As my parents’ only son, and as the brother of five sisters, I’ve spent much of my life quietly choosing the boys, and then men, I would like to adopt as honorary brothers. Usually these guys don’t know I’m doing it. It’s not an easy task being the only boy in a large family. As a child I had little voice when it came to play time, and as clichéd as it may seem, I have surveyed the anatomical structure of Barbie in frightening detail, and am well acquainted with most of her fashion lines between the years of 1977-1983 (both a little earlier and later than I’d like to admit); I also developed a proclivity for high drama, particularly after my elder sisters hit their teenage years. This has given me many gifts, including a genuine sensitivity for others and the atmosphere around me. I also like to think that I picked up some more subtle gifts, not the least of which being an enhanced capacity for intuition.
But I am a realist as well; there is much I missed out on. For instance, the craft of getting intimate with male friends or family members by making deprecating remarks about them. You roast your friends to show them how much you care, and if they are really down and out, the infallable method of support is often a deep punch into the shoulder. I was useless at tricking other guys. They seemed to be onto me a lot quicker than my sisters were. During one summer of my youth, I called a close buddy Phil over to the side of the swimming pool where I was standing. "Gosh Phil, come look at this! You won't believe it!" I peered curiously into the water. I was going to lure him in and then, suddenly and unexpectedly, push him into the water! Ha-Ha!
"Don't pull those bullshit moves on me, JJ," Phil said, instantly deflating me. "I've got three brothers." Needless to say, Phil was, and continues to be, a strong influence.
All my life I've been fascinated by brothers, and how to speak around my male peers. Males are generally not comfortable opening up about attributes of the human life that aren’t of the rational human mind; this means, simply speaking, most guys are very suspicious of people who are in touch with their feelings. many of them probably abhore this blog, in fact. But early on I realized that I needed a bit more guidance and leadership where being part of my own global fraternity was concerned.
I have thus adopted the practice of “adopting” big brothers in my life - men I admire and who have certain qualities I would like to develop more fully in my own life. Eoin Finn doesn't know this, but he is nonetheless one of those unwitting influences - a dude that has something I'd like to polish in myself.
I bring all this up beacuse there has recently been a bit of chatter and some (I think unwarranted) criticism of Eoin’s spontaneous use of an “intention doob” which was concocted by one of his students during her teacher training. It involved rolling up intentions and sparking up a joint to inhale all those good and loving intentions, and then retain the breath (much like one would with a real joint), followed by a deep exhalation and release. It turns out the crowd at Wanderlust loved it and erupted in peals of laughter.
Anyone who has been to Eoin’s classes can attest to the fact that he is a master at not letting us take ourselves or Yoga (capital Y) too seriously, and the paradox is that in so doing, he then brings his students into a deep state - in asana (the physical postures of yoga), in meditation, in savasana (final relaxation). He is playful and likes to monkey around, and as a result he comes off as completely authentic.
It appears, prima facie, that the negative feedback about “smoking an intention joint” is from people who have never attended his classes and are pretending they know what they are talking about. That’s our biggest issue, really - ignorance. Ignorance is simply acting as if we know when we do not know. You need to be in on of Eoin’s classes before you decide whether this is a good idea or not. Yoga is constantly evolving and continues to evolve - no reason to not include this brand of playfulness in yoga’s ongoing evolution. All he is doing is using strong cultural references to pass on the same basic teachings of yoga, the same information that has been transmitted for millennia.
And for those who feel that a “simulated joint” re: drug use is offensive, I think there’s a perspective that is not being considered. I wasn't there, but I believe I can put my head and my heart in the space to catch it. The imagination, often viewed as childish, is the most underrated healing tool; it is the seat of creativity, a direct link to higher consciousness where the “I” is more scant. What is in the joint, after all? One’s own intentions. And where to we put them? We make a playful but still symbolic act of inhaling them, to draw them deep inside and hold them there. Then the intentions are released & shared. The message here is that everything we need comes from within us; drugs not required. We don’t need to blot out our conscious reality, we can learn to let it shift with our awareness and equanimity. The guiding principle here, is compassion - for oneself first of all.
As Eoin is so fond of saying “ Love is the Ultimate Renewable Resource.” I believe it was in this spirit that the new mudra was used - and it's all about timing and temperature. I would hazard a guess that it was appropriate and induced levity to most people taking part.
Photo by Ali Kaukas, via facebook
After getting medically discharged from the Army in 1996, I descended into addiction and alcoholism for years until I was physically, mentally, morally, emotionally and spirituality bankrupt. I had a gym membership in Ottawa at the time and after I became officially homeless I used to go there to have a place to shower and sleep - I used to sleep on a yoga mat. Eventually I got the energy and courage (at that time I lived in constant fear and shame of these actions that I couldn’t seem to control) to try one of the yoga classes that was on offer as part of the membership. Eventually I checked myself into rehab and got sober.
A few years later I was still sober but smoking over a pack of cigarettes a day; I remember carrying my infant up a set of stairs and losing my breath. I stopped to get my wind and I could smell the toxins on my, leeching out of me. My skin felt oily and sallow. I sensed how much I’d been poisoning myself, and looked down at my boy, with his perfect skin and clear eyes; I realized that I needed to quit smoking if I wanted to be the father I knew I could be to this child. I think it was the same day that I went into a store that sold yoga merchandise to look at their DVDs.
Now, what I learned from studying English literature is that most of the time you CAN actually judge a book by its cover. My gut said to go with Eoin Finn’s Power Yoga DVD, though I knew absolutely nothing about Eoin or yoga in general. For a long time that was my only yoga practice. I worked with his recorded guidance, at first in Ottawa, getting healthier and healthier, working my program, practising Vipassana, and learning yoga. Eventually I applied to and was accepted by the Foreign Service and published my first novel, and had my daughter. I brought Eoin’s DVD to practice with when I trained in Africa and Ethiopia, and on my first posting in Sri Lanka, and then to Vietnam, and finally to India, where I was posted until last year. By the time I got to India I had my own practice and wasn't really using DVDs anymore (I had The Pursuit of Happy Hips and a Shiva Rea video as well as Bryan Kest’s Power Yoga & David Swenson's Primary Series in my collection by then) but I pulled out that first Eoin Finn DVD again when I had a setback in India and needed some more grounding. I used it once or twice, and then, when a colleague approached me asking for suggestions for a yoga video, I gave it to him.
All of this to say, ultimately, that my gratitude to Eoin runs pretty deep, because recently at one of his Blissology workshops, I felt connected to that light inside me that he helped guide me to years ago. And it is partly through yoga that I keep discovering how to be the man I always wanted to be, a man with compassion and strength of spirit; I knew I wanted this even when I was drunk off my ass in the army, running away from nightmares. That little white dot in Eoin’s Blissology logo, the connection to the ultimate reality which lies beyond mind and matter, was what I was looking for every time I put a bottle in my mouth or chemicals in my bloodstream.
So if Eoin has the presence of mind to say to his class “let’s roll up an intention fattie and smoke it together,” it has little to do with him grandstanding as a West-Coast surfer-hippie-dude, and it has nothing to do with him looking to rattle the status quo. I believe it has everything to do with him helping his students lighten up, and allowing his teaching to come authentically, from the heart.