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Dear Jenni: YSP 1: 37

Turning to a being whose mind is released from passions is also calming.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:37 – Bouanchaud translation.

Dear Jenni:

How serendipitous it is for me that we should be tackling this sutra on this weekend. I have spent the last three days in the delightful company of a most remarkable man. From him, I’ve learned insights on healing and wholeness that I had imagined were years in the future for me. I’ve been taking a four-day trauma recovery workshop from Dr. David Berceli. Dr Berceli is a warm and genuine human being who has designed a stress management program that works from the deepest core of our physical self. Christine – he’s from Arizona. By all means, check this guy out.

Now I have no idea if Dr Bereli is a yoga practitioner or not but I’m sure of this much, he’s one mensch of a yogi. Like yoga, his exercises work with the body, allowing the body to open up and free itself of its inner restrictions. There is so much healing energy in this work; I’m at loss to describe it all. His “Stress Release Exercises” all have their roots in yoga asana but this weekend, I’ve come to the postures from a slightly different direction. The exercises in this program are selected to fatigue the muscles and set up tremors in the muscles that move energy through the body along the spine and affect the function of the emotional brain.

This morning, during the exercise series, I had such a clear sensation of an opening in the heart chakra and a flood of loving kindness for the greater world around me. As I was going through the process, my mind kept settling on the image of the Weeping Buddha and my spirit settled into an unarticulated Tonglen meditation. I breathed in the anguish of the world yet breath left me in peace. So much sukha, Jenni, so much sukha.

In the past six weeks, we’ve explored the sutras and their advice for calming the ‘fluctuations of the mind”. This weekend, I found myself taking guidance from a man who radiates from a peace-filled centre of compassion, curiosity and loving kindness. And as this sutra suggests, I found that presence calming. All this brings me to the subject of this week’s sutra: the choosing of a guide, mentor or teacher. How do we choose helpful and productive role models in a marketplace where spirituality is hawked like pearls made from paste?

Bouanchaud ends his commentary this week with an interesting perspective. “To free ourselves from excessive passion, we can concentrate on a being free of passion. First we must redirect this passion towards a free being, a mediator. This is a delicate choice. This being must have resolved his own problems and be above suspicion.”

How do we know who is the correct person to follow? Damned if I know. I’m as lost as the rest of you. The only truly solid advice I can give anyone is “Don’t follow me unless you REALLY like confusion.” How does one know if a teacher or guide is “above suspicion’? The history of spiritual quests is littered with tales of charlatans and ego maniacs who preyed upon the trust of others.

It comes to me that the answer lays in listening to the body-self. When I still the ego narrative and return to the inner wisdom of the body, I will find the level of trust I need to make those kinds of decisions. As I write this, my mind keeps returning to the passage in the Book of Matthew (Matthews 7: 17-19)

17A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. 19Every tree that produces bad fruit will be chopped down and burned. 20You can tell who the false prophets are by their deeds.

I chose my own teacher by this method. By stilling the ego mind and following my guts, I undertook to study yoga with Kathryn. This weekend, I did the same with this different perspective on “energy medicine”. What I received in return was a message of peace and healing and loving generosity of spirit. All of this can only be described as “good fruit”, which would make Dr Berceli a “good tree”.

Namaste my friends and thanks for reading,



About Kate MacKay

I'm a certified Viniyoga teacher, in Fredericton, NB. I was a 9-1-1 operator and emergency services dispatcher for 22 years. Surprisingly, the two worked well together, or as I liked to put it, from the sublime to the ridiculous -- all in a day's work. I'm currently off work as a result of a stress-induced cardiac condition that's thrown a few crimps in my lifestyle. I'm not actively teaching yoga in the classroom right now and probably won't for several more months. That said, this blog is one of the forms of practice I can do and I thank you for joining me in this exploration of all things yoga.

5 responses »

  1. Thank you Kate-Interesting. You’ve got me thinking how I select my teachers, my guides. I don’t think I do… I don’t think I know if they are above suspicion. I don’t know if that’s important. I love the suggestion to look at the fruits, instead of the talk, I know this wisdom as “I’m watching his steps, does he walk the walk or just talk the talk…” But I also have received the wisdom don’t look at the messenger – listen to the message. My twisted mind can put these things up against each others 🙂 So that becomes my guideline – not to use my mind but my heart. I find that I recognize my truth when I hear it, in my heart, and I can feel attraction – like a slow burn, easy, steady towards this truth. And I can tell that this guides that my heart singles out for me – can get to be human, and error without contradicting the truthful connection I experience. Thank you for starting reflection in me 🙂 love jenni

  2. In a way, that’s my point… Bouanchaud talks of people “above suspicion” but who is above suspicion? It’s a ridiculous notion that we would suspend, even for a moment, our beautiful capacity for critical thinking and judgment. I know judgment is supposed to be a bad word and in North American yoga circles, there’s a social trend against using it. But, in my judgment, it’s still a bad idea to walk in front of a speeding train. Likewise, my life is filled with examples where I’ve deployed ‘poor judgment” and lived with the subsequent consequences thereof.

  3. Yes, I need to hear this many times, I have litle faith in trusting my mind – but you and cyrus rumi – fellowblogger – reminds me, that there are many types of “knowing” and I can play with more than one.. tak

  4. love that you use the word “serendipity” is it common to use in english? I use it, since it is a search strategy in informationscience… love jenni

  5. I think it’s one of those whimsical words.. it’s common enough that people know it’s meaning but not deployed often in normal speech.


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