Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Grand Excavation

   A couple weeks back my theme in my yoga classes was around the yogic principle that comes from the first limb of yoga, the yamas, satya, or truth. This principle has many layers and subtle nuances but most importantly, as a yoga practitioner, it is what yoga is really all about. All yoga should have as its ultimate goal the awakening of and connection to the true self. The process of doing that can have many expressions and techniques, variety is necessary because every individual has a unique body, a unique set of life experiences, and different blockages and obstacles to confront on this journey of self awakening.

   When I get on my yoga mat or my meditation cushion I enter a space of investigation and curiosity. Every moment of practice is an opportunity to dig into the what is of that moment of experience and breath. The underlying question in this inquiry is , Who am I? Who am I really? In the depths of my inner looking what truth is revealed? It is a grand excavation of an amazing internal landscape.

   Thinking of this process as digging and searching, looking for truth, brought to mind being a kid and playing in my sandbox, imagining I was on a grand adventure in search of buried treasure. It struck me that yoga is or should be just like that! So that week I offered this image to my classes, as how we might choose to enter this practice.

This yoga practice and the search for truth, mine and yours, is like a kid going out to play in a sandbox, searching for hidden treasure. It is fun and enticing, we have our play clothes on, our senses focused, but mind and imagination are open. We get in the sandbox and dig, we unearth many things, all with curiosity and great intrigue. Some things we find are wonderful, old toys we forgot were there, acorns and shiny pebbles. Other times we might hit rock, or a bug or spider might scramble out and fear becomes part of the experience. It is all part of the play, the grand adventure and search for the deeply buried treasure. If we stay the course, no matter from what angle or direction we have come, we will eventually get down to the center and there we will find the most amazing and brilliant jewel, priceless and indescribable in its beauty and splendor.

 Yoga is just like that. We all might have different methods and unique experiences, but eventually we will all arrive in the same place, the truth. The truth that we are shining jewels of love and light, that our deepest contentment and peace are within us and not outside of us. I am in this practice and continue my journey and adventure. I have moments in my digging where I glimpse and feel the purity of that jewel within me, and other moments it feels obscured. The journey is rich, it is fun and delightful, and yes, sometimes it is scary and difficult, but I can't wait to see what I will find next.              

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Terrific Terror

  I posted this quote from Georgia O'Keeffe on my facebook page today, “I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.” 
Yes, this is almost exactly like one of my most favored life mottoes, " I am terrified all the time, but I just show up anyway." Honestly, this is not much of an exaggeration. Some of you who know me might be surprised at this as I generally come across as confident, secure, poised. The truth is that I have been nervous and afraid for as long as I can remember. Anxiety of varying degrees has been a constant companion. The traumas of my life, and there have been many, have rocked my world and sometimes ravaged it, but I have always just kept showing up. I step into the fear and through it. I know that it is only in walking into that fear, though it makes my knees weak, my body tremble, my mind quake, that I will make friends with it, learn the lesson of it. I also have refused to let fear keep me from doing things I want to do. So here is a list of things that I do or have done that I would not have if I let fear get the best of me. 

teach yoga and yoga dance - I love to do this and it fills me up so much but I am almost always afraid up to the moment that class begins and sometimes all the way through class. Taps into my most major fear, fear of rejection. 

run marathons- Afraid to fail, afraid to be weak or in pain.

do triathlons - Cycling and swimming bring me right into my fear of death, so completing these has been a major breakthrough.

try art school - Serious fear, as in order to do photography I had to do classes in other media, a major learning experience for me even though I did not finish.

travel- I lived in Spain for a year, have gone to Costa Rica, go to Australia quite often and travel in the U.S. and I am afraid of flying

snorkel The Great Barrier Reef, zip line in Costa Rica, wall climbing, - All great life adventures I did in varying degrees of terror. 

write a blog- Major fear of rejection involved, not being good, being wrong, being judged. 

take on higher levels of training, assisting programs, doing workshops, leading yoga teacher training -
Saying yes even though I am so unsure, so very afraid.

Do my practice, meditate, pray - These activities are about deep inward looking and not just at the nice stuff but also the dark corners and the exiled and hidden parts, but this is the only way home.  

have a family -This one is huge and I was so completely terrified going into this grand adventure I could barely see straight. I was so afraid I would be horrible at it, so afraid that I would get it wrong and cause a helpless being great suffering and harm. Thank God I stepped through the fear! My family, my husband and kids are the light of my life, they fill my heart and lift my soul.

I could go on and on. My point is that if you are afraid join the club. Fear can only win if you are not willing to step into it. Be terrified, tell someone about it, and then just show up anyway. Take it from me your life will be so much richer if you do. 


Monday, February 6, 2012

Expect Blessings

 Life is a stream of moments that contain experiences. This stream is constantly moving, shifting, changing. In one moment we might be experiencing joy and happiness and in another moment anger or sorrow. Life is not solid ground and this is a blessing because it keeps us learning and growing. It is easy to view the experiences that we call pleasurable as blessings, it is harder though, to move into experiences that bring discomfort or resistance and find the wisdom, the blessing. Sometimes what seemed like a horrible circumstance, when looked back upon later, becomes an obvious benefactor, an angel that has brought insight or evolution. Even more challenging is to surrender and allow that possibility in in the very moment of the resistance, in the very moment of fear.
A dear friend and fellow yoga teacher was talking to me about this very topic as related to our lives as teachers. It is hard to show up in the role of teacher if you had a bad day, or did not sleep well, or just don't feel "on". Sometimes circumstances show up in class beyond our control that bristle the ego and bring up our places of sensitivity and fear. He had one such story which I found touching and a testament to taking a pause and a breath, to summon faith. A reminder to look for and expect blessings to arrive no matter what the initial perception of a situation.   
I asked him to write a little about this and he agreed to allow me to share it with you.
One Angry Yogi

One student showed up at my class recently - the only student in that class, actually. In the past, I'd be upset and wonder why my classes were so poorly attended. Was it me? Do I have bad breath? Am I not sexy? After spending much time alone with myself, doing my meditation, breathing exercises and yoga postures - what us yogis refer to as "sadhana" (pronounced SAHD-NAH) - I began to let go of such worries. I realized that stressing about what others thought about me, and worrying about how many people were coming to my classes was simply a function of my ego itching for attention by distracting me from the beauty of the souls who actually did show up. Now, when even one person comes, I truly believe that is a gift. It is a unique opportunity for me to share my experience with that seeker, and to learn what makes him or her tick. And to be a good listener.
  As it turned out, this one student has been known around our town as a very angry person who, in a very nasty way, complains and moans about every little thing, including a perceived failure of our town's government to satisfy his special needs and rights as a taxpayer, etc. Lately, I have begun to notice an almost palpable shift in this student's energy and "vibe". Through the regular practice of yoga over a period of about six months, changes are occurring. Kindness and a real "slowing down" are emerging. A miracle is being born in this angry yogi. That little voice inside this student has said "go and enlighten yourself", and through the grace of the divine, I have been placed in front of my subject to witness transformation of the most profound type. So, when you see someone who gets under your skin, who just rubs you the wrong way, try stepping back for a moment. Pause long enough to withhold judgement. Realize that this individual may in fact have a very precious gift intended just for you.
~ Shivaraj Doug Greene
This is relevant on so many levels. What in your life today is your "one angry student"? Maybe it is your husband or wife, a colleague, a circumstance, an event or emotion. What are the things that bristle your ego or make you afraid? What if you tried letting your guard down even a little bit and considered the possibility of looking at it from a different angle? When we soften and see challenges as opportunities to play and explore, to become more of who we are......expect blessings, expect miracles.