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Lions Roar : March 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2007 62 unless they follow the practice to its end, it doesn’t really work as a permanent source of pleasure. So at least people are getting a good start and going to the right source. Then they have an opportunity to discover what the practice is really about. I’m optimistic about the overall state of affairs in the yoga world. ANNE CUSHMAN: I find that many people come to yoga with one set of goals or expectations and find those goals shifting and deepening over time. Someone can begin a yoga practice with the most superficial of motivations—wanting to look better in a bathing suit—and then over time their life transforms to the point where they want to seek out deeper teachings. So even the superficial approach can be a doorway into deeper realizations. Even if people seem to be drawn to yoga for the most superficial of motives, they are actually look- ing for the relief of suffering, and that is the beginning of the spiritual quest. Then they may find that the more superficial approaches to the practice don’t address the roots of their suf- fering. That’s when people want to go deeper. PHILLIP MOFFIT: When I started doing yoga, nobody talked about coming in to look better, although some people were doing it for health reasons. People at that time were looking for a spiritual path. Then we had this odd experience that as hatha yoga became popular, it became far more materialistic. But what originally attracted people wasn’t materialistic, at least in my experience. SHAMBHALA SUN: It’s clear that a lot of people doing yoga want more than just fitness. They’re looking for a spiritual practice. Given that yoga itself is an authentic spiritual prac- tice, why should they turn to Buddhism, as many are doing? RICHARD FREEMAN: On a very practical level, Buddhist communities are well-organized to conduct sitting retreats. In the more traditional yoga lineages, one learns the medita- tion and then goes off and practices in retreat, but not often with a large group of people. What the Buddhist communi- ties do so well is conduct practical meditation sessions in a way that’s very inclusive. The simplicity of the mindfulness- awareness approach is that it doesn’t require a theological commitment. It doesn’t require a secret mantra; it just puts you face-to-face with your breath and your mind, allowing people to get started right away with the meditation prac- tice. I think that’s wonderful. So here in Boulder, which is a great Buddhist center, I try to take full advantage of the local resources, and I encourage all my yoga students to meditate. PHILLIP MOFFITT: I agree. The mindfulness-awareness prac- tice offers a direct experience for students who want to deepen their understanding. It does not require that they embrace any kind of philosophy or theologi- cal system. So that inclusiveness is the first thing that Buddhism offers. Second, Buddhism offers a systematic approach to learn- ing about and working with the mind, and that’s empowering. It’s not like surrendering to someone else’s authority. You’re gaining your own understand- ing, your own techniques. That’s very useful. Third, Buddhism is good at deconstructing experience. There- fore it allows you to see all your life’s experiences more clearly, including your practice. Because you deconstruct your experiences, you cease to be hypnotized by what’s pleasant and unpleasant about them. ANNE CUSHMAN: The yogic path is complex and diverse, and one of its beauties is that there are different paths for different people. I would never say that Buddhism is the path that everybody ought to turn to. I think it’s a question