Brad Willis is the Yogi in the spotlight today. Willis, now known primarily as Bhava Ram is the author and subject of “Warrior Pose: How Yoga (Literally) Saved My Life”. Bhava Ram took the time to speak with Charleston Yoga Examiner to shed a little more light on his book, and his life so far.
Warrior Pose is Indiana Jones merged with Gautama Buddha, a miraculous affirmation of the power of self-healing, a war story, a love story, and a spiritual journey of epic proportion… ~ Dr. Emmett Miller, Pioneer Mind/Body Medicine
Warrior Pose is riveting, beautiful, informative, inspiring, compelling, honest, and so very stirring to my heartstrings. I'm recommending it to everyone. And I will be putting it on my reading list for my next semester's class on the history of Yoga. It feels like The Autobiography of a (Modern) Yogi. ~ Professor Marcy Braverman Goldstein, Sanskrit Revolution
Ram is formerly a war correspondent for NBC Network News. He’s been to the far corners of the globe in war-torn countries, lived with freedom fighters in the mountains of Afghanistan, covered drug wars in South America, and reported from the front lines of the Gulf War and more all in an effort to get the ‘other’ side of the news.
If it weren’t for a crippling back injury that, coincidentally, didn’t occur in a war-zone; perhaps what could be best described as a transformation may have never occurred. However, it did: an arduous battle against modern medicine's prescriptions for a broken back and stage four cancer brought on by the love for a child.
This transformation was a direct result of his son’s pleading for him to “get up” from his physical ailments and personal torment.
In his autobiography Ram speaks from the heart and bears all; leaving little to the imagination. Considering his credentials as an award-winning journalist this should be less than surprising.
Charleston Yoga Examiner caught up with Ram to see where he’s at today and possibly shed a little more light on his Yoga and his life.
William Hunnell: Pardon the esoteric nature of the question, however who is Bhava Ram? Considering that a Yogic goal is to understand that we are to be merely observers... What is your impression of Bhava Ram?
Bhava Ram: Bhava Ram means "pure state of being in the heart." I took a spiritual name to remind me that I have made a permanent shift towards health, balance and deeper awareness. I don't have illusions that I am always in a pure state, it is more a perpetual aspiration; an intention to be the most humble and present person that I am capable of being.
Just as we brush our teeth daily for good oral hygiene, daily spiritual practice is essential for wellness in body, mind and spirit. Every day now for more than a decade I have arisen before sunrise and practiced Yoga as a spiritual exercise. This is Bhava Ram... Brad Willis would never have done it!
WH: What happened to Brad Willis?
BR: Honestly, I'm not attached to being Bhava or attached to no longer being Brad. I'll answer to either name, or even "hey you!" They aren't separate people, I just identify more with being Bhava now... as I noted, it's a powerful tool for me.
WH: Your autobiography is compelling, to say the least. What is the significance of “Warrior Pose”?
BR: There is a nice double entendre with Warrior Pose given that it is a Yoga Asana and I was a war correspondent. Also, the great epics of yogic literature, including the Ramayana and Bhagavad-Gita, are stories of great battles. These battles are actually symbolic of the battle we all face in life between our higher and lower self.
A warrior for Yoga seeks to vanquish their dark side and move towards a life of peace, balance, humility and service. The ego often wants the opposite, and thus the battle is joined.
WH: In the acknowledgements of your book you refer to your son Morgan. In fact, you credit Morgan as the impetus, if you will, of your transformation. You credit him when you say he told you to "get up". What was that like for you as a father, as a man?
BR: My little boy cracked my heart wide open. But for him, I no longer wished to live. I had lost a career that identified who I was, I had a broken back and stage four cancer.
I was totally absorbed in my own suffering and filled with self-pity. He moved me past that, awakening me to the fact that it wasn't just all about me, that his life and his need for a father was vastly more important than my own drama. This gave me the courage to make a shift, and to stay with it no matter what. I never dreamed I would fully heal, but that is the power of Yoga and Ayurveda, as I discovered on my journey.
WH: Would it be fair to say that love is the message behind your book?
BR: Absolutely. The essence of the Divine is love. Love is the greatest healing medicine that ever has been. Love moves us past the ego and towards the uniting forces of compassion, gratitude, acceptance, forgiveness and peace.
WH: In the midst of the inner transformation your life changed as well. In your book you refer to your subsequent divorce and re-marriage. In fact, in your writing, you seemingly held "it" together pretty well throughout. To what do you credit your inner equanimity through that transitional period? How did you grow as a result?
Get up before sunrise and practice 15 minutes every day without fail. ~ Bhava Ram
BR: Healing from a broken back and cancer were huge efforts and very daunting, but ending my marriage was an even greater challenge. I first had to face myself and own my role in it, acknowledging what a difficult and self-centered person I had been while sick and crippled.
It's a big "aha" to finally let down all ego defense and face yourself, and own the ways in which you have fallen short of who you aspire to be at the soul level. Sometimes I was furious, other times I was scared to death. Were it not for my Yoga practice I don't think I could have come through it.
WH: As part of your inward journey, so-to-speak, what gave you the strength and determination to dig deeper...reach deeper and excavate your inner 'landscape'?
BR: My love for my son gave me the strength to keep going. I must have chanted the mantra "get up, daddy" a million times to help me stay committed. I still chant it when I face a great challenge or feel like I'm slacking off. To this day, it empowers me every time.
WH: You have a practice titled "Deep Yoga" and a facility. What brought you to the decision to teach the practice?
BR: Whenever someone experiences a profound healing there is a calling from the soul to spread the word. I heard this calling early on and knew I would not go back to journalism and instead would devote my life to teaching Vedic science (Yoga and Ayurveda).
WH: What is Bhava Ram doing these days?
BR: I work with private clients, train Yoga teachers and students in Ayurvedic medicine and Vedic Therapy, lecture medical and corporate groups, lead retreats, teach at major yoga centers and conferences, and have just rewritten my first book, “Deep Yoga: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times." I'll write one more book about our power to heal and that will be the last one.
WH: What is Morgan doing nowadays? Has he followed your lead or is he blazing his own trail (so-to-speak)?
BR: Morgan has always been an amazingly balanced, soft, kind and grounded person. He is a black belt in Karate, a water polo player, and an all-around good person. He does a bit of Yoga practice with me now and then, but I never seek to impose it on him. He is following his own heart.
WH: In your own words…what is Yoga?
BR: Yoga is a spiritual practice and a pathway to healing, overcoming obstacles, accessing your inner power and manifesting your fullest potential. The yoga poses, that attract us at first are just the beginning. It's the most complete science ever created on how to be a human being.
WH: Yoga seems to have set you on a mission. What is that mission?
BR: My mission is to inspire people to fully believe in their capacity to overcome obstacles, heal to their maximum potential, own their inherent power, and live their truth.
WH: If you could give a person new to Yoga just one piece of advice, in one sentence, what would that be?
BR: Get up before sunrise and practice 15 minutes every day without fail.
WH: Considering it all: stage four cancer and broken back, would you do it again?
BR: Without hesitation.
WH: Yoga seems to have a slightly feminine appeal to it in the West. What would you say to males who seemingly feel resistance to practicing Yoga?
BR: What I would say to all my male brothers who might feel resistance to Yoga for a variety of reasons is that it takes great courage to be flexible, soft, introspective and compassionate. We have been socialized to be tough, in charge, dominant and macho. Has this approach really worked out that well? Yoga moves us past all that stuff and sets the stage for profound healing. What have you got to lose?
It is difficult to find a more compelling story than one of a child inspiring so much change in a parents' life. Ram has done it through his own personal journey.