Monday, December 20, 2010

I'm reflecting this early morning, the day before Winter Solstice, about the ways that darkness and light interplay on the film screen of our awareness. Patanjali in YS 2.3-2.9 mentions the first cause of suffering as not seeing things as they are, or avidya.

"The causes of suffering are not seeing things as they are, the sense of 'I,' attachment, aversion, and clinging to life. Not seeing things as they are is the field where the other causes of suffering germinate, whether dormant, activated, intercepted, or weakened. Lacking this wisdom, one mistakes that which is impermanent, impure, distressing, or empty of self for permanence, purity, happiness, and self. The sense of 'I' ascribes selfhood to pure awareness by identifying it with the senses. Attachment is a residue of pleasant experience. Aversion is a residue of suffering. Clinging to life is instinctive and self-perpetuating, even for the wise." (Hartranft, YS 2.3-2.9)

I think there's so much to this brief description and I think when we're talking about human experience, this contains all we need to know about suffering. Patanjali goes on to describe the ways to alleviate suffering through self-study and meditation and other things, but if we're talking about the interplay of darkness and light, this really sums it up.

I know in my life, I am learning to see injuries (dark) as insights (light), problems (dark) as opportunities for growth (light), and death (dark) as a means for celebration and appreciation of life... and even as creating space for new things to be born in its place (light).

I have seen and heard so many people focusing on negative things that happen (or focusing on the negative experience of them)... People suffer so much when mired in the darkness. Also, on the other extreme, the one who lives in constant celebration of only "good" things might miss the chance to offer a hand to a suffering individual.

I finally see myself as capable of embracing real transformative change... It's been such an awkward and clunky transition and grown spurt, as most growth spurts are, but it's one I am glad to be able to claim as my own. This year has been marked by so many moments of darkness that I am tempted to focus on them, but without those moments so many great opportunities would not have happened. I'll check back later and talk more about this, also relate this subject to some great insights I have had recently regarding my teacher training.

Have a beautiful, dark, short day!


Monday, December 13, 2010

Teacher Training Notes, Nov/Dec

I have had some amazing opportunities recently (I am having them all the time, but these were especially special) and I have been putting off talking about them for too long, so here is what I can say this morning.

On November 12 I drove up with my dear friends and yoga instructors Candy, Sarah and Vicki to Pennsylvania to attend a weekend workshop with John Friend, founder of Anusara Yoga. I have had some instruction in Anusara before and have a basic understanding of its foundations but this was like going from riding a tricycle to driving a Ferrari. There is something about the style that brings up so many emotions in me, in a good way, but the results are often messy. For example, John's first instructions to us were:

If I had only one thing to teach you, one opportunity, one class, here it is: Soften the limiting ideas of yourself. Dissolve what you think you can’t shift and change. We are more than we think we are. Have a beginner’s mind. You are worthy of living this day fully.

Sounds pretty basic as far as yoga instructions, right? We often tell students to relax in the posture, to be steady and comfortable, but also to have a transformative and fiery determination in our practice (a la Yoga Sutras)... but when I am challenged to do it, it seems so much harder. Lately I have been feeling that I over-protect my heart and when challenged to open up, the outcome is often clunky and awkward (think of a toddler who is just learning to walk... they can get from point A to point B, but they teeter and totter and fall down a few times getting there)... So when I looked up at one point in the class and saw the John was staring ME in the face and repeating the words "Melt your heart. Melt your heart!" I burst out into tears.

There was nowhere to go, and even in a room of 300 people practicing Asana you can all of a sudden feel very lonely. But I have been processing the event ever since and I realize it's just what I needed to hear at this point in my life. I have been falling in and out of commitment to what feels like healing old wounds for so long that the notion of actually internalizing change seems impossible. But those simple words above remind me that it's possible. The weekend was designed around the idea of change, through our openness to grace, our willingness to set boundaries, and our commitment to shifting our attitudes. I'm proud to say that I am still there in that place even though (as I mentioned) it often looks very messy.

A friend this weekend in Rolf's teacher training said that my heart was WIDE open and scoffed when I said felt like it wasn't. I don't know, maybe she knows something I don't (or won't admit).

Our theme this weekend was "Choosing a Path and Sticking With It." Here are some tidbits from my notes and handouts:

Two skills are implied: choosing and sticking.

In this instance the choosing requires reflection, study, practice and honesty. To know that we are on the right path in and of itself represents a great blessing in one's life. It is in fact outrageous good fortune.

Sticking with the path that we have chosen is as challenging as finding it in the first place. It is in most cases an act of faith, an assertion of our belief in the underlying goodness of ourselves, each other, and of life itself; often times in the absence of any proof of that goodness.

We talked about the significance of physical integration in yoga poses as a means to physically stick with a path. In fact, my group's presentation was around integration both in poses [hugging skin to muscle, muscle to bone; drawing from the periphery of the body to the midline of the pose; and pulling into the foundation of the pose into the focal point (upper palate, heart, and pelvis)] and metaphorically (through seasons, through relationships to self and other and through drawing on inner strength and resolve to shine out). Let me shorten this story by just saying that this assignment nearly tore our group apart. Very ironic since the theme was pulling together! I have to say honestly that the assignment was just a trigger that brought all our fears and insecurities to light. But in the end, we shined, even one group member who had never taught yoga before, who may have shined the brightest of all. It was a tremendous experience in allowing your perceived limitations to dissolve and stumble forward, however awkwardly, and having faith that all will work out.

Everything I am doing in my life right now... managing my own business, completing my 500 hour TT with Rolf, starting a non-profit, managing a household, being a better wife and friend... all of it feels very awkward and often clunky. But there are moments in which success seems possible, and I have to learn to allow those moments to be the inspiration which remind me of my own worth. That I can live each day to its fullest no matter what comes along, and in doing so, become stronger and happier.

More later about the weekend.