Reposted from the Black Dog Yoga Blog from November, 2014.
The conversion started on a Thursday in October.
I love talking to Diane. If anyone has a hunger for knowledge and a passion for the transformative power of yoga, it’s her. She’s one of the most insightful people I’ve spoken with regarding the practice, the theory and the application of yoga. It’s pretty impressive [obvious understatement].
What started as a little Q&A with her for this blog became something much bigger. I could have asked her the ol’ standby “so, what’s your favorite yoga pose?” but any answer she could have given seemed pointless for this interview considering a) I already knew she doesn’t have one, b) it wouldn’t really matter anyway if she did and c) there’s way more stuff to talk about.
In August, the girl from Fairfax, Virginia earned a Master’s Degree in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica.
What can you tell us about Spiritual Psychology?
The teachings within Spiritual Psychology involve the application of principles and practices which are designed to dissolve the barriers that keep us from really experiencing who we truly are, so we may awaken into the realization of who we truly are. As we begin this deeper self-inquiry, we ask ourselves three important questions:
*Who am I?
*What is my purpose?
*How can I live a more meaningful life, be of service, and make a more meaningful contribution to the world?
When you really align those within your heart, there’s a level of enlightenment a way deeper awareness that takes place, because we realize it is no longer just us at the wheel, but that co-creation is only that when we CO-operate with Spirit. Then, we experience a sense of knowing, instead of merely believing. We literally transform our inner dialogue from one of self-potentiality to one of self-actuality—of living into the fullness of who we are and who we came to be.
There are the five senses [sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch]. The sixth sense is intuition. The seventh sense, which has to do with enlightenment, is direct knowing. It’s such a “buzz word,” but it encompasses everything I want to teach, and that’s Self-mastery.
The proof is in the pudding. Thats where the “practice” comes into play. It’s experiential—because in order to know it, one has experience it for oneself. For example, I can tell you what a particular pose in yoga should feel like, but to really know it, you need to experience it sensorially in your own body for yourself.
There’s nothing to believe, and everything to know. And once you know, you can get out of the doing, and move into accessing the bigger picture. You start seeing things differently, because your outer reality is a reflection of your inner reality. As your inner reality shifts, your outer world reflects that back to you, and how you literally experience life, transforms.
Like on the mat?
It depends… What are you coming to the mat with? Every experience and trauma is held in the body. We practice yoga so we can release negative thought patterns that cause contractions—a stoppage of the breath, anything. That contraction could be from an experience in traffic or something much deeper and painful.
Whatever it is, there is the opportunity for healing. Over time, if not addressed, there’s a lack of energetic flow and that causes “dis-ease.” Yoga is a brilliant self-healing mechanism, because it helps us release fear in the mind and the body which create the contraction/trauma in the first place. Where there is fear, there is no love—for fear and love cannot co-exist in the same space. Our thoughts affect our body, pure and simple.
We have to remember we are living in two dimensions: physical world reality and spiritual world reality. If we don’t have a spiritual perspective on things, we have a tendency to judge things or events as being terrible, as in “there is no god,” or,“there is no purpose.”
Little detour here: This piece of art, “La Drape Rouge” from Rene Gruau was hanging on the wall behind Diane. It’s so beautiful.
The first three skills you learn in Spiritual Psychology:
* Seeing the spiritual essence
* Heart centered listening
* Freeing yourself from limiting interpretations of reality
How would I know I’m on the path toward knowing my “true self?” Or if I’m just showing up at yoga because it’s a good time of day and it’s only an hour?
I think the greatest feedback is how you feel. If you are feeling unhappy, there’s something you’re resisting. You’re probably resisting cooperation with spirit, with understanding and acceptance. Whatever happens to you is all for you, to transform your consciousness into Divine loving.
But it’s a process, and it can be very confrontational at times. To me, true yoga is confrontational because it literally forces you (if you choose to take the invitation!) to shift. I guess I could say yoga is a practice of self-correction on the path of self-remembrance. And it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. But for those who are ready, the unfoldment is there to experience.
There are five fundamentals of yoga that exist to get the most out of your practice:
* Practicing the posture (in right alignment)
* Practicing the breath—the pranayam—conscious, sustained breath
* Meditation—for the sake of inner ascension and transformation
* Intention—for it fuels your action, which determines the outcome. Every posture is a reflection of that intention.
* The element of repetition—so that we literally create new patterning in the mind and body to support aging in a graceful, enhancing, and self-honoring way.
Do you link poses to this ideology in class?
Yoga becomes yoga when we get out of the way. So when I teach class the first thing I do is get them, my students, connected to their multi-dimensional system by simply, but carefully, and in a focused manner, turn their attention to the breath. Ultimately, yoga is not about the seen, it’s about the unseen.
Traditionally speaking and in the words of my guru, YogiRaj GuruNath, “We do yoga for the sake of pranayam [extension of the breath, or life force], not the other way around.
The breath is like a wire, and the prana is the electricity that runs through the wire. In yoga, through proper practices in pranayama, we set ourselves up so the wire rests in it’s proper place and then the energy can flow through. And we know empirically the positive effects of applied conscious breathing—even if it’s just for five minutes a day.
When we slow the breath down, we know medically and scientifically there’s a shift in the prefrontal cortex, which gets lit up. The prefrontal cortex is all about being connected, feeling oneness, coming into a sense of peace, inner knowing and all those attributes that are important to help us access the bigger picture, the Self—our essentiality.
The second thing we do in class is we set an intention. For example, “let this be for the highest good or something greater for all concerned.” It’s something larger than this encapsulation of body. The intention we set gets funneled through the heart, not the head. You see, the ego is interested in the familiar, and what’s comfortable. The ego doesn’t want to do what’s for the highest good.
If you’re saying, “I’m doing all this so I can learn how to do a handstand” my guess is that’s just to get something. It’s not giving over and letting the Divine enter in. Yoga at it’s deepest is practiced when we allow ourselves to be given over to something greater than ourselves. That’s why Iyengar said “all my poses are prayers.”
It’s human nature to look outside yourself for answers. We find our way through personal experience, and we can only access our essential self through direct experience, where the vessel of our heart is completely open, to receive that blessing of knowing who we are. You can’t find it through the head, where it’s being funneled through your limited perspective, interpretation, or perception of things. The gateway is the heart.
What would you do if Krishna showed up unannounced, knocked on your door, and told you everything you’ve been studying the last 20 years was a result of an acid trip gone wrong, and he’s so sorry you bought into it, but it’s all drug induced nonsense, including mantra, yoga poses like Utkatasana (Chair Pose) and the Bhagavad Gita?
First, I would say, I know you are not Krishna because I have never experienced an acid trip (laughing)! Secondly, I would say, the only limits we have are those we believe. And I would know it all to be true, based on my own experience. You may try to convince me otherwise, but what I know is only charlatans or those “posing” as Krishna, try to convince me of false truths.
I always want to grow. I’m a perpetual, consummate student. I’ve been teaching for 20 years, and I have a lot to give. I’m so much more humble now, because I realize how much I don’t know and how much there is to know, and that I’ll never know it all. And that’s OK. ~DH
Thank you Diane!
Diane has been teaching yoga for nearly 20 years, having studied and received training in Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Anusara and Kriya Yoga. She has led retreats and workshops all over the world, and has a thriving private practice in Los Angeles. She has been voted one of the Top Ten Yoga Teachers in L.A. by LAYoga in 2010. Diane has a Masters in Spiritual Psychology and is a fervent student of “A Course in Miracles” and the MSIA discourses. She is currently working on her first book and a brand new website (in the works) soon to be published: http://www.alchemyofselfmastery.com
For more information on Diane, direct inquiries, upcoming events and teacher trainings for 2015, you can contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org