Written by Iris Disse
Experiential spaces between Kaula-Tantra-Yoga and Shamanism:
The traditional shaman is a politician, a healer, an artist. The traditional Yogi is often solitary on their path to enlightenment. A fusion of these approaches to expanding one’s consciousness creates what seems to be a perfect balance- extrovert and introvert, community and introspection.
We are constantly seeking inner peace. Our soul has the desire, and I deliberately say desire, to experience the world through a body- with all its despair, joy, sadness, anger, love… with everything that is included in the human experience. Through exploration of higher dimensions, nature, and our inner child, we advance from lower worldly chakras to the ones closer to the light world. If I live this fully and learn from my experiences and let the consciousness flow in, the energy will rise naturally upwards, powerfully, purposefully, pleasantly. There we will find peace.
The Heart ‘s Path:
The Andean tribes of the Quechua (or Kichwa) recognise the tiger as an animal with immense power and beauty, able to act at the right moment with minimal effort and maximum success. The Indian Vedas use the tiger as a symbol of grace, elegance, and ferocity. In the experiential space offered at Durga’s Tiger School ®, indigenous wisdom and ancient texts interweave and complement each other.
The heart’s path arises from spiritual experiences. We are invited to find out for ourselves what is true for us. I contemplate what is my truth. I explore my self gently and curiously. I fearlessly plunge into the adventure of transformation.
Typically twenty people from around the world come together here for a yoga teacher training.
There is much more than movement of the breath and body- wild dreams are dreamt atop the mountain of onyx and obsidian, profound realisations are made amidst Kundalini and power plant ceremonies, and a community of great depth and growth is formed which expands far beyond the weeks spent together. We understand that love is not a fleeting feeling that comes and goes but a power that arises when the heart chakra opens, and so it becomes limitless.
At sunrise the morning birds awaken, the wind gently moves the palm trees, the roosters wake up any late sleepers with their loud crows. “Good morning sacred self,” is whispered as we rise to start
our day. Morning meditation is followed by a locally-sourced, vegetarian breakfast prepared by sweet Nancy and her team down the hill from Casa Kiliku. The rest of the day’s schedule varies with
classes about Intuitive Anatomy, Psychology of the Chakras, Sounds of the Soul, and Shamanism.
Perhaps a class of Kundalini Yoga is taught by Rosa and Hector, an empowering couple working together consciously to balance the Divine Feminine and Masculine energies. A power plant ceremony of Ayahuasca or San Pedro presents itself in the course to purify and to guide us home to Great Spirit. Sacred fires are burned, chants and prayers are sent out into the universe, bare feet grow roots into the earth.
Siento el fuego adentro,
adentro, Siento el fuego,
aquí te encuentro,
The start of a meditation practice can be gruelling. It is difficult to empty our minds, full of racing thoughts, ideas, and the like. Shamanistic practices connect us directly to nature, our shimmering planet, and so with our body teaching the mind to let go. The techniques have a powerful andconcrete effect on us. I cannot escape a mind, body, soul connection when I am in the sweat lodge- the belly of Mother Earth, my body pressed against another, circled around sacred red hot stones brushed with sweetgrass fragrance, ancient Grandmother and Grandfather spirit glows in the darkness. I cannot escape a mind, body, soul connection when I am on a vision quest in the jungle on a dieta, the plants and smoke purify the entirety of my being. A veil lifts when I call on my power animal or dance myself into a trance of a butterfly metamorphosis. We suddenly remember who, what, and where we are. Yes, we are one with creation. We are a part of the earth and creation, contrary to modern separating and limiting beliefs. Now the feeling of “holy” has nothing religious or moral to it. It is a modest and simple feeling enhancing my life with meaning. Exhaling fear, I meditate on this connection: Great mystery, let your vision for my life become the will of my own.
Monkeys and Kundalini:
The connection to nature is also reflected with the ancient spirit animals that we come to embody.
Kundalini energy is the snake. My monkey mind rambles until my breath relaxes it. In my asanas, I a graceful cobra, an alert crocodile, a strong lion; I am a palm tree, a mountain, a star. When I inhale and flow up into mountain and hold the position for as long as I can while holding my breath, I am as stable as the mountain on which Shiva sits. When I exhale into down dog and hold the position completely depleted of air – it connects to the symbolism of the dog in the Vedas – it is time for the dissolution of the existing, completely airless.
Yogis Crossing the Shamanic Path:
I was on a silent retreat at Phool Chatti Ashram in Rishikesh, Northern India experiencing the yogic-vedic way of life together with forty people from all over the world. It became apparent how many shamanic elements are already in the traditional yoga path.
“Om Ganga Mai, Ganga Mai, Ganga Mai Mai,” we chant and repeat the mantra endlessly it seems.
We stand on the river’s edge hip-deep in the water and pray. Time feels like it has suddenly stood still. We each go forward with a personal prayer as we give the blood-red flower which we all hold in
our hands to the Ganges. Ma Ganga accepts the sacrifice and lets it playfully float through its streams. It moves me to see how deeply we Westerners can get involved in the ritual. We then dive with all our clothes on into the cold water, all still part of the meditation. The Ganges is a primordial river, a sensual goddess who decided to come to earth and help its people – her body being the shining silver water veins of our planet.
Singing, dancing, power plants, conscious walking, silence, fasting, practicing asanas – shamanic and vedic practices open the way to the sensitive vibrational levels. Now meditation suddenly feels easy.
Once I arrive at my center, the fearless space at the center of a hurricane, body, mind, and soul vibrate together. There it is, the peace in me – completely present, even for just a moment.
The Leap of Durga’s Tiger:
Once I am certain about the path I want to take, it cannot be rationalised away. One cannot un-see the truth, forgetting what they know. This certainty supersedes the rationality presented by friends and family: Yes, there are 10,000 unemployed artists. Yes, I know teachers face instability and uncertainty. No, traditional studying is not important for me, I want to work with wood. Yes, I know… and still… I want to do it my way. Now is the right time to act. Man is the only living being who creates and directs energy and is thus always a co-creator of his own path. We must be creative, as it is in our nature. In doing so, the conscious fluctuation betweenm editative relaxation and “doing something” no longer becomes an obsession that save us from fear. I can hear the voice of this non-judgmental “witness” inside me who does not identify with my actions in the world, before whom there is no justification, whom is not corruptible. When I become so truthful, I can no longer invest my life energy in actions that harm the earth and everything that hough I may earn a lot as a manager in one of the big destructive corporations I suddenly know that the separation of “work for money” and “yoga for body and soul” cannot be kept apart. I start to take responsibility for what I do. This is the challenge of the shamanistic yoga path.
The Madness of Normality:
We want to oppose the madness of our normality, as the so-called civilised world is no longer oriented towards survival on our planet. People feel disconnected from nature and destroy their own livelihood. The Holy Ganga Ma is polluted, the water of the Amazon is poisonous, the forests are being cut down, Shiva’s mountains are diminished to dust in order to make a few wealthier.
Where is the sense in this, the oh-so highly valued intelligence of the westernised world? Isn’t an ant more intelligent because she only nibs on the leaf instead of tearing the whole plant down? If we could really understand that the state of our planet reflects our own, we would know that something must change. Therefore, any spiritual path can only take effect if we do not seek to flee the body, but rather deal with our own nature and instincts. Beginning with our lower chakras – emotions, sexuality, love, fear of old age, disease, and our own relationship with the world.
The Challenge of the Shamanic Yoga Path:
It is the little things that make a difference. For example, I can strengthen the value of traditional knowledge: Fanny is a Quechua Indian, she has medicinal plants in her garden and her three children
have rarely went to a doctor. She ritualistically works with plants, eggs, and the elements. Fanny heals with plants. She does energetical cleanses called “Limpias,” which every student receives. Prior to the unique integration of the cleanses at Durga’s Tiger School ®, she only performed them with her close family to avoid being labeled a witch. Since the presence of the church is still quite strong in Ecuador, many vulnerable minds are structured to fear shamanistic practices, some of which are forbidden. Perhaps because they are catalysts for free-thought, liberation, connection. One day Fanny herself stood in front of me and said, “Now I understand, I am also human.” She began to cry tears of joy. Fanny works also as a janitor at the school, and with such a job title many would be quick to dismiss her of holding great wisdom and knowledge. Such classism is rampant in Latin America. There is so much to every soul, our light forever shines far beyond our job titles, limiting beliefs, and financial situations. When there is a will, there is a way. Indigenous people are able to do our yoga teacher training here for free. Take Roberto for example, who always wanted to travel, but never managed to get out of our village. After the training, he sent a Facebook message from Machu Picchu followed by pictures from Bolivia. He teaches Kaula-Tantra Yoga on his journeys. The school joins the initiation rites for children who become adults in the village. The yoginis and yogis feel this: “happy students, happy dogs, happy team, happy me”.
The students from all age groups and social classes go back into the world; some want to become yoga teachers while others are boldly quit their jobs and start making their dreams into reality.
“I will leave the big urbanisation office and work with organic construction instead,” says Denis.
All those who complete the education are like seeds that spread into the earth. They eventually rise and cause changes related to the sacred law of life on this earth. When they dance so tiger-likebetween meditation and action, creating every moment and living their decisions, the Kundalini rises because that is just the way it is. For, do not forget: our true being is bliss and awareness. This is what counts for us.