Life Update: Split Between Worlds

Split Worlds

Split Worlds of Yoga, Landscaping, EDM and Art

Sometimes, I want to just focus on one thing, but I seem to live within three split worlds. I’m almost always working. Teaching yoga isn’t lucrative enough to focus on completely, landscaping isn’t really a sustainable profession outside of my 20s and 30s, nor is it very lucrative, and music actually doesn’t make me money at all yet, though someday soon I hope it does. I want to play live (and am almost ready to), which is where all of the money is!

My music is starting to get hot. Check back in soon for updates on what I’m making for y’all.

Expressing Elliot’s Art

My focus is on creating the type of art that I appreciate, love, and feel. Honestly, its not worth it if I don’t appreciate what I’m doing, the process will become unsustainable, which in work is the name of the game. I love making music and teaching yoga, and landscaping, but get torn between the three as I try to grow.

My yoga teaching has certainly improved drastically over the past couple of years. I try to bring my own style into the art as much as possible to express what I have inside of me and share. This is true of teaching yoga, writing, composing, sound design, this blog, making music videos, etc. I am trying to express myself! It is extraordinarily time consuming to do all these things in my own way because I have to literally develop the style from scratch! And I get pretty hard on myself sometimes. And then when I’m not feeling it, I have to go back to the drawing board and completely rethink what the hell I am doing! It’s crazy how much effort I am putting into this stuff!

Unique Flavors

I am constantly working to create something that no one has ever done before. It’s part of why I am making my own visual for music and why I want to DJ and teach yoga at the same time. My sounds are all my own, next to the library professional drum and synth samples that I have collected and analyzed over the last 3 years, and I am slowly collecting all of the top-of-the-line software  that I am learning to use optimally within my productions. Yoga is something that has always been very personal to me, so learning how to develop my style of teaching is also really helping me to develop my style of ddm production.

Getting Equipment

I finally have my instrument and am in the process of learning how to use it in sync with my computer to create the kind of beats that I have been making in the last 3 years.

Yoga is really cool because it doesn’t require equipment at all. If the state of California weren’t a bunch of money grubbing bastards, I could start an entire business in a public park. No wonder that state wants a piece of yoga.

Landscaping is actually a lot like music in this regard. Good equipment helps to get the job done exponentially faster and with higher quality in the finished product. Plus, power tools are so much fun to use!

No time for Wasting

Tons of my new songs are very very close to ready for release. Yesterday I spent the day getting organized and designing sounds. I’m getting close to the majority of tracks from the album. Most of them are fully structured, but the chord progressions and melodies all need work. I will release the album progressively as it helps people to digest the tracks (I honestly should re-release some of the tracks from 0, I feel like they are under-appreciated).

Yoga teaching is going phenomenally, though it always has its rough patches. I am really getting into my own flow and style and it is simply awesome to see that dream begin to form into reality. People are starting to get my message as I become more fluent in communicating it. Honestly, there are few things in this world as rewarding as communicating with and assisting other people in achieving what they want.

Landscaping is also going great, I have completely landscaped my mom’s backyard in Auburn. I am working on a multi-leveled trenching permaculture system to bring water to plants as it flows. I’ll do a post about the garden soon, once fall starts to hit. Landscaping makes decent money on the side of yoga and I get to spend time outside, so it works out great.

Conclusions of Split Worlds

Lots of the time, I wish I could just make music full time. I love contrasting melodies against basses and synthesizing sounds that I’ve never heard before and turning them into fat beats. Teaching yoga is such an important part of clearing my mind to create. I honestly couldn’t imagine one without the other. My main jobs are like the yin-yang, countering each other. Landscaping kind of sits between the two.

Anyways, here’s to the end of July! On 9/1 I am going to release my HAZE EP so get stoked. I will release the tracks progressively, as usual. I’ve also just finished a collab, and it is a very cool track. Be on the look-out from some live streams and yoga youtube tutorials, hoping to start them soon!

ttyl,

the E.T.

Teaching Yoga as an Outlet for Creativity

istockphotoyogastockphoto

Teaching with Passion

Over the past few months I have fallen into a new depth of relationship with teaching yoga. It is kind of parallel to my production of music in that I feel that my ability to express myself becomes more and more robust. All of the mediums I have at my disposal, including this website, are going to help me to connect in the world in a way that is so cool! I really enjoy being able to share all this stuff.

I’ve settled into 8 classes a week as a slight downgrade from the 9 I was teaching a couple months ago. A pace that I am glad to slow into because I need to continue my own yoga practice! It is a continual endeavor and honestly, I still like practicing my own yoga more than teaching. But that gaps gets smaller and smaller with time. I love the way that people take their time at the end of my class and the things that people say to me are so incredible sometimes. One of my students was telling my that he’s had tons of firsts in my class and that makes me stoked! It’s easy to get in your head about yoga and I try to involve the inner dialogue as little as possible. Feel that shit yo.

Evolution within communities

Anyways, I can’t believe how East Wind continues to create waves in the community and there are tons of people starting to sign up for classes and you can feel the community growing. The newer teachers are a big part of that and I’m super excited to teach alongside them. Obviously Scott, Tess, and Julie  hold down the fort, but its really nice to have some additional support to truly believe in and practice with. Ben and I have been friends for a while and I’m really supportive of him teaching yoga because the dude is a natural guru. Same with Francesca (also new to EW), I’m actually a little bit jealous about how well she connects with her squad. Anyways, both of them are going to be great teachers for me, once I get back into practicing in a studio. I just don’t want to practice anything but different ways to get into handstands right now, for some reason. Obviously that means that normal studio yoga classes aren’t quite “doin’ it” for me. It’s just me being an introvert.

Moving onto new things

Oh yeah, and Buck opened a new studio! Buck has always been a great teacher to me and I’m super excited to see how he evolves while doing his own thing. MomentOM is the name lol. I actually think that exact name was already taken by a studio in Pennsylvania ha. But shit man, he had like 60 people in that room in his Instagram post doing bicycles, it was nuts!!

Right now, I just want to be in my cave of yoga. practicing by myself, observing how the cogs of my mind reel and churn and do what they do. I need to spend the time alone, simply to post-process the amount of stuff that I am dealing with while creating all of this art. I want to stay as balanced as possible for this teaching yoga thing. Also, all that EDM music! Album on the way! (It might be called Galactic, or something like that..)

Also also, I am working on the free downloads of yoga classes. Hang in there. I might buy some software tonight to help, I want it to be working tomorrow.

Also also also, Yoga Tuesday nights at East Wind in Roseville are about to be off the chain! I’ve really tuned in my playlists lately #DJ

Well, of too spend my day off making music, first I’m gona run with a homie. Here’s to livin’ the dream!! <3

 

Adapting to the State of the Present

Life is fucking complicated out there. There are a lot of aspects of living nowadays that should NEVER have existed in the first place. Good food is expensive and bad food is subsidized and really, I think this is one of the biggest things to fix in our culture. Life for us humans is very complicated, we have to know how lots of different things work in order to operate successfully in our everyday lives. Cellphones, Cars, Computers, and all of our modern technology can be a bit insane sometimes and it catches up to us through stress an in our bodies. Thank the gods for yoga.

I find myself splitting my time between things constantly. It’s great for someone with ADD, but very difficult to focus on one thing for an extended period of time. Whether its between driving, staying connected to my body, splitting time between Auburn and Sacramento, or splitting my time between yoga, landscaping, and music, my website, landscaping writing, painting, or doing all of the other forms of art that I love to do. Recently, I found myself painting without any real reason other than the need to let go by creating something cool. But it gets tiring to be unable to focus on any one thing for an extended period of time. I try to keep a priority of yoga first, money and survival second, and music third. So far, its working out fine.

Teaching yoga is now a constant. 8 classes a week and I am getting more and more skilled at disseminating my message. I am striving to offer the best possible yoga classes to the students that attend and I think that I am doing a great job of expanding the comfort zones of the people that choose to spend time learning about yoga with me. Most people have very weird perceptions of what yoga is supposed to be.

I realize my own need to continually innovate and am actually finding the need to slow down and ground into teaching what I know. Sometimes I get distracted with the need to constantly feel like I am creating a new experience for people and I need to focus on simply creating and learning during the process.

Music is strife for me and I love every second of it. The industry is very difficult to break into. I feel that my music continues to evolve drastically, culminating in my latest release for an ill.Gates Remix Contest that you can check out below. The track is very unique, the picture links to the track. I also have about 5 other tracks that I will be releasing to my soundcloud very soon.Ill_GATES_remix_comp_theet_entry

 

 

I find it incredible how disconnected my culture is, despite all of the different ways that we try to connect, our connections have become more superficial than ever. We drive so so much. and it’s difficult to find ways to connect with newer people, especially with the amount of judgement that people just throw out randomly at strangers. But I think that I am meeting the people that I need to meet, it is just not happening as fast as I’d like it to. Big surprise, I guess.

Ultimately, I think all of the art that I am creating right now will take time to flourish, I still feel that I need a couple more years of learning in order to get to the levels of sound design, mixing, and composition that I want to be at. I feel very confident in my yoga, but ache to return to India and practice in the room full of silent Ashtangis teaching myself the second series.

The East Wind summer challenge is where I find my time going and I look forward to the yoga classes that I get to attend rather than teach. I am always working on expanding my practice and love to spend time simply enjoying my breath work and learning about the intricacies of my body. So hopefully see you around the studio!

Back to Blogging (why I’ve been away from the blog)

back to the blog

Thanks for sticking with me…

I am continuing this blog for the foreseeable future. For those of you who follow this blog, thanks you so much for your support! I am definitely not one to give up on things and this blog is no exception. For the next few months, I am going to try and post an article every day; sometimes, hopefully, more.

The reason for my temporary hiatus was my focus on music; producing music came as a very unexpected change in the direction that I want to take my life and I am honestly still adjusting my goals to figure out where I want to go with my music. But it definitely involves big events, visuals, and all kinds of interesting stories surrounding the music itself. It’s one more medium for me to express myself and its certainly my favorite.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to spend time blogging because I like making music so much. Writing is great, but there is something special about making music for me; I can spend hours and hours on a song without even really noticing. On my 26th birthday, I spent the entire day making music and loved it.

New Ventures

This blog is going to transform into more of a resource for your yoga practice. I plan on uploading as many recordings from my classes as I can, as well as adding photos of poses and making videos about sequences, advanced variations, and general tips for practicing yoga away from the studio. Ideally, this blog can be a resource for you as you practice. If you want to know anything specific, you can always feel free to ask or comment on a post.

I am still writing a book and plan on continuing to post it on the site; currently, I am very focused on music, but soon I should be finishing it up and getting it edited. I have a few more fiction stories that I am working on, but The Wanderer will be finished kinda soon, I promise!

Staying Focused on the Blog

As much as I would love to post about politics right now, I am avoiding the subject completely. I prefer not to think about politics in my personal life, so I will just extend that into my blog world. Yoga is and has always been my first priority. Someday, I do hope to open a studio in Sacramento, but that day seems kind of far off right now. Music is a close second priority. Honestly, there’s just nothing I’d rather do than make melodies and bass lines. Writing comes third, then painting and the other things that I do in my free time like painting, or taking pictures, etc.

Ultimately, I hope to make this blog my home base for delivering my message of yoga to the world. So expect some youtube videos soon, check back for more class recordings, and get excited for some cool, very free, exercises that you can do while you travel or whenever you want really. All you need is some space.

 

Teaching Yoga Full-Time (Stepping in)

Teaching Yoga Full-Time Elliot's Crow Pose in Mysore Palace

Teaching Yoga Full-Time in California

is simultaneously the most rewarding and challenging experience of my life. I’ve had people walk out in the middle of class and ask for their money back. I’ve had people come up to me after class completely blown back by what I taught that day. I’ve also had people that I could tell didn’t enjoy my class or felt that something was missing in it, but don’t mention anything. I think a lot of people have really enjoyed themselves in my class, but think about the spectrum of reactions to different forms of art and you start to get a general idea of the types of response my yoga teaching gets.

At the end of the day, I realize that my class is valuable and that my particular subjective take on yoga is simply one subjective view; but that also gives me a lot of room to create my art. That is why I feel comfortable teaching yoga full-time; I’ve practiced enough to feel as though I should be a guide for others. I draw upon multiple teachers, a journey through India and into Southeast Asia, a journey through China, and my junior year of studying in Paris to create something that I consider invaluable; expressions of peace, love, and life. My yoga is definitely unique and constantly evolving. But, at the end of the day, letting go of “my yoga” is just as important as anyone else letting go of their ego while practicing yoga.

Full-Time Yoga Teaching

Over the last two weeks I have pushed myself pretty hard. I’ve taught 9 classes in 5 days and 10 classes in a four-day weekend, which is quite a bit. I’m also working other jobs to make ends meet, so after this last week I have been exhausted. I’m aching to create music, but yoga is taking priority right now, which I like. I enjoy sacrificing one form of art for another. And it’s nice to have an excuse to practice extra yoga.

Make no mistake, yoga teachers are absolutely undervalued by our society. I blame a lot of this on the overly religious assholes out there like the evangelical ministers who prey of people’s weak beliefs in god to make money (check out this episode of “Last Week Tonight“, its great!) and other types of people who try to make spirituality into a profitable enterprise at the cost of their consumers. We are considered more or less exercise coaches that might have some experiences with meditation and spirituality. But in reality, there is a ton of sacrifice that goes into teaching yoga full-time that the majority of Yogins never see. Every class takes more effort than the time in the studio and many times it is at least an extra hour of work (not including driving). But at the end of a class, the reward of having happy people around you far outweighs the costs of what it took to teach yoga that day.

Making Ends Meet

I have recently added a Friday night Yin class to my schedule at East Wind Yoga in Auburn, CA and that means I will be teaching 5 classes each week, not including substituting for other teachers, which I do as often as I can. It’s about enough to pay rent and eat extremely minimally, so I have to find other work on the side, tutoring, doing odd-jobs, and most recently I’ve started driving for Lyft, though it’s not an everyday opportunity for me. This site is just getting close to breaking even, though it’s not very expensive because I do most development myself.

So it’s pretty hard to make a living wage as simply a yoga teacher. I think it will be possible in the future, but right now it’s not. That means I don’t get to spend all of my time on my art, which is a shame, but I have high hopes that yoga will become more respected in the near future. Plus, who knows, I’ll probably open my own studio eventually. First, I want to become a better teacher and build-up to sustaining myself by teaching yoga. Music will always be happening as long as I have extra time to spend learning and creating in front of my computer. Music has become a single pointed obsession, perhaps even more than when I first started practicing yoga. It’s as if I’ve found something I’ve wanted to do my entire life, except I’m 26 and have graduated from college and neither yoga nor music were things that I studied or cared about then. I’ve always loved music, but began making music when I was 24 after I downloaded a trial of Ableton Live. I played clarinet in third grade and it made me despise music, honestly. I feel like I found my passions a little too late in the game.

But alas, always in my mind there is hope and self-confidence and I will pursue what I feel called to do, which right now means teaching yoga on a full-time schedule and doing work on the side. Ramping up more and more to create sustenance for myself, then using what I can to fuel my musical and artistic endeavors. Obviously, writing will be a large part of this as well, and I’m just finishing a new painting. I’m also going to put out a podcast on Sundays with my friend Kyle, but we haven’t quite gotten started on that yet so don’t hold your breathe. Honestly, I just want to create all kinds of things over the next 60 years or so until I have to stop because I’m an old man or dead. It’s all about the future generations and creating for them. The youngsters and the kids.

It’ll take a few more weeks to get truly comfortable in an apartment by myself, cooking a lot, driving, etc, but I am definitely happy where I am. I get to ride my bike to teach two yoga classes today, which will be a blast in less-than-crowded streets of Sacramento! I really enjoy cities, especially after spending a lot of time in Paris when I was 20. Moving back to Sacramento is really a cool feeling, now it’s as if I am trying to affect and support the people who I grew up with in the place that I am from. It feel right, whatever the fuck that means.

Following Passion

I am sure that I will be happy over the next few weeks, for the pure joy of following things I love to do. Struggling makes me feel alive, I’ll always want a little bit of discomfort. I guess what is right feels good to me at this point, which means I am at least somewhat aligned with whatever it is that I am supposed to be doing here. Onwards and upwards I guess!

 

 

Teaching Yoga Full-Time in California

teaching yoga

A photo posted by Elliot | ET (@pada_yogi) on

Challenging My Self w/ Teaching Yoga

I am a yoga teacher. This past weekend I taught seven yoga classes. Nine if you include Thursday and three of them were on Saturday. By the end of the class I was a bit delirious; my mind blurred all three class sequences together and couldn’t even remember what we had done so far in the class. I did my best, no doubt, but I was definitely pushing my limits in a lot of ways. It felt great.

Since returning to the states I have been looking for as much work teaching yoga as I can find. Mostly this has amounted to substituting classes for other instructors that are busy or sick or whatever. I think its time to see how much I really like teaching yoga and to push my boundaries to be as flexible as possible.

Teaching Intense Yoga

I prefer teaching yoga at a high level of intensity in my yoga classes; I believe this lends itself to self-discovery and stress releases during the yoga class, especially in the integrative poses of inversions and savasana.

I am teaching all levels classes, which offers a particular set of challenges for an instructor, most notably making the stretches available to the vast majority of the room (sometimes it is inevitable that a stretch isn’t possible, especially with the elderly). So this requires explaining variations, giving people alternate stretches and being fully present in the room. Ideally, each person can spend the entire class finding their own personal focal areas to stretch. The outline comes from me.

Yoga was never meant to be really intense, but in today’s modern world I think we need the intensity. Yoga teachers have to structure their class to provide this, making teaching yoga at high-intensities taxing on the instructors. It helps to wake us up out of our delusions or the lies that we tell ourselves. It makes everything more real when you start to hit your limits. It helps us to realize our humanity.

Teaching Yin Yoga

Yin yoga has been particularly prominent in my practice and in the practice of the people at my studios. I really enjoy teaching yoga in the different yin and yang styles because it gives us an opportunity to balance our asana instruction between talking and stillness, intensity and softness, and helps to keep things dynamic. I wouldn’t like to always teach the exact same class; this is part of the reason I don’t practice Ashtanga or Bikram every day anymore.

Yin has been a sweet spot for me, because I do love silence when I teach. I am focused on creating stillness and meditation in each class for my students.

Appreciation for Yoga Instructors

Sometimes teaching yoga is a bit rough. The pay is not great. It is okay though. The amount of effort that the classes require is probably more than a lot of other jobs, but that also makes it extraordinarily rewarding. I don’t think I need too much appreciation beyond the normal appreciation of being paid enough to make a living, which I am hoping to be able to do at this point. But there is a special kind of respect reserved for yoga instructors in the area for many people, coupled with a disregard and skepticism of others. It is somewhat of a conundrum to be honest.

Since beginning to teach yoga, I’ve been extremely poor. I didn’t even make money for the first six months of teaching yoga. My trip to Asia was nothing short of a miracle and I wouldn’t be able to do a trip like that again. Making ends meet is difficult mostly because it is hard to find work, but I think that I have a good shot at filling up a weekly schedule with 12-15 classes, ideally. I am hoping that August is the month where I can make that happen!

No doubt the area is fairly saturated with yoga instructors because of the emphasis on fitness in California, but I think that differentiating myself from other teachers will be possible with my experience traveling and practicing yoga. I’ve also been teaching yoga for nearly two years now, which doesn’t hurt.

The Future of Teaching Yoga

Yoga is going to change drastically over the next 20 years, I would guess mostly in terms of customization and personalization. People want to feel personally attended to, personally connected to their instructors. We may very well see the rise of some very down to earth and high quality yoga teaching, but I really hope the emphasis on celebrity yoga fades away. Hopefully it will all be even more casual and playful in the next five years; I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see Tai Chi and Qui Gong techniques start to emerge in the yoga rooms across the country. Only time will reveal which direction the art is taken in.

As for me, I am setting down some roots in Sacramento. I have just moved to Northern Oak park and am hoping to find another studio on top of East Wind Yoga and Asha Yoga that I am teaching yoga at a few times a week. Here’s to the future! (If you want to see when I teach, check out my schedule)

Adjusting Ashtanga

Ashtanga_Advanced_Series

I am a huge fan of the Ashtanga practice. The intensity, the discipline, the mindlessness, and the routine of the sequential practice makes it like a second home for me. I always know that there are mornings where I can wake up and work without thinking, push myself without thinking of how, breathing without having to plan for a destination. But there are some problems with practicing the Ashtanga practice exclusively.

The Ashtanga series were a prescription for Krishnamacharya’s Indian students, namely his most famous student Pattabhi Jois. Krishnamacharya made them specifically for 15-year-old Indian men that were training for hours each day and that didn’t have previous injuries, or probably a lot of other sports and exercise experience.

This means that Krishnamacharya had a specific purpose in creating this sequences for young and fit Indian men and that the sequence is optimized for the Indian skeleton and definitely not for the other types of human skeletons. This becomes especially apparent when westerners begin trying lotus pose, Kukkutasana, and the Marichyasanas.

So there comes a point when one starts to realize that certain poses simply aren’t good for their body. This is half-bound lotus pose for me. The reason is that my knees are simply not strong enough to stretch my hips as deeply as the stretch requires, even though my hips are very open and I have good alignment. At a certain point, we have to realize that the body is mechanical; it has very real limitations that you will sooner or later be coming into increased contact with.

In my first two weeks, I was injured in the Ashtanga sequence. Marichyasana B, I can remember the stress of feeling injured like it was yesterday, my lateral collateral ligament snapped and I heard a very audible pop while I was in the full pose with the bind. I quickly got out of the pose and finished my sequence, then went home to look up some rehab exercises for my knee. It took a couple of days of exercises and taking it easy to let my knee heal. Not a fun few days while I was healing.

I continued my full practice for the rest of the time in India, making adjustments and skipping poses when it felt right. I did some extra work to make sure my knee was stable and working properly and avoided walking too much to make sure that the joint was getting less stress. Slowly full lotus opened up for me while I was rehabilitating my knee, though there is still quite a bit of space left to create in my hips. The injury forced me to be more conscious of what I was doing, to not accept things as they were explained, in black and white.

What is the point of that story? Every body is unique, so how can one series work for everyone’s skeleton? It can’t.

I think that there are parts of the Ashtanga sequence that are almost perfect in their ideal succession, mainly the standing series of the primary series. There is something especially cleansing about doing the poses in that order, and the inversions at the end are simply magical.

Sunday, I taught my first class back in the states. It was great, it was easy to forget how much I love teaching yoga until I was in the room again with all the wheels turning. It was a hybrid style so we warmed up slowly, with a bit of flow including some low lunges complete with back-bends, and even an extended child’s pose. Then we moved into standing postures and the full Sun Salutation B sequence, holding warrior 1 for less and less time and getting into the full back-bend in upward dog. Then we moved into the entirety of the Ashtanga practice. Instead of doing floor stretches, we did a bunch of ab work and then moved into some final yin-type stretches. I loved teaching the sequence and it felt right for the class; music was slow and complimentary more than anything else.

So if you come to my classes, except a little flair of Ashtanga. It’s evolving into something pretty cool and I think that someday soon I might help to develop a new series based on the Primary Series. It’s all an evolution 🙂

Returning Home

A nice return sunset in #Sacramento #nature #sky #sunset #colorful

A photo posted by Elliot | ET (@pada_yogi) on

I’m back to teaching yoga again. Back home, in Sacramento, back to the westernized suburban life, back to clean water, fresh food, reliable transportation. It’s weird to think about the future, to plan, to be bombarded with advertising and Television regularly, to feel like I always need to be doing something.

Western life has more leisure time. But I want to work. I can be more focused now, especially on the daily life of teaching and maintaining a high level of fitness and mental capacity in making music, writing, and painting. I want to create. I just need to get into a groove in my own space.

Sacramento is a cool city. I’m drinking coffee occasionally, which has only happened once before, due to the great cafe joint across the street. The other time was 4 years ago in Paris. This place’s cappuccino’s are superb. I like quality coffee; I don’t consider Starbucks to be quality, it just pretends to be. It’s not bad, which I dislike. There is also a Thai place down the road that is quite literally better than most of the Thai food I had in Thailand! America gets pretty much the best food in the world. Of course it’s better in Paris. I want to start performing downtown

Living on my own is a must at this point. So I’ll do what I need to do to find work, maybe I’ll get a part-time job as well as being an instructor. It all depends on what happens with yoga, really how many classes I can get per week. I think that teaching group exercise classes is a great way to get people happy enough to meet each other and be nice and all of that. Yoga tends to be very relaxing and helps people to acclimatize.

I’m hoping I can get near 15 classes a week. That’s pretty ambitious though, especially for the competition in the Sacramento area. I really want to see how I can do if I teach all the time, I want it to become second nature, like using my computer or driving a car. We’ll see how it goes.

 

Upaya | उपाय

the Buddha teaches the Lotus Sutra

Upaya is a term that is used in Mahayana Buddhism as a reference to a method of teaching liberation through conscious and voluntary action without reasoning the direction. In other words, they are short cuts that are created for students to expedite them along the path to enlightenment. It is essentially adaptations of certain teachings to bring the practitioner closer to the goal of enlightenment, even though the teachings may be untrue. The use of skill is extremely important here because one needs to adapt teaching to the audience that is receiving the message and teachings.

The concept was revolutionary for Buddhism and has some powerful implications. It essentially allows for skillful teachers to show the student half-truths to reach further into the path of awareness and enlightenment. In Buddhist tradition, it was later understood that the Buddha had given his followers various upayas, rather than whole truths, because they were not ready for the ultimate truth. This allowed for many of the prior doctrines of buddhism to be disregarded in favor of higher ones.

This allowed buddhist practitioners to build a kinda of step system from the elementary teachings of Buddhism into the most advanced and profound. The most important aspects of teaching this way are through skillful means guided by compassion and wisdom. This means treating each person as a different potential, because of their different capacities and ability to comprehend the lessons.

This is used to explain some of the crazy wisdom that buddhist monks and practitioners use when teaching, including an example where a monk slammed a door shut on a disciples leg and in the process gave him a deep insight. There are two primary examples or metaphors that are used to explain the concept in Buddhism: an empty fist and a burning house. In the example of the burning house, a man uses white lies to get his sons out of a building that is on fire and to get them to safety, because he knows that they will not pay attention if he tells them the truth. The empty fist is used as a metaphor to grab the attention of children, but really it is a teaching to allow the student to understand the emptiness and to focus on the essence of mind rather than the distractions of it. Both teachings are understandably adapted to each situation and each student. The teachings are quite powerful and you can read about them in Lotus Sutra, a Chinese buddhist text from around 300CE.

These teachings are powerful for the modern world, showing teachers to meet students where they are and to teach with compassion in a system that is optimal for the aspirant. Modern yoga does a very good job of doing this.