Each of us is born with a unique gift—and a sacred duty to fulfill its promise. Do you have a clear sense of your purpose in life? I’m asking all my friends this question these days. I guess I’m preoccupied with it because I’m going through a phase—at midlife—of wondering about my own life. You’d [...]
The following excerpt is taken from Stephen Cope’s well-known book, Yoga and the Quest for the True Self. In it, he guides the contemporary reader through the philosophies and practices of yoga in a thoughtful way that demystifies them and brings us to a greater understanding of ourselves. You see, I want a lot. Perhaps I [...]
An excerpt from The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker’s Guide to Extraordinary Wisdom (Bantam 2006).
In this book, Steven Cope, MSW, investigates the wisdom tradition of yoga from the point of view of six contemporary characters—modern yogis struggling with issues of love, work, addictions, careers, and unfulfilled longings of many varieties. Weaving together narrative story and expository teachings, the book brings alive the rich, and very relevant, applications of yoga’s ancient teachings.
The following piece, “The Spirit of the Strivers,” is taken from the prologue.
In this piece, Stephen Cope, Director of Kripalu’s Institute for Extraordinary Living, investigates how and why practices like yoga and meditation create a sense of well-being and ease.
Recently, I was talking on the phone with my friend Sandy, who had just gone through an unexpected relationship meltdown. Her partner, Tim, she said, had suddenly developed “intimacy issues” and had fled the relationship “like a rat off a sinking ship.”
For an hour or so, we talked about the difficulties of her situation. She expressed her sense of disorientation and sadness. Toward the end, she said something interesting: “Thank God I have my yoga practice.” I could feel the gratitude in her voice. “It’s a little island of sanity. Like coming home. That hour between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m. has become the most important hour of my day.”
Where we look for answers to this question can make all the difference between fantasies and dreams come true.
I’ve been teaching at Kripalu for more than 15 years now—and throughout most of that time, I’ve been Kripalu’s Senior Scholar-in-Residence. Each year, I teach hundreds of people in hatha yoga programs, in yoga philosophy programs, and in personal growth programs. Sometimes I feel like I’ve inadvertently landed on one of the great pilgrimage routes of modern times, seeing—as we do here at Kripalu—a river of more than 32,000 contemporary seekers a year: modern versions, sometimes, of the ribald seekers of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales or the more innocent characters of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.
Each of these contemporary pilgrims brings along his or her own story, of course, and each story is compelling. But over the years I’ve come to see that these stories, unique as they are on the surface, often have one central longing at their core, one insistent question: How can I live fully?
Our seekers phrase this question in so many different ways: How can I live a passionate and authentic human life? How can I discover the full potential of this human mind, body, spirit?
I see my own concerns about fulfillment played out nearly every day of my professional life. I work at one of the biggest holistic retreat centers in America—Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. We see more than 35,000 people a year here in our sprawling, former-Jesuit monastery perched high up in the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts. Our guests come for various kinds of retreats: yoga, meditation, self-inquiry, couples’ work, healthy living. And almost every single one of them comes here in some phase of the mission to find this secret, hidden inner possibility spoken of in the Gospel of Thomas.