YJ Interview with David Swenson


YJ: You've led quite a life. How did you start down a spiritual path?

DS: In the 80s, I joined the Hare Krishnas because I was seeking answers in so many directions. And they had all these answers and backed it up with scriptures. I signed up and lived by a monastic life. You rise early, take showers, and chant. I studied all of the classic texts and worked hard. All that was fine, but I started looking around in the community itself. I saw there were some people that were spiritual and some people that were mundane. Egotistical people and humble people. Mean people and nice people. At that point I realized that within the structure of this religious, spiritual community, it seemed you had the same chance for spiritual growth as you do on the street. There were still all the same problems, and so I left. I realized that in my mind, spirituality is not determined by the practice, but I determined by the focus or intent of the practitioner. So whether you're doing Ashtanga yoga or chanting Hare Krishna, or whatever it is, it's how we do it and the focus and intent we bring to it that determines our spirituality. Not the practice itself. Otherwise, everyone that chanted would be a spiritual person. It's like you can practice yoga as an avenue to deeper self growth and spirituality.

YJ: What happened after you left the Hare Krishnas?

DS: I was totally broke because I gave all of my money to the community. I was a little discouraged. I opened an art gallery and went back to Hawaii and started studying with Pattahbi Jois again. I realized then that all of the answers I was looking for were in my practice. It's been a life-long journey, and I have gained satisfactory answers.

YJ: And what did you discover?

DS: What I've concluded is that there's nothing wrong with asking questions. And many answers can be a dead end. Once you think you know it all, there's nothing left to learn. For me, questions are a good thing. It's good to question our lives and continue to look at the garden we're growing and make sure we're pulling the weeds out. It's not like I'm living by a burning question. I don't have to have answers. I'm not looking for them anymore because they're in the practice. Through my daily practice and my interactions with other people and my relationship with nature and my environment, contains my purpose. At this point in my life, I'm living the life I should be. I've come to peace with myself.