In the unspoiled wilderness of Canada’s Northern British Columbia mountains, deep within and well off the beaten path, sits a place raising not over the ever green trees but among them. This place is called Anuttara Ashram and is a product of a lifelong search for knowledge, community and truth by its two co-owners, Emily (Artemis) Doyle and Thomas (Bhairav) English.
What they aim to create is reflected in the name Anuttara itself. It’s a search for balance, an attuning to the internal gyroscope to adapt and see, to be completely and fully awake, to long for and actively seek the highest form of consciousness realizing we are whole already. It’s place to find ground zero once more when the rat race depletes you, a spiritual place of contemplation and a yoga school, a home to all who are not satisfied by mediocre off-the-rack answers but want to integrate clean truth into being. East and West, past and present, traditional and contemporary fuse over the silence of the landscape to form a unity. Nothing is shunned, nothing is forced, only the truth of what is good and pure remains and authenticity counts so you’ll find a mixed community here, no matter who you are or where you come from, Anuttara Ashram is a universal home for all. You can also often find Artemis and Bhairav here, there and everywhere on retreats and events which carry this woodland retreat spirit with them. We consider ourselves lucky to have had our paths cross in 2017 and for the workbooks to be able to serve students in such a noble purpose and quest and are extremely glad that they joined us in the interview chair this afternoon.
1. How did you two meet? Were you both already practising yoga at that time? How many years has each one of you been practicing and what styles have you found yourself most drawn to? Have these styles changed through time as you moved through different life stages?
A: We actually met here at the ashram, it’s a long and crazy story but I saw the ashram in a vision in a deep meditation retreat before I’d actually ever even heard of it. Once I arrived here I began to recognize the place and knew that something deeper was at play. I had been practicing for 6 years when I first met Thomas.
I had mainly been practicing Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Hatha Yoga when we met. My practice was also highly earth based with influences from Shamanism and Paganism with a pretty consistent practice of Bhakti Yoga (kirtan). Mooji Baba and some shamans were my main teachers at the time that we met. In the 5 years that we have been together, my practice has certainly matured and ripened. Thomas has also influenced my practice by introducing me to Tantra-Kundalini and Mantra practice.
B: I had been practicing for 16 years when I met Artemis. I have mainly practiced Classical Yoga with an emphasis in Tantra-Kundalini. I practice holding postures for extended periods of time and the meditative aspects of yoga. The styles that I have practiced have changed. In the beginning I related much more to the focus of body work, postures, pranayama and improving physical wellbeing and slowly I have moved more and more into meditation.
2. What first drew you to yoga? How did Anuttara Ashram come to be and what is the one thing you will not compromise in it? What was the place created for in addition to yoga study and practice?
A: I was 18 when I first came to the physical practice of Yoga. I was struggling to deal with high-levels of persistent anxiety and moving my body, learning to breath and find stillness in meditation helped me incredibly!
The place is not only for yoga study and practice. It is also simultaneously a place for community and spiritual support as well as solitude and self-reflection. The miles of forest, mountains and rivers are immensely healing and foundational to our community and lifestyle.
B: When I was in my early twenties I had a near death experience. This experience caused me to question my life, what it was that I was doing with it and how I could feel more fulfilled. This opened me up to exploring the deeper nature of our reality and what I call ‘myself’. From this I went on a quest around the world looking for answers.
I first had the vision of Anuttara while in a 5 day darkness retreat. From that moment in time I knew that my life would be cantered around that vision and being of service to it. In 2005, I bought the property with absolutely nothing on it and
have had to build all of the infrastructure for this little community. Cabins, Dormitories, showers, electricity, plumbing, roads, pathways, gardens, all of it done as sustainably as possible, being built in harmony with the forest that surrounds it. In 2014, Artemis arrived and began the process of implementing our communal, organizational, communicational and online infrastructure.
We will not compromise the spiritual aspect of the Ashram. For us that spiritual
aspect is a sattvic lifestyle, no drugs, alcohol, meat and a continued dedication to our practices and community.
3. What do you believe are the most persistent stories we tell ourselves through life and how do we break those patterns and release the baggage? What is the most important thing that teaching others has taught you two? What helps you stay grounded when things become a bit much?
A: For me it is not so much that there is one particular story that we are all telling ourselves but rather that we BELIEVE the stories to be true. We’ve all been handed a series of stories that we have either inherited from our families and society or learned through different life experiences. The stories are not a problem in and of themselves but believing them, making decisions based on them and interpreting and seeing the world through the lens of these stories inhibits us from being open to the vast possibilities that each moment presents.
We first need to recognize the stories which we are holding on to, identifying with and living our life by. These can be stories that make us feel small but they can also be stories which inflate and elate us. Once we step into the simple witnessing, without identification or attachment we begin to find space and a lightness in our being.
Teaching others has brought infinite lessons and they continue to keep rolling in. I think really one of the most prominent lessons for me at this moment is that I am always a student. More and more the idea of myself as a teacher (a story) is breaking down leaving space for me to rest in a blissful space of both giving and receiving. When I see myself as a teacher I get caught in rigidity, I strive for my minds ideas of what a good teacher is and I miss the joy of simply sharing in the teachings with others. As someone wise once told me “there is no teacher or student there is only the teaching”.
When things become too much I usually kick off my shoes and spend some time quietly in nature. Getting into my body also always helps.
B: The most persistent story we tell ourselves in life from my point of view, is that we continue to tell ourselves that we are the mind, and because of this we can’t see beyond our own self. The primary way that we can let go of this, i feel is through a process of self-inquiry, and through meditation.
The most important thing that teaching others has taught me is humility, and service.
My practice is the primary thing that keeps me grounded and also nature helps a lot.
4. You’re the facilitators of extremely successful beautiful TT’s each year? What is it in your approach to teaching that attracts so many? What is the most important skill and knowledge, confidence and reassurance to give to the student for him/her to be able to teach afterwards? What message would you like to convey to all of the students that will come and learn with you in Canada and India in 2020?
B: I feel that the thing that attracts people to our training is that we attempt in the most humble way possible to pass on spiritual teachings and a spiritual experience to our students.
The most important skill for others to be able to teach others is to be able to teach with a humble spirit, from their own centre.
I would like to say to all our future students, that the most important thing you can do for yourself is to understand who you are at a fundamental level, that you are spirit, and bliss, and no one can take that from you.
A: People largely come because of word of mouth. We’re providing initiation into some very deep teachings backed by authentic lineages but we’re doing so in a very down to earth and relatable way. We’re doing our best to maintain the authenticity of this ancient tradition while also preparing our students to be ready to teach in an ever evolving world.
Our students get the opportunity to do a lot of personal work both through looking at their shadow and also through learning to connect with the Love which they innately are. Having the humility and grace, which comes from deeply looking at these two sides of ourselves, helps to form some very special yoga teachers. They are able to truly offer their hearts and bring spirit into their classes. It becomes more than a physical practice.
Whether you’re brand new to the practice or considering yourself a veteran, whether you want to be a teacher or not, taking this training can really transform you in the best possible way. Taking time to connect with oneself is quite possibly the most precious thing that any human being could do. When we take time to rest in ourselves all of life begins to unfold before us in a very miraculous way.
5. What makes a good relationship and how do couples grow together allowing the other the freedom to develop independently as well? How does one practice yoga in everyday life and relationships, not just on the mat?
B: In my view, listening and being sensitive and communicating to the other is very important. In growing independently, to help the other move toward their dreams in the best way possible.
Practising yoga off the mat in everyday life in my opinion happens once we feel strongly pulled in the direction toward understanding the self beyond the mind. Once this happens, we automatically begin to start living there, as there is a true aspiration for discovering truth. If we are not there yet, then definitely living with a humble heart, is necessary.
A: What a great question! I believe that a good relationship can vary from couple to couple. However, it is my humble opinion that in order for a relationship to flourish it should have good-communication, fierce vulnerability, gentle honesty, loving understanding & of course childish play! Bhairav and I take time a part each month to connect with ourselves as individuals so that we can maintain harmony as a whole.
6. How do you see the future of Anuttara? What would you like to see develop in the next decade and how do you feel about what you’ve accomplished so far?
B: I see Anuttara’s future as being full of community, with multiple facilitators travelling the world sharing their spiritual knowledge around the world, as well as a full time community here at Anuttara sharing the love of the divine.
I will feel very happy and fulfilled when we accomplish this. For this is our life vision.
A: I am utterly blown away by what we’ve accomplished so far. I truly do not think any of it would have been possible without the amazing students that continue to come and inspire us, the grace of our teachers and the timeless teachings which we receive through them. I feel that especially here in Canada we are supported, blessed, and lifted up by this sacred land. Living so closely with nature, mother earth is a big component in making this all possible.
7. If there was one thing you’d like to leave as your legacy once you leave this body what would you like it to be?
B: That I can help and be of service in a humble manner during my life, and that I haven’t lost sight of spirit.
A: I don’t think I want a legacy. I don’t think I necessarily even want to be remembered. I simply hope that the when I go the hearts of those who were dear to me in this life can be filled with love.
To explore Anuttara further please visit the links below. Stay kind, stay well, eat some greens and breathe.