Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Good Morning!

I had a great day yesterday- A highlight of which includes a lovely practice with Mandy, Hannah, Gioconda and Sabia. I was pretty sore and tired when we started but then somehow, my body really opened up and we went to some pretty cool places together. My back bends felt great and it was super fun just being together in a low key, yet somewhat hard-core practice.

After our practice I taught class at 4:30 and I talked about unity.

I have been in a mode lately of considering what is my vision and our group's vision for our community here in Austin. Along with that consideration is the contemplation of "What is in our way of realizing that vision?" I think it is good to examine that stuff in light of the big picture. If you have a big picture vision but are not looking at such liabilities, you can become somewhat complacent or delusional because you are so anchored in the vision you fail to see you have not manifested it yet. You may have a vision to be a dynamic community of highly trained teachers but not be looking at the fact your classes are boring. (Or whatever.) Or we could always be examining our faults but without reference to a bigger vision and then it become a tedious, critical existence that is negatively focused.

So best I think is when we see our shortcomings as those thing that are in our way of actually realizing the vision of our heart. Then facing our weakness and working through them, while difficult, at least has a context that is inspiring. The Work has some meaning, so to speak.

Okay, so in light of that ongoing discussion someone told me recently that our reputation as a method is that we are exclusive, cliquish and elitist. So I have been thinking some about this. I think on one level when a group of people come together for a long period of time and cultivate community, a closeness and a camaraderie, a unity is created that is very strong and very deep. I think it is an excellent thing.

I also know that that closeness can seem exclusive to someone who is a newcomer to the group. The unity of the group who knows each other so well- they share inside jokes, common expressions, history though ups and downs- can form almost a force field that to a new person doesn't feel welcoming at all. In fact it can feel repellent. I think it is easy to be in the group of people who know one another, enjoying each other and the closeness-- and fail to see the people who are not feeling it. It is easy, in the midst of hanging with your "peeps" to miss the person who feels left out and to invite them in. So there is that. Good old fashioned "not noticing."

And the reality is that if you are new to a group, well you are new to a group. The only way to know people for a long time is to well, be around for a long time. So that is another part of the story, which is just factual. You are new. Plain and simple.

But the newcomer may have a personal story about being left out that they wrap around the facts and so that fact of "simply being new to the group" becomes something that feels personal, painfully familiar to "all the other times they didn't belong" and so forth. So there is that, too.

So, here is the hard part to face. Many of us have wounds around these issues and when we are part of the in crowd, we actually do lord it over others in sometimes subtle and no so subtle ways. There are ways that we do exclude and we fail to welcome others because there is some kind of pay off to it. Conscious or not, I have seen it and I have been on both ends of the dynamic more than once. I get reports from people all over the world that they see this in our community. They hear us talking about community but they personally do not feel it or experience it. They experience the opposite. It is heart breaking but it does no one any good to pretend this doesn't happen because then we cannot endeavor to rise to a higher way of relating to one another.

It is as though we- sincere yogis that we are who believe in community with all of our hearts- reenact some kind of high school clique scenario where we are so happy to "finally be in" that we do not invite others in for fear that if they get in, then we will be thrown out. Or something like that. I think it is unconscious for many people so I am not saying it as some kind of finger pointing accusation, I am really not. I just want us to do better.

And what is so cool about it if we really look at it clearly is that we can see it as less than optimal and we can do better. If we have failed to simply notice someone is new, we can set our intention in such a way that we can begin to notice more readily the new person and make a commitment to consciously welcome them and ease them into the shared experience that it is to practice Anusara Yoga. If someone has a tendency toward "feeling left out" and we recognize that goes on for them, we can help them, we can serve them by reaching out first. We can root out those wounds and those seeds of competition, jealousy and scarcity that operate at the source of the "high school clique reenactment" and at least do our part.

That is what it is for me. I want to know within myself that even if someone feels left out- I have done everything I can do to be inclusive. Then, if my side of the street is clear, so to speak, and someone still feels like an outsider, well, I can honestly and lovingly say to them, "that is your work to do." What I want for all of us in our local communities to be doing is to be asking ourselves, "Are I doing everything I can to be as inclusive as possible?" and "Am I doing everything I can to recognize that I am included if I want to be?" If everyone is really searching their own hearts relative to these questions, I think the accusation of elitist, cliquish and so on will have less evidence to support it.

So more on this later. Must go teach.


hagbard said...

One thing that has been a concern to me lately about the Anusara community in Austin is that there are a lot fewer 'beginner' classes than there used to be. When I talk to someone who is *completely* new to yoga, the only 'beginner' class I know to point them to is Mandy's Hatha* on Sunday mornings.

There used to be a lot more. Perhaps part of not being 'exclusive, cliquish, and elitist' is to take care to maintain the onramps... so those who (like I did) are coming from step zero have a clear path forward.

Christina Sell said...

I totally agree. This is the first time in over 12 years of teaching that I have no Level 1 class that is appropriate for beginners.

But here is something cool, Hannah and I are are going to teach a 6- week Beginning Series at Breath and Body Yoga starting on January 14. Then Hannah will continue teaching it as a Level 1 class, perfect for newer students.


hagbard said...


I'm very glad to hear that :)

Leslie Salmon said...

6 years ago, at Inner Harmony, I was one of four students new to the group of 60 at one of John's last weeks in that venue. I know the feeling you write about.

2 years ago, in Park City, a young woman - alone and excited to be at John's training, her first - spoke to me out of the blue. Initially, I was obligingly cordial. I intended to end the conversation and go back to my now friends. Then, out of the blue, I remembered how it feels to be new and alone, especially at an event. I turned back and engaged her more fully in conversation. I sure felt better for having done that, even if I misread her anxiety.

I also still find myself on the other side of the coin, so to speak. Having to push myself into groups, to introduce myself. Go way out of my comfort zone.

Your evaluation was 'spot on'. Thank you for reminding us.

kim said...

Just so y'all know, I am now teaching a Hatha * class on Saturday mornings at 9am at Yoga Yoga Westgate. I love teaching it just for the reason you mentioned---to get folks started with Anusara yoga so they can grow in the method!