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Breaking a Long Silence

Recently, a Board Member of The Pranayama Institute, Madhu Achalla, visited me at Whirlwind. Every time I see Madhu, the subject of the next book, or my writing something, comes up. He is thoroughly dissatisfied with my failure to write regularly. After conversing and thinking about it, I've decided to start writing oftener, perhaps even weekly or more.

Madhu prefers the writing to be strictly on pranayama, as I have not always been able to stick to only that subject. Before and after hanging chads and Bush's presidency, I wrote voluminously on political issues; I felt Bush's presidency and war with Iraq would exemplify everything about the narrow sense of self that yoga warns against. Certainly, Madhu is correct in arguing that there are hundreds of good writers out there commenting on politics, and these days the right wing is doing an excellent job of hanging itself. But I won't be writing on politics simply because that ground is being covered, but, for one thing, because it doesn't anger me like it used to.

That's not to say Obama's presidency isn't also infuriating, though in a different way than Bush's; but projecting attacks toward a president or an administration alone ignores the shadow government of Big Money. Not that I was so myopic in indignation; I wrote voluminously on this latter subject too as it touches on the formation of a sense of self in society, wherein wealth defines our ideas of success, happiness, comfort, and competition. The centralization of power, whether political, economic, or religious, are at issue in the successful practice of yoga for those who choose to play an active role (i.e. live) in a socioeconomically up down (i.e. topsy turvy) society.

But there's another, more pressing, reason why I won't be writing on politics. I stopped writing on yoga, and pranayama in particular, because I didn't feel I was serving anyone's needs other than for feel good moments. At first, I chose topics that I felt were more approachable. This mirrored my initial attempts at introducing yoga by offering techniques designed for students, athletes, and people in business.

It's been nearly 15 years since I founded The Pranayama Institute, and after so many years I don't know anyone seriously practicing pranayama. I poured my heart and soul into thousands of pages of material on yoga, and spent tens of thousands of dollars, donated from family and friends, to publish and promote God Without Religion, and still I find the practice of pranayama elude most everyone's lives.

Feeling like an entertainer, I started referring to my work on pranayama as for entertainment purposes only. I was done debunking poplar gurus and deconstructing my own guru's teachings. Everywhere I turned in the market of spirituality, I saw cultic behavior, even in the very monastery I once lived in. Eventually, I stopped writing on it, then stopped writing altogether unless I had some amazing photos of the community farm to share.

(On that note, I have been extremely busy with the farm, which has progressed in leaps and bounds. I will soon have new photos to share, and will post them here, in this forum.)

I now feel I was wrong to stop writing on pranayama. My readers may not have practiced to the degree that I had wanted, or to the degree that I feel is necessary for utter success, but they practiced nevertheless. But for many, the less I wrote on the subject, the less they practiced. It is my shortcoming to fail to see that my writings on the subject, while entertaining perhaps, were also inspiring; and while they did not inspire anyone to sacrifice all for yoga, they inspired little sacrifices that, when pooled together made a better world.

Over the years, I received many E-mails from former readers asking me to start writing on yoga again. I refused over and over, thinking to myself that if this person truly wants yoga, he or she knows where to find me. I remember writing on the value of being here, at Whirlwind, where nothing but the weather was going on. Anyone could come, work the farm, let the desires and tendencies and habits and crutches formed in an upside down society emerge, and practice pranayama and asceticism as they were meant to be engaged.

I knowingly asked more from people than they could muster, just so they could know not to fool themselves, and certainly stop trying to fool me. In the worst case, perhaps I felt taken back by the lack of capacity to practice pranayama, certainly didn't blame my presentation of it, but still felt my words, at the end of the day, were being rejected as a possible roadmap to happiness. Instead of acknowledging that I was asking too much, I asked even more. I am sure that many readers only felt themselves to be even bigger failures at yoga.

For years, my mother has criticized me as being stingy with knowledge. She wants to know everything about yoga and I hardly ever speak a word to her about it. I tell her that I'm not here to entertain her, and to please continue to waste her time with her restless habits. I've been terrible.

After five years of writing Weekly Messages, and then dumping them all in the trash, I said good-bye to thousands of readers from over 70 countries. When I started the GWR forum, we had to rebuild readership; by the time I tore that down we had tens of thousands of readers. Now, after several years of practical silence, I can hear the echo of my words in an empty hall. But, keeping up on the latest trends in yoga, if we can call it that, I also know that there are halls packed over nothing.

Who is the latest guru who was never a guru to fall from grace for being a male and acting like one? John Friend didn't even have the courtesy to act like he was teaching anything esoteric, and yet his followers thought him enlightened. I met a few while living in Georgia. After bubbles burst, I sensed in them an empty feeling, probably the same feeling many of his followers are feeling now.

And for what? Nothing. They blew him up out of proportion, perhaps he didn't stop them, he behaved quite naturally, and expectations are shattered. Much ado about nothing. No yoga before (though lots of exercise), no yoga during, and no yoga after. And here I am commenting on not yoga. Of course I remember why I quit.

But, I can't allow overwhelming ignorance and sheer stupidity to silence me. And concern about how many readers are left are immaterial because I know that eventually sincere people will come and easily threatened people will go. So, I will be writing for only one person, and that is the person reading this who wants to read about pranayama, or simply be inspired to practice pranayama, or perhaps even practice pranayama, or perhaps even visit and learn pranayama and asceticism, or devote a significant portion of his or her life to the pursuit of self-knowledge. And for the one person who may realize an infinite self in one lifetime. And for all shades in between. And for myself as well.

I don't know if I'm still competent at writing, after so many years of silence, but I can promise each and every one of my readers that, this time, I won't dump the posts in the trash bin, I won't stop writing. I won't be silent for any significant length of time, and I will answer every valuable question to the best of my ability. This will be my redemption.

My apologies for my past failures to serve you in the best way that I could, and thank you for any amount of patience and trust you put in me now.