How to Use Yoga to Change Your Entire Life

Listen to this talk and learn a powerful technique to transform your yoga practice--and every area of your life. Recorded at a live event at Yoga Pura. Want more like this? Become a Member of the BrightLife Yoga Collective and discover how you can revolutionize your life with the ancient wisdom of yoga.

TRANSCRIPT (machine-generated, please forgive errors)

This week we've been doing a little practice that I've mined from the Zen tradition. It all starts with a little Zen story that I shared on Tuesday. I'll share it again tonight. Because we have some new people, and it's one of my favorites, because, in my practice, it has become so powerful and also useful in real practical way.

So, the story goes, there was a young lad in Japan who decided he wanted to become not just a monk, but enlightened. And he was hell bent on becoming enlightened. So, he packed up all of his things in his little rucksack and walked through the mountains up to a monastery that was on top of a peak.

He knocked on the big gate and the big gate opened and he said,

“I want to become enlightened. I want to become a monk. Will you please accept me?”

And as tradition dictates, they slammed the gate and said “go away.” Presumably in Japanese, but I don't know any Japanese, wo we'll just go with, “go away.” And that is the tradition, as anybody who's seen Fight Club knows. They test the resolve of prospective monks or adepts by telling them that they're not welcome, that they're not ready, that they're not worthy, and to go away. Then they allow them to sweat or freeze without water or food on the steps of the monastery for a good while. Sometimes days, or weeks or more.

This is to make sure that they sincerely are committed because the life of a monk is one of difficulty with very few creature comforts.

So, he waited and waited and waited and waited and they opened the gate and they said, “go away.”

And then he waited some more and they opened the gate and said “go away” and on and on it went until one day, they said “yes, you may become a monk.”

So, of course. He didn't want to just become a monk. He wanted to become enlightened. Just becoming a monk, wasn't the thing. So, then he started asking: “Can I see the Master?” And, of course, the answer was no. And so he went through his little monk rituals and lived his little monk life. And every day he would ask if he could see the Master and every day the answer was no.

Then after a period of some months, finally, they said, okay. “One short interview with the Master is permitted.”

And so, the day came and he made his way up to the quarters of the Master. He sat outside and he waited for the ring of the bell as is custom, when the bell was rung, he was invited in and then he bowed to the Master and asked him:

“Please tell me, what is the secret of enlightenment?” Then he continued, “I know you know, please share it with me because I want to know more than anything else.” The master looked at him and said “This is it. Nothing comes next.”

And it was said that in that moment, the monk became enlightened.

For now, we're not going to go down the very thorny and complicated path of what is enlightenment is and how it comes to arise. We’ll save that for another time. But what I will say is the reason is that this story is so powerful for me, and potentially for you, is that this idea of “nothing comes next” is very practical and relevant in our everyday lives. Used correctly, it can stop the mind in its tracks and to create a sense of profound inner peace or fulfillment, or even better, fullness. Quiet. Satisfied fullness. And the interesting thing is, kind of tangentially, they've done a lot of studies late on happiness and what makes people happy and what doesn't make people happy. When I was in India, when I first arrived in the middle of the day, I met a family, three kids and two adults. They were cooking out in front of their house on the way to the temple between where I was sleeping in the ashram and the temple. And I was like, “oh, that's nice, they live in this little hut, but it’s k kind of sad that they have to cook in their front yard, but they seem really, really happy. Then the next morning at 4:30am, I was walking in the dark to go to the sunrise ceremony at the temple and as I walked by their little house, guess what? They weren't in the house because it wasn't their house. They were sleeping in the dirt in front of the house. And so here I was feeling really bad for them because they only had this little crappy hut to live in with no running water and they had to cook in the front yard. But the bottom line is that they didn't even have that. They slept literally not even under a tree in the dirt around this little fire.

But as I learned in the weeks I was there, they were so happy. Really interesting. Right? And so back to these studies of happiness, what they have found time and time again, is that we humans have this immense capacity to synthesize happiness and fulfillment, unless… Unless we are faced with perceived alternatives to our situation.

Another word for those perceived alternatives is possibility. Possibility, in a weird twist, kills your happiness, which is to me, one of the most ironic things on the planet, because possibility is what everybody is clamoring after, especially in this country, right?