When it was Monica Voss’ turn to speak during the opening remarks of the Yoga Festival of Toronto’s Roundtable on ‘Yoga and Death’ last night, she said she knew nothing. She hadn’t died yet. None of us who were there had either, she noted. Her response stayed with me. Teachers and practitioners who would never normally find themselves together did. Out of this interaction, I see myself and the work I do more clearly.

My experience of Yoga brings me into the mystery of my life and leaves me there. It is a place of complete unknowing. I can’t talk about my experience and I can’t teach it and in moments of doubt I wonder if I should be able to. When I was eight years old, my mother gave me my first Nancy Drew book. By the time I was twelve, I was devouring Agatha Christie mysteries all summer long.  Life and Death were tidily illuminated by the end of a few hundred pages. A few weeks ago I dreamed of Miss Marple. I’m smart like her and we both knit so there shouldn’t be anything I can’t explain. But there is.

What if I’m not responsible for knowing? What if life is not a problem? Yoga is not a route to solving the mystery of my life; it is a way to live intimately in the mystery, to be the mystery in all its fullness. Mark Whitwell says the solutions doctrine propose assume there is a problem in the first place. Practices that have you striving to reach spirit assume we are separate from spirit. We are not. We are Life in all its power and intelligence. One woman last night said she had a simple thought to share. Her Yoga brought her into connection with the ground and she knew that this is where she would return when she died. To feel the earth beneath your feet, to surrender to the downward force of gravity, to know where you stand, is to be connected to the Feminine, our source. To be securely linked to Life is to be free in life. It is only in the belief that separation is possible that we cling.

“Truth is, no teaching, no teacher, no taught.” These words strike a chord in me. They are from the Avadhoot Gita, a non-dual text.¹ The people who have been my teachers have not taught me anything. Rather than give me a structure, they have nurtured my strength to move into a place that is wide open, without boundaries, a place where I know nothing. Birth is such a place and I imagine Death is too. Yoga gives me a way to move into the unknown by giving me the ability to receive my experience rather than close off from it. To be given nothing is something. It is complete trust. It is pure love.

And it is in relationship that this love moves. I know this in the marrow of my bones. Gitta Bechsgaard began the evening by reading a poem by Rumi. I will end with another.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense. ² 

_________________________________

¹ Mark Whitwell, Yoga of Heart (New York: Lantern Books, 2004) p.15

² Open Secret, Versions of Rumi, trans. John Moyle and Coleman Barks (Vermont: Threshold Books,1984) p.8