Practice and Purpose

Last week I had the unique honor of photographing portions of the Universal Yoga Teacher Training with Guruji Andrey Lappa, hosted by Raj Patra and Yoga for Life, with beautiful space provided by Yoga Shala.

This was a deep dive for all the dedicated participants, an endeavor pursued in earnest over the course of 12 full days of Shiva Nata (the Dance of Shiva), yoga practice, purposeful education and dharma talks.

I was ever aware of the focus, concentration and devotion of all the graceful yogis involved: each had to make numerous choices in their personal lives in order to prioritize the deepening of their practice over the course of nearly two weeks.

One of my biggest concerns when photographing manta rays in Mexico, wildlife in Yellowstone, or yogis in Portland is intruding upon the scene and the spirits involved. Remarkably, the yogis in the Universal Yoga training never flinched or seemed distracted by camera shutter clicks inches from their noses, nor by my frequent steps between their mats or over outstretched limbs.  They were simply that focused.

Last Sunday night, Guruji Andrey Lappa delivered a sobering critique of how so many of us currently live, how unsustainable our collective choices are. He did so in a neutral manner, with unflagging compassion, embodying one of the overarching themes of his talk and the practices he teaches.

In the end, it turns out that it’s not possible to merely be an observer of an experience like this, without also being directly impacted by it. I, too, came away with an appreciation of the feedback loop of practice and purpose, purpose and practice. For me, the practice involved doing photography in a setting and a set of conditions entirely unfamiliar to me, and walking the line between getting the shot and staying out of the way. What I learned from this practice will translate into future aquatic photography adventures. As for purpose, I’m energized by using photography to support organizations devoted to helping cure illnesses afflicting youth (Batten Disease, Cystic Fibrosis) and those affirming soulful voices rising from within (Universal Yoga, Yoga for Life, re:Sound NW).