Sunday, May 30, 2010

Desiring change.

*picture from Greenpeace*

I'm really sad and overwhelmed about the oil spill. I was on my bike and looking at all the cars... And this state of mind is fed by other things that disturb me. Like I saw this really horrible video with cows standing in for the objects of men's pent up rage in a dairy, so I haven't been able to use milk for my coffee (the only place I was using it). I've been drinking soy milk with my coffee and wonder if it contains neurotoxins. I've been avoiding using single-use plastics. Lululemon is curing women's scourge of "camel toes". Like women don't already have enough body image issues? And these are just the things I'm fuming about right now.

"The environmental movement, however misconstrued, is an attempt to integrate mind and body, to balance our wealth generation and consumption habits with the body that is Earth."
-Matthew Sanford, 'Waking'

I know that I am an activist at heart, and I don't want to hide under a protective 'om'. But there was a time when I avoided the news. It just seemed too horrible. I thought it interfered with a positive vibe I was attempting to cultivate within myself.

I've been educated to think of myself as a consumer in a system that already exists. And this is how I act. Rather well behaved. When I don't like something about myself, well I can always buy something to fix it. But how can we make meaningful change in this world? There is trouble in the system currently in place. Or is the trouble really us? Our complacency.

When I was little I remember watching commercials on TV about not polluting or being a "litter bug". To this day, I get mad when I see someone throw their trash on the ground. But to realize that throwing something I've used into a trash receptacle is really not enough. Can I recycle? How can I make less trash? Should I have bought that in the first place? Can someone else use it? Our economy is largely based on people buying things... Useless things? Things that become trash.

Will our world heal itself? Or does it need our help?

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Mind just doesn't "get" Yoga.

Yoga is in a realm beyond words.

For as crazy in love with yoga as I've been, there is a part of me that remains skeptical. Just this morning, I'm embarrassed to say, I had a moment of fear when I wondered, "How am I going to stand in front of those people and teach them yoga." I was in a moment of feeling lost and disconnected, and I was about a block away from the building where I teach my first class of the day. And thankfully, moments later the looks of warm greeting and expectation from the class caused the doubting me to vanish. I was a passionate teacher, and totally into it once I got started.

There is an aspect of yoga (probably the heart of it) that is beyond words. All we really have to offer one another to pass yoga on is technique. Our minds can grasp technique. But what happens when we practice is ultimately beyond ordinary communication. Poetry tries, but only when we see through the spaces that the ideas open up do we get a fantastic glimpse. So, it's not the words of the poetry or the angles of the arms and legs in a yoga pose, but it is where we go from those launch pads of language and form that is so fortifying and affirming.

So I really believe that yoga is beyond the grasp of the thinking mind. And I find it wonderful that I want to talk about it so much. Isn't it strange to want to speak the ineffable?

The transmission of techniques is important. In a recent posts I've talked about my inner conflict with the traditional teachings, and how I've embraced the marketplace of yoga (because that's what I know...). This is another angle: the importance of studying, using, preserving, living and teaching yoga technique. There is something very real and powerful in these techniques for practicing yoga.

It's important to honor the teachings we have because the mind doesn't get it. And when we think that we've "got it" you can be sure that we're in an inflated state, or stuck because yoga is a window into the unknown. If we think that we know the unknown I'm sure that we are really oversimplifying. Labels and definitions help put things into human hands, but there is something about yoga that is beyond what any one person can hold by himself or herself.

I've been extremely fortunate to have studied extensively with the best Ashtanga Yoga and Iyengar Yoga teachers in town. And the situations where I have been so humbly blessed with beautiful experiences have happened when teachers were honoring these techniques for practice that came from India.

The mind can shape the container that yoga goes into, but that's all. The imperfect process of our humanity becomes blessed with yoga, and escapes the container of ordinary mind.

Linda-Sama recently commented on a post, "there is a saying in India: dharma teachings are like a bowl of rice; you pick out the dirt and leave the rest to nourish you."

There are flaws in the teachings, but even so, we might also be nourished by their wisdom.

*simul-posted at Elephant Journal*

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Traditional Spiritual Lineage is not right for Me because I'm Female.

Just as my female body contains a metaphor for creating new life, so also does my existence in the realm of spiritual pursuits require a creative act.

A benefit of yoga in the marketplace is that there are plenty of women leading the way; we are used to seeing images of beautiful women in advertisements so there is an ongoing potential for commercial success for svelte females in yoga.

But I recoil in shame when I consider what is coming across to consumers: perhaps that yoga cultivates commercially acceptable beauty, or that yoga is for physical fitness. Could it be that yoga is here to help us get laid? Come on... When commercial yoga panders to our insecurities, just like any other product for sale, doesn't that cheapen the potential? Or doesn't that cheapen our estimation of what we, as yoga teachers or yoga businesses offer?

As I read and study about traditional yoga I find myself filtering and editing as I read to try to include myself in texts that were written for male seekers. And I've done a pretty good job, having pushed through countless hours of reading about men in yoga. And I love men in yoga... But when it comes to conceptualizing a vision of my yoga path, the words that were intended for male seekers from earlier generations do not always hit home for me as a female yogi practicing and living in today's world.

And I've heard that there are a handful of obscure examples of traditional yoga that honor women. But, I really haven't seen any that I can identify with.

We don't even have a tradition here in the States, what we have is a marketplace, and what this requires of us as consumers is personal responsibility. Just like it's time for us to take responsibility for the oil we use, it's also time for us to take responsibility for the quality of our hearts and minds.

Maybe it's me. Maybe I struggle with being a female yogi who is not always sure where she really fits in. Maybe I should try to be thin and beautiful and perfect. Maybe you should buy into my yoga because you love my body.

This is what bothers me.

Yoga is about a union between consciousness and form, or the "inner" and "outer" worlds. If popular yoga is too focused on physical feminine beauty, are we ever going to break through to an authentic experience of spiritual depth? Are we ever going to pursue beyond our obsession with physical form and youthful beauty? Right now our "yoga" in most places seems to be right in line with commercial norms.

Yoga tradition intersects with the modern marketplace. And I think that we enter fantasyland when we try to ignore that. Even when someone has learned from a traditional source, what a teacher brings to his or her classes is what they know. It is always their account of that tradition or lineage, so teachers are actually creating as they are teaching.

But, our yoga does inspire questions such as mine, and perhaps that's enough for now. And maybe yoga has arrived in the marketplace at this time to remind us that we are more than consumers. We are human beings with hearts and spirituality, and we can be responsible for ensuring that our world can remain inhabitable and joyful, as well as profitable.

*simul-posted at Elephant Journal*

Monday, May 17, 2010

I am an Elephant!

I now have a long and beautiful trunk, a big belly and giggle like Ganesha! Not really...

But, really:
In addition to writing for the Elephant, I have also become a Member of the fine and fabulous Elephant Journal, and I think that you should consider becoming one, too. Read more, here.

As much as I love this personal blog, I get really excited about supporting a community space such as this. Check it out!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, May 14, 2010

In Defense of Marketplace Yoga

In the society I live in, it might seem like there is no reason to defend marketplace yoga the marketplace of yoga seems just fine, actually, but there are those among us who are concerned about what is actually getting translated into this marketplace. Are we just telling ourselves nice stories about yoga, or are we really "getting" the yoga?

I have my own experience of yoga education located in this very marketplace to offer up as an example:

In fact, the part I'll talk about now happened in the upscale Gold Coast neighborhood in Chicago. It was the year 2000 at an ashtanga yoga studio that has since closed: Priya Yoga that was at 1 East Oak Street, located above a pizza shop. When walking up the stairs to yoga, the nose was greeted with the smells of pizzas baking.

It was when I was pushing my way up the flights of stairs to Priya Yoga after work that a pungent voice of inner-judgment would often assault me: Who the hell do you think you are, doing this Gold Coast yoga?

But somehow I made it up those stairs, again and again through the barrage of insulting thoughts. It helped that the studio was warm and friendly, and it also helped me that the teachers and other people seemed to like my being there. I loved being there. I loved the yoga. It became like another home for me.

After one Friday-night ashtanga yoga class here my life would be changed invisibly yet indelibly. When this particular yoga class was over, I was on the way out when I stopped to thank the yoga teacher. I was looking into the eyes of this instructor, when what appeared like golden rain began falling down, yet somewhat suspended, like glinty-gold bits in a snow-globe slowly and lightly falling down toward me and all around me shining bits of light. I had a sense that everything around me was permeated with love: my body, the teacher's body, the air between us and all around me, the other people, the desk behind the teacher, the walls, the carpet, the ceiling, the next room, the door, the hallway and stairs, absolutely everything seemed to be permeated with this love as integrated into the fabric of all things and non-things. Yeah, I was high after that yoga session. Was this experience a figment of my body chemistry? Was it somehow a delusion caused by dehydration, exhaustion or toxicity?

What scientifically happened to me is a little less important than what spiritually happened to me. I actually thought for the first time in my life that the fabric of our world might be good. I had felt it to be absolutely and irrefutably good from a song in my cells. Love had spoken from every particle I was aware of in that moment.

I think that our realizations in yoga are more about our dedication as individual practitioners than about the marketplace of yoga, but this economy does support the houses of yoga and teachers of yoga that create a situation where amazing and previously-unimaginable things can happen for people.

I am grateful that I have been able to have this and many other beautiful, meaningful, and life-enhancing yoga experiences that I don't think are over by any means. But there was a money-based background that made it possible to experience the yoga that I have. So the marketplace is not separate from our yoga, it actually makes yoga more accessible than ever before because it is a part of our economy.

* also posted at Elephant Journal.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Not Blogging is Really Hard!

I first thought that I might do this as a time capsule entry that I would choose to release on or after June first. But I now think that I just might get up from this savasana a bit early. It's kind of like when I sit down for a 30 minute meditation, and then decide that it's time to get going after 20 (don't look too closely at the math...). It's still good that I've meditated! And I sure am not about perfection... Nope. And I can see that I've gotten some good stuff out of the amount I've done. Maybe I'm ready to roll over to the right side of my body, rest there for a bit, and then use my hands and arms to push myself up to a seated position, and blog!

I just do want this writing to remain as a regular part of my life. The yearning bursts from me like something beautiful.

It is only the 12th day of my month-of-May 2010 blog savasana and I've been really missing it. The first week was okay, but around the 10th day it got hard; I wanted to get back to it! I miss the sense of involvement and distraction that blogging can provide. Blog me up, Scottie!

I love you my precious blog, and cherished readers!!

This time spent not blogging has yielded valuable personal insight for me. I am looking for more and maybe there's not more. So basically I have been wondering if I have been just using this extra time so far to abuse myself--not too helpful...

But I did have a very personal and seemingly key breakthrough about a block in my Very Personal life. Yes! I have one. And I think that my blog moratorium has allowed the space for this to happen. I have forced myself to sit with it. In the process I drank wine.

I had observed behavior in myself around blogging that I felt was out-of-synch for me, even though I was doing it. The first thing I was doing every morning was checking my blog traffic information: how many "unique visitors" saw my blog the day before. I think living this way cheapens my existence. When I mentioned this to a friend, she made me laugh about it. So, of course, it could not possibly cheapen my actual existence here as that is totally out of my control. But, I do find that the way I start my day sets the tone for the day. So if I start with a prayer, the world might seem more magical. And if I start with meditation, I might start with a greater awareness of my mental soup, and awareness, period. Starting with yoga leaves me with a greater sense of physical precision and activation. Or if I start the day providing food and water for my bunnies, and pet them, I am starting from a stance of care and connection that extends far beyond those first moments.

I think that the wee hours are holy. So when I use those first moments at about 4:30 am to check my site statistics on my iPhone something seems wrong with that picture. Am I living to see the number of visitors to my Web site? No... But, I love visitors very much! And I am living to live my life, truthfully--not perfectly!

I haven't looked at those statistics during this blog break. I determinedly have deleted my statistics emails every day, to remind me about what I'm not doing--blogging! What a horror...

So as I get back to blogging, I plan to wait to see those stats until a bit later in the day...just not first thing. Because I'm worth it. I wish to honor the beauty of existence in some way that seems appropriate. Waking up in the morning is a blessing, and I just want to honor that in some way every day before I move on to other activities and blogging.

I am so happy to post this entry!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone