Lessons from India – Insight at the Coconut Stand
The last few days I have been saluting the sun amidst snow and ice, quite a contrast from the tropics the previous weeks, yet I clearly feel the infusion of rich inspiration from my time in India.
It was so good to be back ‘home’ and reconnect to the source. A friend commented that the trip had been very ‘purifying’ for me. I think he is right! I have returned feeling my perspective very refreshed.
Some of you may be aware that last year I took a ‘business course’. The sense of needing a homebase to operate from which I could fill with my own energy, have space for gatherings and grow my own food, and the financial realities of buying such a place in the UK had me thinking I really needed to do things differently. I did, I am doing. Improving my website was part of that, so is starting a podcast. However, as a novice in the ‘business’ realm I have come to realise that I took on without proper discernment some of the suggestions offered on that course, almost all of which I have now come to reject or reassess, and this includes pricing.
Several factors were influencing how I previously set the fees for the retreats I am giving at Svata Mari in Southern Bohemia 22-25 February and 22-30 July. Those factors are still real, but I recognise that there are others that I did not take into proper account. Having done so now, I would like to offer the retreats at fees significantly reduced from what was previously announced. I recognise that for some this will still be high, for others it may seem cheap…
My priority is to share nourishing, life-changing whole life yoga skilfully and widely. Whether I’m being paid or not, whether I’m speaking to a group of two or an audience of hundreds, when I’m doing my work, I give myself to it wholly, drawing on all my decades of practice and preparation. Sure, I would welcome larger income, but I would like to do this by sharing content and programs skilfully and widely!
I do this work because it is what I feel I have to do, what I am supposed to do. I do not own a home, yet I have no debt and I have always been able to eat good quality food (barring a few short periods that I came to see as initiatory processes). I am supported in this work!
Back in India I experienced so much magic and support, including a chance meeting with a man on the side of the road – at a coconut stand.
Our conversation helped me see just how skewed and distorted my perspective had become. This gentleman helped me see that the (European/Western) story of always having to overcome, to struggle, to fight against the oppressor, to do more, more, more – is just a story. Helped me realise how out of alignment I had strayed from my own authentic story these recent years as my outlook had been more coloured than I had previously realised by the swampy residues of navigating certain situations.
After our conversation one of the things I was most struck with was how baked into our very language are certain ideas of not being worthy or good enough. In English, people might ask: ‘how do you make a living’, or ‘how do you earn a living?’ In French ‘comment tu gagnes la vie?’
Being back in India, I reconnected more strongly to the realisation that we are made as part of Life, we ‘earnt it’ by being born.
We are part of Existence.
We would not be here if we were not worthy!
La vie, c’est déja gagné – just by being here!
Not to say that there is no need to strive. As a medicine man I met with last year in Africa suggested, the core wound of not being good enough is to be transmuted into a gift: ‘the person who feels they are not good enough will strive and so be more than good enough, whereas the person who feels they are already the finished existence-enhancing article will likely be lazy and not really contribute the depth of their real beauty to existence.’
However that may be, back in India I absorbed again the perspective, and was moving amidst the collective recognition, that of course I deserve to be here, I am part of Life. I am not a machine. I am a unique, extraordinary creature endowed with the intelligence of Life.
Wherever I live, whatever roles or positions I occupy, I am contributing to life. I would not be here if I was not worthy.
And as for being fearful of not having enough – ‘o ye of little faith, see ye not the lilies of the field!’
The lilies of the field get on with beautifying the field without worrying about not being as brightly or deeply coloured as the neighbouring roses, without envying the rose’s subtler fragrance.
No, without inhibition they become their own unique beauty. And lilies might not be to everyone’s taste. But they are to existence’s taste, because the intelligence of Life has brought them here. And it has brought each of us here.
I have long felt that the purpose of human life is to express our unique gifts, and that when we do we almost inevitably bring light, fragrance, colour and beauty to Life.
This is one of the things I love in India, the beauty of the people, the authenticity with which people do their work. For example, one time in my early years in Mysore I needed a button sewing on a shirt. I had no needle or thread but I knew there was a tailor around the corner. I took my shirt to him. He looked at me like I was some brutish fool and indicated that I should go up the street. He was a tailor of women’s clothing, and he was not about to desecrate his self-respect by robbing custom from a gents’ tailor. Only after reaching the gents’ tailor and noting the absence of any female garments did I realise the situation. The ladies’ tailor had faith in what he was doing and that it was what he needed to do. He did that well. Knowing that, he trusted the gents’ tailor would do his work well too.
How different from ‘let me murder all the cabinet makers Mr Ikea’,
and ‘let me destroy the local bookshops and then, why stop there? Let me destroy all the local stores Mr Amazon’.
Instead, let me do my own work with skill, with precision, with expertise, without stealing from my neighbour…
how sustainable, how edifying, how intelligent, how conducive to a mutually supportive and vibrant community, to a social fabric that actually has cohesion, beauty and humanity!
Anyway, from that conversation over tender coconuts by the side of the road and from once again soaking in an atmosphere that nourished many parts that have been somewhat starved since I was last in India, I realised that my own thinking had been more polluted by the four letter f-word (fear) than I would have liked, that the force of my deep faith and confidence had been set back by sudden contrary winds – like the way Hanuman’s progress across the ocean to Lanka is described as being halted when he falls under Siṁhikā’s shadow. Thank you India for helping me see this particular shadow, and shake it off. I look forward to sharing that story of Hanuman from Rāmāyaṇa in greater detail later in the year – look out for a special online storytelling series, and/or come to the Svata Mari February long weekend where we’ll be focusing on kīrtan and mythology.
Meantime, chastened, refreshed, heartened and energised by the beautiful return to India, I am enthused to do my best to share that inspiration and a refreshed, pragmatic perspective at various places in UK and Europe these coming months.
James Boag | Whole Life Yoga
The yoga of the whole human being. Practical philosophy, storytelling, movement, inquiry, looking in ways that reach beyond our habitual ways of looking.
Listen to James’ unique whole life yoga perspectives on the WHOLE LIFE YOGA podcast.