As I twisted the throttle rounding a particularly exhilarating curve along my favorite twisty road and heard the satisfying exhaust burble of my Teutonic sport tourer, I thought of the first chapter of Bhagavad Gita. Bhagavad Gita is one of the most sacred Hindu texts and a literary masterpiece that served as the source of inspiration for among others, Einstein, Thoreau and Emerson. The epic poem traces the dialog between Arjuna, a decorated warrior, and Lord Krishna, the Divine who presents Itself to Arjuna as his charioteer. The topic of the dialog between Arjuna and Lord Krishna is the life in Yoga. As I strengthened my bike I saw the smiling face of my Guru. A profound truth was about to be revealed to me.
I took no hallucinogens before my ride and have not been diagnosed with any condition of the body or mind associated with randomly appearing visions. It is just when I am on a motorcycle alone with the wind and fully present in the experience, things, important, often deep things, come to me.
Nearly three months ago I got back from India after spending three-and-a-half weeks studying yoga and meditation and absorbing the wisdom of the Himalayas with my youthful Master, extraordinary Yogi, and a fellow motorcyclist, Anand Mehrotra. My experience in Rishikesh, a small Indian town on the banks of the Ganges River, at the foothills of the Himalayas was beyond powerful.
Yet, upon returning I had no idea what happened to me. Sure, I felt uplifted and inspired and to anyone who would listen I would tell how trans-formative my journey was. Inside though I felt more dissatisfied than ever with nearly every aspect of my life. As the pressures of everyday routines began to mount, I quickly fell into the same destructive patterns I thought I had left behind long before. Even though I maintained a daily yoga and meditation practice and even taught these powerful disciplines to others, the disconnect within seemed as deep as ever. I often wondered if I felt into the trap Anand warned so much about – acquiring a new vocabulary and a few ideas, but no depth beneath.
Then, on that motorcycle ride I thought of the first chapter of Bhagavad Gita. In it, as Arjuna surveys the two armies about to engage in a bloody battle with each other, he tells the Great Lord that he does not want to fight; that he finds the bloody battle he is about to engage in utterly pointless; and that he likes the great men on both sides of the battlefield and feels sorry that they will lay their lives down in a useless feat. Krishna, the Almighty Presence, the God of Yoga, tells Arjuna to fight indeed and do so fully without caring the slightest bit about the results. And only then, Krishna begins to tell Arjuna about life in Yoga.
You see, what I got on that ride is that true change begins with awareness which then turns into presence with whatever is. It is only after awareness and then presence that we can even begin the teachings of Yoga.
As my iron stead settled into the rhythm of a serpentine road – I understood. After three and a half weeks in the Himalayas I simply began experiencing awareness, not yet presence. But, I was transformed indeed, as I took the first tiny step towards life in Yoga.