Detailed interview with Ganesh J. Bormann about The Essence, integral yoga and high sensitivity as well as the seminars offered.
Ganesh, who are you?
O.k., so you start with the easy questions first. But seriously. Explaining who we are is anything but a trivial matter. One of my teachers, a master of Rinzai Zen, once urged me to define myself. I couldn’t. Es gelang mir einfach nicht. I think he was very happy with that.
You also call yourself a mystic, what is meant by that?
Usually we think of ourselves as separate individuals. We think of ourselves as personalities interacting with other personalities. We think that is so much a fact that we wouldn’t even think of really investigating it. But if you were to break that taboo, you will have a very different experience. You will awaken from your previous perspective, which was based on assumptions, beliefs and presumptions, to a perspective of real knowledge about things.
Aus relativer Sicht bin ich jemand, der den Dingen auf Grund geht. Vielleicht ein Philosoph, ja, ein Mystiker oder so. Aber, in dem Augenblick, in dem ich sage, ich bin das oder ich bin das, hast du sofort ein Bild im Kopf. Du siehst dann nicht mehr, was wirklich ist, sondern nur noch ein Bild von dem was ist, eine äußerst begrenzte Projektion. All dein Status, dein Wissen, dein Besitz sind Dinge, die du hast. Sie haben nichts zu tun mit dem, was du bist. We should stop making ourselves and others into canned goods. The living moment – that what is happening now – is what is – and that changes from one moment to the next. If I stay in the flow of this moment, completely open and spontaneous to what is, that is living. Seen in this way, the view from the perspective of the mystic is nothing special, but a very simple, natural view of things.
What is the difference between a mystic, a yoga master and a yoga teacher? What difference does it make to the yoga student?
A mystic is someone who sees the world from a perspective that is not accessible to other people. Whereas according to our usual understanding, the world and things move from the gross to the increasingly subtle and complex, the mystic perceives the world from the opposite perspective. He perceives the world from the perspective of its origin, namely from the fine to the increasingly coarse. It doesn’t matter what background or tradition a mystic belongs to, he can be a yoga master, a Zen master, a Sufi master or a shamanic master, he can be a Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Taoist or whatever. All these traditions have the problem that they convey contents that are beyond our intellect. The transmission of the content happens through the transfer of the master’s consciousness to the student. A good yoga teacher is someone who is familiar with the principle of transmission and who can convey it to his or her students. A master is the embodied principle of this transmission.
What was your path to yoga and spirituality?
From my early youth, I wanted to understand why the world is the way it is. I wondered why people around me showed so little interest in the really essential issues of life. I had the clear feeling that something was wrong. As children we are very awake. We sense exactly what is and we want to check whether our perception is correct. But then we start school and at the latest then this alertness is over. It wasn’t like that with me. I just didn’t stop asking. Then I had to see that here in the West it is only possible to approach certain truths to a very limited extent.
So I continued to search in Eastern philosophies. I found masters from different traditions who initiated me into the deepest secrets of life. For this I am infinitely grateful. I learned practices in my intense search that few others have learned. I was instructed to practise – and did. To date, I have been to India over twenty times and can look back on some 35,000 hours of yoga and meditation practice. I have found the answers to my questions, and much more.
You call your method ‘The Essence’, please tell us what your method entails?
By absorbing very different teachings, I realised that the spiritual teachings and religions have commonalities. There is a common extract. “What are these commonalities that are common to all religious and spiritual paths at the very end?” That was the question that had been on my mind. Along the way, I also became very interested in Western psychology – and here again I searched for the essence and
and the commonalities. In particular, I consider self-experience with shadow work to be very valuable. I have tried out a few things. It was important for me to have my own experiences. Ever since I was a young man, I have been very interested in how western psychology and spirituality are connected. And there are very few people who really know both. I think my luck was mainly that I always moved outside the conventional paths in my studies. In the method ‘The Essence’ all this knowledge flows together. Although the two perspectives from East and West seem to be completely diametrically opposed, the essences of these perspectives come together perfectly in the end – and to be quite honest, that surprised me myself.
What does yoga mean to you? What does meditation mean to you?
Yoga and meditation are above all what we make of them. On the one hand, it has a lot to do with the direction we want to move in and also with who we learn it from. Yoga is an Indian philosophy. But many people here in the West don’t realise that at all. The transmission of this philosophy is the central concern and should always be the focus of the teachings. We have a completely different mentality than the Asians. It is common in India in yoga classes that many lectures are given. People are then very open and listen devoutly. But when the exercises start, people make excuses and leave the room. Here with us it is exactly the opposite. If I take a break after the exercises and then start talking about yoga philosophy, people leave the room. In both cases there is not enough seriousness. What is needed is both understanding and practical practice. The one conditions the other, they are like the two wings of a bird. One wing alone will not get you far.
There is the classical approach to yoga, which is strongly anchored in Hinduism. Then there is a somewhat watered-down but accepted approach. Where do you locate your Integralyoga approach?
Even though yoga is referred to again and again in religious, Hindu scriptures, yoga and Hinduism are different systems. Yoga is a philosophy. Hinduism is a religion. Hinduism has extensive and very profound mythologies that can be used to illustrate complicated relationships in a relatively simple way, which is often used in yoga. However, this would not be absolutely necessary and yoga would not be watered down by this. Likewise, yoga can be diluted by the introduction of unnecessary religious elements. The Essence and Integralyoga – in this form – restore dignity to yoga and spirituality by focusing both on their fundamental substance while still allowing helpful, ritualistic elements their proper place.
What is Integral Yoga? How does it differ from other forms of yoga?
There is a whole range of different yoga directions. In the West, new directions of yoga are often presented, but basically they are just different variations of a series of very body-related exercises that never existed in India. These are mostly slimmed-down versions of Hatha yoga. This kind of yoga is originally a preparation for higher forms of yoga, which is what it is really about. In India, one speaks of Jnana-Yoga, Bhakti-Yoga and Karma-Yoga, Raja-Yoga, Kriya-Yoga, Kundalini-Yoga, Hatha-Yoga etc. One can speak of Integralyoga when several of these basic yoga forms are practised in parallel. In my opinion, such a synthesis of different methods leads to the goal with considerably less effort.
You work at the Heiligenfeld Clinic, a clinic that also specialises in high sensitivity. How do you perceive the work with highly sensitive people? What is important to you in your work with them?
The work in the Heiligenfeld clinics actually stands out from other clinics in two points. The first point is that the therapists work with a wide variety of methods. They work together in a team, each with their own approach, and both the therapy team and especially the highly sensitive people themselves can benefit greatly from this. There is no such thing as the highly sensitive person. There are different types of high sensitivity.
Each case has to be considered individually and the conditions here are good for that. The second point is that spirituality plays an important role in the Heiligenfeld Clinics. This is especially important for highly sensitive people.
Why can yoga, or your yoga approach in particular, be important for highly sensitive people?
As humans, we exist on a number of very different levels. Most approaches work on the lower three levels. That is the level of the physical body, the energetic level and the emotional-mental level.
But what if a person is so sensitive that they naturally have additional access to the next higher level? And what if this person’s problem is simply that they are not understood from the point of view of those who do not have this access?
Developmentally, we progress from one level to the next. At each of the levels we have passed through in the course of our development there can be minor or major breakdowns and for each of these levels there are specific forms of therapy to address these breakdowns. Just as there is one or another therapy approach for the lower three levels, there are also some for the levels above. And in this case, these would be the higher forms of yoga, among others. Integralyoga also covers the lower levels. The Essence’ goes even further.
In what way does ‘The Essence’ go further?
The Essence is not limited to the philosophy of yoga and also includes psychological elements such as shadow work. In yoga, it is assumed that there is initially a separation between us and our actual being. Yoga is the process of dissolving this separation.
From an absolute point of view, however, this separation has never existed. The Essence – as the name suggests – works from the latter perspective.
Spirituality can be a resource for the highly sensitive. However, many spiritual paths may be less suitable. How do you see this and what do you think is important in your approach for highly sensitive people?
I have already heard from therapists that many of the spiritual people they meet have too little grounding from their point of view. On the other hand, I notice that the people here in our country, compared to those in India, have too little grounding. So it is very understandable that people here are first of all interested in more celestiality and that is also good, because “celestiality” is what we lack the most. Many highly sensitive people already have contact with yoga and have heard about the rise of Kundalini, the rising energy in the body. What is far less known is that it is also important to bring the Kundalini energy back down to earth. In the Integralyoga of ‘The Essence’, from the beginning, both ends are applied at the same time. This is very gentle, extremely efficient and yet has fewer undesirable side effects than some other approaches. In this way, the student can always remain in control of the development process by deciding for him/herself how far to go. Our further progress is limited, among other things, by our psychological development and the degree of our devotion. These two factors form a good regulating mechanism.
What is the importance of regular practice, especially for the highly sensitive?
I am not exaggerating when I say that regular practice of yoga or meditation sets processes in motion whose significance we cannot guess at the beginning. Integral yoga in particular, taught correctly and with the right attitude, is comparable to a perfect psychotherapy that is individually tailored to us. Only it goes considerably beyond that. If the exercises I teach in the Basic Circle are practised regularly, something will definitely change in the students’ lives. I can promise that. The special thing about the workshops in Bern is that the topic of high sensitivity is included. Among other things, additional techniques are taught that specifically take high sensitivity into account.
You offer a basic course in Bern. Who is this course for and what is the benefit for highly sensitive people?
The lower levels, which I have already indicated and to which practically all methods known to us refer, are subordinate to the levels above them. The next higher level is the control level of the respective level below. As long as I am not aware of the laws that operate on this level of control, phenomena can occur on the levels below that are beyond my understanding. A simple example: In conventional medicine, treatment successes are limited when psychosomatic causes are present.
The Basic Course offers tools that can make hidden mechanisms and processes visible, from the deepest to the highest layers of consciousness. This even includes whole levels of which we had no idea existed until now. By consciously perceiving these levels, the mechanisms on the levels below become visible and the solutions to our problem often reveal themselves. To our example: If the underlying psycho-dynamics of the illnesses are recognised, the symptoms often disappear all by themselves.
Are there further offers? If someone has done the course, can they go their own way with the knowledge and are there support offers for regular practitioners?
There are offers that build directly on the Basis Circle. The advanced seminars are announced on the website www.the-essence.com. A 14-day retreat in South India is planned for October.
More information is also available on the new “Conversations with Ganesh” podcasts on Youtube, Spotify, etc. These podcasts are also good for preparing and following up on the seminars. A new yoga study programme will be started if there is sufficient demand. The study course can also function as a yoga teacher training (Integralyoga). Advanced seminars in weekend form are also planned again soon.