Mirabai Bush speaks on Yoga and its uprooting (Part 3)


By Nithin Sridhar

mirabaiDuring a time when people across the world are struggling hard to manage work-related stress and balance professional and personal lives, Mirabai Bush has helped thousands to harmonize their lives and optimize their outputs through contemplation and mindfulness practices.

She is the co-founder of The Center for Contemplative Mind and Society and teaches contemplative practices and develops programs that apply contemplative principles to organizational life. She had also helped Google create its ‘Search Inside Yourself’ program, and was one among those who introduced Buddhist practices in the West in the 1970’s.

She traces her spiritual practices to her root-teacher, Neem Karoli Baba and other masters in India from whom she learned various Hindu and Buddhist meditation practices. In an exclusive interview with NewsGram she spoke about her life, her work, and her stay in India way back in 1970’s.

Interview with Mirabai Bush- Part 3

Mirabai Bush on parallels between Yoga and Aikido

Mirabai Bush is well versed with both Iyengar Yoga and Aikido having learned both of them from teachers in respective traditions. Speaking about the common elements between them, she said: “They both are really grand in Ahimsa or non-harming. In the practice of Aikido, unlike other martial arts, no attack is taught. It is not only about defending yourself, but also about protecting the other person from creating bad karma for himself by hurting you. In the same way, in Yoga, by coming into harmony and balance with the body, mind, and soul, you come into a place of non-harming. So in that way, they are the same. You know the activities are very different, but both teach strength, flexibility, and centering.

“When I was practicing Aikido in a Dojo, during the time of practice, I did not had one thought in my mind expect the practice. It was partly because I was scared that if I did not pay attention, then I would get hurt. Anyways, in the same way in Yoga also, I had to pay so much attention to the body and the postures that other thoughts didn’t come in. So, by the end of either practice, I felt a kind of calm, clear and centered.

When asked about her personal philosophy and spiritual practices, Bush said that her personal philosophy is directly from Neem Karoli Baba’s teachings. She also does Buddhist meditation, Kirtan (chanting) and goes to retreats. Lately, she said, she has been doing practices that open up the heart. The practice involves just resting in loving awareness and repeating ‘I am loving awareness’.

Mirabai Bush on the uprooting of Yoga and meditation from their roots

yoga-treeWhen asked about her opinion regarding how some teachers in US teach Yoga and meditation by uprooting them from their roots, Mirabai Bush said: “First of all I will say that I think of these spiritual practices as human practices. I mean, really at their depth, they are not Hindu or Christian you know. They are for us to wake up as humans. That being said, you should know that, in America there is an undeveloped sense regarding the roots or history of things. America believes like we developed everything from the scratch. Partly that was because, a lot of people immigrated here in order to start a new life and they tried to forget about their origins. This attitude kind of permeates American culture.

“Though everybody says Namaste at the end of practicing Yoga, most don’t understand its meaning. Also, in many cases, only the Asanas (postures) alone are taught without their philosophical roots. And this has happened in meditation as well.”

Bush narrated an incident in which she gave a presentation to a group of 60 participants about the origins of mindfulness and her stay in India with Neem Karoli Baba. After the presentation, around 20 participants who were from different parts of Asia came to her and said that they never knew that mindfulness came from Asia and that they always thought that it was an American thing. Bush said that she felt stunning when she heard what those Asian participants told her.

Bush added: “It’s not that people need to know geographically where a practice came from although that’s certainly helpful, but people need to know about the philosophical roots. So, that they don’t get caught in this superficial understanding of the practices. There is a potential in these practices for causing a deep transformation and now there are quite a few people who know that and who are writing and talking about it.

She further said that one must keep in mind that to some extent the practices themselves transmit the essence even though when taught in a secular setting. She gave the example of how Asanas if practiced properly one will learn a lot from within, even though the Asanas may be taught by a very secular teacher. But she added that: “It is just a shame to lose the opportunity to study and learn the philosophy and spiritual frameworks. Because, it increases the possibility of (inner) transformation. It’s not that it is terrible to teach the practices without their philosophical roots, it is just shameful to lose such richness.

More in the Series:

Mirabai Bush speaks on Mindfulness and its application in Google (Part 1)

Mirabai Bush speaks on her stay in India and the Guatemala Project (Part 2)

Mirabai Bush speaks on Right Livelihood & Center for Contemplative Mind in Society (Part 4)

Mirabai Bush speaks about her root-teacher Neem Karoli Baba (Part 5)