Yotam Viccara Anand is a yoga teacher from Israel, also known for his meditation classes and a love to travel. He started his yoga path unexpectedly, and it changed his life vision completely: out of the sullen person he became easy-going and conscious in the perception of life. Travelling Yotam learned from a lot of different teachers, including some from India and Ukraine, but he hot his certificate of yoga and meditation instructor in one of the largest colleges of Yoga and Therapy in Israel. Now Yotam is known for his style of giving classes with humor and practices of dynamic Osho meditations, which he had introduced to us on Avatar festival.
More detailed information about Yotam you will find in our interview.
What was your life like before you started practicing yoga and what motivated you to go into the serious practice?
The answer to this question could take the whole interview.
The first 30 years of my life I was depressed. I didn’t know how to enjoy life. I was very good with fighting with people, with taking staff personally and with keeping interest away. But one day after very long and very intense suffering I woke up from sleep and suddenly my perception changed: I found everything completely different. My heavy thoughts changed, everything looked and felt in a new fresh way. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I was truly happy. But also very confused and very surprised with this state of feeling happy. I started to search for the answers and I realised that I’ve had spiritual awakening.
What caused this awakening?
Very deep and very intense suffering. Many people can go through it. And some famous teachers shared similar experiences — Eckhard Tolle and Byron Katie.
If you read about such things, it seems magical, and some people are trying hard to get there. But if you are trying to make it happen, it is impossible. But it can happen naturally, if the mind gives up, and stops looking for the answers.
After this transformation happened to me I went to India. When I came back, I went to yoga teachers training and to meditation instructors training.
Have you been doing some spiritual practice that led you to that sudden state of awakening?
I don’t know what it means “to practice”. I have not done anything special, despite being a sad and angry person.
How has your life changed after that?
I started to travel much more. I started to take care of my health and my habits. Because if you have some bad habits it will keep taking you down. It took me some time, but I quit smoking. My life changed greatly. It is not the same anymore.
I still have some old habits. I still like death metal music. I still work in technology. Many people think that I teach yoga for a living, but I don’t. So on one hand, everything in my life is very similar — it didn’t change my job. But every little thing that I experience is different.
If a person fell asleep being not awakened spiritually, and woke up being awakened, where the changes can be seen? Everything looks the same, it is the same person. If he was an unpleasant person a night before, he will keep being an unpleasant person.
It seems to be contradictory to how the way to “the highest state” is usually imagined. Yours is not about daily strict practice but about letting go.
Look, life is still “a life for practicing”. But what is practicing? I do asanas every day for 1-2 hours. How flexible should I be to become enlightened? How many fruits should I eat? Enlightenment is not about doing these things.
What are enlightened people like? Do you sometimes strike with anger or some negative emotions after that spiritual transformation has happened to you?
I want to make it clear — I am not an enlightened person. I didn’t reach the end of my journey.
I think enlightened people can be angry. But when a person gets angry, the True Self remains still and free.
We can be very happy or be upset, but True Self is neither happy nor upset. True Self never changes.
For example, now I don’t drink alcohol, I can drink a little, but I never feel like getting drunk. I just don’t need it. But if I got drunk, how would it change my True Self?
You mentioned that you quit smoking. Was it difficult for you?
I am not a coach for smokers. When I quit, I just realised that the only reason I want a cigarette is because I have addiction. The mind invents hundreds of reasons to smoke now — like it is relaxing, or it is easy not to eat, but there is only one reason — your body needs nicotine right now. Understanding this helped me to quit. All the reasons why you keep smoking are only your stories. Nicotine is an addictive drug and you don’t feel it.
Despite you’ve mentioned that the state of being awakened is not about personal efforts, it is still something that people are seeking for — to be liberated, not to suffer, to achieve a state of constant satisfaction and peace. Are there some right directions, or some rituals and routines that could be helpful for spiritual seekers?
You can help, but you can’t make it happen. Help is about some external practices. For example, you can’t force yourself to fall asleep, but you can help your body, by organizing a peaceful and comfortable environment, taking a shower, lying into bed.
Of course clearing the karma, practicing Yama and Niyama, if you read and study a lot, practice yoga — it will help you. But the awakening happens by itself. You need to trust the Universe and to believe.
If someone is showing you the way to wake up and promises and guarantees that you will reach enlightenment, he is lying.
If the highest state is something natural, and a True Self exists in every human, why is enlightenment not something we have by default?
Most people don’t care about it. Even people who are coming to yoga festivals, mostly they are not serious about spiritual awakening. It requires to study more, practice more, meet more spiritual people.
Suffering is everywhere in existence (in material existence). Since the moment you’re born, you are dying (not wanting to die) right? And if the problem is everywhere, then practice is everywhere.
As a software developer, who spends all day staring at the screen, sitting in office, how do you manage with keeping the state of mindfulness?
I try to keep a meditation routine, I meditate every morning before a workday starts. In the office I don’t keep my awareness the whole day. I am not sure if anyone can be aware 100% of the time, whether it is possible. And if you want to make it possible you have to leave this social life and go to a monastery.
I don’t think there is a reason to try to be fully aware every moment. I get angry sometimes, it is hard for me to visit my mom sometimes, just like for everyone. It is another big misconception about enlightenment that it changes the personality. But it doesn’t. When I had my awakening, my personality did change, but it took some time. The psychological pattern they are just keep working by themselves.
What kind of practices do you plan to bring to the Avatar Festival?
I will teach Osho meditations. I am experienced in dynamic meditation workshops.
I am not coming to the Festival to speak about enlightenment, as usually people are not ready to listen. But if someone asks me, I will always spend all my efforts and the time I have to explain what I know.
Festival is about practicing, but also it is about entertainment and fun and this is how it should be. I really enjoy just hanging out at festivals, and especially Avatar: there is a lot of music, and a sea to swim.
There is a good mantra for life “it is ok”. When you come to a human body, you are imperfect, a little wrong. To be imperfect is your true nature, be fine with it and be relaxed.
Thank you Yotam, it was a pleasure to talk to you.I think I am out of questions. Is there anything, any message you want to add to the text of the interview?
Well, here is my message to the Avatar Festival this year.
Today yoga became a new religion. People find Patanjali Yoga Sutras and say — here is the right yoga guide. But there are hundreds of yoga guides that contradict each other. Yoga Sutras speaks about Ashtanga yoga and Gheranda Samhita speaks about Saptanga yoga. Don’t take anything as an absolute truth. Absolute truth can’t be found inside a book. Read your favorite book and then read a book that says that the first one is complete bullshit.
I studied yoga philosophy for a long time, but I think I found my way, when I forgot about it. There is a nice saying “if you meet a Buddha on a road, kill him”, it is about authorities. Buddha said about not turning his teachings into religion, but people did it, and it is a religion today. Buddha said “I am not the authority, you are the authority”.
Yoga became a synonym to wellbeing. But everyone’s path is different and yoga is different. And if someone says that there is only one true way, it is the ego speaking. Make your own path.