A few weeks ago I attended a workshop hosted by Loyola Marymount featuring Mark Whitwell, a renown yogi. He studied under T. Krishnamacharya, THE father of yoga, and when Mark walked into the room you could feel his calm, wisdom and openness. The room felt light, full and hushed. We were all waiting with wide eyes, holding our breath and ready to absorb anything he could teach us.
But instead of teaching, he started the class by asking people directly, “Why are you here?”
“To learn,” I said.
“Yes but why do you want to learn?”
“Because I love learning. And I want to learn the breathwork that can bring me into yoga.”
“Ok, good answer!”
Basically he wanted to know that we came with a purpose. That our purpose was sincere and that we were making conscious decisions about that purpose. Others went on to mention his ties to T. Krishnamacharya and were looking forward to a profound life lesson. He said, “Good! That’s what I want to hear.”
Mark went on to talk about the earth and not seeing beauty in it, but instead understanding that the earth IS beauty. Then he took it a step further and invited someone to stand up. He asked, ” Is it true that Lauren is the power of the cosmos arising as pure intelligence and beauty?”
We all replied, “Yes.”
I’m not sure if anyone understood the meaning behind this but it felt right to just say yes.
He asked someone else to stand up and repeated the question. Again we said yes and he went around the room to about 5 different people making the point that everyone carries the power of the cosmos and is pure intelligence and beauty.
Then he asked us, ” Who doubts that they are the power of the cosmos arising as pure intelligence and beauty?”
And no one raised their hand. He asked again, “Who doubts that they are the power of the cosmos arising as pure intelligence and beauty?” And of course everyone thought about raising their hands, yet no one did. But he kept asking.
Until one girl at the front did. Mark looked straight at her and said, “Thank you for being honest and brave. You are the power of the cosmos arising as pure intelligence and beauty.” And he kept telling her until he was sure she heard him. She cried short sobs of relief. The kind of tears you cry when you finally feel seen. I wept too, for her ability to be vulnerable in a room full of strangers was beautiful.
Society has given us skewed and opinionated definitions of beauty, happiness, and success. Mark came to teach us that we are already perfect, that happiness can come from within, and that success is about living every day in a way that is true to yourself.
I had always read books or articles telling me that Yoga is the path to the authentic self. Or Yoga is the journey within. But it wasn’t until this day that I really, completely understood what those words meant.