Sample from the Winter 2009 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine
An Interview with Jeff Davis
As a professional writer and Yoga teacher, Jeff Davis has taken The Journey from the Center to the Page, the book he wrote that explores paying attention to the soul of the writing craft, and how asanas, pranayama and kirtan can deepen the writing process. In this interview, he explains how chanting and the practice of Yoga enhance the mind-body-imagination connection.
IYM: What is the relationship between chanting and writing?
JD: Yoga and writing can seem like such different things, but they can come from the same source. As a writer, I’m prone to seek answers from different sources. When I began to have experiences during kirtan and recognized that they were similar to Hatha Yoga experiences I had, I went to the ancient texts like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Upanishads to do research. I also researched neuroscience studies to help me understand what goes on in the brain in relationship to our imagination. Some things I can generalize from my experience and research is that kirtan seems to be another practice of Yoga that concentrates the embodied mind.
When we chant we are not concerned with protecting ourselves, competing with others, trying to prove ourselves. Like in Hatha Yoga practice, during kirtan I experienced my ego clearing, almost disintegrating, in a beautiful way. When the stuff of the ego clears away, there’s a whole other experience we have of the more subtle mind and of spirit being aroused or awakened. When that subtle mind is awakened, that’s when the imagination comes out to play. When a pure emotional state comes out, that’s when ideas and concepts can flow more freely. If we write from ego, we only write from 5 percent of our brain. Most cognitive scientists say we are only conscious of about 5 percent of our thoughts and the other 95 percent is influencing that 5 percent That really correlates beautifully with one of the Upanishads that describes different layers of reality.
Alice Walker attributed her loving-kindness meditation to getting her through writing The Color Purple. William Faulkner, in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, said that compassion is the most important thing for a writer. That makes complete sense to me. Compassion is reaching out beyond ourselves. I have written many poems to stones, herons, to experiencing the relationship between I and Thou, I and others. In a memoir, if you can’t muster compassion for all the good, bad and ugly in your life story, you aren’t going to muster the full empathy from your readers. Karuna, compassion, is fierce sometimes and complex: It honors all dimensions of a person. Writers of all genres must have that capacity to see situations, to see the world, from all different points of view and that’s what Yoga is all about. Chanting is about breaking down all the seeming distinctions between I and the other.
IYM: In your workshops you teach writers how to access their inner muse utilizing Yoga and kirtan.
JD: I teach writers how to become aware of how a sequence of Yoga postures affects them in mind, spirit and heart. I help them see the difference between how a backward bending asana or a forward bend affects them. Then, we figure out how to develop an eight- to ten-posture sequence that will manifest a particular writing intention for that person. We look at how we can integrate forms of pranayama that are known to influence the mind and imagination in certain ways—then that person can come to the page and their writing with more than the ego and more than just willing their way through the writing process…
Read the rest of this article in the Winter 2009 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.