Yoga Podcast Episode 42: Gregor Maehle

The important thing is, in the domain of the heart chakra, there cannot be authority, power stratification, and heirarchy. It is anathema to the heart chakra, it cannot happen. – Gregor Maehle

We required more than one attempt at recording this podcast episode with teacher and author, Gregor Maehle. The first was over the phone. But, you see, living in rural Montana may offer a strong connection with nature – I can’t say the same for WiFi. As a result, there is static and a high pitch noise that to fix, would simply be way above my pay grade.

So we met up again – this time, at his home, in Byron Bay. We had just been there a few weeks before, recording last month’s episode with Monica Gauci who is married to Gregor. And although he was in the middle of an intensive, he still made time (and chai) for us.

Still, both conversations were important – and also, related. So Meghan and I made the decision to at least include bits and parts of the first one in today’s episode.

(Now, I did my best at editing, given my limited skills thanks to Lynda.com. So please, do forgive.)

Throughout both talks, Gregor discusses the corruption of authority in everything from religion to politics – and if yoga wants to help heal that problem, then he says it must become a vehicle for dismantling such hierarchical structures.

But what happens when those same powerful imbalances exist within very own spiritual communities?

This is a question we explore more in our second conversation, which you’ll hear in full. And why, perhaps more than in any other podcast to date, this episode with Gregor really had Meghan and me examining what we believe and why we believe it. Which, I actually think, is a good idea …

In fact, I get the feeling Gregor is constantly doing the same, of himself.

Though questioning is different than doubt. Because Gregor does not doubt Patanjali’s yoga. Not at all. But instead, introduces the question – is it Patanjali’s yoga that we are actually practicing? It’s a question only we can answer for ourselves.

Meghan and I talked on the drive home. We wondered how many listeners might be put off by his candor and focusing solely on his critiques, missing the other side he also offers.

But that’s what makes this whole conversation so interesting – that we could hold two conflicting ideas or beliefs at the same time – and both be right. Or wrong, maybe. I don’t know. But such complexities clearly don’t scare or even bother Gregor.

And I don’t think they should scare or bother us either. For the yoga is made up of opposing forces, right? It’s how we find harmony. It’s how we find balance. And I do believe, it’s how we’ll find our way forward. 



PODCAST EXCERPTS

Looking for Love …

When I started yoga, there was this profound sense of loss, that I was coming from a culture that had lost its spiritual heart. So, you know, what I saw of Christianity back then – it had lost its spiritual heart. Christianity had destroyed all of the European Indigineous cultures. We, white people, had wiped out most aboriginous cultures on the earth. And I was entering adolescence and everything seemed to be totally defiled and so because of that, there was this incredible need to find something, somewhere else, somebody that wasn’t defiled. And so I think that a lot of us when we came to India in the 1970s etc. etc. we were looking exactly for that. And then when we found things – we had this enormous psychological need to have found purity, that it had to be that and it couldn’t be the other. 

The Teacher Student Relationship

There is a bit too much emphasis and too much weight on the relationship with the teacher which you know, incredibly empowers the teacher which I don’t think, is such a good thing for the teacher in the long term.

The important thing is, in the domain of the heart chakra, there cannot be authority, power stratification, and heirarchy. It is anathema to the heart chakra, it cannot happen. And so that leads me to the point that any relationship between teacher and student that is trying to convey some of the messages of the higher chakras, must transform that relationship between teacher and student as well. And so what that means is that the teacher, as the relationship goes on, the teacher must deconstruct themselves as an authority and must actually empower the student to become at least become an authority as much as the teacher is. And so of course, in the past, we have very much, the model of teachers clinging to power, and if you really look at, this is sort of what has marred religion of the past 10,000 years. But it has also marred any form of worldly authority. If you look at what is happening currently in politics worldwide, in almost every country, you don’t need me to point to a particular country, it’s happening in every single – that we see that power structures are simply corrupted.

And so that means if yoga wants to contribute anything to the healing of that problem that we find very much in politics, in economy, in sports, in entertainment – everywhere. In spirituality. Then yoga must become a vehicle of dismantling power and authority itself. 

The Evolution of Familial Relationships

Seems like very much, the parent child relationship as very much changed in the last few decades. Adn now you see so much more of that parents and children are friends now. And so if you really think about it – let’s just go back to the parent’s situation, you know. What’s the highest that you can aim for rather than your child becomes your friend? That’s the highest, isn’t it? Don’t you want to bring up and empower another being so that it becomes equal? Right? And isn’t that what’s the most emotionally satisfying? For even like at some point sitting down with your child and have a discussion about quantum physics, theology, and anthropology and realize that your child has outdone you and is intellectually more brilliant. And would that make you totally high? It would make me. That’S the most wonderful, you know? You standing there as the idiot and your child is standing in this intellectual brilliance and you feel, I’ve done a great job.

Isn’t that the greatest and this is exactly what you want to do as yoga teachers, of course. And you want to do that as quickly as possible. And that’s so much more thrilling and so much more satisfying than to perpetuate than this, ‘keep bowing down to me and touching my feet and see me in my greatness’ yeah? Which is not intellectually stimulating at all. 

What Would Jesus Do?

The teacher should more be able to recognize the divine in the student than the student in the teacher, yeah? Otherwise the teacher isn’t the teacher. So if anybody should touch the feet of anybody, it should be the teacher to the feet of the student.

And this is what Jesus demonstrated when he washed the feet of the disciples. And I recently watched a video of Pope Francis washing and kissing the feet of prison inmates to make a really strong demonstration that there was no such thing as a power gradient between students and teacher. I believe that this is all part of the outgoing power chakra paradigm which is something that has ruled the planet, and ruled our brains for such a long time that it is difficult to get away from it. But it’s something that is even like coming up now in religious communities. There’s a new Christian theology that says the second coming of Christ is the community of practitioners.

Thich Nhat Hanh also said that the coming Buddha, Maitreya (future) Buddha, is the sangha. It’s the community of practitioners in which are all totally equal. In that community, the Divine can embody itself.

And as long as we maintain a stratified heirarchy, the Divine cannot do that because in the Divine itself, there is no stratification. So that means if we, as a community, want to receive the Divine, we actually have to create a community that is not stratified whatsoever. And people are afraid of that 


PODCAST LINKS:
 

The Ashtanga Dispatch Podcast is edited and hosted by Peg Mulqueen along with Meghan Powell. We are an incredibly small but dedicated mother-daughter team – and we bring each episode to you without any third-party advertisers.

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