Bio, Chuck Miller
I don't know exactly when I first got interested in yoga. It seems the urge was there from a very early age. I think that is true for many of us. We don't know what it is that is calling us and yet we definitely feel it. What is interesting is what makes us answer the call! What you can no longer ignore!
My best friend and I, in 4th grade, decided, for some reason, that we wanted to sit in padmasana, so we did. It wasn't easy for us at first but we kept trying. I have no idea how we got the idea in the first place! "Mad Magazine?" HA! ;->
I found myself years later, in high school, like many of us in the 60s, dissatisfied with the world I found myself living in. I was searching for some other way to live and grow, to evolve as a human being. I could not relate to the religion I was born into and started reading books about eastern thought. Authors like DT Suzuki, Suzuki Roshi, Alan Watts, Herman Hess, Chogyam Trungpa and many others. I became a voracious reader at an early age.
In 1971, at the age of 17, a friend and I went to hear a free lecture on Transcendental Meditation in our local elementary school, Killington, Vermont. A very small rural town in the Green Mountains of 'New England.' The man was talking about following one's thoughts back to where they came from, as they bubbled up through multiple layers of awareness until they surfaced into our consciousness. That it might be possible to get to the source of thought! To be able to perceive the world, to respond and even think from the origin of thought, instead of from the outer shells. To act from a deeper place, without being trapped in the realms of pre-conditioned, biased, cyclic thought! They were trying to sell us on returning the next day, paying our $35 to take a short course and receive a free personalized mantra.
I didn't go but the concept intrigued me and I began to practice it, on a giant rock in my back yard. It was an amazing experience for me. I began to realize that all the different voices in my head were all my own voice. I was talking to myself. I realized this is how people believe they are talking to spirits or gods, or also what can make people think they are crazy! I started to understand where these 'voices' were 'coming from!' That is is very deep, very ancient...
Later that year I found a book, "Be Here Now," by Baba Ram Das, which included simple pranayama and asana practices which I also included on a daily basis. I was hooked! It connected many of the missing links I was struggling with. The title of the book became my mantra! "Be Here Now!"
In 1974 I found the book Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar. The Introduction was one of the most profound things I had read up to that moment. I began working through the practices contained in there. They were laid out in weekly routines, with photos in a different part of the book and descriptions for how to do the postures in yet another place! Complicated! It was later edited to be more usable.
The book became my constant companion, I had created a special pocket for it in my backpack. It was complicated but I was motivated and after about 3 years I had managed to get to the recommended week 35 or so. I thought that I must be a very slow student! Years later talking to others who tried the same I found that actually I had done pretty well!
In 1980, intrigued that here was a man who had studied with the same teacher as Iyengar, I met Sri K Pattabhi Jois. When he asked me who my teacher was I replied "book." What book he asked. "Light on Yoga." Oh, you are Iyengar student! So he called me that for the first month as I began practicing Ashtanga Yoga. I continued with him intensively for many years and intermittently until his death.
In March of 1988 I got permission from Guru-ji to teach Primary Series and was pushed into the yoga room and began teaching Ashtanga Yoga. I taught in the same school, almost the same time for 17 years. Many of the students came for years and years. It was a great experience for me. I hope it was for them as well!
After selling the school and moving to Hawaii Island, "The Big Island," I began accepting invitations to teach in other cities around the world and continue to do that today.
Having the belief that Ashtanga Yoga is strong enough, with enough internal integrity to withstand scrutiny, I studied with many different teachers and tested those teachings on my own mat... that continues today! I found the same internal truths in the deeper realms of all great practices and started calling the conflicts between them "semantic differences."
Today I like to point to what I call "Sama," as that sameness that exists everywhere.
Finding the sameness between Philosophy and Practice continues to inform my practice and thus my teaching.