Joy & Presence

Where in the world is Lois Steinberg? Whether it’s a remote village in Brazil or in the Ukraine, this Advanced Junior II teacher shares all she has gleaned from Guruji as she traverses the globe. Here are excerpts from an in-depth interview with Lois at the Peace Café in Honolulu, Hawaii in March, 2011. The entire interview can be read online at iynaus.org.

Q: What does your practice bring to you?

A: Joy and presence. It brings me to the quiet state. I don’t think of it as any particular religious belief, but that coming to yourself and coming to the presence and coming to what the second Yoga Sutra describes as stilling the fluctuations of the mind. And how to get to deeper layers of your consciousness where it’s present and spreading and not being interrupted by unnecessary thought.

I was telling Guruji this the last time I was there (Jan. 2011) that I became so quiet in one of his classes. He said that’s practical Samyama. That’s practical absorption. It’s when you’re practicing asana—you’re using the body as a point of meditation. You become so quiet—it’s absorbing. It’s a spiritual absorption and a practical one. A practical one meaning that you are using your body and increasing your range of awareness to get yourself quiet. This is using the body as a source of meditation.

Q: Can you talk about the ego and how it relates to practice?

A: I know that when Guruji is teaching, if you’re thinking too much, if your mind is interfering, he won’t teach you. He can’t teach you. In fact, the very first class I had with him, he said, “You keep your minds empty.” It’s not about emptying the mind. It’s about stopping those thoughts that disrupt your mind that keep you from learning. The ego interferes. It’s not about a big or small ego, but that ego can interfere with learning. It can interfere with getting to the source of your true self. You can’t let extraneous thoughts such as “I can’t do it” interfere with learning. You have to keep an open mind, be present, and not have any expectations.

Q: What are some of the most amazing things Guruji has ever said to you?

A: Everything that comes out of him is amazing. Many of us wish we could attach a recording device to him all the time.  He explained that yoga is an art, science, and philosophy. The philosophy is Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. The science is Asana, Pranayama and Pratyahara. The art is Yama and Niyama. To break it down like that and have us think and give us pause, and let us change our habitual way of thinking, is something he’s so gifted at, and there’s nobody else who does that.