accrues to any one person.  I don’t want people to see me as infallible – I’m not.  But, I am a teacher, nonetheless, and I am here to bring what I know to as many people as want to learn it.  This is too much for any one organization to hold onto and strangle – kundalini yoga is about life, fundamentally.
Come see me and let’s explore!  I teach classes on Mondays from 545 to 645, and Saturdays from 11 to 12 at CircleSpace (102 Guadalupe).

Bring water, a mat, and your energy!

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