As a musician, artist, yogi and lover of life, Maggie Diaz Castillo has undergone various stages in her life that many of us can relate to in our own perspectives. In this interview, Maggie takes us through her life experiences detailing her journey of how yoga has made a difference in her life, and how she overcame some of her painful past experiences and turned them into something powerful!
Q: What made you enter the world of yoga twenty years ago?
Basically... Illness and the urge to feel better. Being as young as I was, I was undergoing a lot of stress and my digestion was a disaster. I went to see a specialist who urged me to have a lot of costly studies done. He ended up prescribing a lot of drugs I had to take every day and for an indefinite period of time. I asked the doctor what the underlying reason for my condition was, and he said "stress", so I said: "well, I suppose that if I get rid of stress then I don't need to take these drugs", and he answered: "well, If you CAN get rid of stress, I suppose you're right". I had already heard about the benefits of Yoga, so I went across the street, where there was a Yoga school that belonged to the "Great Fraternity" to ask for information, and started going the next day. At the time, to be honest, I couldn't deal with the idea of dressing in white and doing stuff like showering with cold water as part of the routine and did not attend regularly. I ended up quitting. But this first approach gave me enough background to start a light personal practice routine.
Q: Was there anything in particular that led you to the yoga path?
I have always been curious about philosophical matters. I think I have been a seeker since I was a little girl. When I heard the word "Yoga" the first thing that came to my mind was images of Indian practitioners standing on their heads or entangled in a pretzel-like nut. But in my seeking, one day I came across a book by Indra Devi, and became very interested. I think that, what surprised me the most, was that I had been doing "yoga" postures without knowing it. For example, when I felt sad or discouraged, I would lock my self inside my room and rest in the child posture.
I was pretty flexible already, and yoga postures felt quite natural, so it was also a challenge at first, to be able to do them all.
Q: Why Hatha yoga? What allured you to Hatha and not your previous practices?
Well... I think it's just as when you find a garment that feels good on you. It felt good, it suited my nature and it had also the challenging component I needed to keep up with it. I also found it to be very complete, very integral: My body felt ageless because my muscles had tone and flexibility, my mind was more focused because there was less noise, and because there was less noise in my head, I could listen to my spirit when it talked to me.
Hatha Yoga, or more precisely yoga asanas, as far as I understand, were created to make the body enough ductile to be able to sit in meditation for a longer period of time.
This game of opposites is what makes Hatha Yoga so appealing: Movement/stillness, Contraction/expansion etc.
What I found with my Anusara-inspired teachers, was that a lot of care was taken when acquiring the postures. I became very aware of what every muscle was doing. I can say, very proudly, that I have never suffered the least of injures, probably due to this.
Q: In your quick bio, you mentioned you suffered physical and emotional detriment, can you elaborate, if possible?
I was very prone to depression since I was a small child.
On top of this, I suffered from gall stones and gall bladder malfunction due to a genetic defect. The doctor had prescribed me a very strict diet and I lost a lot of weight. I am talking about, more or less, six years ago, when I had already started to retake Yoga, this time with a practice of more or less 16 hours a week.
I am a single mother and my daughter was four at the time. I had not opened my heart to anyone and did not open the possibility to a new relationship until then. The guy I was dating seemed perfect, also a single dad and we both had the same age. At some point he became fearful that the relationship would get too serious and literally disappeared out of sight... he was nowhere to be found. I realize now that the crisis he made me get into, triggered the enriching learning process that came later. But, at the time, what he did represented the materializing of my biggest and oldest fear: The fear of being abandoned (and this is an issue I'm still working on). It is noticeable that the crisis presented itself as I was restarting a new and stronger yoga practice... Chaos is likely to be found at first, when you decide to go deep and grow, this is what I think. Just like when you clean a pool and it seems that the water is clear on the surface: If you remove a little of what's stuck to the bottom, the water becomes really ugly looking. I think it is important, for anyone that plans to start a program of the sort, to know that this can and is likely to happen, so that they don't get discouraged and keep up with the practice. Chaos is likely to be the first outcome on the path of spiritual growth. Just as physical pain is the first outcome of Yoga practice when you haven’t moved your body in a deep way for a long time. This is probably why the spiritual seeker is associated with a warrior-like figure.
A psychological therapy was not an alternative for me because I tend to be very cerebral and can fool myself very easily. Moving the body with Yoga asanas was perfect because my inner “blah, blah” would stop and my body would start using its own intelligence. Meditation made me connect with my true nature, and being aware of my true nature made me self sufficient. When I say that "I became my own therapist" I mean I was able to develop "witness conciousness", I was able to "see" me from a perspective without judging. Awe is a very useful tool. Seeing my human form with awe and surprise, as if seen for the first time, as witnessing the miracle of life, helped me a lot. I was able to see what needed to be changed opposed to “seeing what was wrong”.
I think that, what Yoga gave to me was the possibility of listening to my inner voice and decide what I needed: I began to eat everything that I thought was right for me, actually, I began to eat almost everything, regained weight and looked younger.
Most of all, Yoga made me be sure that healing is possible: When I say "healing" I mean having healthy thoughts, getting to the point when you feel good. It didn't matter anymore if a medical study showed me a deformed gall bladder with a wall in the middle, feeling good was my goal and it was all that mattered. I became aware that feeling good was just a matter of deciding to feel good, as silly as it may sound. What did it take to get to that point? Maybe a whole process in which I had to get rid of the idea that feeling good was not appropriate or that I did not deserve to feel good. Healing meant having healthier thinking patterns
Information is key: Believing is to be living. If you believe in violence, you'll live by violence, you'll find it, if you believe in pain, you'll find pain... and so on. Choosing the kind of information I needed for my purposes was key. I got rid of my TV set, by the way. What you focus on, will grow, what you chose to ignore, will fade. I started reading books about healing, meditation and everything that could help me on my quest for better health.
I believe that, for every illness you have, there’s a belief triggering it. Being aware of what I chose to believe and being aware that I can believe what I want to believe, was also very enlightening.
Q: Ann Moxey taught you "disembodying the symbolic implication of Hindu mythology, the interest on Kashmir’s shivaism and Tantra philosophy" How can our readers incorporate this to their own unique situations of everyday circumstances? How do we find more about Ann Moxey?
I think there's more than one question here, but I'll try my best to answer...
Well, Ann has a very keen way of using mythological figures to explain spiritual aspects and also relating them to the postures and the whole practice. She would show us pictures of the mythological figure, explain what the symbols meant, and told us the whole story behind it.
Practicing asanas after a talk about some mythological figure is a very enriching and delightful experience, as you depict the mythological figure in your mind when maintaining your posture. All those demon-killing creatures suddenly make sense as you realize you are doing the same thing: Killing your own demons and recognizing the god-like powers within you.
Ann has been criticized for talking too much about philosophy, but I find it very inspiring. She would display her knowledge, with lynx-like sparkling eyes, a lot of passion and a touch of humor.
When I mentioned Tantra philosophy, I meant the "right hand" Tantra as understood by the Shivaists where "All is Shiva". This is material for a whole book, but, I'll just say that this made total sense to me: An all inclusive philosophy where there is no right and wrong, sacred and profane... All is sacred. A non dualistic philosophy. I’m not very much of a Siddha Yoga adept, but I value the excellent work they have done on researching and reviving a very wise and profound tradition, which is *Kashmir’s Shivaism.
How you can incorporate Hindu mythology to unique situations. Well, personally, I find three aspects that are important to me:
Mythology works on a symbolic plane, it has nothing to do with moral implications and nothing to do with reason. When reason cannot operate, a different “intelligence” comes into action, maybe a cosmic intelligence, greater and more inclusive than reason.
How far reaching can this be? I think that the sages of ancient times knew.
You can use it as a mirror: I see mythology as a catalog of human aspects, colorfully, imaginatively and fantastically displayed in a variety of forms and impersonated in different gods and godesses. You can use it as a self-exploring tool and also as a way to recognize your god-like nature.
It helps you to be more conscious in your practice as you relate the mythological figure to the asana you’re practicing. You can also relate to an aspect or a whole god or goddess to give you power to transcend a problem or to grow out of a situation. For example: I like visualizing my self as goddess Kali when I want to get rid of a negative aspect of my personality: I see me devouring it and transforming it… just like goddess Kali.
I most say I find this very empowering, specially because us women tend to play victim and forget how powerful we are.
Q: If you could leave a philosophical legacy to your friends/comrades/fellow yogis, brethren, what would it be?
Well... I would say: ENJOY! A shaman woman everyone knows as "abuela Margarita", and that I admire a lot said that we came here to enjoy, to live in bliss. The other thing I would say is: LOVE. Love unconditionally. Love and enjoy yourself the way you are, love and enjoy your learning process, love your "mistakes". But most of all, embark on a journey of self-knowledge, it's worth it, and the object of study is already there, no matter where you go.
Make way to the voice within you and pay no attention to any other voice except that one, unless you find resonance between what others say or read and that voice within. Make your self and no one else responsible for your life and you'll enjoy the sweet taste of freedom and power to decide.
Believe in your dreams, do what you always wanted to do with your life: That’s dharma, trust that it is exactly what you came to this human form for.
Be present, be here and now.
Bend, but don’t break: Be like the bamboo that bends during a storm and regains its sky-pointing majesty afterwards.
By the way... When you embark on a journey of self-knowledge and growth, everything you need begins to appear on your path: Life will display its magic.
If you wish to hear my musical vision created from these beliefs, my cd “Yoga: 8 Limbs to Bliss” will be released in Fall 2009 on Rasa Music (www.rasaliving.com) . You could also find me on myspace at www.myspace.com/8limbstobliss. If you’re curious to hear more from Ann Moxey you can visit http://annmoxey.blogs.com/ . I wish you all the best on your personal journeys of self-knowledge.