Eric Shaw Interview
Union City, CA
How did you live on the inside in your mind before “winning” on the outside in the world?
“This is a question that goes to the heart of my technique. I feel like I did develop a technique to live the life that I wanted, and it came after a struggle with effort. I had a goal in mind that was very clear to me, and it was to be successful at yoga in a very big way. I was putting the effort into it, and I wasn’t getting anywhere, and I realized that I was getting in front of the people who could give me what I wanted: certain types of venues to be working in, certain types of audiences were very possible in terms of the circles I was traveling in, the people I was meeting. But when I was meeting these people, they weren’t opening the doors that I wanted them to open for me, so, obviously I was doing something wrong. Why was I not the person they were choosing for the opportunities they had to offer me?
“So then I realized I needed to work at a different level. I needed to work at the level of changing not so much what I was doing, but who I was. I needed to change what I thought of myself, I had to change how I felt about myself, and I had to internalize the possibilities that I wanted to come to me. I had to make them real in my heart, and I had to feel them, I had to know them intimately before they could manifest. So that was where I began to spend my effort initially every day. I created a new approach to practice that was outside of my normal existing practice of meditating every day and doing hatha yoga physical practice every day. I didn’t drop those practices, but I added a half hour every day to experience internally through the application of will, application of control of my emotions, application of control of my concentration to bring into my field the resonance, the harmony, the vibration of the life that I wanted. The experiences I wanted, the kind of people I wanted to be with, the kind of venues I wanted to be practicing my yoga on, and when I began practicing that way, results began to come to me. In time, it still took time, I did build a life that I wanted. A few pieces are still missing. Some of those are important pieces, but roughly speaking, I have a life of joy. And it’s a life of doing things that I enjoy and spending time with the kind of people I enjoy in the kind of places I enjoy. So proof is in the pudding. Work got done.
What were your goals and your vision for what you wanted in your life/career?
“Roughly speaking it was very crude. I wanted to become the most famous and wealthiest yoga teacher on the planet. And to some degree I attained those goals. There were some models I had. I was working in the organization of John Friend, and in those days before 2012 John Friend had obviously achieved those goals. He was famous worldwide and was earning a good income and he was much loved and invited to many venues. I thought I could duplicate what he had achieved, so I focused in that direction. I had a certain aptitude that I was developing at the same time that was a little bit different than John’s aptitude. My aptitude was in the realm of yoga philosophy and yoga history, learning to be a dynamic lecturer for those topics, organizing the information in such a way that people would be excited about it, learning to speak the language of a variety of audiences, learning to develop material that was languaged in a certain way, especially at the visual level because I was doing a lot of work with imagery, making that accessible to people. So that was my daily work, at the same time reaching out to people and developing contacts in the yoga world so that I could work in venues that were high profile venues, mostly festivals and yoga conventions. And then writing for high profile publications, approaching publications and visualizing that kind of work before I achieved it.
How did you become committed to your goals and vision?
“A lot of it was vanity, a lot of it was my small ego. I wanted validation. There were ways in which my small ego wanted validation from others. I would suggest that those operations are not necessarily to be eschewed. We all grow in our own way and our small ego wants things, our big ego wants things, we want things for selfish reasons we want things for generous reasons. We work passionately towards our goal regardless of our motivations, and that passion, that winnowing process of learning what works and what doesn’t work, and what voice inside your are good to listen to and what voices are not good to listen to. The nature of the universe is the same for all of us and we all will be shaped by it. What is less effective will be dropped and what is more effective will be kept. I wouldn’t be the first to confess that I didn’t start with the most altruistic motivations, but I didn’t start with the least altruistic motivations either. I deeply wanted to serve and I deeply believed and still believe that yoga is a saving force in the world, and I was serving a master I respected, that is, yoga as a master. I was serving people, and I was teaching people and I was leading people to truth at the same time I was leading myself to greater truth. So even though there was a lot of ego involved, there was a lot of selfishness involved in my own personal motivations, there was also a lot of altruism involved, and my best foot was being put forward, and my most expansive vision was being exercised. I think by degrees I have dropped more and more of my small ego, and I have surrendered, definitely surrendered more and more to what is most generous and what is most open and what is most giving in my work. And of course that is only made my work succeed more, made me more happy. So I am a great advocate of starting where you’re at. As a great swami said ‘do it for the worst reasons, eventually you will do it for the best reasons.’ And that’s definitely the story of my evolution as a yoga teacher.
What drives you to excel at what you do?
“Excellence is pretty much a primary value for me. I like doing things perfectly. Of course you can never do things perfectly, but perfection is a definitely a value for me. I like things to be well-constructed, I like things to be effeicient, I like things to be accessible, I like things to serve everybody powerfully and equally, so I’m really driven by sharpening my craft, improving my craft, improving my knowledge, improving my capacity to communicate, being clear in how I communicate, being articulate, being exciting, being dynamic. So that drives me. I am a perfectionist, I always want to be better. It’s exciting to make myself better, it’s exciting to learn new things and apply new things and exceed in new ways.
How have you maintained integrity in your (professional) life and relationships?
“I would say the main thing that has helped me maintain integrity in my personal life and relationships is to fail, to see myself being out of integrity and to suffer the pain of my own base nature in operation and to see how I have NOT allowed my best instincts to guide me and feeling the error of my ways. That’s true, but I would also, by the same account say that I wouldn’t have felt those things if I wasn’t sharpening my instrument. So to meditate daily, to practice daily continues to keep me sensitized to what feels like it’s in integrity and what feels like it’s out of integrity, and by degrees, that sensitivity has won the day. I feel like I’m in a really good place, I feel like a lot of my base nature has been burned out. I don’t feel good doing things unless I am motivated by something high. I can surrender to the highest, I can surrender to the unknown, I can take chances not knowing what the result is going to be based on my higher nature, and accept failure and accept a negative outcome, knowing that my motivation was good and that was all that was necessary. But having said that, the outcome is usually good. I’m in a much more surrendered place than I’ve been ever in my life.
C: “As in, even if you fail, or do not reach your intended outcome, even that is a good outcome because of your intention towards it?”
E: “Yes. And the people I met along the way, and the work that I did along the way, that was all satisfying. And even the little bit of money that I might have gotten or the little bit of an audience that I might have drawn to an event, even that is sufficiently satisfying.
C: “So there’s an appreciation for the getting there.”
E: “Yeah, and accepting the karma that I got for the karma I put in. Obviously it was the right karma. The universe never lies.”
How do you prioritize your choices so that you have enough time to accomplish everything you set out to do?
“I trust my intuition implicitly. I always trust my intuition. In fact, I could describe this whole journey I’ve been on as one of trusting intuition, as a primary skill, as a primary way of life. So I do make ‘to do’ lists. I make those every day and they often come to me as I’m meditating, but partly because I make ‘to do’ lists I can clear my mind and then intuitively do what my mind presents before me as primary. That’s usually what I end up doing. At the same time, as I said, I do have a routine. I start every day with meditation, I start every day with visualization, I start every day with hatha yoga practice and I start every day with writing. So there are routines I have, when those routines are done, usually the priorities in front of me that are secondary appear on the screen in my mind and I just follow through automatically. Sometimes I definitely find myself lost on facebook having finished my priorities, and at that time I have to steel myself to go back to my ‘to do’ list and get back to the minutia of the details that I’ve been distracted from.
What is your general attitude/outlook on life? Do you think this has affected your success?
“I think I’m really optimistic, I think I really enjoy my life. I think I still suffer from low self-esteem, I think I still have voices in my head that don’t always uplift me. I would say, I think I’ve always been optimistic, I mean, at the heart I’ve always believed that I could attain anything I wanted to. So even in the abstract I held that idea but the on-the-ground feeling was a little bit more negative, or a little self-critical, the overall gift I have from my parents and from my culture is that I’m capable of anything, and it’s just a matter of hard work and sacrifice, surrender, and I can make it happen. And I’ve chosen this particular set of goals, and those are the goals I’ve decided to sacrifice for, and I can’t sacrifice for every goal, but I think I’ve learned throughout my life that if you put in the work, you get back the result. To be cheerful and accepting of the consequences, which I’ve learned more and more to do, is a part of my every day disposition, and it’s one of delight. I’m very happy with my failures. I’m very happy when things explode in my face. I might yell and scream still, but my general attitude is very much one of accepting failure and being gracious in success.
How have you built, nurtured and maintained key relationships?
I think I’ve built relationships by being very flexible. I think I’ve built relationships by reaching out to people. I think I’ve built relationships by being faithful that a good relationship can come out of any connection to anybody. Which is not to say I haven’t failed in many relationships. Which is not to say that I haven’t disappointed people. Which is not to say that I haven’t been disappointed by people. But the more I sink into my inner self, the more I sink into my capacity for feeling the quality of my own heart, the more I tend to know things like if someone is difficult for me, if someone feels like an enemy, it’s probably because they’re more like me than someone else and there’s a greater possibility for friendship, and I know that’s a high bar to suggest, but I see myself reach in that direction more and more in my life. So that’s satisfying to me. I often feel like a bright light, I often feel like I can shine in a way that makes me open up to others, that makes others open up to me, that makes situations workable. At the same time, I feel that if I do that and I don’t get back the response I want from people, I know very clearly that It’s not workable and that I can walk out of the room. On some level there’s even a triage involved. I know that I can put in my best, and I know that if my best doesn’t work, I can abandon any situation. I can walk away from an unneeded relationship. An unneeded relationship is one that doesn’t serve me, doesn’t make me happy, doesn’t seem to be serving them.
How have you/do you choose what matters and keep going after that?
I think my goals in a way have not changed at all. I’m still kind of led by an egoic goal. I still value my place in the yoga world. Admitting that that is kind of small goal, admitting that that is one that is powerfully personal, it keeps pulling me into surrender, it keeps pulling me into opening my heart, it keeps pulling me into sacrifice. And so I feel like I have a dynamic relationship between my shadow and my light. I have a dynamic relationship between my child and my adult and I feel like the overriding imperative to serve is guiding me. And I couldn’t do something that my small self isn’t passionate about, I couldn’t do something that my small self didn’t love at almost a level of childlike delight. I love yoga and I love the work of the body and I love the work of scholarship. And at the same time I’m lucky to be doing those in a way that they serve people. And I love serving people. So I’m in a pretty good place.
Where do you get the energy to do all the things you do?
Well I’m 55 and my practice continues to give me power, continues to give me capacities for concentration, continues to guide me, as I said, to develop my intuition and to be more skillful in situations. And it is true that as you get older you have less energy to burn, less energy to waste, but you also have learned to cultivate energy, you also have learned to work with the rhythms of the body, and you’ve learned to apply yourself with skill. So I travel constantly. And sometimes I am amazed that I’m not depleted, I am amazed that I’m not worn down, I am amazed that I haven’t dried up like I’ve seen some of my collegues dry up from too much travel and work. I’m very careful about resting, and I will indulge in a hot bath, I will indulge in deep sleep, I will indulge in taking pleasure with friends and not doing anything, because I know that that expansiveness not only gives me ideas about things that might not come to me otherwise, skillful ways in which to apply myself, but also recharging myself is key and recharging myself is pleasurable. So there’s a huge part of focus of my life of where my energy levels are and how I manage them at any given point. Is it a time to express more, is it a time to receive more, those are key focci.
C: “Do you have any other words of wisdom or things you want to share?”
E: “Go for it! Do yoga. I’m a great advocate of yoga of course, I think that yoga brings together so many skill sets whether you’re young or old, it will teach you about the nature of your mind, it will teach you about the nature of your body, it will connect you to your highest intuition, conscience, sense of capacity to give your gift. Don’t shy away. The thing, as they say, that scares you the most, is the thing that brings you forth into your greatness. So take that risk and talk to that person. Trust that even if you are scared even if you feel you’re too small, the only way you get larger is by letting your small self come into the context of what is greater. The greater goal, the greater situation, the greater introduction. It’s a lovely world to evolve in and it belongs to you. So carpe diem, seize the day, have a good time.”