People often ask me: How did you come to yoga?
I finally feel like it is time to share my story and give the full answer to this question.
Let’s go back a few years in time, when I was still studying dance at the academy of arts in the Netherlands. It was performance semester at the academy in our choreography department. Next to our regular 5 to 6 classes a day I was rehearsing with my group of dancers almost every evening for 3 hours, working on a dance piece.
I vaguely remember what happened at the night of the performance. I was standing next to my colleagues giving cues for the sound and stage lights. Looking down at the stage, I saw my dancers getting ready in the dark. The lights went on..and the performance began. I felt how my heart rate went up and my eyes followed every move they made and spotted every detail. My hands were cold and my forehead sweaty. My body was so tense that I could not move. When one of my dancers fell, all sound around me disappeared, and everything got blurry. I walked out of the control booth and at the top of the iron stairs backstage I collapsed. Tears dropped down on my dress, and my whole body was shaking. After the performance, when the audience, teachers, students and my colleagues mingled in the theatre café I somehow managed to walk around smiling and talking to people, but inside of me something had broken.
I think this event was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. At the time, there was a lot going on in my life. For a very long time I was trying to live up to the expectations of the academy, not listening to the voice inside me that told me to create from the heart. I found it very difficult to find a balance between being open to learn and to stay authentic at the same time. I am a perfectionist and I had set the bar so high for myself that It completely froze my creativity.
This dance piece probably was the darkest one I had ever made. I recently came out of a very unhealthy relationship in which I had lost myself completely. Creating this performance was a way of processing the whole thing. It felt like I had put myself out there on stage bare naked, with people in the audience to judge me. I don’t know if my dancers had realized it, but with every move they made, they were dancing a little piece of my scattered soul.
These months my mind was going crazy. I did not even know about the existence of “ a mind” as something that you could silence. Sometimes I thought I would go crazy. My thoughts went so fast, I was exhausted. I felt completely empty and alone. My whole world was dark. I remember looking out of the window every day, thinking; what is this all about? What am I doing here in this world? It all felt so meaningless.
It felt as if I was looking at the world from above. Seeing all the patterns of life from a distance. The world and the society everybody lived in, where I lived in! Work, consume, sleep, repeat. I walked around in the city, looking at people and I felt so distant from them. Girls talking about which nail polish to choose. People living inside their phones , taking snapshots of everything around them before even looking at it with their own eyes. Guys on the street calling me names for no reason, and spitting on the floor. My whole body was super sensitive and over stimulated. I stayed inside the house for most of the time. Doing groceries was the highlight of my day, after which I was very tired.
Then Ton, one of my dearest friends, who needed a break as well, took me with him to Mexico. In the library we were looking for some good reading matter for our holiday. I stood before the “yoga and meditation” section, my hand sliding over the paperbacks. I took one out; “Yoga, the science of the soul”. I stared at the title, hesitating to take it with me or not. Ton looked at me and said: Just take it with you, and I took it.
This book about the Path of Yoga, the sutras of Patanjali and Osho’s explanation of it, opened my eyes and changed my whole perspective on life. All this time I felt so alone, and now this man was writing in detail about everything that went on in my mind, explaining it, as if he was talking to me. I remember lots of moments on the beach when I shouted out “ Yess!! Yes!! Exactly, that’s what I mean, that’s the thing!”
How can you use the mind, like any other part of the body. You tell your hands and feet to move if you want them to move, and to stop moving if you want them to stop. How come we can’t do this with our minds? We seem to not have any control over it. We gave it too much power. How can we become in charge again? How can we take back the control?
“This mind cannot enter on the path of yoga because yoga means a methodology to reveal the truth. Yoga is a method to come to a non-dreaming mind. You are always in the future, hoping something is going to happen tomorrow – some doors of paradise will open tomorrow. They never open today, and when tomorrow will come it will not come as a tomorrow, it will come as today, but by the time your mind has moved again. You go on moving ahead of you: this is what dreaming means. You are not one with the real, that which is nearby, that which is here and now, you are somewhere else – moving ahead, jumping ahead.”
And even when you really enjoy a certain moment, how often do we think: “I want to keep this feeling, I want to feel like this tomorrow”. And again you are in the future. Also often you are in the past because that also is dreaming – memories, remembrance of things which are no more.”
“Yoga is the science to be in the here and now. Yoga means now you are ready not to move into the future. Yoga means you are ready now not to hope, not to jump ahead of your being. Yoga means to encounter the reality as it is.”
Osho says in his book: “Your mind is a drug. It is against that which is. So unless you are totally frustrated with your mind, with your way of being, the way you have existed up to now, if you can drop it unconditionally, then you can enter on the path of yoga. Total despair is needed. That despair is called dukkha by Buddha. A moment comes to every human being when he feels total hopelessness. Absolute meaninglessness happens to him. When he becomes aware that whatsoever he is doing is useless, wheresoever he is going, he is going to nowhere, all life is meaningless – suddenly hopes drop, future drops, and for the first time you are in tune with the present, for the first time you are face to face with reality.” If this moment has come, Patanjali says, NOW THE DISCIPLINE
OF YOGA. Only now you can understand the science of yoga, the discipline of yoga. It is a discipline. It is something you have to do. It is not curiosity; it is not philosophic speculation. It is deeper than that. It is a question of life and death.
And this was exactly what I was feeling. I was so tired of my mind, of all the things that were going on in there without being able to stop it. I totally lost control. Because of Osho I recognized this phenomenon. For me it felt like there was no other way, then to start walking the path of Yoga.
To be continued….