Autobiography of a 21st Century Yogi
An autobiography is about a person’s life, right? We can all agree on that. This autobiography is my life’s story, from just before I was born to around my 32nd solar revolution (or birthday). But let us take it another step. A life story is about what a person did. Or is it? A saying goes: we are human beings, not human doings. The distinction is significant. A person can do. A person cannot do. Or we can just be here. We can be Present. This may seem like a minor scuffle over semantics, but this distinction is deep. Many sage-warrior have declared that what a person does, what a person thinks, how they perceive, and what they believe…all that is content. It is not who the person is. You can’t point to a single event and declare that event is he. Human Beings are constantly changing. We have to. In order to thrive, we push our boundaries to live and learn. An autobiography then, has the potential to be more than a laundry list of deeds. An autobiography can be a story of a person’s Presence.
Let’s dig a little deeper. Our ability to be present depends on our belief structure which in turn is shaped by how we perceive. I can’t be fully present in a conversation if I don’t believe that it is worth my time to listen to anyone and whether or not I believe that I ought to listen will depend on whether or not I perceive other people to be worth listening to. Any effort to paint a self portrait will need to uncover key events that influenced how I perceive the universe, how those perceptions influence my belief structure, and how I became aware of all of this.
A mentor and friend of mine, from my days whitewater rafting the Chattooga River, is fond of saying that we are all trees growing tall. As we grow tall, our point of view changes. A sapling, deep within a thicket, may believe she is surrounded by impenetrable forest but when that same sapling grows to be a towering tree, she easily sees that the river is only a short walk and that there is a meadow nearby. The sapling’s perception changed as she grew. Her world looked mighty different at fifty feet then five feet.
Life is hard. Life is simple. Which is it? Whichever adjective you choose to describe life depends on your perception. How you perceive a given moment. In other words, how your belief system treats a given moment. Your perception generates feelings which create your mood, which fuels your perception, which generates feelings that create your mood… See where I’m going with this? It is a circle, or wheel, going ‘round and ‘round into infinity. But what determines our beliefs? What causes a person to believe life is easy or life is great versus life sucks and isn’t life so unfair? Everything and nothing! That is, there is no “right” answer just as there is no “wrong” answer because both of those are subject to a perception. As far as God-the cosmic spirit-- is concerned, there is only that which leads back to God. And we Modern Humans, all social media’d and advertised up, are under constant bombardment by perceptions that have little to do with the pursuit of true happiness. These capitalist perceptions are looking to influence our beliefs into believing there is a right and a wrong. That way, we can be easily influenced into buying goods or services that build up Images—aka keeping up with the Jones’—we can be influenced into hating other people, hating other nations, supporting wars, and consuming and abusing the Earth who is our ever-gracious Mother. Clearly, this is often to our detriment as a cohesive family, because truly, all us folks are here on Earth together and therefore we are all members of the Human Family.
“…all members of the human family.”
The above statement does not unilaterally describe my core belief from birth to now, June 2, 2018. In fact, there are probably few areas where my core beliefs have not shifted around. These discrepancies are largely responsible for why I’m writing this story. I wanted, I needed, to understand how it is that a person’s beliefs can change. I wanted to know what beliefs even are. Most importantly, I wanted to trace my life’s path to figure out where it is that I forget what it is to just Be myself. I feel that the more aware I become of my own life then the more aware I will become of everyone else. And when I say everyone else, I also include our plant, animal, insect, and fish friends. Everyone equals all. This is the heart of yoga. This is essence of spirituality. It is the bedrock of humanity.
So my friend, I invite you to join me, Francis Alexander Perryman Jr (aka Alex, Pman, TA, and Al), in the unfolding growth of my Presence from the womb and beyond, with a little socio and politico commentary here and there because what are we if not products of our culture and times? Whether we like it or not, be it sticking with the status quo or seeking change, we are just as much a part of society as we are not. Furthermore, I believe each of us chose, to incarnate on Earth at this moment for specific reasons, namely to Grow.
Before we go any further, let me be straight up. The title of this book does not imply that, through years and years of enthusiastic self-disciplined meditation, I have reached the mythical level of awareness (read:enlightenment) of fabled yogic masters like the Buddah, Merlin, or Moses. Though that would be groovy, I don’t feel it matters. Heck, my thoughts can be as bullheaded and crazy as anyone’s. Just ask my partner. What I do feel matters, is that I believe in myself—that I believe in my own powers—that I know that no matter the direction traveled, all directions lead to infinity—all directions lead to Good—and likewise for you—I believe you and every other being exists to be Good. We are all traveling along our very own and exceptionally unique path towards knowing who we are. That path, though at times windy and dark and light and everything in between, ultimately leads to the essence of creation and that essence is infinitely Good. Yogi Masters like Jesus of Nazareth, Yogi Bhajan, and Black Elk preached to know thyself, to “Be still and know that I am God”.
Did I just say Jesus was a Yogi? Yep, sure did. The word Yoga means to unite with the infinite consciousness and Jesus preached that the Holy Spirit—the infinite consciousness—is within us all and that true happiness—the kingdom of God within—lies in realizing that truth. The truth being that we are all connected. We are not separate beings living close together but one vast Spirit of interconnectedness. It is said that when we truly realize our connection to Source, our attachment to our Content falls away to uncover our True Name (or true identity).
therefore, if you have set an intention to know your true identity, then you are a modern yogi.
For these pages, my intention, is to bring you into my sandals (I don’t like wearing shoes) so you can experience the moments that have nudged me along to embracing this belief. Why? Because it feels good to share our stories with one another—especially those stories that tell the tale of believing in God, the Cosmic Spirit. After all, folks have been doing it forever. And because from time to time in my life I have come across certain books that have helped me become Aware…and the moment has come for me to give back.
You know what? It is downright scary to consider sharing my life with you. I can feel part of my ego rebelling at the idea. A great writer really throws it all out on the line. But that’s also the sort of thing that fear clings too. As Elizabeth Gilbert says in Big Magic, fear is always gonna be there, just don’t let fear in the driver seat, keep fear sitting passenger [heavily paraphrased]. So far, my journey on this Earth plane has been...a lot of things. There are many things I have sought to forget, only to find that the effort to forget makes them harder to ignore. There are moments I am not proud of. There are things I have done for which, until recently, I was ashamed for. There are memories I cherish. But in order to grow we must embrace--we must love unconditionally--all that we are, all that we have done, and all that we will be.
Because forgetting, ignoring, pride, shame, and even cherishing are all thoughts. That means they are ultimately all forms of doing. And remember, we are human beings, not human doings. We are here to Be Present and to realize the Kingdom of God within.
As I write this, that famous statue of the thinking man pops into my head. You know the one I am talking about. That guy sitting on a rock, hunched over, his chin pressed into the hard knuckles of his fist...he is clearly thinking. He also looks absolutely miserable. That’s what happens when we get too caught up in doing and forget to be present.
Someone says “good morning!” and you think, “but rain is forecasted and I’ll have to drive my car in the rain but I need to replace the tires on my car because they’re worn down but I haven’t the time to do so because I’m working overtime to pay for the new television and now I’ll have to drive slow in the rain but I hate driving slow and I hate the rain and if God loved me then he wouldn’t let it rain and my tires would never go bald but how can I say that? What kind of complainer am I? What a wretched person I am…”
let us be present and not thinking about what we are going to say when it is our turn to talk because
our thoughts are our worse critic and
excessive thinking removes us from the Moment which ultimately leads to a feeling of separateness—the definition of sin—
by accepting our actions, feelings, and thoughts, we create the space to anchor ourselves in the present moment and become who we truly are
It feels freeing to embrace my path and accept the challenge to share it. But where to start? Childhood seems an obvious choice but which memories to share takes a bit more effort to feel out. But then there are all these other stories and tidbits… Best to relax and breathe deep. See what pops into my head.