Karuna: Hi, I’m Karuna, I’m the Founder and Executive Director of Mind Oasis, and my guest with me today has been here before. Michael Hewitt, how are you?
Michael: I’m wonderful. Nice to see you again.
Karuna: It’s nice to see you, honey. So most folks know who you are, but why don’t you just tell us a little bit about you and what you’re up to in this world?
Michael: All right. I’m a musician and I am an advocate of yoga and the mystic arts. I’ve been teaching since 1997 and the full spectrum of yogic expression, everything from the physical to the meditative to the philosophical, to the energetic, to the tantric. And I’m quite passionate about meeting each curious student where they are and bringing the original fidelity of yogic sharing back to the personal. Even though we’re working in groups now and a lot of virtual, what’s unique about the way I teach in the way I work with Mind Oasis is that there’s a lot of porousness for sharing inquiry and insights so that whatever curriculum I create in this case, the yoga sutra, is offered in a way that’s most relevant. There are actionable practices there to go with all of the ideas.
Karuna: Yes, so you’re our main guide for the yoga immersion. Do you want to just talk a smidge about sort of that experience so far? We’re about halfway through. I think we’re all excited to explore it again next year. So just a little bit about your experience being the primary guide for the immersion.
Michael: Yeah, it’s a hell of a challenge virtual. You know, we’re all discovering in the last year and a half there’s a lot that we can do. It’s it’s better than nothing for sure. But a lot of the human powerful, sensitive interaction of being in the room, being able to share breath to ear, being able to place hands on someone when you’re spotting them, isn’t there. And this group is very passionate. Many of them are very new to the practice. Many of them have special needs that need to be respected. And these practices are truly magic. I mean, this is one of the things they said in the second week. Like you weren’t kidding. This is real magic. We’re dealing with energies. That openness to reality is that we read about perhaps, but never directly experienced. So the special task of imparting these techniques and ideas and then holding a space, a community space where all of the students can get to know each other and have little breakout groups and new friendships and ultimately the mentorship with myself and Joseph and you so that. You know, these practices aren’t about becoming perfected or some strange idea of what evolved means, it’s about becoming more intimate with our inner experience and doing that with others in such a way that I think, bottom line, we leave this world better than we found it as much as that’s in our power.
Karuna: So what you don’t know that’s kind of cool is I’ve been meeting with students this week that are in the immersion. And I met with someone recently and and that person shared with me this realization around an event that happened in her teens that has literally defined her for going on like 30 years. And she’s taking actionable steps towards breaking out of this box that she put herself in. The trauma happened, but the box has grown and gotten bigger and thicker walls. And she’s just so grateful for the space to explore and to evolve for a lack of a better word. And I can’t wait to see what happens on the other side. Like, I am so stoked for her to break down the walls and to explore what else is on this other side of freedom. So it’s really been a potent exploration both for students, but also as a co-teacher as well, for sure.
Michael: Yes, it’s a huge honor. I mean, imagine you’re talking about breaking down the walls. Imagine you were a baby bird in an egg and you peck, peck, peck, and break through. You can’t be bound anymore. And every instinct is saying push out into an unknown realm from a very confined room. But then whose carrots are you in once you’re in this new world, is anyone there to protect you? Is anyone there to nurture you? Is anyone there to hold you when you’re shivering because you can’t fly out or keep yourself warm? And that is the kindness of the sanga. The group particularly our sanga. We are delivering powerful medicine for help, helping people break down and break through, but also holding space for them so that as they’ve released from these old cycles that perhaps were suffering, but maybe were just familiar. I mean, we’re all – we all do that. You know, we’ve adopted the – what is it – the cognitive dissonance to be uncomfortable with things that we could have left long ago, and it takes a lot of bravery to do that, and it’s a lot easier when there’s supportive hands in the community to help us when we haven’t found our legs yet on the other side.
Michael: Yeah, I love that the sanga is key. And I think that when I started Mind Oasis I don’t know that I realized how the community aspect would be the part that people love the most. They get teachings. They get these like profound realizations or it’s boring or they just show up for meditation. You know, it’s the full spectrum, but the friendships are amazing. This this Friday, I’m meeting three people that I’ve never met in person before to have a cup of coffee in Denver because they all happened to be coming through at the same time. And it’s like, wow, you know, and they’re from across the United States. It’s really exciting.
Michael: Yeah, amazing.
Karuna: So, Michael, your upcoming module that you’re going to be bringing on Wednesday evening starts on the 2nd of June. And we’re calling it the Yoga Sutra Essentials. There are some people who aren’t going to even know what the yoga sutras are. Can you just start at the very beginning about the Yoga Sutra? What’s the essential part and why? Why should we come and visit and enroll?
Michael: Yes. Well, the Yoga Sutra was written down plus or minus, you could say four hundred years of – year zero in the Western calendar. I’m not exactly sure. Before it was written down, it was a long oral tradition. It was -yeah. The breath to ear imparting of these ideas was so important to make sure that people understood them, they were appropriate for that person. And there was accountability to the teacher student relationship to make sure that person could again embody it and practice something rather than just have more information in their mind. The yoga sutras are- jeez- under two hundred verses and only two of them even mentioned physical yoga. Asana yoga was only mentioned, I think twice. So for anyone who’s watching this. Wow, right? Like the spectrum, the expressions of what yoga is is vast. Like the electromagnetic spectrum is vast, but the sound of, you know, middle C on a piano is a fraction of it. So it’s kind of like the physical yoga. It’s a fraction, but it’s been marketed to us as All, right? Like, I’m not doing my yoga unless I’m in downdog. It’s ridiculous. Yoga means your flow state. It means when you’re in that feeling of I am living my passion, I am – my passion is my work. Perhaps, maybe not. It might look something like as mundane as washing the dishes or as epic as hells skiing. But the yoga sutra is special because it talks about the fact that yoga is always accessible. Now, in the present, the only time that’s real, it talks very clearly about what obscures that fact, meaning our mental gyrations, our mental formations, our worrying, our narratives. It shows us how to silence them without suppressing them, like turning off a light so that we can discover the present moment versus chop it up into this and that. I like that. I don’t like that. This is mine. This is not mine; friend, enemy, stranger. All the designations that are from our past and allows us to remove that veil and come into the here now again and again. All the yoga sutra essentials, because we have carefully plucked the verses that are the most profound and the most direct about how to do that from a place of dignity and integrity.
Karuna: Yeah, and I was thinking about this because, you know, we’re kicking this off like the first week, it isn’t technically summer, but as you’re in a tank top and I’m looking out at some beautiful, sunny, sunny blue skies, you know, we’re getting darn close and we could just space out for the whole summer, right? We could just go and have drinks with friends and we could just go to work and then frankly, FAF off or F-off or whatever you want to say here. But I was thinking about the timing that this is once a week on a Wednesday evening for two hours. And what a beautiful anchor to remain present to each week, like kind of a check-in almost of what is going on rather than just completely spacing out this summer. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Michael: Yes. Everyone is eager to human again safely with wide open hearts and run amok. And there are maybe people who want to go back to normal and many people who do not. And for me, what not going back to normal means is taking all the wisdoms and heart opening experiences from the losses that we’ve all endured since the pandemic came down, the solitude that many of us have endured to weigh our relationships. What are we doing with our time, energy resources and carefully vetting that so that it’s chosen as we go forward. So the Yoga Sutra is so bloody important because, A, it’s a fun text, the ideas are magnificent and the way I’ll be sharing them very understandable. We could talk about the Sanskrit and the sanskrit verbal routes, but I really don’t too much. That’s not my specialty. My specialty is taking these ideas that could be esoteric and making them relatable, funny and applicable for one’s relationship with themselves. And then how we relate to others. For me, it’s also been pivotal in my understanding of how I have loved myself and others, where I mistook anxious and avoidant attachment for love, meaning grasping at someone else or kind of playing at this game of, you know, I’m not really available because you seem too eager for me. Like this, this manipulative energy that feels like the dance of love. Piercing through that and through the ideas of the yoga sutra and the practices humbly, I feel like I’ve gone to a deeper place in my heart and cleaned up a lot of my understandings about how to be a present loving person for myself and someone else.
Karuna: I love that. I’ve been deep diving in my own personal practice about my own attachment style and also in therapy, because I believe in bad ass therapy and all of the dharma and all of the sanga, et cetera. And so we find ourselves perhaps at the end or coming out of the pandemic. And I don’t know many people who didn’t go through something with their loved ones, whether it’s a romantic partnership, whether it’s their children, whether it’s people in their personal sphere who mask no mask, you know, Trump or not Trump or any of the other, you know, stay at home or screw it and get together. I mean, we’ve just all had to make these profound decisions, these big decisions that sometimes isolated us from the other. So I love the idea of being able to use these ancient wisdom ideas to and apply them to modern day stuff.
Michael: Yes. I think one of the most formative verses that has been in my mind since the pandemic is actually one of the two verses that does mention asana, and it’s “sthira sukham asanam” – ‘Sthira’ means stable. Or strong or firm, like a foundation of a house. ‘Sukham’ means to be happy or porous, open like my body is. Stable. But it’s also porous, like I can breathe, I can take in vibration through my eyes, I can take in food and water, I can take in ideas. But those things are also my body’s porous to release these things like an old idea that doesn’t serve any more or all that I ate for lunch that now has been turned into nutrition and I can release the waste. There needs to be a balance between not too tight and not too loose. And that ‘Asanam’ is our our vantage, our perspective that we are, first of all, if the media is so great at polarizing people, politicians and say, OK, well, the left, well, the right and they’ve already set up those sound vibrations to polarize, you see in trance people into this feeling of like, yes or no. But having the lights on means actually I’m respecting the other side, and that means I know how to hold space and listen without waiting to talk, without already feeling I’m more right than them. And actually maybe finding a point of agreement first before we explore each other’s divergent ideas. So that we don’t waste each other’s time arguing for the sake of these ridiculous media organizations or whoever has the agenda of them. And then, actually being able to exchange ourselves with another’s perspective. This is like they say, everybody’s fighting a hard battle that we have no idea about, we’re just meeting them. And core to the yoga sutras is nonviolence. And I think we’ve seen many brushes with barbarism. Over this last one and a half years and that if violence ruled, if thievery ruled, if deception ruled, if sexual exploitation ruled, if taking as much as you could get as you could get it hoarding ruled, we would live in a barbaric society. And none of these leisures, like studying ideas, having peace, not being worried to death that our loved ones were were unsafe before they came home. This all would be occupied by. And so taking autonomy for our own peace; is my mind, too tight, is my mind too porous? Is of central teaching to the yoga sutras, which is constant. Constant.
Karuna: So we’ll be meeting together on Wednesday evening, starting June 2nd, we’ll go through the 14th of July, the course is, I think, two hours long and it goes by so quickly. It’s really interesting. You hear two hours and you’re like, wow, that’s a long time. But my goodness, it’s like you arrive and then you’re done and you’re inspired and you’ve made new friends. And I can say as a longtime student of Michael’s, that you will find your heart and mind touched deeply by his teachings. So, Michael, thank you so much for being here today.
Michael: Thank you. It’s always a pleasure. And I can’t wait for tonight.
Karuna: Yeah. So you find the course Yoga Sutra Essentials at Mindoasis.org. There’s a tab that says Learn and you’ll just scroll down until you see the second of June and you’ll see Michael’s face. Michael, thank you again.
Michael: Thank you Karuna. Have a great night.
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