Years ago when I was writing YOGA: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness I asked a close friend of mine, Dr. Jim Dreaver, to interview me. I needed clarity about what I was writing. My hope was that by being questioned in this way I would come to greater focus in my writing. We did the interview, I transcribed it, and then I took the liberty of freely editing my answers so they were as clear and true as I could make them. I wanted this interview to be included in the book, but the editors felt it was stylistically too different from the rest of the book. It covers a lot of material. I hope you enjoy it!
Question Would you briefly explain your approach to yoga and what it is you want your students to get from their physical practice.
Erich I use the discipline of yoga to encourage the experience of stillness. The feeling of stillness is peace, and the feeling of peace is joy. That’s simple and profound and exciting.
This is my emphasis because this is the most direct way of experiencing the truth about yourself. Experiencing yourself in stillness is like a wave relaxing into itself and thereby experiencing its inherent ocean nature. Instead of being swallowed up by the ocean and losing its identity, losing its waveness, like what you might imagine would happen, the wave continues to exist but its sense of identity expands. It now exists with the new realization that it is not what it thought it was. It is not a tiny specific wave only. It is the entire ocean in specific expression. It is expansive and specific at the same time. And that can be a big surprise.
The wave will experience its ocean nature when it relaxes into itself sufficiently to experience the depths of what it actually is. In a similar fashion, the way for you or me to find out what God is, what Consciousness is, or what the universe is and how it works, is by consciously relaxing into ourselves—thereby experiencing what’s really so. If you want to know for sure what God or Consciousness is, then you must experience yourself consciously. You must consciously experience what it means to be conscious. Knowing is not intellectual or conceptual. It is the result of direct experience.
Now, keep in mind the idea that stillness is like a perfectly centered top, spinning so fast it appears motionless. Stillness does not mean no energy. It means no conflict. And because there is no conflict, it is a higher energy state than that with which we are normally accustomed. When you experience yourself in this unconflicted way, you will experience the truth about what you are.
Get the idea: when there is no conflict in your psyche, if even for only a moment, there will be a sense of greater energy and greater peace. Both. At the same time. And it will be experienced by you as your greater energy, your greater peace. The wave will recognize the power of the ocean as being the source of what it is, and you will intuitively understand that the Will of God, or the intent of the universe, and the desires and longings of your heart are one and the same.
You will also learn that you are your own closest contact point with the source of your being and the mysteries of the universe, just as a wave is its own closest contact point with the ocean, and that you are therefore your own best laboratory for delving into and discovering the true nature of Being. The truth of you, and the truth of the universe, and the truth of your Maker are identical. To learn about one is to learn about the other. And you are your own closest contact point.
Let me get into it like this. The physical yoga promotes balance, strength and flexibility. These qualities are invaluable. The more balanced you are, the more centered you will be. The stronger you are, the lighter you will feel. And the more flexible you are, the harder it is for pain and tension to lodge in your body. In becoming balanced, strong and flexible, you actually erase all the tensions and internal conflicts that would otherwise accumulate and eventually erupt as discomfort or pain in your body and life. Pain and tension are forms of blocked energy. Yoga opens these energy blockages and frees your energy circulation. This makes you feel good and your life runs smoother.
The physical yoga, however, is essentially an awareness process wherein you attend to subtle shifts in sensation and feeling. In so doing you exercise your sensitivity and cultivate the ability to “listen” inwardly. This becomes more and more important as you understand that in listening to your own body and mind you are actually listening to the universe. Listening inwardly allows you to access information you previously had no access to, information that will help you live in a more harmonious and fulfilling way.
There is a lot that could be said about this, but basically all of these things work toward the positive experience of your own naturally joyous being by promoting a sense of inner stillness and peace.
Question Please say more about stillness.
Erich Stillness is at the core of your being. As you get in touch with it you learn that you are part of God. You are as natural and legitimate an expression of Nature as a tree or cloud. The creative God Force will then guide you through life and help you make your most important decisions.
Question Are you saying that yoga helps you feel your essential energy with more clarity?
Erich Yes. It promotes an energized relaxation which helps clarify your deepest longings and motivations. The poses are not necessary for this, of course, but they can be taught in such a way that they help you experience your basic truth, as well as make you more intuitive.
Question What is that truth, in your view?
Erich The basic truth is that you and I are aspects of creative divine Consciousness, and we are grounded in Love and Goodness. Therefore, as you experience the truth of who you are, you will feel good inside about yourself because you’ll be in touch with the creative energy of Love and Goodness which is already in you. It’s what you are made of. It’s who you are. In other words, you are not who you thought you were. Love and Goodness is the feeling-tone of Being. Every other emotion is a layering on top of your natural state.
Most of us, however, are afraid to discover who we really are. I was. We are afraid because we don’t know what we will find, and because our worst suspicions might be confirmed. We are afraid we will uncover the most horrible stuff, and you may, but underneath it all is the creative energy of Love and Goodness. This displays itself as the need and desire to love and be loved, as well as the simple naturalness of being loving. When you discover this as a truth alive within you, you will relax into a profound sense of welcome relief and comfort. This is what enables you to trust, have faith, and live with renewed optimism.
Question What do you think is unique or different about the way you actually do the poses?
Erich The idea is to be creative in the poses and to use them as a way of exercising your intuitive abilities. Yoga is not mechanical. Each pose is a map into a specific area of your energy field. You use that map to “explore.”
Question Can you clarify that?
Erich Think of massage. When someone asks you to massage their neck or shoulders, your job is to look for the tight and tender spots and then rub. You rub the whole area and you deliberately “flirt” with the sore spots. These knots of tension are the contracted areas of your energy field you are attempting to undo, expand and open. You do not go directly into them and press as hard as you can, however. You approach them with care, coming at them from various angles, circling the areas, and pressing with varying intensities. In this way, you gradually erase the soreness.
In yoga you do exactly the same thing. Using the pose as a map you deliberately explore, looking for all the tight, weak, unbalanced and sore spots you can find within that area of yourself. You then flirt with the tight spots by breathing into them and stretching them with various intensities. You intuitively make subtle internal adjustments as you deliberately look for even the smallest hint of tension. This is like going through your garden and pulling out the weeds. Eventually you’ll have only baby weeds and your work will get easier. When you are really weed-free, the poses feel clean and there will be a feeling of free-flowing unobstructed energy. This is something you will want to do once you get a feeling for it.
Question How do the asanas help you teach what you are trying to teach?
Erich My primary intention is to foster the awareness of the ever-present supra-personal God Force as It flows through you as you and me as me. Yoga is one means. It is not the only means, but it is a particularly good means. It is not the means we are using right now, for example. The asanas and meditations, however, teach you to feel and be sensitive. They cleanse your body of tension and pain, and thereby help you experience the energy you are made of more clearly. Your innate intelligence, that which has been called the inner Teacher, will then guide you and tell you what to do. You become your own best teacher as you learn to rely on the inner Teacher.
The discipline of yoga is the best way I have come across for taking care of your physical health, and meditation is the best way to experience stillness. Together they are a way of learning to be in the now. Now is where you will most vividly experience the energy of life and is, therefore, where you will feel the most alive. You can only ever feel your connection with God in the now. I use the poses and meditations, therefore, to emphasize the present moment.
The desire for physical health is the lure that gets many people involved with yoga but it is not the main goal, and you discover that. You find something much more meaningful. All of this brings a relaxation on every level because you come upon the natural joy of Being. This is probably how you felt when you were young.
Question So if I was to ask what yoga means to you, how you define yoga, what would you say?
Erich Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means “yoke,” and yoke means “union” and “joining.” This is a reference to our ever-existing connection with the creative God Force. Yoga as a practice is about making this personal connection a conscious feeling-reality fact. Allowing yourself to then be guided by this inner feeling-reality is the source of right action. Yoga, then, is about cultivating the consciousness of your personal connection with the All and of living your daily life with this awareness.
The interesting thing about the word yoga, however, is that union and joining do not mean the same thing. Union means oneness, wholeness, not separated or divided, indivisible. Joining means coming together, implying the formation of a union from a previous condition of separation. The implication here is that people who at one time felt separated, abandoned and alone, like strangers in a strange and hostile land, now feel connected, in harmony, safe and whole because of yoga. Yoga changes the way you feel, the way you look at things, and the way you interpret what’s going on.
Yoga, therefore, is a simple statement of a previously unrecognized but, nevertheless, already-existing union between each of us and all of nature and the universe. We are all a part of the Oneness, creations of a common Creator and parts of the same whole. We were never not a part of the whole, never at odds with the universe, and contrary to appearances there are no enemies. Therefore, we need not fear each other. We are the Universal Family born of the Father-Motherhood of God. This is what is meant by union.
Yoga is also a process by which you become aware of this ever-existing union. This is what is meant by joining.
This distinction is important because being “joined” and knowing you are joined is a different experiential reality from being joined and not knowing it. Being a part of All That Is but not knowing or feeling it is tantamount to not being joined.
You are already in union with the whole of creation, and you always have been. There is nothing you need to do in order to establish your personal connection. It is already so. But you may not have been aware of this. Not being aware of your ever-existing connection with the creative God Force—ignorance—is the root of fear.
“Joining,” therefore, can only be meaningful to a mind that perceives itself as separate. Since you are already joined and have always been an integral part of the whole, and have never been separate except in your imagination, then really there is no such thing as joining. No actual joining ever takes place. There is no need. There are no separate parts. But, insofar as you feel separate, there is a tremendous need. Joining, then, is nothing more, or less, than the clear recognition that you have never been apart.
The teachings of yoga, then, are designed to awaken you to the happy truth of your real identity. With this comes the release from fear and the subsequent inner relaxation that accompanies fearlessness.
This is interesting because you retain a sense of individuality, free will and “separateness.” But you now operate with the knowledge that you are connected to a larger thing, like players on the same team or cells in a body, and that “you” as an individual are an expression of that larger thing. There is no “you” apart from It. You are It in specific expression. Yoga, therefore, encourages a sense of “joining with” which results in an awareness of the already-existing “union.” When that happens you relax inside and start feeling good. You feel different about who you are—better.
Question You mean more at ease? Less split? More whole?
Erich Yes. You experience self-unity and wholeness, and you no longer feel bad inside about who you are. You also learn that although yoga is not a religion, it does induce religious feeling.
Question What is religious feeling? How would you describe that?
Erich The word “religion” means to re-link or bind together. It is similar to yoke. It has to do with the feeling of not being separate, apart, left on your own or abandoned.
Question So it is a feeling of being connected?
Erich Yes. And because you feel your connection with God and the universe you feel held, protected, taken care of. You feel safe. You thereby grow increasingly confident that the universe is inherently good. It is not evil and it is not neutral. It is absolutely good. And you can know this even in the face of the most horrific manifestation. This, by the way, is tremendously soothing. It is the supreme tranquilizer.
Let me say it like this. Yoga makes you sensitive. Being sensitive enables you to feel your essential energy with clarity. This energy is the creative life force of God flowing through you. It’s what makes you you. Because realize: you are alive, you are made of something, and you did not create yourself. The more attuned you are to the creative life force in you, the more you will notice that you are participating in a non-stop non-verbal communion-communication with God and the universe all the time. You are literally connected to the universe with invisible wiring. You cannot get away from it. It’s how you are built. This personal communion-communication with God and the universe is the source of right action, joy, fulfillment, understanding and peace of mind.
Question Are you saying that God is within us, and that yoga is a way of helping us discover that relationship?
Erich Yes. But it is more accurate to say that you are in God rather than God is in you.
As you become aware of God “in” you, you will naturally become aware of God in others. A religious life, then, involves nothing more, or less, than relating to the God in everyone and in following Spirit’s guidance without hesitation. In this sense there is nothing but One Being experiencing Itself through everything created.
Question What percentage of your students do you find respond to what we might call the real teaching of yoga? How many come for just the physical? And how many are looking for the deeper spiritual meaning of yoga?
Erich I think all of them are looking for something real. There is an impulse in everyone to move toward truth. They may not know it, however. Their only conscious motivation for coming to class may be to get stretched out and relaxed.
Question And you see your work as helping to awaken that through the yoga?
Erich Yes. To encourage the experience of stillness. Because then they will know their truth firsthand and thereby feel good inside about who they are. This attitude is the real health tonic, more so than the effects of standing on your head or touching your toes.
Question So in your classes one of your aims, perhaps your chief purpose, is to give your students a direct experience of that stillness, of the wholeness that yoga brings us to?
Erich Yes. And though it does not seem possible to directly convey the experience, what I can do is be in that space myself and work to get the conditions as optimal as possible. There should be quiet. The room should be beautiful. The lighting should be just right. It all helps.
Question Where does meditation fit into yoga?
Erich Meditation is the heart of yoga, and doing the physical yoga makes it easier to meditate. This was one of my initial motivations for getting involved with the hatha side of yoga. I wanted to be comfortable sitting in Lotus so I could meditate. So I did the exercises. What I learned, however, was that doing the physical yoga is not only preparation for meditation, it is an extremely interesting meditation in itself.
Question What, in your view, is meditation?
Erich Meditation is the “listening” mind—the listening-to-Infinite-Mind-mind. And yoga is a way of learning to be in meditation all day long. In other words, listening inwardly with a quiet mind as many moments of the day as you can for the guidance and wisdom of Infinite Mind, God.
The way to listen inwardly for guidance from Infinite Mind is by being attentive to your deepest impulses about what to say or think or do or be. This, again, is like a wave seeking guidance from the ocean, as though the ocean were something other than itself, and then diving deeply into itself in order to feel out the answer. The wave “diving into itself,” however, is the same as the wave diving into the ocean, for the wave is the ocean in specific expression. The wisdom and guidance that comes from Infinite Mind, then, will be experienced by you as your deepest impulses to do or be. It’s a matter of being still enough mentally so they can rise from the ocean’s depths—your depths, the depths of Being—and float into your conscious awareness.
The practice of yoga, therefore, is the practice of meditation—inner listening—both in the poses and meditations, as well as all day long. It’s a matter of listening inwardly all the time, and then daring enough, and trusting enough, to do as you are prompted to do. Meditation, therefore, is many things, not merely sitting straight in Lotus. Primarily, it’s a way of coming upon the truth of who you are by experiencing what you are: you practice not thinking long enough to feel the energy you are made of. This puts you in touch with the natural joy of Being and the actuality of conscious communion with Spirit. You’ll find yourself becoming more intuitive, effortlessly. And then it’s a matter of listening on the run, of voluntarily allowing yourself to be guided by the Infinite as you live your life and do what you do.
For me, meditation in action—that is, in the midst of daily life—always involves the realization that this moment, right now, is absolutely worthy of my fullest attention. This means that “here” is where I am supposed to be, and that “this” is what I am supposed to be doing, and that “you” are who I am supposed to be with. It always feels as though the whole world is right now and that this moment is the only time there is—as though this room were the stage of the entire universe, the only stage, and you and I the only people in the universe. This can happen when you are sitting alone, listening to music, talking, painting, writing, making love, walking in nature… anything wherein you experience the joy of being you.
Meditation is a way of opening yourself to the intimations of the universe that flow through you constantly. It is the means whereby you exchange your previously small definition or sense of self for that of an individualized expression of the Infinite. Meditation helps you realize that you are a spiritual personality essence and that your mind is part of Mind. And in the stillness of your quiet mind you’ll learn to use your mind in a new and expanded way. Having a mind is like having a library card. With your library card you have instant access to all knowledge within the library.
Meditation, therefore, is not something you do for half an hour a day and then forget about. It becomes your total way of being. It is constant, all day long.
Question Would you say that when we are feeling really attuned to the moment, as you and I are now, that this is meditation?
Question I notice the quieter I get, the more I feel it. There is a sense of sacredness, of something immensely meaningful happening.
Erich And there is a pleasurableness to it which is free of unpleasant side-effects. Meditation is like a hot flame that burns clean, without a lot of black smoke. There is a heightened sense of energy which is extremely attractive. And of course it is attractive! There is more energy, more life. You feel more alive.
This has often been talked about as the “quiet” mind, and in a manner of speaking that is true. It is quiet because there is less conflict. There is just this hot flame of attention which, in a sense is quiet, in a sense is stillness. But, in another sense, is the most energetic, focused, creative and powerful. It is like an engine that is quiet because it is operating perfectly. And it is more powerful because there is less internal conflict. But usually when you hear about the quiet mind you think of dull, lethargic, less than high energy. The energy of stillness is anything but dull. It is like a perfectly centered dynamo, spinning so fast it appears motionless.
There is something very alluring, attractive and important about being in that high-energy no-conflict place, if only in moments. It’s there that you will receive guidance about what to do to resolve the various conflicts in your life. Therefore, if you can enter into a meditative state by listening to music or walking in nature, then do those things. Become familiar with it where you can and learn to be in it more of the time.
Listening to music, for example, helps you be in the now. And because it helps you be in the now, it is one of the very best ways of learning to meditate. And if you are a musician, meditation will inspire you to make greater music. Through your music you will be teaching people how to meditate, how to listen, how to enter stillness. If you are a writer, you will find access to an infinite well of creative inspiration.
So let’s be clear. Meditation is not only something that you “do.” It is a way of being. It is the way you do the things you do. It is the art of listening on the run. It is the art of listening inwardly for guidance from the one Infinite Mind in the midst of daily life as many moments of the day as you can. This changes all the so-called ordinary things of life into something so-called extraordinary.
Question When I come to your house I feel whole just being in the environment. It is always very healing. There is a strong sense of presence here and all the things you have described manifest readily for me. But what about when I go into the marketplace of my life, the world of my work, my relationships and interactions… ? How can I not lose that sense of something extraordinary that I have been able to touch through yoga and being here? How can I hold that, or still have the sense of that, and still be out in the world?
Erich That is certainly the challenge. And all you can do is try. If you try, you will achieve. For now, clock in as much time as you can when you can. Sufficient quantitative exposure will eventually effect a qualitative change, and then your question will disappear because you will be in it more of the time. Until then you will experience more and more discomfort when you are not in that space. In other words, the more you experience the natural joy of being, the more of a contrast it will be when you are not experiencing it.
Question You mean more painful?
Erich Yes. And that will spur you on. And that’s good. But you cannot withdraw from life. That does not work. You therefore challenge yourself to bring this quality into the world so that you can be in it more of the time, wherever you are and at all times. This is life-promoting. It is good for you and good for everyone. It brings satisfaction and fulfillment. It’s a matter of learning to be centered in action. But before you can be centered in action, you must learn to be centered in non-action when you are home and alone.
Question Are you saying that one should continue to be active and responsible in the world in the ways that are required of one and, at the same time, give as much attention as possible to yoga and meditation and being in the no-conflict place so that it becomes more of a reality for me?
Erich Yes. So it permeates the whole of your life. I mean, that is the whole point. The world will then become a more obvious manifestation of goodness.
Question Because it is hard, as you well know. The world is not set up to support those qualities of stillness, quiet awareness, and reverence for life.
Erich I know. But I also know that the more you feel the creative God Force in yourself, the more you will feel both your power and your safety. And you’ll therefore become more confident, hopeful, relaxed and realistically optimistic. Your power is the creative power of Life flowing through you. When you feel it, you will intuitively understand that not only can you use this power to shape your experience and external circumstances, but that you have been doing so all along. We are constantly pulling things and events into materialization. That is how we are built. We have been given the gift of creativity. The idea is to now do it consciously, guided from within.
Erich Think of it like this. Things happen from the inside out. Therefore, if you are experiencing excessive conflict in your life it is always because you are not clear about what you really want. You are therefore putting out intense but contradictory instructions that then manifest as conflict. The manifested conflict, however, is the perfect materialization of conflicting desires. Your conflicting desires created conflict. But this has not made you happy. Therefore, clarify. Clarify your desires and clarify your purpose. Discover what you really want. But do this by listening inwardly. Don’t just come to intellectual conclusions about what you think you want. Get quiet and listen for your deepest desires, like a wave listening to the ocean. Pay attention inwardly. Your life circumstances will then reflect your clarified intent.
Question And come into harmony?
Erich Yes. But you must clarify. In other words, what do you really want? And how much do you want it? These are important questions, and you are answering them all the time. Most of the time, though, we are not consciously aware of what our answers are. Nor are we aware that we have several answers, often conflicting. Once you clarify what you want, the means will become apparent.
Question So, this stillness that is here now… what brings it about? Or allows it to be?
Erich Receptivity, acceptance, letting it happen. It is already here. Just relax inside and be aware. You see, what you are looking for is already within you. Therefore, simply pay attention to your own being. Let yourself be you and be there for the experience. You will thereby come upon the inner joy. You will then be convinced, and you will feel good inside about who you are.
Question Is that what you mean by self-trust? You feel more at ease with yourself and therefore trust yourself more, and therefore you are able to step out into the world and accomplish or attempt things that you would not have been so willing to do before?
Erich Yes. Especially once you consciously experience the energy you are made of. It becomes easy to trust yourself when you know that at your core is Love and Goodness, and that there is nothing untrustworthy in there. Therefore, if you are attracted to something, or feel compelled to do something, or have the impulse to follow a spontaneous and uncalculated interest, you can now dare to do so without fear or hesitation. This is how the universe guides you. In other words, universal guidance will be experienced by you as your deepest impulses to do or be.
Therefore, clarify your deepest desires by listening deeply within yourself to see what they are, and then trust the thoughts, impulses, life circumstances, people, desires and attractions that arise spontaneously in your mind and life as guidance. These are the inner communications coming from the universe. Remember, you are not a separate energy. You are an individuated expression of the One. Therefore, the messages that come from beyond lie in the feelings and impulses that arise from within as well as in the circumstances and life situations you encounter.
Question How important do you feel diet is to the practice of yoga, and by that I mean the deeper practice of yoga?
Erich I think it’s important. And what I have found is that the more yoga you do, and the more you meditate, the more your diet regulates itself internally. This is fun to watch. For me, I eat what I feel like eating. I became vegetarian when I was fifteen and I read as many books on nutrition as I could. It interested me at the time. But even with all that information, I still ate what I felt like eating. Though, of course, what I now felt like eating was partly predicated on all the information I had taken in. I am not going to feel like eating a lot of salty food if I have read that it is bad for me and will make me stiff. But this is good. This is how it should be. This is how the intellectual and intuitive faculties of mind enhance each others function.
The important thing, however, is to develop the sensitivity that tells you what to eat or not eat, and how much and when, and to then trust yourself. The main rule is to eat when you are hungry and drink when you are thirsty, and to not eat when you are not hungry and not drink when you are not thirsty. Your mouth should water. Also, the more you taste and savor the foods and juices you eat, the better you’ll extract and assimilate their nutrients. Move the food around in your mouth with your tongue as you eat so you can really taste and enjoy it. The more you enjoy your food the better it is for you.
The other important thing is to be aware of what you think about the food you are eating while you are eating it.
Question Do you start by paying attention to how you feel as a result of what you eat? You become familiar with your diet in that way, and make changes accordingly. Is that what you are saying? Instead of operating out of some rote prescription of what a good diet should be, that may or may not be appropriate for you.
Erich Right. And be aware of what you are saying to yourself in the back of your mind about what you are eating. If you are saying “This is bad for me, this will make me fat,” do not eat it. Either do not eat it, or change your mind about it first and then eat it.
Question You want to feel okay about it.
Erich Yes. Sometimes you will say to yourself, “Potato chips are junk food,” and then go ahead and eat them anyway. Here you are giving yourself negative suggestion. They are worse for you if you eat them in that frame of mind than if you are clear that at the moment they are okay. Sometimes potato chips are the perfect food.
In many ways the poses you do are food. And just like you eat the foods that you think are good for you, as well as what you feel like eating, so too should you do the poses that you think are best for you and that you need the most, as well as the poses you are drawn to do, the poses you are hungry for. And, as with food, there may be a period of several weeks wherein you do not eat a single orange, for example. And then all of a sudden you might eat three or four every day. It changes. You flow with it. You go by the inner feeling. Some days you eat a little, some days you eat a lot. There is a self-corrective mechanism at work here that you should listen to and trust. There is no reason why you should eat a lot every day.
The same is true with your yoga practice. We tend to get too rigid and lose touch with the natural inner directive. Some days you will do a little, some days you will do a lot. Some weeks you will do a lot of backbends, some weeks you will do a lot of forward bends. This is how the earth and seasons do it.
Question Is this what you mean when you say that for you yoga is not mechanical and that you only practice what you want to do on any given day?
Erich Yes. But do not get me wrong. Sometimes I feel like going through a pre-set sequence of poses. I am not saying that you cannot or should not ever do that. And for beginners, of course, having a planned sequence of poses and knowing exactly what to do is often the best way to establish a regular practice. Someone who is in touch with the creative aspect of yoga, though, will not feel like doing it that way very often. At least I don’t. But it is one of your options, and it may be appropriate occasionally.
Question How does a student come to this understanding?
Erich It is something you learn. That is what teachers are for. The main thing is to go by the inner feeling, to cultivate sensitivity and trust, and to be guided from within. Not only with regard to the food you eat or the poses you do, but in all matters. Your within is connected with the whole ocean of Mind.
Get the picture. You and I are like waves on the ocean. The surface of the ocean is the physical world, what we can perceive physically, and on the surface we appear separate. But underneath we are not only connected to each other but to everything. By learning to go within, then, diving into the ocean of Consciousness, you tap into a vast reservoir of wisdom and guidance. And, eventually, you learn to trust it.
Inner guidance comes in the form of feelings, hunches, impulses, desires, and attractions, and is available and operative whether you have asked for it or not. But it happens better when you are asking for it, waiting for it, expecting it. That is why it is important to be open and receptive. Most of us have learned to ignore these subtle inner messages because our “surface” conscious mind has a difficult time explaining them.
You are receiving information from the whole ocean all the time. But if you discount this inner guidance and only go on what you can physically perceive, logically explain, and intellectually accept, then you are limiting the data available to you. The new information you learn to receive intuitively, however, will enable you to logically explain and intellectually accept an expanded view of reality.
Question So you are suggesting that we develop our awareness and sensitivity such that we are able to tune in to a much larger perspective, a universal mind, a universal intelligence? Rather than just our limited consciousness?
Erich Right. So you can be receptive to that place where the most information is available. You do this by quieting your mind and listening, as though you were waiting to hear a message. Actually, you don’t have to quiet the mind. You simply listen. The act of listening is what quiets the mind. It is then up to you to act on the guidance you receive.
Question And the more in touch with the Universal we are, the more whole we feel. This is the union of yoga, a joining with that largeness, that vastness from which…
Erich From which we were never apart. We only thought we were separate. And as long as you think that, and believe it, it will seem quite real. And the world will be a scary place, for you, and you will experience a lot of fear—justified fear, so you think.
Question Right. We were never separate. In a manner of speaking, then, we are joining with it. But in truth we were never separate from it. We just imagined ourselves to be. So therefore we imagine ourselves joining it. Is there anything you would like to add to that?
Erich With that comes a comfort, a trust in what’s happening. We are not separate from the creative God Force. We are individual expressions of It. Learning this is more important than being able to stand on your head, but these things help. They also help to maintain a healthy and vigorous body for as long as it is useful.
Question But what about the fact that there is so much fear in the world, and the fact that people are experiencing so much suffering?
Erich Yes, I know. There is tremendous fear. We are suffering. That is why we have to take what I am talking about so seriously. We are suffering because of ignorance. We are suffering because we don’t know how things work, because we don’t know who we are, and because we allow our thinking minds to overrule our inner voice. And we’re suffering needlessly. In other words, it can be circumvented.
Think of it like this: the fact that you are experiencing fear, for example, does not mean that the cause of the fear is legitimate. You may see a snake in the doorway and experience great fear. But when you realize it’s just a piece of ribbon, and that there is in fact no snake in the doorway, the fear goes away. You’re seeing the same thing still, but you’re interpreting it differently.
Use the fact that you are experiencing fear, then, as a cue to the realization that you are misinterpreting what you are seeing. Understand that fear is not legitimate. When you’re seeing things as they actually are, you won’t be afraid. And whenever you are experiencing fear, it’s because you are not interpreting whatever it is accurately. You are misinterpreting what’s happening and therefore experiencing fear. When you see any situation clearly you will realize there is nothing to be afraid of. We don’t know this at first, though. That’s why it’s important to consciously experience the energy we’re made of. Once that begins to happen you start seeing the world differently. You interpret what’s going on more accurately.
As far as suffering is concerned, suffering is feedback. It’s what happens when you make uninformed decisions. And therefore, funnily enough, it’s a good thing. When you put your hand on a hot stove, for example, it burns and hurts. Luckily! If it didn’t hurt you might not know your hand was burning. You could disfigure it out of functional usage or lose it altogether. Suffering is no fun. Suffering hurts. We should all strive to be free of suffering. But it does play an important role in learning to do the right thing. Suffering is not essential to psychological growth, however. Growth doesn’t hurt. Blooming isn’t painful. Don’t be confused about that. Growth only hurts when you resist it.
Okay? Work with those ideas. See whether they are true or not. The next time you are afraid, for example—for any reason—pause mentally, suspend your fear if you can, and ask inwardly for clarity, then look anew at the situation or circumstance that is frightening you. See if you don’t see it differently, and in a way which alleviates the fear, or at least gives you a new approach to resolving or dealing with the situation that is causing the fear.
That is basically what I am saying. I’m saying that God is Love and that God is All in all. And that if this is what you are relating to, if this is what you are seeing, you will experience no fear. What you will experience instead is love, and tenderness, and gentleness, and caring. And you will feel nourished and held and comforted. And you will feel deeply soothed, and you will relax. And you’ll understand why people do the crazy, cruel things they do. We’re violent when we are afraid. And then we suffer. And we’re afraid whenever we are not understanding whatever it is accurately. It’s worth a try, therefore, to test out what I’m saying. Play with it. Suspend your conditioning and look anew.
Question Do you agree with the teaching that we are not the body?
Erich Yes and no. In other words, it depends on how you look at it.
You are not the body in the sense that “you” existed before the body and you will exist after the body. Your beingness is not dependent on the body. Its beingness is dependent on yours, however. When you move on, it loses its energy and fades away.
You are the body in the sense that it is a very personal expression of who you are, and that no matter where you are in the universe—no matter which plane you happen to be on—you will always have some kind of form that identifies your identity and makes visible your presence. You will never be bodiless in the sense that you have nothing which identifies your presence. You will always have some kind of form. Your body is simply the visible portion of who you specifically are, your identification tag, so to speak. It’s not the totality of who you are. Form, therefore, or “body,” or identification tag, is not something to rise above or transcend. It’s something to experience and understand for what it is.
Here, the way your body is is a product of your thought processes and it displays perfectly all your beliefs, opinions, fears, feelings and attitudes. It gets sick when you are depressed and it glows when you are happy. The primary understanding, therefore, is that you and I are spiritual beings. Your body, in a sense, is simply the vehicle you need in order to be here on earth, just like you need scuba gear to go deep-sea diving or a space suit to go to the moon. You are spirit and the body is you made flesh, like a living garment.
While you are here on earth, therefore, you should understand that you are the body and you are not the body—both—at the same time. If you identify who you are with the body only, and base your conclusions about life on the data you’re receiving from the five physical senses only, you will probably come to the conclusion that life after death, for example, is impossible and that death is real. Because that is what you’re seeing. That is what the universe looks like when you are looking at it from the body-identification stance. Which means you won’t experience the relaxation that comes with the knowledge of your true identity and the realization that death is not real. But if you think of yourself as a spiritual being only, and judge the body as being unreal or temporary or illusory, then you will never feel fully alive here in the flesh. You’ll never feel really here because you’ve never quite allowed yourself to really be here. And you will therefore feel separate from your deep biological nature. Neither one of these extremes feels right or good.
Therefore, think of yourself as a non-physical spiritual being temporarily being physical and human, who will always have a form of one sort or another identifying your identity. Know that when your time here is up you will go on to new adventures and learnings, and that you will be just as alive then as you are now. Know also that you came here to be here in order to learn from the experiences that are possible in this particular environment. You came for the prize of experience: wisdom.
Question What is the essence of that wisdom?
Erich That there really is only creative energy grounded in Love and Goodness. Fear and violence come from the ignorance of Goodness, and therefore from a limited understanding of who you and I are and of what’s going on. That is why I say earth is school, and why the main thing to learn is who you are. You do this by experiencing who you are. You experience the energy you are made of, the Consciousness or Mind that you are, the Spirit that you are, the Love that you are.
The goodness, fairness and rightness of life is one of those things you intuitively know is right, and yet your mind argues with it and finds it unacceptable because there are so many blatant examples of atrocity and horror. So you end up not trusting what you know to be the truth. You end up being suspicious of yourself and others, and distrustful and fearful of the universe. And God becomes scary! Because he is bigger than all of this. He can zap you in a split second if you don’t watch out. He can punish you with an excruciating illness. So you can never relax. You can never safely let down your defenses. You can never be fearless. Or happy. But this is one of those things that everyone will eventually learn and gladly accept. It is where learning leads. It is the truth. I would like to answer and soothe those minds that cannot yet accept Goodness as the underlying fundamental truth.
You see, there is something very soothing about all this. It is soothing because it now makes perfect sense to let go of fear and relax. It makes sense because your understanding is different. You are interpreting what’s going on differently than you used to, and you are doing this because you are seeing things differently. You are beginning to see the God in all. And as this happens, the world literally begins to look different.
Question How so?
Erich Things glow more. There is more presence, more dimensionality, to the everyday things you see.
The main thing to understand, though, is that you will interpret what’s happening to you, as well as what’s going on in the world, differently when you begin to glimpse the benign face in all creation—when you begin to see the deepest truth within every specific thing. Seeing the benign face within every specific manifestation is what inspires love for that thing. This is healing both to you and that thing, whatever it is. And it happens when you wash your mind clean of everything you think you know about that person, event or thing and look at it anew with a clean, clear, empty and unknowing mind—an unbiased mind. You will then start loving what you see and others will love you for having been seen. And when you start experiencing the world in this new way, you make it easier for everyone to experience it. You strengthen that understanding in the world. You help change people’s minds about what’s going on. And that’s what changes and heals the world. The world will then literally take on a friendly and non-threatening glow.
Question Are there any final things you would like to say?
Erich There are two things I am being prompted to say right now. The first is to emphasize the fact that yoga can promote an energized sense of relaxation. This will encourage the very alive experience of stillness and deep, strong, powerful peace. This is more than pleasurable. It is joy. But it takes a certain maturity of mind to appreciate this full emptiness. More people would be after this if they only knew about it.
The second thing is that stillness teaches you to listen and be aware inwardly. You become more intuitive. You learn to ask for and receive guidance from the universe, from Infinite Mind, God. This is like a wave communing with the ocean. It is in the waves best interests to be doing this. Likewise, it is in our best interest to voluntarily seek the guidance of God and to actively listen deeply for our deepest impulses to action. Because remember, we are inside God just like the cell in your hand is inside you. You will leap at this when you see it.
Question I like that you said “prompted.” That is how I always feel. You go into the energy, then wait to see what wants to come out. That is when the most powerful channeling comes through.
Erich Correct. And you won’t know in advance what is going to be said. You will know what you need to know when you need to know it.