At various stages through our lifetimes, we are faced with big decisions about what to do with ourselves. Beyond providing for our own individual basic needs, this becomes a question of how to be most useful to the world, leveraging all our experience, training, privilege, and unique inclinations and circumstances.
You may know that I was in graduate school for the past several years, developing numerical models of ice sheet dynamics and meltwater drainage beneath glaciers. This is arguably important work, as these processes have significant consequences for sea level rise and global climate effects in the coming decades, and we need accurate predictions in order to properly prepare and adapt. Upon completing my PhD in civil engineering this summer, I was presented with some very nice, stable, well-paying opportunities for postdoctoral research in academia and at national labs to continue similar modeling work. After serious consideration, I turned them all down.
What have I done? Why would I do such an irresponsible thing and not “use” my degree? I see a distinction between the ice sheet modeling work, which is useful for predicting sea level rise and dealing with problems that are coming, and teaching yoga to people, which has great potential to actually change how things move forward.
After visiting my parents last week, I received an email from my dad, a retired astrophysicist who spent his career studying cosmic rays to understand the origins of the universe. He wrote: “I’m not sure there is any way to get there from here, but wouldn’t it be neat if the world were full of compassionate and mutually supportive rational beings? We should collectively kick away the ladder of evolution, which got us this far up, and start perceiving things in a better way.”
This is precisely why I am drawn to the path of yoga. In a way, the decision was already made long ago. The practices and teachings have somehow always seemed familiar; some people would assert that this is a result of practicing in previous lifetimes, but you can think what you like about that.
Sometimes there appears to be a divide between yoga and modern Western science or physics, with each side misunderstanding or misrepresenting the other perspective, or trying to draw inappropriate comparisons. This usually isn’t intentional, but is typically a result of not having the proper background in the language of advanced mathematics or the subtle internal language of yoga. Both disciplines provide systematic methods of understanding the nature of reality, and I find myself in a somewhat unique position of being relatively highly trained in these seemingly distinct realms. It will be interesting to see how this might be useful, and what doors open along the way.
I am delighted to be teaching at The Yoga Workshop now, in the Ashtanga tradition, which is a tremendously effective approach to personal yoga practice. Beginning next week on October 22, I will be teaching guided Short Forms classes on Mondays and Wednesdays at noon, and I am also assisting Ty Landrum in morning Mysore classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
I’ll look forward to seeing you again, and I would love to hear about what you have been up to, along your own path.
With great love,