Introducing Nidrā Yoga – A dialogue with Andre Riehl and Ioana Voicu February 2017 – Brasov (Romania)

Nidra Yoga

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Ioana : We want to know Andre how do you see and how do you think would be the best way to spread the Nidra Yoga teaching. But first to explain us what in fact Nidra is.

André : Nidra seems to be something very old. I don’t know how old it is, and slowly I came to understand it might be coming from prehistoric time. I don’t know, I can’t say precisely, because today when we talk about knowledge, we mainly mean something that is sure, guaranteed, and here we are not sure. So as far as I researched and as I had access to let’s say to a peculiar kind of knowledge, not through thought but through insights, this knowledge of nidrâ became more and more technical by years and decades. Something happened that gave me access to a very large quantity of information. So anyway, my perception is that it comes from maybe prehistoric time, I can’t say exactly, I’m not sure of the precise date.
But psychologically it seems to come from a period where human beings had no security, and they had to challenge their life with the wilderness. It seems that slowly, I don’t know how it happened, but something developed itself in the mind. When you live in the wilderness, if you are not attentive you are very close to lose your life at any moment because of wild animals, plants that can poison you and the very powerful activities of nature like storms, volcanoes… At the same time what we today call the modern psychological stress does not exist !
So, it seems that naturally some people discovered a state which externally was a quality of attentiveness, awareness and tranquility which took them into something like a completely different sensitivity. And this something different was the perception of being into a kind of togetherness with everything surrounding them, without any fragmentation. Then most probably the people who had access to that state were very attractive for others who asked what was this state. And slowly something might have emerged to what we today call teachings. But most surely, I was something very, very natural.
So, most probably with the passing of millennia the teachings became to be preserved, protected… However, as far as I know it was kept only in secret community, it was kept very secret. By secret I don’t mean that it was a clear decision, but they just spread like that, secretly. And it’s only very recently that it spread out of the ascetic teaching lineages. It then came to be understood what the word Nidrâ meant, that is a state where there is not fragmentation, along with a perception of total fulfillment, a relationship with the totality of life. It’s a state. So Nidrâ could be translated as a state of unity.
When Sanskrit appeared, some 5000 years ago, and most probably before Sanskrit started existing, there was of course this possibility for being merged in the state of unity. When Sanskrit language developed, as it is a very sophisticated language, Nidrâ had different meanings. Among them the meaning that mainly remains today is the sleeping state. But by sleep it doesn’t mean at all what we are calling sleep today. It meant a state where being in a state of mind just at the edge of the dreaming state, we perceive the world as a dream. Same thing when in the waking state, we perceive life as a dream. That was the meaning of the word Nidrâ.

Life as a dream doesn’t mean what we today understand by dream. It means perceiving life as a constant movement and you can’t give a final meaning to something that has no end nor beginning, that is in a perpetual activity. What we perceive is moving, and this is what was called dream. It didn’t had the same meaning with what we call dreaming today.
So, this might be the origin. Now the history or development of Nidrâ as a practice is also very difficult to know precisely, because nothing has been written. There are few sentences here and there, in some texts, but nothing has been written from A to Z, explaining the whole process with its origin and its teachings.
Some recent instructors have built up their own codification with their own methodology which has spread among the yoga world. These codifications, even being detailed and helping are personal inventions. There is no old text, or at least if any exist it has not been discovered up to now.
This is what we call Nidrâ.

Ioana : Now because we feel living a very fragmented life, we experience a tendency or a desire to perceive this unity. Then we start and try to study Nidrâ. How do you see this way?

André : This is why Nidrâ became or is understood as a practice. And there is another difficulty; most of the practices that are called yoga, were codified, more or less precisely. Here there has never been a classical or traditional codification of Nidrâ. It is very, very new. It’s about only 60 years ago, when the first written codification appeared. Not like the other ways where very ancient codifications built up practical paths in the past and these buildings became what we call today the teachings. That is, something people do study, with a development and with the idea or belief of personal evolution. And it is about evolving or moving from the perception of division to the perception of non-division.
Now, if non-division exists, it has of course nothing to do with division. They are just like two different worlds. So we could say that the process is to reduce the intensity within the perception of division. And sometimes within these reducing process a kind of miracle happens, there is no more division ! But how does one pass from duality to non-duality ? This is a great mystery. It seems that there is a bridge in between; for sure there is a bridge, because it was experienced to enough people now to say that there is a link, but what is the nature of this link ? A kind of insight, an immediate perception that seems not related to time can reveal that the link in between duality and non-duality has to do with love. But it is an unknown kind of love, a love without object, a love without relationship. And no one knows its origin, where it is coming from ! Of course traditions are talking about God, but God is a concept. There is still a mystery that remains and I’ve slowly come to the point today that a mystery can’t be explained. You can try to explain it, until you realize that whatever you can explain is no more a mystery. Still there is a reachable point from where you can’t explain any more, any further. This is where the mystery starts …

Ioana : Regarding these teachings and their practices, what is the way for somebody to start understanding and practicing, and then go on ? What is the path?

André : It is one of these yogas where you really need a teacher, you can’t do it alone. During the process, it might happen from time to time the sensation of being stuck into a particular state, you cannot go on. And then came the big question: how to codified the teachings, because there are thousands of exercises… So how to codify the main chapters was a big issue. So I could do that, at a particular moment I became able to do that. I did not know if it was a clear codification or not, if it was going to be helpful for people or it was totally wrong. I had to test it ! So slowly, I discovered mainly through listening to students feed backs, the one of them who crossed that kind of experience, shifting from duality to non-duality. Just some of them, not many, as for the majority what they experienced were very deep states of relaxation, intense capacity of concentration and very peaceful states of mind.

Starting from there, I made a kind of research on what could be a good codification, so that this possible shift could be experienced by many instead of just a few ones. And slowly it became a whole new system. Because the basis was not precisely clear, neither its development, it had to become a teaching…
Then I went around searching in almost all traditions, all the mystical traditions, because it became obvious that this quest of non duality is not about the individual mind; it’s about the human mind. And some traditions had kept codifications that had been transmitted for centuries almost secretly. I made a long research among mystics from different traditions until

I discovered that in every tradition there was a part that had never been written, that had always been kept, not secret, but it had to do with the instructor/student relationship. I felt it was like a thread, not belonging to any particular tradition, but it had to do with the human mind, to the movement of the human mind.

I also realized by encountering people who were teaching Nidrâ, I discovered many techniques but very few people who had touched or were involved into that particular direction of non duality with Nidrâ itself.
So as in the yoga world, bringing less stress to people is the very first concern today, Nidrâ had also been used for that purpose mainly. It’s not even about bringing concentration, it’s mainly about to be released from nervous stress.
Also during these very last years, in my attempts to bring together people teaching what we call Nidrâ Yoga or Yoga Nidra, I realized that the codification I had done was unique, which was a big surprise for me. And a kind of grace happened. From that moment it became clear that the codification was unique, my master, the only one still alive today among all my instructors, who is not into this nidrâ path, even though being a great, great light, pushed me and said: “ You have to spread this, you have to teach this !” From the moment he pushed me, several invitations arrived to go teaching here and there, and I felt very happy to answer positively…

Years have gone and getting old, I feel the urge for this codification to go on, because it may be forgotten, or be lost. I started to spread the basis of it in several continents… But because learning takes time, I today feel this urge of training nidrâ teachers. This is why I will go on spreading for the next few years. As far we can organize, I’d like to spread the teachings on a large scale, through very intense retreats of 2 to 3 months, where students will come from different parts of the world,. Then they will go back with this knowledge. I know they will be able to teach the basic things after such a 2 to 3 months retreat. The idea is to meet them again after they will have started teaching , maybe once or twice a year, to deepen their personal knowledge and their transmission know how.
There is already today a small group of students ready to teach the basic level. Some of them are already teaching, but they are too few, and within a few more years their number, for sure, will increase. I have to push them a little because I feel I have not much time. My agenda is totally full, I can’t do more, but still this is not enough, as I can’t respond to all the demands coming from different parts of the world.
The good news is that by October 2017, about 40 students will be trained enough to start teaching after their 5 years of complete studies for some and 2.5 years of intense studies for others. So, by October 2017 that will be done, and we will go on meeting again once or twice a year for supervision seminars.
Now, from 2018 two programs will start. The first one will be a 4 years European Nidrâ Yog Teacher Training School granted by a French Yoga Federation under the banner of the European Yoga Union and also the National Indian Yoga Confederation, plus some other world yoga organizations. The students already trained will also work as assistants in that School that I will supervise.
The second program is the organization International Nidrâ Retreats. These 2 to 3 months program will mainly be addressed to yoga teachers already teaching. It will open them a possibility to extend another side of their physical yoga knowledge and their hatha yoga teaching. We think organizing these retreats only twice, in 2018 and 2020, where we’d like to gather around 100 people together from different parts of the world. Later on, I will still be able to go here and there, running supervision camps once or twice a year, no more. By doing it twice, first in 2018 and second in 2020, there should be around 200 people trained in different parts of the world. I think I can stand this, I can face it.
This why I need help, because it’s a too big task from one person only. Teaching is one thing but spreading is another, and I have no skill or capacity for doing this in our today internet world. So, I really need help.

Ioana : So let’s make a request to all the people who want to understand, to practice and to spread Nidrâ Yoga.

André : This is not something so easy as today there are mainly two different kinds of people in this yoga world. The first ones want to learn for themselves and the second ones want to acquire enough knowledge to make a job out of it. And I’m looking for another kind of people who would like to save the traditions and this type is quite rare. Because yoga will not stay forever like it is today, we think traditions are eternal, but this is wrong. They are not.
We have seen it with the mystical part of Christianity, for example. It has not disappeared, but it is kept very hidden and most of us have no idea what it is about. So this is the difficulty, to find people having this perception that a treasure has to be maintained.
Among yoga practitioners, many feel they have met a treasure to be maintained for themselves only or think that teaching is a job. Few feel and think it’s a way of life.
I’m not against these points of view, there is nothing wrong here. I just say I’m looking for people having a certain motivation for keeping the tradition alive. And this is not so easy to find. So we have to look for them. Because anyway yoga helps people. This is very clear, we have so many testimonials of this, where personal life completely changed. There is no question about this.
Transmitting teachings has to be understood as a service to the world. But today it is more often understood as service to oneself. Serving people took me very long time to realize. I realized it very late in my life. Service to the others has a price, as it includes losing many things within our life. But it also brings a very deep meaning to our life which didn’t exist before. It’s a way where we lose a lot, we lose illusions, and also many things or aspects we don’t need. Losing something, even if we don’t really need it, is always difficult, because we have been using that particular thing since long, even if very often we were not aware of using it. At the moment of losing, you must have a very strong faith. Then slowly you realize that you didn’t need so much that thing or aspect.
Teaching as a service doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be involved in facing responsibilities of your life. It is simply realizing and putting in practice this part of our life which is at the service to the world. This is this kind of motivation, wanting to serve others, that I’m looking for among the students, and they are not so many.
But it’s ok, people want to evolve for themselves, and when they discover a treasure in this domain, very often they have the same reaction as with anything else, they want more. And that transforms people, and sometimes their friends and family, all around… It seems that something is changing. And at a particular moment they question what happened to them, and when answering comes, then we could say that the teaching has started.

And we discover that the importance we were giving to wanting is less valuable than the fact of giving. Requiring, demanding is not coming first anymore. It’s a very surprising discovery. I think we are very limited in requiring but in giving we are not, there are no limitation. We demand knowledge when we have this goal in our mind, this pattern, we always think we must have more, possess more, learn more, acquire more… But we are limited. Physically, emotionally , psychologically , socially … we are limited.
There is a deep teaching into this realization that the origin of our always desiring more stands into giving ! And into this process of giving, sometimes, you touch infinity. Into the process of requiring you only touch limitation. This can be understood intellectually, but perceiving it comes only through codified teachings. And also through non codified teachings which is still linked to a practice, I mean a disciplined life. In the sense of maintaining an attitude of discipleship, just the attitude. As the path ones follows, the practical way cannot be limited to only doing exercises.

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