VOLUME 7 ISSUE 2 FALL 2021

1 4 S p i r i t ua l i t y S t u d i e s 7 - 2 Fa l l 2 0 2 1 About the author Mark Westmoquette, Ph.D. , obtained his doctoral de- gree in astrophysics in 2007 and subsequently spent seven years as a professional astronomer. After train - ing as a yoga teacher in 2009, he has taught yoga worldwide. In 2015 he spent a short period as a Zen monk, and after recently living for two years on the remote island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic, he now teaches yoga, Zen, and mindful stargazing from his base in London. He is the author of four books: Mindful Thoughts for Stargazers , Stars: A Practical Guide to the Key Constellations , The Mindful Universe and Zen and the Art of Dealing with Difficult People . Mark’s email address is mark@markwestmoquette. co.uk. 1 Encountering Subtle Energy I’ve always had a very rational, mathematical mind. When I was eighteen (in 1999) I went to University College Lon - don to study astrophysics. A year or so before, however, when I was about seventeen, I got into target rifle shooting as a sport. When I joined the university shooting club and started getting more serious, I read it would be helpful to start doing something like yoga to improve body and breath awareness – two things essential in target shooting. I found a yoga class in the university gym and started going regularly. Having not been particularly sporty as I grew up, I enjoyed the physical challenges yoga presented and I mar - veled at how other students were able to gracefully flow through a sun salutation and do headstands . However, I was almost completely put off by talk of subtle energy – chakras , and prāna . The fluffy, pseudo-scientific language of esoter - ic energy jarred immensely with what I was hearing in my physics lectures. From my young, hyper-rational perspective, the existence of pr ā na was undoubtedly imaginary (or at best ungrounded in any scientific reality). It was too “woo woo” for me! So, in those first few years, I gravitated towards physically stronger, less “spiritual” yoga classes, and felt uncomfortable every time mention of pr ā na or chakras came up. In 2007 I met my Zen teacher Daizan Roshi. He perceptively presented meditation practice to me in an appealingly sci- entific way. He suggested that I see my body as the lab and follow the methodology he described, but that there was no foregone conclusion – it was up to me to find out for myself what the effects of meditation were. I committed to a daily meditation practice and began investigating my mind-body from this new angle. Daizan is also a yoga teacher and had started running Zen-Yoga teacher training programs. I felt very drawn to this, so in 2009 attended one of his intensive residential training courses in Devon, UK. I had several experiences on that teacher training retreat that blew my mind with regards to my understanding of sub- tle energy. First came after doing some simple Qigong based

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