Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 

2020 21st Street
Boulder, CO, 80302

Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor's home.


The Field of Ignorance

Mary Taylor

Mala beads 2.jpg

In some form or another, obstacles seem to be what’s up for most of us. As we find out early on from practicing, it’s when obstacles arise--when things don’t go quite according to plan or according to our desires--that it actually becomes very interesting. It turns out that this kind of difficulty is often actually where the enlightenment or the awakening is. The mind of course has other plans. The imagination would like to have smooth practices, always have great health and ever increasing pleasure, happiness, security, power, fame, glory, money; forever and ever into eternity. Yet somehow, that never quite works out.

Classical obstacles to yoga (and liberation) taught in the Yoga Sutra come in two forms. The first are the practical obstacles like laziness, illness, lust, etc. In the second chapter of the Yoga Sutra, the Sadhana Pada, we find what might be considered the psychology of all obstacles, called the klesas. Klesa means torment, misery or suffering and though that’s what they appear to be when we first encounter them, we find out later that not only is there a path out of the suffering, but that, for many of, us without the klesas we’d not have the incentive to begin waking up. 

You probably are familiar with the five klesas, but to review, the klesas or roots of suffering begin with avidya, or ignorance; the proverbial trap we slip into of seeing ourselves as separate from everything else; the inability to experience interconnectedness. Avidya leads to asmita or I am-ness, what we might call ego. When asmita arises raga (wanting, grasping, attachment) and dvesa (rejecting, pushing away, denying) automatically arise. Abhinivesa, the final klesa, is classically thought of as fear of death, and is said to be a klesa that even the wise encounter. You might also think of abhinivesa as fear of yoga—an aversion to seeing the union of things and the principle of interpenetration. For beginning students, reading the Yoga Sutra can be disarming; we find out how many obstacles to freedom and enlightenment there are and if we stop there it's really depressing. But then if we read on we are shown that there is a path out of suffering called kriya yoga.

Kriya yoga is the yoga of action. It is defined partly as tapas, which means to burn or to shine. That’s what you do in any practice; you create a closed container for the mind in which you stop projecting out onto the world so that more or less you eat your own projections. This causes heat, or tapas. If you practice well you start to shine although at first it may feel like you’re starting to burn!

Tapas, then, is the first form of kriya yoga and that burning or shining—experiencing the fire and heat of direct experience—leads naturally to svadhyaya. In the traditional sense, svadhyaya means to chant the Vedas—which of course would be bad news for most of us since unless you grew up chanting the Vedas, it’s unlikely you’ll get to it in this lifetime. Chanting the Vedas is a tremendously powerful practice that takes years to perfect, though if you’re inclined to try it, don’t let the impracticality of starting later in life stop you. Fortunately for the rest of us, we can look to the literal meaning of svadhyaya, which is self-contemplation or self-study. Since through our human nature we have the propensity to be self-absorbed, we might be able to trick ourselves into self-inquiry; what better subject to think about after all? Soon enough, however, we realize that svadhyaya isn’t exactly sitting around congratulating ourselves for being talented, unique and good looking, but instead it means to no longer project our shadows onto the world and onto the things of the world. Practicing svadhyaya means we must face the emotions, sensations and thoughts or theories that arise from our projections. It means peeling away the blinding layers of preconception, ego, self-deceit and avoidance in order to deeply reflect on ourselves in context of others and the world. It is then that glimmers of insight arise. “Sva” means self and so “svadhyaya” actually means meditation on oneself, on “Who am I really if I’m not this body, if I’m not this mind, not this intellect, if I’m not these five elements?”

Studying and thinking deeply about these teachings and applying them to one’s own circumstances will initiate the process of svadhyaya enough to get us rolling in an effort for obstacles to dissolve. Svadhyaya, like most aspects of a yoga practice, is something we continue to work on indefinitely because it is a constant reminder to see the silliness of our concept of “me” as the center of the universe, as something separate from everything else. When we practice svadhyaya well, even though we are ostensibly studying our “self,” we begin to perceive ourselves in context. We’re pulled out of our shell of isolation and self-absorption and become able to reframe inaccurate conclusions and perceptions that support this kind of separateness. So svadhyaya naturally leads on to Isvara pranidhana, which is the third aspect of kriya yoga.

A trusted teacher disappears, steers others away from themselves toward the mysteries of the embodied experience, to the vast, interconnecting web of pure consciousness that inexplicably supports yet supersedes the individual.

Isvara pranidhana means, surrender to Isvara. Which presents a two pronged problem--and equally a two pronged solution--to finding freedom from suffering. The first potentially problematic prong is our definition of Isvara, which is usually translated as God although it could be translated as any being that is completely free. The danger with this interpretation of Isvara as God or another person—a guru, for example—is that we run the immediate risk of confusing pure intelligence with beliefs. For example, the embodied teacher, even if they are a wonderful teacher, will still have beliefs and formulas that must be questioned in order to be understood (and must be allowed to be questioned both by the teacher and the students). If as a yoga teacher we become so enthralled with our own insights or succumb to the attention or adoration of students, if we cease to remember that what we are doing as teachers is pointing outside of ourselves in service of our students, then we fail. A trusted teacher disappears, steers others away from themselves toward the mysteries of the embodied experience, to the vast, interconnecting web of pure consciousness that inexplicably supports yet supersedes the individual. If our teachings or our actions are harmful to our students, then, no matter how relevant or important we believe our teachings to be, we must take a step back and reconsider—find a different way to pass along the teachings. Sometimes we see our mistakes, sometimes we must allow input from others to provide insight for change.

The second prong of Isvara pranidhana that can be either helpful or limiting is our definition of surrender and, though it does apply to the teacher in terms of unquestioning surrender to scriptures or the teachings, it is highly relevant to those of us who are students (which, of course is all of us). Surrender does not mean to blindly accept doctrine or dogma or a superficial formulation about reality, but instead to place on the alter of pure awareness the background assumptions that those formulas, beliefs or doctrines are made out of. The surrender isn’t blind unquestioning faith and following of the teacher or teachings, rather it is exposing the wonder of a deep understanding of the open structure of all experience. It’s the awakening of intelligence.

In practicing Isvara pranidhana if we do not listen closely to our perception of our own experience, to others and to circumstances, but instead place unquestioning power in ourselves (as teachers), or another (as students), then our ego function causes us to grasp at superficial dogma and schemes for self preservation and profit and we can never be free. If we do not keep an open mind and question, then we are no longer at the subtle level of watching the mind as it creates thoughts and formulas and we are thereby entrapped by our beliefs and illusions, having relinquished the ability to surrender thoughts and formulas as an offering to pure consciousness—which is what Isvara actually is.

Perhaps a path around the two-pronged dilemma we may fall into when defining Isvara pranidhana is to understand Isvara as “the nature of things.” And to remember that surrender is not submission, checking out, turning our power of observation, reason and integrity over to another, but rather an active process of interacting intelligently within context to another. With this in mind, we see that Isvara pranidhana or surrender to the nature of things transforms our surrender to the particular (guru or other) into insight into the reality of things.  As such, Isvara pranidhana is the end stage of kriya yoga, the beginning of the path to freedom from suffering, and ultimately can lead into samadhi and to realization.


The Magic of Teaching Yoga

Mary Taylor

  Johnny Fox performing in one of his magic shows; he taught us a lot!

Johnny Fox performing in one of his magic shows; he taught us a lot!

Johnny Fox’s drishti was always steady, calm, clear and vivid when he carefully lowered the sword down his throat or hammered a nail up his nose. Those same eyes offered a quintessential twinkle when he’d present you with your watch after inviting you to help in his magic show. Johnny was one of a kind—a magician extraordinaire, a devoted yoga student and a warm-hearted dear friend. He had tattoos, boa constrictors, and an unwavering spiritual path long before those things were popular.

One striking memory of Johnny was his story of a trip he took to India. While there he performed his magic tricks—he was truly a master. Everything from simple disappearing (and reappearing) coin tricks to rope tricks and more—each of which he performed with unparalleled sleight of hand. He found that in particular in villages and small-town temples people would crowd around thinking his "supernatural powers" made him in some way divine. 

But he never took the bait. He'd play the part to the hilt until the act was over and then he'd grin and drop it. He'd back out of the superhuman role people were all too eager to put him in, and he’d make sure they saw him as who he really was—just a regular guy having fun.

Johnny could have played on other’s projections and made a lot of money as a “guru” who could give Shakti Pat and produce watches and other trinkets for his followers in order to keep them coming back. But he knew the extreme danger and karmic harm that would have been done by agreeing to sit upon a pedestal others placed beneath him. Johnny took extraordinary delight in just being humble, caring and open rather than in accumulating any kind of power. He knew it is so much more fun and compassionate to be normal rather than to take advantage of naïve projections and gullibility.

This teaching of Johnny’s is vital for any of us who are yoga teachers. People will always try to put you on a pedestal, to simplify their path into one that avoids the necessity of not knowing. All of us as students go through phases where we want the shortcut; someone to do the work for us, a path that doesn’t require courage, patience and insight. So as teachers we need to carefully hold space for our students—providing enough support for them to stay grounded without imposing our own ego-driven agenda onto them. This means that as teachers we need to stay awake so that we don’t identify with other’s projections. And as students we need to stay awake too—to be able to laugh when the teacher hands us our wristwatch on our way out the door after class.

  Johnny Fox died on December 17, 2017, after facing a terminal illness, in the same way he did so many other things in life: facing it head on. We will miss him dearly. We love you Johnny!

Johnny Fox died on December 17, 2017, after facing a terminal illness, in the same way he did so many other things in life: facing it head on. We will miss him dearly. We love you Johnny!

Signs of Progress

Mary Taylor

  Supermoon as seen in Thailand

Supermoon as seen in Thailand

This Sunday’s full moon is being touted as another “supermoon,” one of three that will occur by the end of January. The full moon is such an invitation to experience a sense of tuning into the earth. So on moon days I enjoy the luxury of the extra two hours I have--since I’m not doing an asana practice--and I sit longer those days to meditate. . . .

Arrange the body. Heavy sitting bones, strong, easy spine, heart floating, palate released and the sensation of breath. Settle in. When you notice thoughts arise, citta vritis running rampant, smile and come back to the breath.

The full moon always makes me feel really grounded. Or giddy sometimes. Often, I’m melancholy. This time, probably also partly due to a strong case of jet lag, I’m feeling pretty giddy.

Oops, back to the breath. The full moon. Sitting.

A supermoon! This is just another demonstration of progress that goes unnoted. When I was growing up back in the 1950s there were no supermoons. There was just the man in the moon. Of course, that was hotly debated by divergent camps of disbelievers, some of whom argued for there being a rabbit up there, with others (probably the gastronomes among us) convinced the face of the moon clearly revealed the fact that the moon was made of cheese.

Back to the breath.

But then the mystery and the invitation for deep contemplation, and all of our speculations about the moon, were doused when on that hot summer’s night in late July of 1969 Buzz Aldrin first set foot on the moon. There wasn’t a man there, and even though the astronauts only had really bad dehydrated food and Tang to eat, they couldn’t find any cheese at all!

Who names their kid Buzz?

Smile; attention on the breath.

They brought back “moon rocks,” material collected while they were poking around up there that day. Moon rocks were all the rage for a while. A friend of mine even got one, which her parents wouldn’t allow any of us to touch.

Oops, breath.

Another sign of progress is that you can Google “moon rocks” these days. Which I did to find on Wikipedia that the true meaning of the words is, “Nuggets of the marijuana strain Girl Scout Cookies, dipped in hash oil and then sprinkled with kief.” Who knew? I was a Girl Scout back in the day and I didn’t even know this. I don’t even know what kief is, but I’m not going to Google that in case my Google searches are being monitored. And, no, my train of consciousness thought here in writing isn’t because I ordered and indulged in moon rocks when researching the topic. My mind just always churns up citta vritis, so I meditate to train it as best I can. How embarrassing. I’m always thankful there aren’t thought balloons above my head when I practice or sit. I’m sure everyone else’s mind is still while my mind races around like a monkey. Or rat. Sometimes I feel more like a rat. And then . . .

Come back to the breath again. No judgments.

Which brings me to yet another sign of progress—that we can dispel or create modern myths so easily due to all the hard facts (or fake news, take your pick) available through Google itself, or better yet, through social media. For instance, on the topic of the moon, there’s a theory that the moon landing is a myth; that there never was a moon landing—check it out.

I sat in the capsule that landed on the moon when we were visiting the Smithsonian. But, come to think of it, it did seem pretty normal and it wasn’t that beaten up. We have a twenty-year-old truck. Its paint is looking pretty weathered and the seats are losing their spring, and it’s just been tooling around here on earth. Imagine if I’d driven to the moon and back! You’re trying to convince me that it would look this good still?

Of course, it would take a lot to coordinate a huge conspiracy like staging a moon landing—even though some of the shadows in the films from the moon landing weren’t quite right. The evidence of poor lighting shows clearly that the whole thing was staged or at least underfunded. Certainly it wasn’t because shadow angles and lighting are actually different on the moon than they are on earth due to some weird relationship of moon-earth-sun. Given that during last summer’s full eclipse the shadows were really wacky, there’s an outside chance lighting was different up there on the moon. Who knows?

Soften the palate. Breath.

The thing is, to coordinate a long-lasting conspiracy about landing on the moon would mean to get agreement between and coordinate stories with so many people! If you’ve ever tried to organize a group project of any sort, you know how hard it is to get people to agree on and stick with anything. Plus, given that Doodle, email, Internet, FB and other ways of actually communicating didn’t even exist in 1969, how could there have been such an airtight, coordinated conspiracy? I don’t know. I try to see all sides of these tough arguments.

But back to the breath . . . and the original point . . .

There’s going to be a supermoon on Sunday, which means that the full moon will occur at or near the Moon’s closest point on its elliptic path around the Earth. A supermoon looks bigger and brighter than usual because it’s a little closer than usual. That’s cool.

Makes me feel like sitting. And then I remember that for us Ashtangis, any full moon is pretty cool. It offers a time to stop. To drop in and let the mind, body and spirit resynchronize, realign so our true nature can bubble back up. The moon days give us the opportunity to remember the contemplative aspects of our practice and how profoundly important they are. And that’s not a myth. That’s for real.


Michael Stone

Mary Taylor

It is with deep sorrow that we join so many others around the globe in mourning the loss of our friend and fellow teacher, Michael Stone, who passed away peacefully on July 16th after slipping into a coma a few days earlier. Michael was a well-loved teacher of the Buddha Dharma as related to western psychology, and a yoga instructor. The author of numerous books and articles, he was able to put into words that resonated with modern times some of the subtle classical teachings.

      We will miss him.

      Richard and Mary

Read More

Fake It Till You Make It. . . . Really?

Mary Taylor

  What's in a Pause?

What's in a Pause?


It's a sinking feeling; a thick wave of sludge-filled despair sweeping through your gut. The uneasy sense that maybe you've been duped; or worse yet, that you're fooling yourself. And you ask: Did enthusiasm, laziness, greed or maybe that extra cup of espresso cloud my thinking and carry me away into believing--and immediately posting--my reaction to the online gossip? Should I have been more mindful of the context and asked myself how I really knew what I thought to be true before hitting "post?" Did I check my motivation and scrutinize the story's sources? And what might the repercussions be? In this age of type now and think later, these are the kinds of questions that poke up their messy heads when we power down for the day.

The fast and furious online world is remarkably vast, open and beneficial, yet it is also an invitation to isolation, augmentations and distortions of mind, and inflation of the ego. It's a medium that feeds on the unsteadiness of mind and thrives on us keeping our citta vrittis alive, active and--worse yet--shared with any unsuspecting soul who happens to absentmindedly click on our latest musing. (Like this one.) Patanjali would roll over in his grave!

As if it weren't strange enough to find fragments of thought being pulled out of the sky to masquerade as relevant content, there is intentional misuse and deception that surfaces through this technology as well; online bullying, cruel pranks that prey on recipients' weaknesses and endless hackings designed to create chaos. 

Perhaps one of the most disturbing uses of the internet is what is now commonly accepted (if not venerated by some as fair play) as "fake news"--hoaxes, propaganda or disinformation used to deliberately fool others and drive traffic in one direction or another. It was, after all, President Trump's adviser, Kellyanne Conway who introduced the euphemism "alternative facts" to describe some of the fake news (like the Bowling Green Massacre) tossed out for the public to chew on--and get distracted by--just after the election so that stories of fake news impacting the election became less of a front page issue. The age-old magician's trick of drawing your attention to their right lapel pocket while slipping a coin down the sleeve of the left arm was the training ground for this kind of manipulative use of the internet. 

On one hand we could become enraged or bitter about the use and misuse of the medium and swear off the internet. But realistically that wouldn't do much except to isolate us in our own limited point of view. On the other hand, it is a really interesting time to develop our critical-thinking skills and to remember the value of satyam or truth--which might be just enough to pull us back into Patanjali's graces. It is, indeed, an age of immediacy where veneer can be valued more than the truth, where sensationalism, cynicism and daring sound bites take a front seat to reflection and dialogue. Yet that doesn't mean we all need to buy into that value system.


A deliberate, momentary pause is all it takes to consider the impact we might have and our interconnectedness.


Savoring the truth, which is enriched by the messiness and dirt that sometimes lies beneath the veneer, exposes the beauty and vividness of life. It brings us down to earth, and all it takes is a single out breath to sense into the unending support of the ground beneath us! From there we might imagine that if we had the time and inclination to run our palms along that very surface of the earth we stand on that we could connect with every other sentient being on this planet. Not as quickly as sending a Tweet but with a lot more feeling. A deliberate, momentary pause is all it takes to consider our intention, our motivation, our choice of language, the impact we might have and our interconnectedness. One breath cycle can point us in the direction of what’s right while a missed breath and an ignored sense of connection may lead us to create “fake news, fake fear, fake us.”

Truth resides in the subtle layers of our body, mind and being as part of the foundational structure of who we really are. Relying solely on our mind and its reactions, conclusions and constructs (which is what social media promotes) to offer to the world our ideas and facade of who we are can throw us into realms of confusion for lifetimes. 

Any idea leaves a residue and is part of the chain of being or of karma. Residue exists not only in our own experience but in the experience of others who come across what we've tossed out with care or carelessly as a matter of ego or deception. Encountering an abundance of unchecked "news" and ideas, your mind searches for connections and starts building a web of understanding to make sense of it all in order to steer you in a perceived correct direction. But when we don't take time to pause for reflection into the idea and to examine the deeper layers of mind or, better yet, drop into the sensation of mind merging with the body, then the web constructed by mind is likely to become tangled--one of torment, anxiety, confusion or complete imagination and delusion.

As yoga students and teachers, maybe we really can be flexible after all. Perhaps we can resist the pressure to put it out there quickly and in a form that is flashy, fun, daring or strategic simply to up our ratings. Rather than searching our endless stash of citta vrittis for a quip to make them all laugh, or flipping through photos to find the extreme posture we did that one time before we blew out our shoulder--secretly thinking this one time it might go viral--rather than that, perhaps we can just pause for a moment, feel our feet firmly planted on this sweet earth and smile. At the very least, if we're sincere and see the silliness of this medium maybe we can catch a good selfie of our serenity and fleeting subtle smile. Though of course we don't care.