It's this idea that you are not your thoughts. But then Who the heck am I? We're missing the point like we lost the plot. We're drawn to do and to give and to serve and, but also to be,
to be quiet truth is like a magnet that's drawing us to it.
Being here in the world. We're learning so much. It's so many different ways.
Right? Hello and welcome. I am so happy to be joined today by Pamela Seelig, who began practicing yoga more than 25 years ago, when an illness interrupted her Wall Street career. She started meditating as a complimentary therapy, which led to a lifelong pursuit of perceiving yogic wisdom. She completed her teacher training originally in 2006 at integral yoga and New York, when she began teaching friends at a local convent in New Jersey, and her classes grew and grew. In 2009, she opened a thriving yoga studio in her community. After a rewarding nine years, she sold the studio and began working on her first book, published by Shambala, on September 28. It is titled threads of yoga, themes, reflections and meditations to weave into your practice. Finally, along with Hatha Yoga, Pam is a certified integral yoga Raja and meditation instructor. So Pamela, thank you so much for being here today.
Thank you for having me, Avi.
So the first question I just want to ask is, why did you decide to write a book?
Well, it was an idea that was percolating, for a long time, when I was teaching a lot, you know, several classes a week or a day, I was always looking for a book that would help me bring yoga philosophy into a class, sometimes inspiration would happen, and I would be able to do it. But you know, when life got busy, I would always try to just find a book that would give me some inspiration, some quotes, some stories, you know, I would make the class my own. But I just needed some some ideas. And I just really could never find a book that would help me with that I found, there's some great books with yoga philosophy, some commentaries on the text. And that was wonderful to study. But I was just looking for, you know, ideas in a format that would help as a teacher. So that started the idea. But then, as I was writing it, there, a lot of students wanted more information than what you what you can typically get in a 60 minute or 90 minute class. And when they asked, most of the time, I would say, you know, maybe try and do a teacher training, even if you don't want to teach, it'll deepen your practice. But a lot of students don't want to take a teacher training, you know, they're not interested in that. So I wanted to write the book for them as well. People that want a little more info, that are practicing yoga, but are interested in the philosophy, maybe not quite ready to dive into the texts. And then for people that are interested in the physical practice, that maybe have other physical practices really aren't drawn to the postures. But kind of want to know what is all the fuss with this 3000 year old practice, that's still a thing. And so I think the book sort of can help those three groups, which I know is a large audience, but I just think this information is information that everybody should know, sort of the basics. So that's really what got me to, to write the book.
Why do you feel that it's information that everybody should know? Why is it so important?
Well, as I was learning, especially when I came across the Yoga Sutras, and there, there was so many things that I learned that were really helped me and I thought, Gosh, I wish I knew this before or everyone should know this, like that was sort of my last, you know, 25 years. Little, you know, light bulbs would go off and everyone should know this. And it was really, I think, if I could boil it down, it was the idea of when I first learned that you are not your thoughts. You know, yoga is the quieting of the mind. That's it the second sutra, okay. Yogi's the quieting of the mind. And then you sort of get into that for years or decades trying to get your head around that idea. Like, how am I going to quiet the mind. But it took me a long time to think of, or go to the next suture Really? Like why, you know why quiet the mind? And it's this idea that you are not your thoughts. But then Who the heck am I? So the next sutra, sutra, three sort of, you know kind of hit me again like a like a like lightning was then the Sierra bytes in her true nature. So if you quiet the thoughts you can find who you are You can, you can get into that depth of your being. That's why we do it. But even before we do the practices, the idea that just the idea that you are not your thoughts in our culture in the western modern culture can just right there help so much suffering? Because even if you don't have the techniques yet, or the ability to do it, the idea that, that that's possible even is hope. And you know, for me, that was a big thing.
Yeah. For me, too, I think many of us, it's interesting, it really powerfully impacted me a long time ago. But now it's been coming up more recently, like, listening to other people talk about it, and the moments of transformation that they have, when they hear I am not my thoughts and realize that, that this is true. So
when I yeah, sorry, when I when I sort of remember, like when I first learned that, and, you know, really learned it, like in my body. It hit me so hard that even now I get emotional, because it's the start of not suffering. That idea. So, and it's such a simple idea. It's such an idea that again, it's not in our mainstream culture, although I do believe it's coming. It's, it's, it's right there. Now, there's so much talk about, be authentic, and you be you, you know, that's like, you know, kind of a modern thing. Be yourself. So it's kind of the start of Okay, wait, well, then who is that? How do I get there. And to me, that's, that's the crux of yoga. That is, what the teachings are showing the way. And now I think our modern culture is actually asking that, you know, be authentic ubu all these kinds of now, even like slogans, it's a it's a really good start.
So, when you're feeling emotional about this, is it connected with the amount of suffering that maybe you've experienced? believing that you are your thoughts?
That that's a probably a part of it. For me, when I, when I feel a powerful truth, I feel it in my body in it, and it comes up as being feeling that choked up feeling of, of emotion. That's just my response to a truth. Whether I'm feeling it or I'm hearing it, or someone is speaking, it's, it's just a response that I have. So I experienced that often in my classes when I teach, not often, but if I'm teaching, I sometimes have to pause and explain. Sometimes that I get emotional. Not to worry. It's just, it's just how my body responds. And I used to not, I used to be very afraid of that and that response, and really just, you know, try not to let it move. But now I know it'll, it'll it'll pass. Just kind of let it go. So to me, it's a good sign. Now it's a sign of getting a little bit deeper. Not that I planned it or wanting to do it during a podcast.
It's totally fine. It's totally fine. It. Do you feel grateful that you've connected more with your true self, that you've discovered that you're not your thoughts?
Yes, yes. extremely grateful. I feel like it's It's given my life, meaning it's what my life is about. It's, I feel like, it's almost like, you know, every part of my life had its purpose and, but that was the beginning of a new part of my life a part of my life that was directed from my own deeper self, which, of course, is connected to everyone. So it's, it's, it was living life, the way that a joyful, free, happy way, although that's not to say there's not suffering and all the emotions are present, it's just that was the beginning of, of waking up, which I know it's a process, it's not that I'm self realized by any means. It's just that little bit of light. Now, can can, you know, start the process down the path a little bit easier?
So do you do think that you're still in the midst of this process? Where you get caught in your thoughts and believing that you are your thoughts? And then remembering that okay, no, I am not my thoughts? And are you finding yourself kind of moving back and forth? And as you're practicing this? Are you able to spend maybe less time believing that you're your thoughts?
Yes, that's really what it is. It's not, I don't have the ability to not be in my thoughts, I'm in my thoughts. But now I'm catching myself. And having moments of, you know, being in just awareness, and being present, or whatever the words that you use for that, in the now mindful, spacious, but most of the time, I'm in my thoughts. And when I feel that anxiety, or stress, or that, that's a little help in a way, because it catches me, and I can come out, remember who I am, maybe even use the inner mantra, who am I, to catch myself, and then come back. And that's, that's just the process. But the idea, again, just the idea of knowing, no matter how much suffering is occurring, that at some point, there will be space, there's techniques that you have to make a space, I may not be able to do it in this particular moment, when I'm being triggered, or when there's three things happening. And I'm just in it, in it. But I know, I'll be able to take a breath in a minute. And to me, that is, that's the information that everyone should have. Even if you can't do it, even if it's just an idea, even if the practice hasn't set in yet. It's possible. It's, it's there, it's already here, it's pilots. We don't have to really do anything other than undo.
Yeah, that's what Swami satchidananda used to call himself on undo.
I love that.
You know, listening to you, and just feeling into this, this presence into the now. And then also hearing what you said about, you know, everyone experiencing this, at least that's what I what what I'm connecting, right? Is it what about it is so powerful, that you feel everyone should experience it? Just not having thoughts just resting in the peace of the present? Why is that something that's so dear to you, that you want everyone to experience it?
Well, I think that being a being a human coming into this world, having a mind having all of our senses, looking at the external world, experiencing the world is a beautiful thing. The world is amazing and our human bodies are amazing that we can perceive and feel and sense but it's so beautiful. It's it's like Like the shiny object that we can't look away from, we're missing the point, like we lost the plot, though, the reason that we're here, we can never know, if we're just looking on the outside and just looking, being driven completely by our senses. It's, it's like we're losing who we are. And while it's, it's a nice distraction, we can have a nice life. And it's, it's a small fraction of who we really are, and what we're capable of. It's and it leads to suffering. Because if we live our lives, just on the other superficial level, and I don't mean that in a negative way, I just mean, not knowing any anything other than that inner narrator in your head, and cultural conditioning, and just doing the regular thing, living your life. It's, it can be pleasant, but there's, there's deeper, there's deeper meaning, and you'll miss it. If you don't quiet that mind, you'll miss it. And it's a it's a tragedy. And the other thing is, the world needs you. The world doesn't need that inner narrator in your head, being defensive, or letting the ego rule the rule that every decision The world needs, the the you that's underneath that. We all do as a society as a, as a world. So the world will miss out. If you don't develop yourself to your own potential. And again, it's already there. It's not that you have to do anything. It's just a perspective shift. That's really all that it is. So it's and, and that's why it's for yourself, but it's also for everyone, it's probably why we're here is to get to this deeper part of ourselves, and then share that. But you'll miss it if you don't come out of the mind. Come out of the thoughts.
Love that. So is the most important thing to do, perhaps, to do nothing.
I think that's a great start. But that is not mess. It may be simple, but not so easy.
Yeah, I mean, it's just, I think most of us haven't been practicing resting in this place. Right? And at first, it seemed like boring, like, Okay, I'm just not going to do anything. I'm not going to think about it. I mean, this is I think people, many people feel about meditation, too. So it's like how to explain, like someone like me or you that, that we love this so much. And we have this discovery that's helped us in our lives. Okay, and we want to share it, right? How can we explain like the benefit, that's why I was asking about that. What we're receiving from this experience of losing, you know, Swami satyananda closet, the little lie, right, the little, the little line, the big guy, and moving from the little eye into the big guy. And you're considering this yesterday, and actually, the word that came to me was enjoy is like, what's happening in in that space is actually like, that's where we can actually enjoy the experience of being alive. Right? We need to slow down in order order to do that I need to slow down. In order to do that. If I'm just moving, moving, moving. I'm not stopping to appreciate and drink in. What's happening in my life.
It's a fine balance, because we're just our personalities were drawn to do and to give and to serve and, but also to be to be quiet. I think, you know, your question about how do you explain it? I think it's hard because it does sound incredibly boring. Or terrifying? You know, for a lot of people terrified, this idea of getting quiet. And still. But I do think that it's only at a certain point where you're drawn to this idea, it hat, you have to get to this point where the outside goals or the cultural kind of conditioning of what you're supposed to do. And what is the most important thing? When you sort of get the Oh, wait, I don't think so. Or, you know, maybe it's because, you know, you just know innately money is not going to do it for me, things aren't going to do it for me. Or maybe you made a lot of money, and you're like, wow, still the same, I feel terrible, or different. Or you just innately have that wisdom, I think you kind of have to get there first, before you will even believe someone who tells you that it's really about going within and finding that happiness within it. I just don't think you would even believe it. Unless you're at that point. But I feel really strongly now that a lot of people are there, like everyone's getting there. Even though the world is chaotic, and there's it's a lot of negativity, maybe that's bringing this more to the surface in a way. But I do think, what there's a lot of very hungry people for well, then what if, if I'm, what's the point? What's the point? That's, I think that question is hanging out there. in a big way right now. Support?
Would you say that you are hopeful that you have faith? In the way everything is unfolding, right? From my interactions with people, it seems that that is a very rare perspective, even to take on the more of the popular perspective is that like, Oh, my gosh, everything is like crumbling and crashing, and we're not going to a good place. I'm curious which of those perspectives you find yourself taking,
I find myself in an extremely hopeful place, not to say we're at up could be at a precipice, it could be very bad. But that's out of my control. So I'm not, I'm not thinking of that I just feel people are drawn, drawn now. I mean, look at yoga, yoga, is very popular. And I know it's physical yoga, people are going for the workout. Or, you know, you can just stress relief, not so much anything deeper. But people are drawn in different ways. To, I feel now especially and I really see it in younger people, they're just not buying into the conditioning of just get more stuff, get more toys, you know, work harder, longer hours, and you'll be happy. I just don't think i think the younger people are not buying into it as much. I know, that's a little naive. But I, I, I feel that that's, I feel that that's true. That's the more people are drawn to meditation to looking within science is now researching the benefits of meditation. Where before that was completely ridiculous not too long ago. This idea of alternative meditation, medication, medicine even or the subtle body and I just think science is even coming on board. And we don't see it because we're in it. But if you look back, I think things have changed dramatically, even in in that world. So I have a lot of hope.
Do you think about education at all, like the way that children are spending their times and their time and whether whether we could do better and how important that is, because we talk we spoke before about, you know, undoing, and that's what I noticed is so many adults like we're trying to undo kind of some of this programming and the Of course, you know, our parents are extremely influential on us, but also our school where we're spending so much time. And I just wonder about a world in which maybe we get it, right more from the start with children, how they're spending their time, and there's not as much undoing that needs to happen.
Yeah, I think our school I'm not an expert in this area, for sure. But I do think our school system, the major public school system, private system, is an old structure. So it's got to change for the new way, like everything, all of this big structures, I think, are changing, even even banking. It's changing. cryptocurrency is not going away. So it's really changing that system. And along with all the old ones, It's time. It's time.
Yeah. So what I think about is truth. Right? Actually, a Swami here said to me, once on that truth is like a magnet, that's drawing us to it. And that has been one of the most profound things I've ever heard, I think about all the time, because it's given me so much hope, because I believe that it's true. And that's what I hear you saying, too, is like, just from experience, we learn and we're constantly learning what is true, and moving in that direction, right, like never getting there. But perhaps always moving moving closer.
I forget which one of the texts talks about that the iron filings to a magnet, were all like iron filings going toward a magnet? And I feel that way too. I think it's just a natural drawing, too. And now, with technology with this global information East West, the yoga wisdom is available for for all. That if you have if you are being drawn, at least now it's available, you can find the teachings, the book a teacher, you can find it out there. So it'll happen more quickly than it has in the past. Yeah, fingers crossed.
Right? I think, you know, many of us do, we want it to happen faster, right? It's the same thing like with other people and wanting to like, share the experiences that we've had, but like, what you said, I think is really true is like, people need to discover things in their own time, when, when they're ready, what I find one of the more challenging aspects that I've gone through my life, and some of the capacity or the fire, is trying to share really with other people, and then they're not accepting that I feel a certain way about them, you know, not accepting and just letting go of that. And just focusing on myself, This is what I can control. And having faith in being an example. And really stepping into that a little bit more, it's like, the best thing I could do is just keep working on myself. Be an example. Hopefully, someone else sees something in the right time. That's beneficial for them. That's it.
Yeah, and I think, you know, suffering, sometimes is, is purposeful. And the world is suffering now, especially our country and the pandemic, and there's so much suffering. And sometimes, if it's used in the right way, it'll, it'll bring you in the right direction that you need to go. So the purpose of the suffering may be for people to find things like yoga to find truth in whatever way they can, to quiet, learn how to quiet the mind, because it's too painful. Not that you wish pain on anyone or you don't want anyone to be in pain. But sometimes, I know for me, that was the only thing that would have turned me in this direction. I was full, full steam the other way.
There's nothing that a friend or family member would have ever said to you that would have redirected redirect to you. It was it was because you got sick,
right? Yes, absolutely. No, no one would have been able to tell me that. No, no person. I had to discover these ideas initially, on my own and then I was very fortunate that I had, you know, wonderful teachers that just came in front, in front of me at the right time. And but that initial it had to be I had to, in a way earn it. I had to suffer. And and I don't think that's unusual. I think everyone can tell you their story.
This idea you know about suffering that It's happening for us, not to us, is such a powerful concept. And I've really been working with that one. It's like just the suffering is so like to be in it. And to think that, Oh, this is happening for me, the universe is trying to teach me something. And that's why it's happening. Wow. It's challenging for me to do that.
Very, it's definitely you don't want to hear that when you're in it. But if you look back in your life, even the littler things like you see how, how they did hone your character. And so you so it, it's a, it makes you at least suffer less as we all have to go through things in this life. So knowing that I do think, at least doesn't add to the suffering. Having that information, having that that knowledge. Yeah.
Yeah, I think you're right, you can if you can glimpse it just a little better. Remember, it may be a little bit faster. Yeah. When it subsides starts to subside, then. Yeah. Because it's, I think it's true. I mean, that's the whole thing. If it's true, then it's a key that unlocks the door of liberation, right? I wanted to ask you about, you know, what you were you were saying about, you know, discovering who you really are, right, so it's not the thoughts. Can you share about that, like, Who who are you really that? Well,
for me, when I was first studying the sutras, and I got to that second sutra, so not very far, yoga is the quieting of your mind, you know, that right there kind of kind of blew my mind. So I had to spend a couple of decades there. Figure that out, like, you know, and and the other Sutras, of course, that the eight limbed path teaches you how to quiet mind and gives you the roadmap so so there's lots of fodder there to work with. And I never really went to that third sutra, I didn't really, I didn't really see the benefit of it. Until more recently, like in the last five years, when it was like and then the sea or abides in your true nature, then, then I, I realized, oh, and that will spurred me on in a way, like the quieting of the mind kind of went a little to the side, and I was more delving like, okay, what's there, then? And, and that, you know, is still obviously the, the journey that I'm on. But what, what I think I found so far, and is, of course, words like peace, and bliss, are just letters in a row, like a certain order. So they're not really. But it's more than that, because it's it's this it's understanding that this that we're in this world, isn't the reality, that it's, it's here for us. I'm not sure why I don't know, we get to know why, at this, you know, while we're here, but it's not the reality. And, again, that makes it that's a different perspective. And even though we're going to be suffering, we're going to have all of our emotions, our feelings, it gives you that little bit of space. And that little telescopic view, that helps. And it also it shows it shows the connection. So as you go deep, you realize it's not so much about you that there's this bigger reality. And these, again, are just words, and I think, the cautious knowing understanding that we have five bodies, we don't just have a physical body. And that least dense body, the Ananda Maya kosha is really what we're, we're delving into that abidan our true self is we're connecting to that, that body of one of humanity, and, and that's kind of who we are. Not that we lose our individuality. But I do think that being here in the world, we're learning so much in so many different ways that we bring that to those lessons. We bring that to the table, we bring that to the anandamaya kosha. We that's what we're I think that's what we're doing. We're learning And then, and then sharing for all in this way. And that, to me is just so fascinating and so mysterious, and so beautiful. You know, and helpful in this world. So, to me, this is a worthwhile pursuit, to say the least, to, for and to share this idea. I don't have all the answers, certainly, I don't know anything more than anyone else, I just feel that what the sages, the saints, the avatars, were saying, sounds a little bit fantastical, if you grew up in our normal world. But if you just delve a little bit, you can find out for yourself that it's true, like, crazy, but it's true. And you don't have to be a holy person, you don't have to be perfect, you don't know, just do some practices with a pure, you know, pure intention. And you can find out for yourself that this is true. And, again, everyone needs to know this. You don't have to believe it. Just try for yourself. If this is of interest, try for yourself. And
you don't have to do much. And you will, you will be shown that that there is more to you than is really describable. From another person, or from the book, I guess you can look at the words and feel from the words, but but you can do it yourself. And it's not that hard.
What does it really take? What's the obstacle for having that self discovery? To me, what comes to me speed, more than anything else that See, if I'm going really, really fast, I am not stopping to discover the truth of what you're talking about to find out for myself. It's almost like a running away from it. So if it's, if I can just slow down, right, that's how that's my simplest answer is just, it's just a question of speed. And I'm just asking that, like, how fast am I moving? And what happens if I slow down?
Well, I think when we, when you say what's stopping us, I think that we all based on our where we choose to be brought up our parent, our families, our personalities that we have, we all put these kind of hurdles for ourselves based on that. And then so you're aware, so you know what your tendency is, and where, where you're, you know, knowing yourself and how, how you can reach these new levels, and bring what you're bringing to the table. And somebody else has a different experience. And they're going to have to get over there, their way. And so so another path might work for them. And, but everyone's unique. So this discovering who you are, when you discover that you also get information that will help you go deeper for your own self, for your own tendencies for your own. Because the beautiful thing is we're all different. And there is that one truth, because we're all connected to it, we are it it's not even a connection. But this idea of how to do it. It's it's like well, who you are and what your tendencies are and and it's going to be your own customized self. You know you there's nobody can do it for us.
many paths, one truth.
Yeah. And I do think we pick it because when again, when you look back and you see what you learned, and your childhood lessons and who you were, what you had to overcome and what and what you know now and what you can share. It's unique to your experiences and your learning. So it's you know, I think even if you have a really tough situation That's gonna really pan out well for you.