Monday, September 28, 2009

Violence and Disappointment

It's actually very scientific, if you want to go there: the world is bigger than the one I want. To live in truth rather than the deluded one that is orchestrated by what I desire, it is necessary to see the larger world. The world orchestrated by my desires is a pretty biased place. Another woman I know who is able to do more advanced yoga poses would just disappear in the world of my desires because I want to be the best, and when I see someone showing me that I am not the center of attention, and the most loved woman in the room I feel my attention narrowing and my eyes hardening because I don't want to see that someone else is the most appreciated person in the room. The larger truth is that we are all in this life together, and I judge my reaction as violent. My inner executioner is there saying, "no" to what I am seeing, and on the sidelines is my inner teacher who is telling me that I should celebrate the accomplishments of this other woman. But, sometimes it seems that I am not capable of aligning with the "good girl" side. I want success.

When I want to be a better person it is a violent relationship with myself--and I really do want to be better so I am in conflict with myself as I am now. I am also disappointed when I'm not the best. When I want to be better my wanting also makes me competitive with others because they give me a way to measure myself. I can fight them. It's more tangible than fighting myself. But, it's really a problem I have with myself that becomes externalized when someone seems to embody something I want. So the problem is me.

Can't I be more than the sum of my desires and ambitions? Isn't it possible for people to come together and share a sense of awe about how amazing this experience of living is? Can't we come together in appreciation of one another and see the gifts everybody has as individuals and that we share together as a group?

The world, when I look at it through the filter of what I want, is constant disappointment--not because I don't get what I want; I often do. But the world is a big place with big problems. It's not what I want. I want a world where people care about each other across family lines, and across peoples of different races, genders, ethnicities, socioeconomic levels, and religious beliefs. I want a world where nature is honored, rather than destroyed. So I'm disappointed. And I'm violent because I'm not at peace with myself.

So in going forward when I notice my eyes narrowing and my body hardening in resistance because I see someone who embodies what I want, I plan to acknowledge that I see something I want. I have a desire, and it's okay to have a desire--totally natural. I can work towards what I want, and be okay with myself. This is the experience: moving through time, and things are changing.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sloughing Skin and Other Heroic Gestures

The thing about losing skin is that it happens mostly unconsciously... In my previous post I included a reference to the process of sloughing skin, and the nature of letting go. However since the letting go of skin happens as we go through life whether we are conscious of it or not, it is essentially different from the kind of letting go that I strive for. I actually want to loose things that I actively perpetuate, because it is the nature of mind to do this.

The food we eat is appealing because we choose it and the poop that comes out is disgusting because its appearance and smell is largely due to unconscious processes. We only seem to want what we can choose. In fact a lot of people have various lower-body disorders because there is so much attention to eating delightful food and so little care for intestinal health.

We need to do a better job of looking at the unconscious effects of our actions. They can wreak havoc on our bodies, relationships, and the planet, but it's hard to look at these effects because they are somewhat repugnant to us.

We choose something and like it, but then we don't choose how it changes and don't like that. I guess it's because we are materialist--even in relationships. Like say you have a beautiful baby daughter, and when she is a baby you love her because she's cute and you can project your dreams onto her. Then she grows up into a very different person than you expected (she's not you), so you don't like her as much. Maybe you even hate her because her life expression is in conflict with your fantasy of her. So when you see her there is a part of you that recoils: that's not my daughter! But of course really it is the daughter, and there is a misunderstanding--it's a mind problem. The mind in this case has perpetuated the notion of the fantasy daughter which gets in the way of a relationship with the alive flesh-and-blood human being daughter.

Or let’s say you marry a beautiful wife or handsome husband that you chose and so you like your mate. Then they change in ways that you didn't choose and so you start to dislike the new aspects. When a person thinks in this way, it's almost as if they believe that the world is theirs alone, and when the world acts in a way that they don't like or didn't choose this person feels like he or she has been betrayed by the world. "It's not fair because it's not what I wanted." The mind makes mischief here, too, because it has held onto the original impression of a person instead of being aware of the active unfolding of life.

A person who thinks like this believes that the world is their fantasy, and when things happen that don't fit into the fantasy there is a rejection of the world. This person is not connecting with life in a full way. The evidence is here. There is a world beyond what a person actively chooses. Do we embrace or reject experience? What do we do with this understanding?

The world is so much bigger than the one we choose, and even the things we choose change in ways we don't choose--from the foods we eat to the ones we love (and things ignored--we don't choose what happens to those things either).

We can add the energy of our care to the world and make a real difference, but we are really powerful when we work together. The shared world with both intended actions and unintended consequences is important.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Celebration Confetti

Fall brings happiness this year because I am so ready to loose a few old things. The colorful leaves are a celebration. It's like glitter falling from the trees! Or confetti...

What can I let go of?

If I was not constantly sloughing off old skin, it would accrete a nasty layer of dead cells. The same can be true of old possessions. Is there any old stuff that hangs around without purpose? Let it go, I say: Let it go. Letting go keeps us healthy.

What about thought forms?

Even if I like a song enough to have the machine play it over and over again, eventually it’s time to move on and listen to something else. The same might be true about the stories I tell myself about who I am. Maybe it’s time to tell myself something new. I can explore an aspect of myself that I haven’t had the courage to, before now.

I have a vision of the next step I need to take. How do I proceed?

Change is destabilizing. I think a person who is changing naturally feels a little (or a lot) nuts. This is part of it. It’s great if you have the support of everyone around you, but what if you don’t? Life is short: take a risk. Open your heart. Love. Succeed. Do it. Do that quiet thing in you that yearns to be given life in the world. I’m giving it a shot. Join me?

It’s why the trees are getting colorful, right now. They are actually going loony. Yes, maybe you didn’t know this before, but it’s true. The trees are losing their grip on what is “normal” for trees: green leaves. One starts to turn and the others laugh, they may even shun that colorful bloke or lass. Then the others notice their leaves getting extra sugary—and BAM, they all have it, the crazies! Pretty soon they are all celebrating by throwing their colorful clothes into the air and onto the ground! The trees show us how to do it. The trees keep it light.

It’s this “craziness” that helps them to let go and change. It’s as natural as the seasons. Hooray!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fear. And?

Have you seen the preview to the 2012 movie? It shows glimpses of total catastrophe. Big chunks of city blocks swallowed by the earth... Really scary stuff. Remember when the year 2000 was going to screw up food transportation because of the Y2K computer bug, and our bank accounts were going to get screwed up, etc. Don't we have enough fear without buying into these? I know that fear is incredibly entertaining and a good sales pitch for survival equipment, but don't we have important things to do in life? I know that my body has some kind of expiration date, and I'm grateful for the time I have. And I want to do the best I can.

Instead of encountering fear and stopping, I am trying the "Fear. And?" approach. I feel the prickly and sometimes sickening fear and I ask myself what else is here? There is fear, however can I see something else as well? If I can then a choice presents itself. Do I go with the fear, or do I do something differently? Can I offer a creative or thoughtful solution to the moment, or does the grip of fear run the show?

Fear is incredibly short-sighted. Being present with the here and now is incredibly deep. To get through the current crises we need to be deep. ...not just intellectual, but also deep. Deep including what we know and future and vision, also having a sense of how we got here might help. Who do we want to be? Who are we becoming? How do we move towards a future we want? Do we care enough to make changes?

It's not just distraction that can keep us from doing what is right, it's also fear. A fearful mind state is incredibly narrow. A person who is afraid is trying to survive, and basic instincts take over in survival mode. There isn't the presence of mind for a thoughtful response.

This world calls for a longer view. Give yourself time to release fear and relax in that state. Getting together with others in a yoga class can be a good way to relax into yourself in a way that can allow for this kind of potential to unfold. Let's change the world!

See the fear and also see what else is there. Let's find the creative solutions to personal and collective challenges. We create certain problems together. How can we solve these group effects like global warming, racism, violence, or poverty? How can we bring consciousness to our actions that have personal effects and global implications? Let's do it! Let's make the world a better place together.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Is Yoga Therapy?

Since “yoga therapy” shows up in so many publications, it may seem like a moot question, but I am called to consider it for myself…

Last spring I took a LifeForce Yoga weekend workshop and then in the summer I took the Level I intensive training with Amy Weintraub, author of the book Yoga for Depression. There were about fifty of us in the five-day training that took place at Kripalu, half of us were yoga teachers and half were mental health professionals. This made for a fascinating and lively experience. I was there looking for the connection between yoga and mental health. Most of the social workers, psychologists, and the psychiatrist were also yogis. Some were looking at ways to integrate yogic techniques into their therapy sessions. Yoga teachers seemed to be into learning to help themselves and students with mental turmoil and stagnation, perhaps...

LifeForce Yoga promises to “Manage Your Mood” which seems to indicate a focus on the mood. This title is designed to appeal to people believing that their moods cause them to suffer, and that their moods need “management”. I can relate… However, the yoga technique, itself calls for the practitioner to bring their attention back to the body. Emotional releasing happens, but the yoga practice isn’t the time to focus on the story around emotions. The stories are to be processed with the mental health professionals. So everybody has a place in the LifeForce Yoga strategy.

I thought it was really interesting to try out the technique, and do a mostly Kripalu style yoga practice with Amy. I learned some things. And the community aspect was really cool. Everybody was really interesting. I worked with it on my own and have integrated aspects of it into my practice and teaching. Looking at yoga from the mental health perspective was worthwhile.

But I just don’t think you can put yoga in a box. People come to yoga to de-stress, relieve depression, or manage back pain, etc… And yoga does help people mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Yoga itself goes way beyond our suffering. Suffering may lead someone to yoga, but yoga is not a prescription. Yoga is a vastness. Yoga transcends ordinary experience. Yoga is wonder.

To say yoga is “therapy” is to bring yoga into human proportions, when yoga is rapture and awe that is so much larger than the words any individual can use to describe it.

Yoga is not therapy.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Anger and Aggression

In a yoga class I took on Friday, I had anger and aggression pass through my handstand (arm balance) practice. I have heard some say that yoga is not a place for agression, and, well yogis don't get angry. I say: screw that!

I felt angry AND aggressive in a yoga class I was taking.

Handstand is a pose that I do easily on some days, and encounter difficulty on others. Well, Friday was one of the difficult ones. I recognize a psychological aspect in my ability to do it. When I feel powerless, I can't do it. Physically, I am strong, but there are times where I feel timid and lacking the strength to do it. There are times when I submit to this, and accept that I'm just not doing it that day. But this was not one of those times. I did things differently when I realized I felt sheepish in giving up.

I saw my teacher standing by to help and I told myself: I am going to do it. And I didn't. I heard myself say, "fuck!" in an angry whisper as my feet touched the mat again (sorry if I disturbed anyone). Luckily, he turned to help someone else (it's not you Quinn--I swear--I just needed to NAIL this one). And I felt a shot of aggression that put my legs up!

Some might say,"Brooks, life has its ups and downs, and yoga is a practice of yielding, surrendering, and practicing for death so you should have just stayed down."

And for this stage in my life this kind of surrender practice just doesn't seem appropriate. What do I serve? Fear? Authority? Tradition? How about a larger goal? Or steps toward a better world? Surrendering to the work required to make a change--I can agree to that! I have played the meek one long enough. I have a back-story that supports the part of victim pretty well. I also have a resilient spirit, a strong heart, a sharp mind, and capable hands! I believe in change, and I can DO IT.

I need to fight! Let me have my agression! Let me have my anger! Let these natural energies and responses to life's obstacles help me break through my own blocks. Yea!

(And if I turn into an unbalanced hothead--you bedda' believe I'll be searching out some quieter practices to cool my heels...)

Personal Answers

I don't think that someone else holds my answers for me. In this I know that I don't have answers for anybody else. But I also have experienced so much help from other people. We are experiencing this world together. The physical world, the emotional world, and the world of action are all shared. So when we hear other people, and share experiences the world becomes a better understood place. From a better understanding we can live better lives.

And as your "Yogic Muse" my self-appointed job is to tell you about my process. My reason for sharing in this way is that I don't believe that we are totally different. I think we share strong similarities! Our similarities are cloaked in different identities and experiences which can make things tricky. We all have different stories about what is going on, but when we listen to one another something magical happens. And I hope, even though I am talking about me (because I am the one I can talk about), that these words will serve as a helpful way to look at yourself--the one you call "I".

Also I invite agreement and disagreement. I'm learning as I go, too, so if you wish to share a response-comment either resonating with me or perhaps clashing and feeling that your viewpoint contrasts with mine--just know that I consider your words a blessing. I respect you. I respect me, also. So my response-comments or posts will likely reflect this.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cotton Candy Fluff

I see cotton candy fluff in the sky today. Will it be a delectable day? It's hard to say. I think so. Not that I want to hide from difficulty, but lightness is nice.

I see myself moving through the day with ease as I encounter different moments. I am able to see and hear and respond consciously in line with my best self and highest intentions for a life worth living. I share myself.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Intangible Yet Knowable

I like to think of myself as a tree. As a tree I am connected to the essential elements of existence. Through the roots I connect down deep into the earth, and through leaves I take in the sun's energy. I flourish as a tree. As a tree I turn inward to experience my internal flow. Water and nutrients come up through me (I feel this), and sun rays descend and bless me. I feel warmth coming in. Internal sensations are important to me as a tree. There's not much movement to distract me from deeply perceiving myself. People may come and hang around for a while, but then they'll be gone. And birds may raise their young and enjoy my branches, but they, too move on... I know that what truly sustains me is my relationship with the basics: earth, sun, rain, air, and spirit--or whatever sense of myself I have.

"The next two stages, Pranayama and Pratyahara, teach the aspirant to regulate the breathing, and thereby control the mind. This helps to free the senses from the thralldom of the objects of desire. These two stages of yoga are known as the inner quests (antaranga sadhana)."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, fourteenth paragraph of the Introduction.

Going inward might offer the perspective of the tree. A person might see the impermanent nature of relationships with individuals, and see the value of our beautiful earth, sun, water, air, and have a fuller sense of the intangible yet knowable essence of "I".

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Penis-Flowers

I guess I just realized when I was hanging out with the penis-flowers (see the picture) that through the process of blogging I had come to see a clearer picture of what I write.

Since I taught my first yoga class I have often read poetry to classes. And more and more I find myself sharing my own poetic nature on this blog.

My earlier title: Yoga, the Mind, and Culture, An earnest inquiry into yoga through the filters of study, practice, and personal experience,  was intended to allow space for me to explore whatever I wanted to yoga-wise. I have since realized that it doesn't seem to fit me: Brooks Hall, and what I am doing here, as well as it could. The old title smacks of scientific reductionism and clinical study for me, but it did its intended job well by inviting me to talk about yoga.

So I've been going through a process of creating a new title and found this one: Yogic Muse, Yoga philosophy and poetic inspiration from the heart of a creative yogi. It seems to fit! I intend to continue to write about yoga philosophy, natural inspiration, and yoga as I see it in all its manifestations. So in some ways nothing is changing. But what I want to reveal is my playfulness, my aliveness, my inner beauty, and ecstatic appreciation for the gift of yoga.

And what do the penis-flowers have to do with it? Nothing really. I just thought they were really neat and visually inspiring.

Rise, Sun!

I think the sun was changing behind a scrim of clouds this morning, modest in approach. Perhaps it wasn't quite ready for the show to start--yet. But would be, eventually. One can't tell exactly how long... Rise, sun! Your adoring fans are waiting.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Witness the Beginning

I am filled with elation as I witness the beginning of this day. There is a surge of potentiality. I possess myself. I am unwavering. I am enough, extraordinary, and even plentiful. I am a contradiction. I am skin that feels. I am a joyful heart. I am a strategist. How to begin...

I organize time for pleasure. I dedicate time to growth. I try to do something differently. I honor a goal. I work. I hide. I bust out. I meet with other delightful beings and share stories. I smile.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Moon Mystery

The moon carries mystery for me, and right now I feel less aligned with it than I have in the past. I want the white-hot sun to burn away obstacles. I want spiritual jet fuel towards fulfillment.

And here is the moon. It is lit by the sun. So even though I cannot directly feel the sun on my skin, I can witness the sun's light reflected from the moon. The moon visibly receives the light of the sun, and glows.

The Sky Blushes

The sky blushes right before the hot point of the sun shows itself above the buildings and trees as if it remembers what happened last night. For a while the sky holds red around the sun. Perhaps it likes to hear what happens on the other side of day. And finally the feelings will disperse into clarity and work.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Jarring Morning

In the midst of a jarring morning, the sun rises--burning away the thoughts that have told me I am not good enough. The sun shows me through example with a fresh face every day. It is undeterred by the world's sadness, persistant in its mission, sure in its goals, and never wavering from its chosen path.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Morning Window

A pastel sky is reminding me of the robin's egg I found on the driveway as a girl. It had a little hole with rough edges on the side, but the little body was still inside. Lifeless. Mission aborted. I imagine that the little flesh-colored body enjoyed breaths through the little window before life was gone.