Imagine acupuncturing the Earth. Sticking two kilometer-high needles into cardinal points, which goes on to enact the healing of our planet. This was once mentioned to me by an elderly Taiwanese man in a park, it being his dream to realize this while still alive. Well, I’m no acupuncturist, nor do I claim to hold authority in the realms of Chinese Medicine, but simply the idea of being able to physically heal the Earth en masse remains an intriguing one.
What I do have is another proposal: a more nuanced, inclusive way to clear up some of Earth’s ills – it goes by the name of Yoga. Now I’m aware that some of you will instinctively label me for saying this, perhaps call me a vegan-hippie-idealist-snowflake without any idea as to how the world works. Well, if that’s what you think, cool, I’m fine with that. The fact that I’m not any of those things doesn’t in any way affect the benefits Yoga can bring when practiced solo or en masse.
I could easily plug in a detailed history of what Yoga is, where it stems from, some of its notable practitioners and so forth, but I’m not going to do that now – there are already superbly-written accounts on the Internet. What I’m going to do instead is recount my personal experience, after which you can decide for yourself.
Yoga came into my life in 2007. I was talking to a teacher at the school I was employed at and we got talking about The Doors. There was enough commonality there to strike up a friendship, and even though Kirk only lasted a year in Taiwan, he left me with an ever-present gift: Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramhansa Yogananda.
At some point between then and July 2008, the book got hijacked by my roommate. This wasn’t a biggie, as I got another copy whilst traveling through Ladakh in Northern India. Being the beautiful, remote land this is, I was afforded ample opportunity to delve its material then, and that which I read left me spellbound. What I’d imagined Yoga to be – a flash-in-the-pan fad practiced by rich housewives and flaky djembe-drum-bashing dreadlocked hippies – was wrong. Based in science and blessed with a rich socio-historical narrative, Yoga seemed more like a key to gnostic knowledge than any impression I’d held of it previously.
Fast forward to June 2012. I was living in a forest then, working in a nearby town whilst crafting my first novel. This meant I was smoking far too many cigarettes and drinking too much whiskey. Anyway, my sister came through to visit me one weekend, and I was amazed at how good she looked. I mean, I knew she’d just come through a registered Yoga Teaching Course, but sheesh, she appeared inches away from levitating! It didn’t take much prodding to nail why she’d turned so groovy, she summing it up in one word: Yoga.
I was a month away from turning thirty and needed some change myself, so I asked: Could I get in touch with her instructor, do the same course? Sure, there was a glint in her eye and a wryness to her smile. Imbued with as much Yoga experience as a mouse knows thermodynamics, I proceeded to fall in love with the unknown. Over 200 hours spread out over ten weekends in November/December, I traveled by train to a city 200km away to complete my training. The process was an epic exercise in attrition, eliminating self-doubt, and instilling discipline, but from it I emerged a better, happier human being. I discovered ways to reunite my body with my essence, how to forgive myself and others, and awoke a long-dormant feeling that life was indeed good and benevolent, rather than the other way round.
I’ve taken these lessons into my writing, my professional life, and live them naturally with my family now. I still experience anger the same way everyone does, but know that it’s impermanent and perhaps even illusory. Due to this, I’ve been gifted a clear vantage point from which I seek to benefit all I can. And while I know that I alone cannot change the world, perhaps the way I live and that which I teach can make a difference. With this in mind, now harken back to the idea of acupuncturing the Earth. Replace the giant needles with billions of people practicing a scientific art that seeks to fulfill its practitioners’ full potential, and you’ve got a recipe to possibly make the world a happier, healthier place.