By Barb Cooper
I was fortunate enough to attend the Dharma Yoga Center’s immersion weekend in celebration of Sri Dharma’s 76th birthday in May. I hadn’t been back to the DYC in an entire year (I live in Texas) and this year, I went there pretty much spiritually bankrupt, physically depleted, and in ethical conflict. Whereas in the past, my focus had centered on reconnecting with my physical yoga practice and the yogis who have come to mean so much to me, this time I went because I was longing to sit at the foot of the master, to soak up as much of his love and healing as I could. I’d been ill –I wasn’t sure if I would even be able to practice the asana.
And, you know, I learned such a huge lesson. We get out of our spiritual experience with Sri Dharma Mittra what we are willing to receive. He is unchanging and constant, offering all he knows to all who come before him. But he meets us where WE are; he’s not offering us lessons that are beyond our capacity to understand and experience.
In the past, I have had such a longing to connect with him, but I was simultaneously a little afraid of him. I always tell the story of the time I sneaked out of an immersion weekend for a cup of coffee. I came back to the DYC and readied myself for the next class, sitting cross-legged on the floor and closing my eyes to settle my singing blood. I opened my eyes to find Sri Dharma looking right at me, smiling. “How are you going to find bliss,” he said, “If you can’t even give up coffee?”
For a long time, I told that story as evidence that Sri Dharma is psychic (he is) and as evidence that you can’t get away with anything when you are with him.
But what I understand now is that it was never actually about the coffee. It was never about getting away with anything. It was never about judgment. It was always about him answering my deepest wish that he see me. He was saying, “You are seen. Come.”
I wonder what would have happened if I had met his eyes and smiled back, instead of looking away guiltily?
Well, actually, I know what would have happened. I know because it happened this year at the immersion. This time, I went to him in pain and needing healing. I watched him. I sat as close as I could to him. When I closed my eyes, I tried to channel him—to feel a little of the peace he feels. And he read my heart.
Every word he spoke seemed to be directed at helping me down the path to true yoga. I felt enveloped by his love—so much so that as I walked through the streets of Chelsea, I could hear his voice in my head. And I finally understood that all the barriers I have to self-realization are ones I built myself. Sri Dharma’s frequent exhortations to “be receptive to the grace of God” are more than just a slogan. He’s urging us to let ourselves be cracked wide open in ways we can’t even imagine –and all it takes is a searching and open heart.
I returned to Texas profoundly and permanently changed. I used to fear that the great physical distance between the DYC and me would dilute the effect of the healing I receive when I go there. I know now that the only limits we experience are the ones we put on ourselves.
“Let each man take the path according to his capacity, understanding and temperament. His true guru will meet him along that path.”
Barb Cooper, 50, is a mother, a well-socialized introvert, a Texas-to-New York-to-Texas transplant, and a writer by nature and training. Barb graduated from the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Training in June 2013 and teaches yoga at Rasna Yoga in Austin, Texas. Read more of her musings at sothethingisblog.blogspot.com