Perhaps this has already been done, but I’d be curious to know the results of an in-depth survey about why, exactly, it is that many people go to yoga classes. I can think of many reasons off the top of my head — such as: community, connection, ecstatic experiences — or at least sweaty ones, exercise, detoxification, body awareness, health, calm, peace, etc. etc. — not to mention the supposedly-desired ‘yoga-butt’ that has been written up in countless columns. And yet…I still wonder, what’s beneath the beneath? Continue Reading »
Perhaps this question seems too obvious to even bother asking. Most sensible people would answer with a resounding “No! I like my life!” But most sensible people don’t imagine that there is anything they can do to have a very real impact in and on the world. But they are wrong — we all have an impact each and every moment we live, and that impact ripples across the universe long after we die, whether we choose to do many things in spectacular fasion, or nothing at all (or as little as possible to continue living).
I am reminded of a brilliant Rilke poem, one that Joanna Macy used for the title of her memoir, Widening Circles:
I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?
You may wonder, quite rightly, what all this has to do with inviting sabotage into your life. It is my belief that when we wake up to our ever-deeper sense of purpose and power, we will have no choice but to transform our lives in ways we could not have possibly imagined, in ways that your friends and family might find foolish or irrational. But, as Mary Oliver writes in The Journey:
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
In a sense, you save your life by sabotaging it — at least that’s how it might seem at times. Paradoxical, no?
Learned a lot from the class today, and am grateful (no pun intended, really!) for the challenges of having fewer people there than I had anticipated. The first time I taught there were 10 particpants — this time…fewer. In an unexpected way, it was just the experience I needed. Thank you, universe, for providing me with a little taste of the unexpected.
The quote that is currently on the Yoga Loft’s website, which I refer to in the title above, is from a statement Van Jones made to the Pachamama Facilitators Global Gathering in June 2007. While I am going to replace that blurb on the website with something that might be a little more accessible, especially for those who haven’t yet heard of Van Jones (impossible as that seems to me!), and for those who might get triggered by the notion of growing their comfort zones, that statement resonates deeply for me. The speech Van Jones gave is one of the most powerful and painful talks I have ever heard, even though I watched it on DVD. In essence, he is addressing our shadow — those parts of ourselves that we don’t even realize we’re not acknowledging, that we’ve stuffed into the ‘long black bag we drag behind us’, as Robert Bly put it.
Confession: It most certainly is one of my intentions to grow your ‘damn comfort zone’ (as well as my own) in The Yoga That Reconnects. I like to think of my boundaries as fluid, but very real, and it is in the practice of moving from the center to the edge, riding that edge, and coming back to the center that we can become more comfortable with the full range of our embodied human experience. I am working on experiencing all feelings, emotions and states as ‘positive’ in the sense that they are really happening, and I want to deepen my experience of them rather than trying to subvert, transcend, distract, or immediately transform them, whether my initial habitual response is that these states are ‘good’ or ‘bad’. We have been given all our capacities as gifts, and even our capacity for pain is a great gift. Without feeling pain, we would not be able to function in this world — there’s a great book called The Gift of Pain by Dr. Paul Brand (and don’t let the fact that he’s a Christian throw you off, yogis!). Read it if you are intrigued and report back to me and your community — would love to know what your response was to the stories and teachings Brand shares.
This might be rather obvious to most of you, but I had a simple lesson in new-making over the past two days. I showed up a once-in-a-generation event to bless the sun on Wednesday morning, and spoke to a reporter from the SF Chronicle for a few minutes about why I was there. I told him a bit about what I was doing (which was pretty similar to what I put in my bi0 here), and why I woke up early to attend the event.
While I felt the first part of my quote was taken a little out of context, it was accurate. What was more interesting to me was that based on our conversation, the reporter chose the label ‘environmental activist’ to describe me. There’s nothing wrong with environmental activism, and I have the utmost respect for many activists of many different stripes, but I find it a huge stretch to call myself an environmental activist. Still, for the ten or eleven people that actually read this article, they will have the ‘fact’ in their consciousness that I am an environmental activist — and what is the ‘truth’ of that? So often, for better and worse, the truth is the stories we tell ourselves. What I realize is that I need a better story to tell so that I can define myself in a way that feels more resonant with my purpose and action in the world. More to come on this as well…
A bit of an unfinished thought: I was listening to my friend Scot Nichol’s internet radio broadcast about how our brains and bodies have evolved, and one of his analogies really struck me, and seems resonant for our times: If we use our brains to ‘think’ ourselves out of what’s happening in our bodies (or in our embodied Selves), it is a lot like trying to work against the cycles of nature or against the weather in our bioregion. We could try to do that, but why would we want to? Why not acknowledge what is happening and feel more deeply into it, rather than resisting or immediately trying to transcend or obliterate the feeling?
This is similar to contrasting ‘power-over’ with ‘power-with’. (Forgive the awkwardness of that construction.) When you in a ‘power-over’ paradigm, you must necessarily develop armor to protect yourself and prevent a breach in the walls you have built. In constructing this armor, we blind ourselves to a deeper layer of what’s ‘really’ happening in the world, and constrict ourselves even further in limiting our ideas about what’s possible not only in our own lives, but also for the human community on this planet. ‘Power-with’ is synergistic, and more resilient. There is no one locus of control, and intelligence is spread throughout the organism. More on this to come…
We’ll be formally starting the Yoga That Reconnects 8-week curriculum with practices and poses focused on Gratitude. This the first element of the spiral of The Work That Reconnects, and is the foundation of all the practices that follow. After all, if you can’t cultivate true gratitude for your presence right here and right now in this mysterious and awe-inspiring universe, how are you going to face the challenging journey into the despair and darkness?