Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Bali-based yoga teacher trainer, astrologer, writer and raw food enthusiast Daniel Aaron. I normally offer a longer introduction, but his answers are so thoroughly intriguing that I’ll let Daniel’s words speak for themselves. I hope you enjoy this inside look as much as I did.
Let’s set the scene. For those of us who’ve never been, please share a little bit about Bali. How and why did you come to live there? How’s the food?
A fine beginning – us writer types love setting scenes. Ironically enough, I myself knew little about Bali before moving there. I think most of us in the Western world would have trouble even picturing it, other than imagining it was exotic and different. In many ways – some subtle, some obvious – it is very different from the West.
Bali has been known as ‘the island of the Gods’. It’s a small, tropical island in the midst of 13,000 Indonesian islands, and the only Hindu populace in a sea of Islam. How I came to move here is one of those intriguing moments in life, where some greater wisdom points you in the direction of ‘where you’re supposed to go’ or ‘what you’re supposed to do’. The time had come in my life, around five years ago, when suddenly I found myself with an urge to sink roots. I’d been living a nomadic life – always moving from teacher to ashram to school… part of me had been on some mission to find the next experience or opportunity I felt would push me to expand and grow further.
Just before Bali, I’d been living in Hawaii, asking myself, asking my friends, seeking the next phase in my life, the perfect place to relocate to. I remember I was in the middle of a noni juice fast, and my friend Miracle Jay said ‘why don’t you go to Ubud’? It was a landmark moment for me – immediately I felt a tingle run from head to foot, and I knew my direction had been set.
As great as the travelling and seeking life had been, these ‘planted’ last five years have been fruitful. The Balinese people say, “We have no art, we simply do everything as beautifully as possible.” This piece of wisdom so accurately reflects the vibration and philosophy of their island, and much of my experience in Ubud, the Balinese village in which I live. Ubud itself is known as the cultural and creative heart of Bali, which, in turn, is often thought to be the heart of the planet.
It’s a sweet and powerful mix of cultures and times. In one day I meet rice farmers working the fields as they have for generations, tourists and pilgrims, expats from around the world. My daughter and I walk at sunrise and find ducks working the fields, a dozen varieties of orchids and return to drink coconut water. The community based, heart-centered people of Bali are compassionate and incredibly generous hosts to Westerners sharing the island – and even though the local culture and devotional religion is foreign to most visitors, one can’t help but be fascinated by the graceful, smiling nature and spirituality of the Balinese people.
Local cuisine tends toward simplicity, as the culture is centered around rice cultivation and consumption. Yet the rich spices for which Indonesia became famous, pervade the fusion cuisine that’s also become famous in recent years. At my house we include much of the pungent local goodness into our raw food delights, especially the amazing raw cacao (the root of all chocolate).
I love that you’re so diverse! Astrology, yoga, fiction, raw food … you obviously have many interests. So many people try to fit their gifts into one neat package. How did you begin to “find your path” and what gave you the courage to pursue multiple career trajectories at the same time?
For as long as I can remember I bucked the common advice of practicality (in some ways) by pursing what was most interesting to me regardless of whether it apparently led to a job, career or income. In college I earned degrees in philosophy, religion and English. Some years later, after life shook me up and set me onto a spiritual ‘path’ of growth and discovery, I became a ‘training’ junkie, reveling in the depth of learning that these new (to me) forms of education provided. ‘Trainings from Transformational Breathing to Yoga, raw foods to transpersonal psychology, writing to astrology (and many more), my life became a roving romp into a kind of learning that I previously hadn’t imagined.
Eventually all that training – whose initial draw had simply been as means to understand and develop myself – started making sense as means to assisting others; I realized I’d developed skills and insights that were helpful to others. Even the college degree started making sense as part of what had prepared me for the multi-faceted and blessed role of getting to help others discover new possibilities in themselves and the world. I feel incredibly lucky to spend my days, my life, passionately immersed in such a wide range of topics, continually growing and expanding, always bringing me variety, learning, satisfaction and gratification.
You have quite a list of well-known clients. What do you consider the key reasons someone would want to find a yoga instructor? What qualities should they look for in their search?
It’s an exciting time for those of us passionate about sharing yoga; the popularity of – and really the global need for – yoga keeps rising. Even in the last 15 years that I’ve been immersed in it, popularity of yoga has continued to exponentially rise – and I think this is a reflection of the shift of the global culture – that so many of us are beginning to wake up, to realize that the potential for us to truly experience the life we wish to create is so possible, so close. That who we REALLY are, what we are REALLY capable of, is actually far beyond what society has presented, to all of us, as normal. Most people find yoga as a way to either to move away from some sort of pain, or to move toward some form of enhanced living. People find yoga to relieve stress, get more flexible, because it’s become trendy… or find enlightenment. And often regardless of their initial interest, they find more and different components as their involvement continues to feed them.
It’s inspiring to be part of the yoga world these days – there are plenty of styles and teachers sharing all over the world. Part of what I offer in the spectrum of yoga, what’s important for me to share, is the holistic approach to practice, that ‘practicing yoga’ is really a life style that leads us to ever greater vibrancy.
This broad view of what yoga can be led me create a revolutionary yoga teacher training, and – luckily – to bring together an amazing team of people with whom we create many different events and resources, from 2-4 week trainings to retreats to workshops. We’re inspired to provide people opportunities and tools to be more radiantly alive.
We aim to create opportunities that emphasize this philosophy by bringing humor, challenge and spiritual insight into every yoga class as well as every event we produce.
What to look for in a yoga teacher? What a great question! It’s one we explore often. Probably the best advice I’d give someone looking for a teacher, is to find someone with whom you resonate. So that after taking a class, and spending time with them, you walk away feeling uplifted, inspired and energized.
I’m a fan of ‘whatever works.’ I highly recommend exploring many teachers, styles and methods, to continually find what works for you. And then periodically asking yourself again: ‘is this working?’ ‘What would be even better, be more effective, to lead me more and more in the direction I want to go in my life?’
On your website you share that you’ve “gone far beyond asana.” How has your personal practice grown with mantras, meditation and reading sacred scriptures?
I’m incredibly grateful for the rich opportunities I’ve had to study with and be around phenomenal teachers. From yoga asana (postures) to satsang (meetings) to nutrition gurus, many wise and generous beings have shared their wisdom and their experience with me. For years I lived at ‘consciousness centers,’ and dived into courses, teachers, knowledge and learning. I’ve loved combining time-honored scripture with modern psychology, all embedded within my own experiences and insights. I revel in finding the sacred in the ordinary, and the ordinary in the sacred. The yoga classes I lead might include a reading from the Vedas, hip-hop music, a joke I heard last week, a story from my own life. Again: whatever works. Whatever is authentic and uplifting to all of us.
What sort of Astrology services do you offer? For someone who has never explored this area, what benefits might he or she expect from a reading?
One client with whom I consulted, the director of a psychology clinic, summed it up well: “One session brought me a clarity in understanding myself that took me two years of weekly therapy to find.” What I love about astrology – and I’m a fan of many systems of self-understanding – is that it’s as complex, rich and individual as each of us. And it works. How and why it works may be debatable, yet the evidence is clear that it does.
My main interest and specialty with astrology is looking into people’s evolutionary path – meaning, exploring the biggest reason for them being here. Once we’re more clear on what our soul wants for our learning and growth in life, many of the other important and pressing matters – work, love, health – fall more easily into place. I love astrology’s natural complexity, its ability to illuminate so many different parts of ourselves and to help us balance, harmonize and optimize those components into ever more radiant lives.
Once I’ve looked into the most essential parts of someone’s astrological make-up, its then possible to delve deeper into cycles that indicate more of what’s happening now and in the future – less to predict it, more to simply become more aware of planetary ‘weather patterns’ that help us both take better advantage of opportunities, and avert the less desirable aspects of challenges. Astrology is also useful for better understanding relationships – why they exist and how to get the best out of them.
Raw food diets are so diverse, and some Eastern philosophies really emphasize cooking foods. As a yoga teacher and for you personally, what tips can you share for balancing raw foods and yoga?
I’m glad you asked this. In my years of working with people in the raw food world, I’ve seen many people succeed and some have more trouble with raw food. I’ve grown into the understanding that eating living foods can work beautifully for everyone, if we approach it intelligently and find what is right for us individually. This is one of the greatest teachings of many of the Eastern medical systems – in both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda: that we are all unique, and have specific dietary (and lifestyle) needs that will keep us in balance and healthy. We can call it biochemical individuality.
Success on a living food diet – meaning that we feel great, healthy, rich in energy – as with any aspect of life requires us to experiment, to find out what really works for us. Whether one chooses a macrobiotic, vegeterian, pescatarian, or breatharian diet, no two people will be (nor would benefit from) eating the same way.
Confusion often comes in when principles devolve into dogma. Some people need the fire element more than others. Some have weaker or stronger digestive tendencies. Principles often get reduced when people don’t understand them and want someone to simply tell them what to do. Dogmatic thinking can turn wise Eastern nutritional wisdom into saying people need to eat cooked food. Yet a higher perspective on it shows us that we can work with those principles while still taking advantage of the benefits of living foods. For instance, I’m visiting upstate New York right now, and the weather just turned cold. Last night I felt a craving for cayenne pepper, and so I included some in my hot (warm) chocolate drink, which quickly brought my body an internal sense of warmth.
The wide variety of approaches to living foods these days is a result of 1. its increased popularity and 2. the fact that many people need different approaches. It works differently for different people. Many of the raw food leaders simply prescribe their way of eating, which will work perfectly for some and not so perfectly for others.
Pardon my repetition, and it does bear repeating – success comes from learning what works for us individually. Education helps. Experience is key.
What sort of retreats do you offer?
Every retreat – every event of any sort, actually, whether it’s a 1 hour yoga class or a 4 week training – is aimed at creating opportunities, experiences and education that helps people create more and more of the life they want. Of course most everyone wants more energy, vitality, health and excitement. We want to be fully alive, to experience our potential as vibrant beings.
Our retreats vary in length and intensity. They almost all include Vibrant Living Yoga classes. All of our residential retreats include gourmet, organic living foods. We like to be in amazing beautiful places, so often our retreats take advantage of that with excursions into the nature and culture of those places, whether in Bali or elsewhere. Because I love creating experiences for people together with great teachers and presenters, and because collobating is both more fun for us and creates powerful events, we include amazing people on our ‘faculty’ from all over the world. Yoga teachers, nutrition gurus, musicians, body workers and healers.
The more I respond to that question, the more grateful I become. It’s a truly divine life where I get to play with such phenomenal people in the creation of our maximum delight in life.
Please tell us a little about your novel.
It’s been an educational and growthful process to write this novel. I’m now in the midst of the 3rd draft of it and still don’t like to speak too much about it, lest I dilute some of the alchemical energy I prefer to focus on recreating and finishing it. However, a writer friend did encourage me to write a ‘teaser’ for it recently. Though teasers – the little blurbs found on the back of a book to get people to buy them – generally aren’t so appealing to the authors themselves, I will share it here:
Locked against his will in a psych ward, on the heels of spiritual awakening tainted by well-meaning if misunderstanding friends and health-care professionals, Samuel confronts the ghost of his paranoid schizophrenic sister 8 years after her suicide (and reads to her), tracing his mind’s plummet along-side a rise in heart and spirit, while healing and rewriting their family history backwards from the ward, and potentially forward to new world of freedom.
Wow. A delightful question that one. I love imagining and creating the future. And then seeing it unfold in myriad ways even better than my imaginations. I’m at a wildly exciting time in my life, right in the middle of some fantastic creative projects. Aside from the novel and our trainings and retreats, we’ve just launched a line of raw chocolates. After years of playing around with making chocolate for myself and my friends, the combination of how good it makes us feel and how much people love the taste inspired me to take it public. In parallel with that, another long time love – the alchemical blending of essential oils (and specifically for use in yoga) – just turned into a line of products that went public in this last year. Both of those new ventures will be leaping to their next phase of evolution soon and be available around the world (right now just in Bali).
As if that all weren’t more than enough, we’re excited to be building spaces to house all this and more. We’re creating both physical and virtual space right now. Before long those who come to see us in Bali will be able to do so at our retreat center, and those who would like to connect with us more without coming to Bali, will be able to do so through our Radiantly Alive membership community online. I’m so excited in that both of these spaces will give the opportunity to reach more of the people who are motivated to increase their vibrancy. I love the image of our Radiantly Alive family growing and expanding, each of us sparkling more radiance into the world.
Thanks, so much for sharing your wisdom and a slice of your life with us, Daniel!
If you’d like to read more about Daniel Aaron, please visit his website. And now for a little trivia in case you’re wondering how I encountered Mr. Aaron all the way in Bali: we were introduced online by the lovely Shazzie when she learned about my novel Schizandra and the Gates of Mu. Daniel’s daughter’s middle name is a variant of Schizandra! What a small, interconnected world …
Blessings and Synchronicity!