I first met Godfrey at my grand-mothers house in West Wittering in the south of England. I remember a couple of things: the way he walked with a way of holding himself that was different to anyone I had seen before and his pony tail. I was 8 and intrigued!
10 years later and then a year later when I was 19, I travelled out to Ibiza where Godfrey’sWindfire camp was based to attend one of the retreats there for a week.
“Go to Godfrey,” my ma said. “He’ll be able to answer your questions.” So I went and my education in life began!
When I first went to Windfire the part that I loved the most was right after the morning meditation when we had practiced for about 4 hours and we’d all sit around in this giant dome and Godfrey would sit there and talk: about yoga, about practice, enquiry, life. We the students would ask him questions and out would come his answers! The kind that like a good movie stay with you long after you have first come across them, stirring up things in you that had laid dormant for a while, giving you juice to to follow the curiousity a bit further.
My time at Windfire opened up a lot of questions for me, as well as introducing me to things like karma yoga (the yoga of doing deeds for others), taking care of my body through the food I ate and connecting my actions to the impact they create on the planet and then the joys of the compost loo with a view…
There is a part of me that will always long for a life lived in a little tipi under the stars and Windfire is always there in my heart ready to nourish those fires when need be.
And so is Godfrey; he’s a teacher of enormous generousity. And one who is up for genuine dialogue with his students. He’s not holier then thou; he doesn’t preach, but he does teach.
Preachers are static. Their approach is to present a truth and demand your acceptance of it. Teachers however invite us to explore what may be true for us. They are braver. This is what always attracted me to the teachings of Buddha whilst at a Catholic boarding school in a valley in Surrey. Buddha said don’t accept anything I say; explore it for yourself. How revolutionary would it be if schools could adopt this approach too: genuinely cultivating the intelligence in their students to think for themselves!
And this is Godfrey’s approach: explore it yourself. Don’t accept the things we are told in yoga, in life: explore for yourself.
And so with yoga and later life Godfrey has encouraged me, just from the power of his own enquiry to look at my practice and start asking questions: why was I pushing my breath out like that in my Ashtanga practice? What happened if I were to cultivate free breath instead? (Try this if you are a yogi; it’s pretty revolutionary!)
Godfrey’s also been there as a door opener for me as a woman. Because of this I cannot categorise Godfrey solely as my yoga teacher; he’s been a life teacher to me too. He has helped connect my practice to my body and brought clarity to things like dependent arising (all things in life are interconnected) in a way that was totally unexpected. Through the way he teaches I see more similarities to the way I practice yoga and the way I live my life: chasing ideals and ideas of what I think I should be doing, rather then allowing and making space so that I learn to accept what is actually there. And hey, maybe even one day accept it. And yes this is mighty hard, and I pretty much struggle with it on a daily, if not hourly basis, but I think of Godfrey and he’s there in my life and I am inspired by his question asking and he inspires me to be a bit more courageous with my own questions and nudges and peering around the door openings. And though I am still a baby, not yet even a toddler waddling along on this path called a life, because of Godfrey I can at least see a place of acceptance that though I cannot yet totally live it, at least there’s this person in my life embodying a way of being that whenever I get a sense of it, phwroooah, it feels like release indeed. A release into the relaxation of self acceptance. Something some industry’s might not be too keen we nourish!
So without further ado, here is the latest guest post from Godfrey Devereux, yogi master, poet and revolutionaryThrowing The Net Open on what self enquiry means to him…
And to everyone reading: I really hope you enjoy. Your comments are very welcome!
As a teenager my indefatigable curiosity spawned an irresistible fascination with consciousness that expressed itself primarily by way of yoga, meditation and psychedelics. Driven as I was by the naive optimism of youth I undertook them all, albeit unknowingly, as means of self development, self enhancement. After many years of fascinating and revealing experiences, insights and even transformations I had to acknowledge that all my explorations had done nothing to alter the fundamental problems generated by my own immutable selfishness. I entrusted my longing then to living masters of the Zen tradition, whose mere presence convinced me that what I longed for was possible. In doing so I discovered that the end to my self-serving ambitions, however noble, and my ongoing anxieties, however commonplace, was to come not from any knowledge, understanding, skill or effort, but from their expiration. Through the ruthless relentlessness of the strict reflections of my Zen masters I was able not only to see the foolishness of my efforts and their fruitlessness but to experience the irrevocable presence of imperfectability. So it was that I stumbled upon the radical cleft between self improvement and self enquiry, wherein the former completely prevents the latter, while the latter delivers all the fruits that self improvement dishonestly promises.
The essence of self enquiry is to settle effortlessly into the intelligence of your own presence until its deep and subtle nature is irresistibly revealed. Of course this usually requires support, to make it possible to let go of all effort and intention into the intelligent presence of consciousness. In my own practice I invite that possibility either by way of action (yoga posture praxis) or stillness (sitting). In either case I give my interest and thereby my attention to the immediate physical sensations being generated by (the intelligence of) my body. As my interest in my own presence eclipses my external concerns and curiosities, in becoming more and more intimate with the body, mind becomes more and more quiet, clear and still. Eventually and inevitably it begins to glimpse, then to clearly recognise and finally deeply encounter the intelligent presence of consciousness, as subtle, potent and ineluctable fluctuations of delight, love and peace. In this simple, effortless way I am taken into a deep, lucid awareness of my own presence and nature, and its implications, by way of the simplicity of somatic self enquiry.
Of course this somatic approach to self enquiry is not only concrete, potent and fruitful but accessible under all circumstances untroubled by effort and struggle. It can be enjoyed in the bath, in a traffic jam or post office queue, hiking or climbing, washing up or making the bed. To give it a yoga mat or meditation cushion is the height of luxury, that while perhaps necessary in the beginning, is certainly an indulgence I continue to grant myself as often as possible.
If you would like to find out more about Godfrey and his work or would like to join one of his workshops, please see here.