I spent the last two and a half weeks in Costa Rica, a much-needed respite from one of the coldest New York winters in recent history. The trip culminated in Patricia Pinto and I’s Surf & Yoga Retreat at Vida Asana, near Jaco, Costa Rica. We could not have hoped for a more beautiful experience, made possible by the fifteen remarkable people who traveled from New York, Texas and Washington State to join us.
Our week commenced with a fireside ritual to “shed what isn’t serving you”. Following our first yoga class, each one of us wrote down the road block in our personal narrative and collectively threw those slips of paper into the ceremonial flames. That moment set the tone for a week of bonding, expansion, and perhaps a little evolution.
Each of the seven days of retreat corresponded to one of the chakras, and, as a journey through the chakras has a habit of doing, some of us found that our initial “shedding” intention shifted (or evolved) into something more chakra-specific. I found my own in the Ajna chakra, the third-eye chakra, and it’s related subject of one’s intuition.
Intuition has long been a tricky concept for me. Trained in the skeptical tradition of Western philosophy, I have in the past castigated intuition as the not-to-be-trusted byproduct of social forces and unconscious psychological structures, the latter often shaped by traumas and illusions rooted in past experience. I preferred the company of abstract concepts and rational thought processes. But such company proves not so friendly for the purposes of taking action, as taking steps forward gets deferred in the game of more thinking, more deducing, more heady living – which is perhaps really NOT-living.
Add to the mix New York City. In a city as manic and cacophonous as the Big Apple, it can be a challenge even to hear one’s intuition, let alone follow it. When we do hear its call, we find ourselves asking, “Is it truly mine, or is it some conglomeration of self-destructive forces outside myself?”
But all this doubting and speculating has one thing in common – a thing that the yogic marga (or path) encourages us to transcend: the self-enclosed ego. So long as one’s ability to take action is premised on the hope of a self completely purified of outside influences, then action will be permanently waylayed. Yoga (at least the kind derivative of the Tantric tradition) encourages integration of the inside and the outside, self and world, in such a way that one recognizes the seamlessness and interconnectedness of all that is. In other words, it is not my truth on one side and my environment on the other. There is always a way in which my environment speaks through me, is a part of me, and trusting my intuition becomes also about trusting the world and ridding myself of the kind of vision that sees negative influences everywhere.
Trusting my intuition is about trusting the oceanic flow of life, expanding my sense of self into the Self (capital “S”), the universal self beyond labels and identifications. As one of my teachers, Alex Auder, alluded to in class yesterday, our habits of body and thought are not who we are. They are rather our patterning, and patterns that isolate the self from world can be repatterned to become ever-more inclusive. On that wave of inclusivity rides compassion and the recognition that intuition is the whisper of the world in us (which is just to say that it is our shared, collective whisper).
True, the world has both shadow and light, but so long as we commit ourselves to a path of integration, the shadow can always be recycled. Shadows become the fertile soil for evolution and expansion, for they shape the backdrop that enlightens the light.