Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Lol'ing yogis

Tonight I had the pleasure of seeing Radhanath Swami speak at Jivamukti Yogi School with three of my dear friends from Yoga Teacher Training. This was technically a talk about the Bhagavad Gita but he did much more than speak. He contemplated. He quoted the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita and other ancient texts.  He told stories. He chanted. He handed out vegan cookies! But most of all he smiled and he laughed.

When I say he laughed, I mean- this man LAUGHED with all his being. He literally through his head back and laughed out loud (yes LOL'ed) at least 4 times during the 90 minutes he spent with us. He cracked himself up with self-deprecating humor or a funny anectdote from his childhood days in Chicago, before he embarked on a transcontinental search for God as a penniless hitchiker and later an ordained monk. This man who has spent the past 25 years building schools, wells, and medical centers in the poorest slums of India and traveling the world sharing the teachings of bhakti-yoga peeked into a basket of Vegan cookies during our chanting session with the naughty look of a child caught with their hand in the cookie jar. He takes his devotion to God very seriously but himself...not so much.

If you've ever seen the Dalai Lama speak live or even on tv you can't forget the sound of his jovial high-pitched laugh. My husband and I watched a documentary about him last week and I swear, he's like a Buddhist Santa!. Three years ago at the Yoga Journal Conference I signed up for a class with Dharma Mittra and was totally intimidated to practice with such a master. Would I fidget during the lecture person and embarass myself? Would I do not be aware of the proper rules of reverence and offend the guru (cover your feet! don't slouch!)? Would the class be serious and maybe even a bit joyless?

To the contrary, Dharma Mittra giggled like a school girl and told us not one but three anecdotes that involved "taking a puff" if you know what I mean. This guy was hilarious! And light-hearted! And childlike! This man who is 73 years old and has devoted his life to scripture, charitable works, and teaching asana acts like a class clown and looks no older than 49.

What is their secret? Does yoga remove their stressors so they become childlike again? Does yoga take away any nasty or self-defeating thoughts from the minds of these devoted followers? Do they live on a cloud of continual connection to God that makes them seem so blissed out all the time?

I certainly don't know the answer but if following the yogic path can make me LOL into my 70's like these guys, I know it's worth trying to find out.