Elke Steinbeisser is a business analyst in New York. For years before she began yoga, she had been practicing one or other of the Osho Active Meditations™.
In the following interview she talks about how the two approaches impact her life.
To set the ball rolling, we asked her how she experienced the "moving methods" when she first tried them out.
Starting out, I liked Kundalini best. It is a great way to relax after a long day and I enjoy the dancing part. I could easily relax into the space that Nadabrahma [the humming method] transported me to: the circular movement of the arms took me into a sort of alpha-state and sitting, in the third stage, was always deeply relaxing. With very little effort I was able to reach a quiet space.
In Gourishankar, the night method, although the flickering of the stroboscopic light often made me dizzy during the meditation, I liked the effect that I always slept very deeply afterwards. Whirling and No-Dimensions are both wonderful meditations, as whirling always came easy to me.
I love to dance and, in Nataraj, it was pure movement, with no pre-described form. For me after a certain point it was ecstatic.
What attracted you to yoga?
After Osho had left his body, I was very lost and was looking for new teachers and scriptures that would fill the void that his passing had left in my life. I was drawn to yoga because of its philosophy, its guidance about living your life with more awareness. The wisdom that I've found in books of yogi masters and their teachings spoke to me very strongly.
Yoga also attracted me because it became the "in" thing to practice in New Age circles. Ultimately, I liked how I felt after a class practicing asanas: more relaxed and focused, at peace with myself (even if just for a short while).
After the end of my first weeklong vacation at Kripalu in 1997, I started attending classes, mostly once a week, with Kripalu instructors in Queens, NY, or at the Open Center in SOHO, Manhattan. Then in 1999 I started to visit the Sivananda ashram in upstate NY where a more vigorous form of yoga (Sivananda Yoga), with more difficult asanas, is practiced twice a day. I then started to attend classes at the Sivananda center in Manhattan.
There was a lot more structure in this kind of yoga than in the Osho approach, but also more restrictions, especially about sexuality. It was "serious" inner work. Going to classes regularly, I became quickly more flexible and was able to perform more difficult asanas with less effort.
During that time, I recommenced the active meditations, which I had dropped for a few years.
What prompted you to take them up again?
I had tried to accomplish something with my life I'd got a solid college education and was really into making it in the world. After having desired and finally experienced them, I found that worldly pleasures and riches left me still unhappy and unfulfilled. Again, I was searching for meaning in my life, asking for a purpose. I began to feel the tremendous inner emptiness that I had felt when I first sought out Osho.
Yoga was not able to give me answers to satisfy this inner yearning. It did not go deep enough, did not go to my innermost core. It did not put me in touch with my unconscious to the extent that the active methods do. Recommencing Osho's methods I found they quickly brought me to my center and I reached a much deeper quiet space.
So it was at that point that you combined the two approaches?
I was forced to take a break from my yoga practice because I sprained the middle finger of my left hand while doing a full headstand by myself. A few months later I developed an inflammation in my right wrist and was unable to do any weight-bearing positions anymore. That was a few years ago. These days I practice yoga and an active method fairly regularly.
How do you experience the similarities and differences between yoga and the active methods?
I like what yoga does for my body and my overall being, and how it has brought awareness to the way I breathe. On the other hand, the active techniques are new methods that help to prepare me for meditation. I totally trust Osho here: he developed them to make it easier for the Western mind to get into meditation and they do prepare the ground so that real meditation can happen.
For me, there is no problem in having both methods as a practice. In fact, they complement each other.
In what way?
In the quiet part of the active techniques I can bring in the awareness of breath that yoga gives me. Instead of concentrating on the music which is outside me I focus on a long inhalation and exhalations, sending the breath to a point in the body where I experience pain or tension. This is especially helpful in the third stage of Dynamic!
Yoga also helps me to relax in my body but still remain alert. This, in turn, has enabled me to better let go in the active meditations where I can keep a state of watchfulness more easily, instead of drifting off or falling asleep. This applies especially to the fourth stage of Kundalini, Nataraj, and Nadabrahma, where we end in the corpse pose.
On the other hand, the active methods help me to move the energy around in the body so that I can really sit in stillness during the quiet part. Since doing them, I've noticed that in yoga I can go deeper into the still part there too. Sitting for prolonged periods of time, even in lotus position, has become much easier too.
Both yoga and the active methods help the stagnant energy to flow again.
These days I feel that sometimes it is helpful to have these different options to bring about deeper results. Why just have one?
Any other observations about your twin practices?
Yoga enables me to get grounded, to come back to my center. When that happens, it becomes easier for me to remain in the present moment, which is the point that we are striving for in the active meditations and to which we always want to come back after the mind has become busy again and led us away from stillness.
Yoga focuses more on breathing forms, especially pranayama breathing. When you learn how to breathe deeper, you start to feel more. Furthermore, different asanas are designed to work on different chakras and organs in the body, to bring fresh life force (prana) there and to remove blockages.
By contrast, the active techniques work more on my sensitivity and awareness in the moment.
Both methods lead to the final stage of quiet meditation, but in the active meditational approach we also use the heart and mind, not just the body and breath. The transformation of energy, especially on an emotional level, is deeper and more direct for me than by doing yoga. These methods wake me up and then I can sit still and wait for meditation to come.
In yoga, there is no real catharsis of blocked emotions; I work with the breath only to find release.
In the active approach, I can work through and release emotions immediately because they bring emotions more to the surface and help me to transform my energy.
Both methods are about increasing awareness: how do you, personally, arrive at this point through these two very different paths?
Through yoga, a deepening of self-awareness brings on a change not only in body awareness, but also in the way I think and perceive things. Ultimately, it helps me to remain an effective "watcher on the hill" for short moments, in all the phases of the active meditations when the busy mind starts to come into my consciousness. I am more able to observe everything.
In the moving methods, being total to the point of exhaustion as is encouraged brings about more awareness.
What key elements epitomize each approach for you?
Yoga has brought structure to my life, and that supports me to go on with my practice; otherwise, when lazy moments arise where I find it hard to get motivated. But it also enables me to go with the flow and practice as much, or as little as feels right at that moment. I am often very scattered with my thoughts and feelings and l need to consciously center myself. The regular yoga practice supports this effort to the point where I have a clearer focus in my life.
The Osho Active Meditations™ are about being more total and not getting too serious! I am always reminded that I should let things happen and to be playful.