By Raghunath Das (Ray Cappo)
My entire face puckered and my gag reflux kicked in as I slugged down a two ounce shot of wheat grass juice. "I know this is good for me! I know this is good for me! Just deal with it...antioxidants, chlorophyll, essential amino acids, B vitamins. Just swig it down!" I swallowed. Even my neck seemed to pucker as this lawnmower smoothie dripped down my throat. "Aaaahg. I know there's a greater good coming from that gulp. This is a miracle healing food!"
That was 25 years ago and I remember that first wheat grass juice shot like it was yesterday. I was outside of a health food store on 6th avenue in Manhattan. There was a greasy pot bellied man with a fat neck and eating an equally greasy sausage-like something who was propped up against the wall observing me. He had to say something. "Hey dude - why go through all the trouble? Have some reeaal food." And when he said "reeaal" he pushed the greasy sausage thing towards my head. I mumbled and half smiled at him before I turned and walked away. A quote came to mind: Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freewill and thus our destiny. 25 years later I'm glad I made that choice not to put greasy sausage things in my body and instead to search out seek things that heal me and protect me from instead of causing the dreaded "fat neck syndrome."
It was at that time I had embarked on a spiritual journey that brought me around the world. I had become a yogi and my bible of choice was the Bhagavad Gita, India's foremost book on universal truth. I was all about transformation, change, and evolution. I wanted to transform. I wanted to see if Ii could change the current of where Ii was headed genetically, spiritually, & culturally. I remember the conversation I had about it with my mother a, short old Italian lady from Willliamsburg, Brooklyn.
"We take on different bodies according to our desire and our meditation." I said, paraphrasing the Gita.
"Do you mean we are going to die and come back as a cow or something?!"
"No mom, don't even think of it like that. We don't die. We just observe. Always. Our bodies and the minds just change according to our activities, our passions, and our habits."
It's really easy to dismiss something like reincarnation as other worldly, far fetched or new agey when you think of dying and coming back as a cow, so Ii pressed on, giving a more down to earth analogy that she could relate to.
"Remember when I was little and you'd warn me about hanging out with bad kids - because they'd have a bad influence on me.?"
She remembered and immediately said repeated her famous quote in her Brooklyn dialect, "If you hang out with trouble, -you become trouble! It's true!" she warned as she had since I was 6 years old.
"Exactly! The company we keep creates our consciousness. Our friends, our spouse. Whomever we have in our circle of close people influences who we are and what we become." This time she nodded.
"But it's not only that," I continued, “, "everything that we consume creates us. It creates our new body and mind. As soon as we are hungry we have a choice (here's that 'stimulus and response' quote from above). Whatever we choose to eat creates us and either assists us to evolve or devolve on an evolutionary scale." I was on a role so I didn't stop. " It's not only what food we eat but what we put in our eyes. Our ears. The movies we watch. The books we read. They are all creating us. They are all creating our new bodies and mind at every moment. We are changing every moment and creating a new body with every thought, morsel of food, sound and activity.
"Sound makes us change bodies?!"
"Sure. Don't you think hearing the sounds of Brooklyn every day are going to change your consciousness as opposed to you growing up in.....the Grand Canyon. Don't you think you create a different mind growing up in peace? Sound too creates us."
I think she got it.
There is a concept taught in the ancient histories of yoga. It's said animals get no karma or reactions for their actions. If I slap a tiger and he bites me he doesn't get any bad karma for biting me. That's what tigers do. In the in the human species we are responsible for our actions. If somebody slaps me, I have an opportunity to react in many ways. I could slap him back. It could come from a base feeling of revenge, anger and hostility. It could be rage. Or I could give a thoughtful stare. I could wonder what got into this guy to make himthem slug me, and I could ask him if he is alright. Ask him how he is. Each choice grants me a different reaction. Advancing in the yoga system means training ourselves to take more space after stimulus and , before response - to act in a way that let's us evolve. Can we use our higher consciousness instead of our lower consciousness?. Be in control of our thoughts, our choices, instead of acting on auto-pilot?. If so, we can evolve instead of devolving.
Yes, you can devolve. I've had days, even years where Ii felt, "God! I've really devolved this year! I use to be up there but now I'm down here! What's happened to me?" It's true, we can either grow intoas more conscious, caring, enlightened beings, or we become more bound toup in the material world. More animalistic (in every bad sense of ‘animal’). More reactive. Impulsive. Trapped. More frustrated within our bodies and minds. Frustrated by lower passions and desires that produces grief and disappointment.
Therefore the yogi is constantly thinking, "How can I live in such a way to surround my senses with things that will enlighten my consciousness and not degrade the consciousness? What am I letting into my universe? Into my senses? Whom and what do I have to cut out and what do I have to add in order to grow? To evolve? How can I create more space between stimulus and response?
ex-punk, ex-monk, yogi, husband, father to four, inversion ambassador. detox junkie. evolution assistant. coalesced by kirtan. cacao consumer. reciter of Gita. animal friendly. transcendence in training. full contact fighter. devours durian. likes to chant. likes a challenge. servant of the servants. harmonium hugger. conscious of Krishna.