Vancouver yoga teacher Eoin Finn is a yogi, surfer, blissologist, and world traveler. He is known for his enthusiasm, passion for life, and his deep commitment to make the world a more happy, healthy, loving, and positive place. In 2002 he helped conceive the Camp Moomba Yogathon, an annual event that raises money for Camp Moomba, an organization that provides children impacted by HIV/AIDS with an unforgettable summer camp experience.
The following interview with Eoin explores his involvement with Camp Moomba and the role of service and karma yoga. At the bottom of this interview is information on how you can help support and participate in this amazing giving opportunity.
iHanuman: This is Tilak, building the bridge with iHanuman. Today we're speaking with Vancouver yoga teacher Eoin Finn about his involvement with the Camp Moomba Yogathon. Eoin, thanks for taking the time to talk with us today.
Eoin: Nothing but pleasure.
iHanuman: So this coming Saturday, July 21st, is the 5th Annual Yogathon benefiting Camp Moomba. Tell us a little more about what Camp Moomba is and how you became associated with it.
Eoin: Camp Moomba is a camp on the West coast of Canada that services kids from all across Canada and internationally as well, and the mandate is to provide summer camp for kids who are impacted by HIV and AIDS. I got involved with this five and a half years ago now, because one of my friends and students, the founder of Camp Moomba, came up to me and said, You know, I think that we are going to have a financial shortfall for this camp this year, and I'm wondering of ways that the yoga community could come together to raise money for the event. And we came up with a Yogathon idea.
iHanuman: So what exactly is a Yogathon?
Eoin: The Yogathon itself started off as 108 sun salutations, which is a traditional yoga practice. And that's kind of changed, the format, since then. Last year we adopted a new format which was 108 minutes of yoga. With 108 being a yoga specific number, we wanted to stick with that format, but what we found was that for the average person, 108 sun salutations was kind of hard on them I would say. You know, 20-30% of the people out there would have wrist injuries or some kind of shoulder injury. It was just too much of a hard practice. So we've kind of moved away from the "-athon" idea, which I think as soon as hear that behind anything that you do, you automatically assume that it needs to be hard.
And we actually have gone more in the opposite direction and made it more enjoyable. One of the things that we're really trying to do, really in the spirit of union, is unite all different styles of yoga and to really emphasize the fact that no one really has a cartel on making people feel happy. There are all different paths, and this yoga path is a good one. So we put several teachers together, each leads a little chunk of their own style of yoga, and we put together an awesome flowing dance and it works great. So the format is 108 minutes right now, so that's what we're going to do again this year.
And we've added another aspect to it as well called the BlissFest. And the Blissfest is, I mean the best way I can describe it, this event more than anything is about community. I think personally that, in general, life for a lot of people becomes too economically driven and we lose some of the basics: simple good things that a lot of our ancestors had in the societies they lived in up until probably about 100 years ago. And so I almost view Blissfest as a community fair, where there are events for kids, there's tons of great music and we have food and entertainment and a Sustainable Trade Fair as well. This year we're actually doing an Eco Fashion Show as well, which is cool. It's kind of, like I mentioned, part circus.
iHanuman: That's great. And it's really awesome how you really drive home that it's not just about torturing yourself or "suffering for good," trying to make it through this 108 sun salutation marathon.
Eoin: Yeah, I mean I think that's an important step, an important psychological shift for people to make in our society. There may be certain societies out there where people need to work harder but I think in general we just need to relax.
iHanuman: We do a good enough job of that by ourselves.
Eoin: Yeah, it sounds like you have the same approach too. I think ultimately the reason that we all do yoga is to get our bodies and minds in harmony, and then you get your body and mind in harmony with everything out there. And if you're really living from that perspective I don't know if you would do yoga for eight hours straight or something like that . . . even though it's tempting. There's something strange about the human psyche. I mean, every few months people approach me and say "Why don't you do 24 hours of yoga?" or something like that.
iHanuman: And it sounds like the event has grown year after year. What has that progression looked like?
Eoin: The first year we had about 120 people that showed up to do it. Last year we had over 1000 people all doing yoga at the same place. And this year I think we're pretty much on par for at least 1500 or 2000 people. It could even be more than that, I'm not sure. You know you can just tell when events have reached a critical mass, so we're definitely on par for something really good.
iHanuman: The energy there has got to be absolutely incredible with so many people there and the positivity of this being a selfless, combined effort to make people's lives better.
Eoin: It really is. At one point I should probably send you our mission statement. But I mean a lot of people give lip service to the whole idea of working from a new model based on abundance and not on competition, but we're really trying to build the event around those principles as well. So it's actually really incredible how when you offer that chance out there to people, how they really respond to it. It's been incredibly positive like that. I mean even the people who we have at this event organizing it, they're used to organizing big computer trade shows or something like that and they're just shocked. Even the people who are vendors are not having this 'What's in it for me?' mentality, but 'How can we give back?' kind of mentality. It spreads once you allow people to operate on that level.
iHanuman: There was a news story on the internet a couple weeks ago about how scientists are now actually finding that people who give money and know that that money or part of that money is going to be used for improving other people's lives, there is a chemical shift in the brain, and associates this positive feeling with it.
Eoin: I'm sure, yeah. All levels including the chemical structure of your mind I'm sure would be hugely impacted by the positivity that's going on. And that's the beautiful chance to offer something back for the human evolution experiment that we're conducting.
iHanuman: There are so many people practicing yoga now, and in this case yogis definitely are stepping up to, I wouldn't say 'confront' the situation that these children are living with, but contributing in a positive way. I was so inspired when I first heard about your involvement with this. I thought, 'Yes, this is what yogis need to be doing.' It's a great example. And there are so many people doing yoga that we have the capability to make such a huge difference. What are yogis' responsibilities in the service area? Could you speak some to that?
Eoin: I agree, absolutely. I think I know whet you're getting at with your question. Yeah, it's an important thing because it's important to keep that spirit of deep connection with others and karma yoga alive. And I think one of the major things we need to look at in the yoga movement is how popular it's getting and what out relationship is to that. Because I look, for example, at another really positive movement that happened on the planet in San Francisco in the late 1960's, that whole peace and love movement. And it's there to a large extent, but you know when I go through the San Francisco airport I can see tie-dye t-shirts for sale as another novelty of San Francisco, that has become part of this commercial machine kind of thing. And I think in one sense it's an interesting time in the history of yoga, because when you really look at the teachings of yoga it's kind of a medicine for too much greed in your life. And I think that because that's such popular medicine, sometimes for people giving out the medicine, it's very tempting to get consumed by the very illness that they're
trying to treat in the first place, which is greed.
A simple example I look at is that I really have my sights set on going to Japan, just because I used to live there and I haven't been over there for a long time. And I know it's a popular thing for a lot of people in the yoga community to be doing these days, but I just look at it and go, 'Yeah, I think it is the responsibility of a yogi to give back somehow to the community.' So don't just go to a place and do some tradeshow somewhere, and try to sell as much of your goods, wares, and services and then leave, but actually try and do something that impacts that area in a positive way. And try to look at your life more like energy, and try to spread your own positive energy and really connect with our life's mission. I basically look at life as a balance between two different aspects: one is we have our own selfish needs and desires, and on the other end of it we realize that everything is more connected, that everyone has the right to be happy, and everything has the right to survive. And somehow we have to balance those two extremes out. And socially, as people and as yogis, we can be a little more on the side of giving back before we leave the planet.
iHanuman: Sometimes people see or approach their yoga practice as almost a solitary endeavor, it's what happens on your mat, and people aren't challenged as much, I don't think, to take it off the mat, to see their yoga off the mat as maybe more important. So what I find unique with the Yogathon at this Camp Moomba benefit is how it is both at once. You are doing something on your mat but it's contextualized in this much bigger selfless framework about connecting to other people.
Eoin: Yeah, it's perfect that way actually. It's a good observation. It reminds me in a way of the Buddhist Metta meditation where you send love and compassion to your own self first, and then gradually to people you know and then to people you don't know. And it's such a great model and way to train your brain and your whole being to respond to life. I need to take care of myself first, and that's what this physical practice of yoga is about. At the end of the day it's about feeling good. I don't know of one single activity where you feel as good as after a yoga practice. And once you do that, Step B is to spread that goodness around. So it should definitely be encouraged more, and I see some signs of it for sure in other events. But yeah, everyone who's on that train, if you have one foot in the door, keep going! Spread it!
iHanuman: And on the other hand another thing you see often are those people who are really into service who just work, work, work, but are really detached from their own bodies.
Eoin: Yeah, it's true and that's a really excellent point. I think the body is an amazing tool. And it also reminds me of activism a little bit too. I know that a lot of people who are activists do great work, but if there's a feeling of anger in your body, and I think that anger is a physical response to life as much as it's a mental response, you have to really feel when your body is not there. We all give a lot of attention to the phrase "Be Present," but I honestly believe that the total barometer for being present is right in your body. I mean you'll know when you're present because your body feels a certain way. And it's definitely hard if you're in the field of service, it's hard to not drain yourself dry. I actually do free yoga classes a couple times a year just for people who are in community service for that very reason.
iHanuman: I think I had read that last year's Yogathon raised almost $86,000 for this camp. Is that right?
iHanuman: That is absolutely amazing.
Eoin: It's incredible actually. Yeah. And the real big spin-off is in the attention that the camp gets, because they need the media exposure. They are kind of handicapped in a lot of ways because unfortunately there is such a stigma around HIV and AIDS and talking freely about the issues people face who are experiencing it from a first person perspective, especially if you're a kid. And it's not like a lot of other causes where you can actually show first hand images of people who are experiencing this because there are privacy issues involved. So not only the funding, but the media attention is important. The whole issue of pediatric AIDS is huge.
iHanuman: And it has to be a unique experience for those kids who do encounter that stigma, whether they or their parents have HIV/AIDS, to be able to find camaraderie at a camp with kids who are going through the exact same thing. It has to be incredibly powerful and healing.
Eoin: It's totally unique and powerful and I completely salute all the people at Camp Moomba who organize the camp and really put their energy behind it. I mean it's hard enough when you think about it just being a kid, just trying to deal with some of the life issues that we all deal with, and then to be dealing with any disease, and especially HIV and AIDS, which are so unpredictable and we don't have a lot of scientific data on it. And you can get yourself into a dark corner pretty quickly being a kid, so yeah, it's nice just to have that chance to come and play. We all deserve it.
iHanuman: So this event is happening there in Vancouver, but for all the yogis reading this I want to emphasize that we all can get involved. This is an extremely important opportunity for us as yogis to step up. How can people here in the States and around the world help contribute?
Eoin: You can go to www.campmoombayogathon.com, and if you want to do the random acts of kindness thing, you can pick someone and donate to them even if you don't know them and help them out. You can also make direct donations to the camp at their website: www.campmoomba.com. It's quite simple. All the registration, the whole event is actually run online, so it's a completely paper-free event.
iHanuman: So go to www.campmoombayogathon.com, hit the donate button, and let's send some positive energy and love your way.
Eoin: And we would love to expand it too. We definitely have plans to bring it across Canada and maybe into the U.S. as well, because we'd actually love to create other camps in other areas. That's our longer term goal for sure, without becoming burnt out people in service like we talked about.
iHanuman: That would be great later on to have some affiliate, satellite events joining in on the same day around the country. That would be awesome.
Eoin: That would be powerful for sure. It's a beautiful thing just participating in the event gives you enough fuel in your positivity bank account to last a couple years.
iHanuman: That's how we'll make a difference in the world and really change things is by starting in our communities and the little things really add up.
Eoin: I agree.
iHanuman: I appreciate you taking the lead on this one and I know you are inspiring a lot of people.
Eoin: Yeah, thanks for all of your interest in the event and all the great things you're doing to promote karma yoga too. It's a beautiful thing, iHanuman.
iHanuman: Eoin, thanks for helping to build the bridge there in Vancouver through all of your service and your love.
For more information on Eoin, you can check out his brand new, awesome website: www.eoinfinnyoga.com, and you can also listen to the great interview that Lara at YogaPeeps did with Eoin at www.yogapeeps.com (Episode #5). Namaste!