ABOUT XAVIER FAYANT
Originally from Normandy, France, I have been living in San Francisco since 1991. I am a certified massage therapist from the San Francisco School of massage and the McKinnon Institute in Oakland and from the Institute of Thai Massage in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I hold a third degree black belt in Aikido and have completed a two-year teacher's training program at the San Francisco Iyengar Yoga Institute.
I was first introduced to healing and movement thru Aikido, a Japanese martial art based on a non-violent philosophy that uses movement to increase awareness of body and mind. My journey eventually led me to performing arts and dance (Mime and Jazz dance). Finally, Yoga gave me an opportunity to explore the body on a
deeper level allowing me to integrate this knowledge in the massage practice.
Over the years, Xavier has practiced in numerous spas and salon such as Kabuki Hot Springs, International Orange, Zazen in San Francisco and Indian Springs in Calistoga.
Many years ago, an incident triggered an emotional response that drove me into insanity. My thoughts were so disturbed that my nervous system got shattered to the point of affecting my physical body. Some of the symptoms I had were those of an old man (shaking, pain in the joints, swelling, fainting etc.). I honestly didn’t know what was happening to me, I felt like an external force was beating the hell out of me with no reason. Suffering became my middle name. I woke up every day with a feeling of suffocating, unable to breathe and the heart beating so loud I was afraid it would explode. After about 10 months of daily pounding, grinding, shaking and crying I started to look for some help. I knew that what ever was happening to me was beyond my comprehension. I knew something was off but didn’t know what. What I knew for sure was that I wanted to end the suffering, at this rate; my physical system would not last long. For a few months, I tried every therapy on earth looking for an answer. My main concern was to at least find a way to quiet down the voices in my head and get back to a place where I could function in society without having to go live in the streets. My whole system was on overdrive and it was killing me, like a cancer of the soul. After many attempts at different therapies, it finally occurred to me that this cancer of the soul was caused not by external factors but rather internal and that the suffering I was witnessing came from deep within berried underneath many layers of false knowledge and false identification of the self. The world as I knew it didn’t exist anymore, it was replace by chaos. Since my values and belief system were out the door, the only thing I had left was my body with its flesh and bones. If I didn’t trust my mind I could trust my body. At the time, I was doing a martial art and the practice kept me from totally losing it. My insanity was somewhat contained. During these periods of uncertainty, I would often compare my suffering with martyr figures like Jesus Christ or Buddha. For me they represented the suffering of human kind and their story was worth studying. They both had insights and both conquered their fears. So here I was trying to look into history for some kind of clue on how to overcome madness. One day, I eventually came across a book that changed my life. I had this habit of going into book-stores and glance at a shelf and pick a book, the first one that caught my eyes that day was “how to know God” the Yoga aphorisms of Patanjali. Little did I know at the time that the Yoga they were talking about in the book was the same Yoga I was witnessing in various studios around the city. Right away I was attracted to these aphorisms and I felt relieved knowing that someone (patanjali) understood the process of the mind (1.2 Yogah cittavrtti nirodhah : Yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness). The promise of Yoga was the end of suffering; it was worth giving it a chance. The idea of using the body as a tool to access the mind really made sense to me considering my background in martial art and dance. There it was, a science that could undo the twisting of the mind. I started practicing Yoga.At first, I have to admit, some of the teachings and practices I was witnessing were confusing and created more doubts in my mind. I started going to classes around the city looking for a studio where these aphorisms were actually taught. To my surprise, many of these so-called yoga studios had very little to do with the wisdom encountered in the Yoga Sutras. I was confused. My understanding from reading the Sutras was that Yoga was a way of life, a system that would undo my suffering, not a new aerobic trend! Some of these practices annoyed me, in some schools, the pace was too fast, in others, the external appearance seemed to be the goal to achieve. I needed to heal, I needed to be less scattered, I wanted something slow and introspective. Finally, I found Iyengar Yoga, I knew it was for me.
During this time of recovery, I came to examine my emotions at a closer range. Feelings like anger, anxiety and fear seemed to be the dominant one. I had to find out the causes of the distortion I had witnessed. It became obvious that the incident that triggered my insanity had something to do with the way I perceived the world. I had a false “knowledge” of the truth, in other words, I had a system of values that no longer worked for me. I could not bear the shock between the new reality and the old set of values. I collapsed. It seems that it was the lack of knowledge, better yet, my ignorance, which caused the suffering. My ego could not take it, it became clear that a false identification of the self was at the root of the misfortune. This episode in my life gave me an opportunity to look at the human condition and I came to the conclusion that all suffering come from a misinterpretation of the truth, of what is real and not real. (2.4 avidya ksetram uttaresam prasupta tanu vicchinna udaranam : lack of true knowledge is the source of all pains and sorrows whether dormant, attenuated, interrupted or fully active).
Following the incident that find myself shocked at the core of my being, I was diagnosed by modern medicine with some kind of manic depressive disorder which according to them could have been genetic. Was Karma at play? Was I evil in some past lives? Did I inherit my mother’s genes? One thing is for sure; I had no clue as to where my suffering came from, at least, in the beginning. The study of the sutras and the practice of Yoga gave me an opportunity to look back at the incident and understand the cause of the suffering. The fire of passion is what created the chaos. I was reacting to an event or a situation based on some preconceived knowledge of the truth (a concept Patanjali calls samskaras). My sense of the self was so small that it created a monster that almost killed me.
The idea that samskaras (impressions) programs our life and our reactions to circumstances had a lot to do with the distortion I felt during the depression. My reality was colored with past impressions and a belief system that was no longer adequate. The illusion was so perfect and the denial so big that I actually thought I was possessed, that an external force was playing tricks on me! If these impressions have such an effect on our actions, then it would be wise to find a way to tame them or at least being aware of them. Reacting on some event or situation based on some erroneous fact can be devastating. If samskaras also come from past lives and therefore unpredictable, then it becomes more urgent to study our reactions on a daily basis and try to bring some awareness with the false identification that occurs. The irony is that these associations I have made with this episode in my life have left me with yet another impression. Not all samskara are bad impressions, I recall the story of the French writer Marcel Proust where the smell of a Madeleine reminded him of a previous experience and dictated his emotions, he felt pure bliss.
Controlling my feelings became my number one resolution. Becoming stable and balanced was my goal. One way I found of achieving control over the “chit-chat” of the mind was concentration, also called Dharana in the Yoga Sutras. Concentration is the ability to focus entirely on a single object or task for a certain period of time. In my meditation practice, concentration allows me to be fully present in the moment and helps me direct my attention to different points in my body. In Pranayama exercises (science of the breath), I use Dharana to direct my attention to the breath. In Asana practice, I use Dharana to move into poses. In my Aikido practice, (Japanese Martial Art based on a non-violent philosophy) concentration helps me to be completely present to the task at hand and respond appropriately. Body and mind become one for the purpose of keeping one’s consciousness alive to the present reality. In a long time process, concentration has been, in my life, a way of keeping track of my goals, reminding me what is important.
Yoga has become very popular during the past twenty years. It has become an antidote from today’s fast pace world, a way to gain freedom on a personal level. Yoga is a practice that requires discipline; it teaches people to be responsible and develops awareness. All we need is a willingness to become more connected, first to ourselves, then to the environment and others. Here is a tool that requires neither money nor external gadgets that uses the physical body as a means to reach the more subtle layers of our consciousness. But the physical practice alone doesn’t suffice; we need to tap into all the other branches described in the Yoga sutras and practice the teachings as a way of life. With practice and the help from the Sutras, one can achieve balance and serenity. The Sutras describe the workings of the mind with accuracy and intelligence, then, Patanjali shows us a way to overcome our delusions. The physical practice called asana is only one stage within the Yoga system, it keeps the body strong and healthy. Seven other branches complement Yoga philosophy : Yama (universal codes of conduct), Niyama (personal codes of conduct), Pranayama (science of the breath), Pratyhara (withdrawal of the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (union with the universal spirit).
Yoga and the Yoga Sutras have been of tremendous help in my quest for freedom. I found a set of tools that deals with my suffering at the core of my psyche. As a whole, Yoga becomes an exact science of the mind, a set psychology that works, a perfect tool that enables us to tap into our own wisdom and deliver us from pain and sorrow.