Rod Stryker’s book The Four Desires promises to help you create “a life of purpose, happiness, prosperity and freedom”. It’s quite a claim. As the American master yogi and founder or ParaYoga was in town recently teaching the course on which the book is based, I went along to find out more.
Around 70 women – and a handful of men – gathered in the tranquil urban space of Cecil Sharp House in Camden. There, below vibrant colours of a massive 1930s Ivon Hitchens mural, Rod guided us through a process through which to uncover the wisdom of our own hearts. He started with the big stuff – really big stuff.
It is the teaching of the yoga tradition that each human being has a unique life purpose, dharma, and that when we live our lives in tune with that purpose, our decisions directed by it, we will live happy, useful and fulfilling lives. Not only that, we will be serving the greater good of all that exists, as each individual’s dharma contributes to and is part of the dharma of the universe – and all beyond.
It’s yoga’s answer to the question many religious and spiritual traditions and, perhaps, human endeavours in science attempt to address: small and insignificant though I know myself to be in the greater scheme of things, what is my function or role in that scheme? Why do I exist?
Rod’s approach to help us uncover our purpose – and then our deepest desires – is to use modern understandings of psychology together with yoga’s teachings on the mind. The techniques used included writing our own eulogies and imagined testimonies at the ends of our lives, mind-mapping, and some very powerful yoga nidra and meditations.
Not everyone was up for it; a few found it all a bit “American”. It was also at times, painful, as we delved into our darker sides; examining what has held us back from being truly our best selves; and in the process articulating some of the stories we perhaps unconsciously tell ourselves about our worthlessness.
Those of us who emerged at the other end of the five-day intensive were equipped with at least a draft version of our own, personal dharma code, plus an understanding of the desires that drive us, and a sankalpa – a resolution to guide us over the next six to 18 months.
Mine is to look after myself with more rest, giving me more energy and time for the kids, yoga and meditation, so that I can begin work on a book I’ve been meaning to write. Unlike previous resolutions I’ve made at new years and birthdays, however, I’m feeling confident about this one. This is because Rod’s course and book have also equipped me with a range of practical tools to embed the resolution in my unconscious – and to disempower the negative thoughts and habits that might threaten it.
Perhaps most importantly, I’m also strengthened by a deeper understanding of yoga – and a stronger faith in its promise of freedom.
For details of future London intensives by Rod Stryker and other leading international yoga teachers, visit London’s Yogacampus.