Along the line of how religions form and take root and propagate, is this other ongoing consideration of mine about how innovation and tradition are always in a dynamic relationship. Mormons were once seen as very radical, for instance and now are, in many ways, a symbol of traditional values and morals. Same with Christianity. When Jesus was first "on the scene" he was a total radical. His teaching flew in the face of tradition and now Christianity is holding down the conservative end of the discussion. We see it in yoga also. When BKS Iyengar started teaching women, and teaching in groups, and introducing props, he was seen as a radical. His rendering of the Sutras of Patanjali was somewhat shocking relative to Samkhya Yoga and so forth. And now, the Iyengar Yoga School holds down the conservative end of the spectrum in a lot of ways. (A case could still be made for how radical they are in my opinion but I think that truth is more hidden and you have to have eyes to see it and most people don't. Just an opinion.)
Even to get into the sticky wicket of "tantra" we start to see that it is going to get problematic to talk about "traditional tantra" because, by definition, what characterized the tantric approach to spiritual practice was a confrontation of tradition and a very real exploration of the fringe, so to speak. Of course, like Carlos Pomeda once said in one of his brilliant seminars- "Sure they broke the rules, but keep in mind there were rules about how to break the rules." So while these traditions were exploring the fringe, that exploration stood on the firm foundation of discipline, clarity of intention, a guru and so forth.
But even still, it was radical, questionable and problematic for the establishment. I bet every true innovation is seen that way. Chances are, some people were not so psyched when the Gita came along and said, "Hey, offer Krishna a flower in sincerity...it doesn't take a priest...you can have a personal relationship with God..." and now that is a text of tradition and seen as authoritative and foundational.
So really, it is a spanda and it is dynamic and sometimes I get this feeling it is all a grand experiment. And we are part of the experiment. That is the thing.
For me, these days the real question and the real practice has to do with knowing who I am in the midst of that pulsation and in the midst of the experiment in which I am participating. I remember one time reading a book that was written by a Buddhist teacher. He was talking about how important it is that we, as students of The Path, maintain and cultivate our own sense of discrimination. He said that only, at the very highest stages of initiation, was an aspirant going to be asked to let go and trust their guru more than themselves. (He said that at the very highest, the very final stages, at the most advanced level of things the ego would hang on to such a degree that even one's own viveka-spiritual discrimination or discernment- might hold the practitioner back. And I figure most of us are not quite there! )
Also, I think maybe in the beginning of The Path of when we are really in a new phase of breaking a habit, the habit feels so familiar that it can feel "Right" when all it really is is habitual not optimal. So probably, before we have that deeper knowledge of who were are we have to trust Something or Someone more than ourselves. I am thinking here about my early days of recovery where I was without a home base inside myself and how by putting myself into certain systems I was able to get back in touch with myself enough to trust myself again. But after a certain point our work should be leading us into the clarity to distinguish between optimal and habitual, between the kind of necessary discomfort synonymous with growing beyond our limitation and with the kind of discomfort that arises when we have abandoned ourselves.
So as we participate in the ebb and flow of the exploring the fringe and or following a tradition, to me the practice within that is "Who am I really?" and "What is right for me?" And we are called to, in a very real sense, hold onto our own integrity, common sense, knowledge and conscience in the midst of the journey that many times confronts those very notions.
And here is another thing... Who we are is multi-layered and each layer has its own truth. We have the truth of who we are in personality, who we are when bound by our culture, who we are when we are free of childhood conditioning, who we are in our Essence, who we as part of the cosmos and so on." And each level has a truth that must be engaged skillfully. We can not just violently rip through our personality to get to the deeper levels of Being without consequence. We cannot just intellectually assert some spiritual outlook if we do not know it to be true at a very deep level. It will register in our body/mind as a lie. And so these levels of being, I believe, take time to come into harmony. It is a process of moving into a state where the Teaching is not just intellectually true but emotionally and psychically true also.
So anyway, I could go on and on as this is favorite topic of mine but I want to practice some asana today before doing my work. I am working with Darren on a very cool project for our Immersion program and it is, at this stage, taking a lot of time at the computer. But those of you who come to our trainings are going to be psyched. That I can tell you FOR SURE.
And I wanted to briefly mention how happy I was to see everyone in class yesterday. Being gone as long as I was (and will continue to be...May is gonna look a lot like March did for me...so come to class this month. Don't wait.) is hard on class attendance and is really like the formula for "how to decimate your class size." So thank you all so much for being there with such focus and determination and readiness. It makes it very worth it for me to have such great students in place when I am back.
In Focus on Form we worked with some very detailed work with shin loop and thigh loop to get the femurs seated well. And also we played with Inner Spiral in externally rotated forms to do the same thing. And we have time for both sirsasana, sarvangasana AND savasana! WHO-HOO.
At 6:00 we worked on the shoulder principles a lot with special attention to getting the shoulder blades on the back well by firing the lower region of the rhomboids, really getting a strong shoulder loop and we played with arm spirals in all five positions of the arm. And as technical as all that was, the practice went deep into back bends and drop backs by the end. (And YAY for Tearson for doing her first unassisted drop back ever. She totally rocked it. Very inspiring and beautiful.)
All right folks. Time to get on with the day. Please come to Breath and Body Yoga Saturday at 4:30. It is called a Karma Class which I believe is a donation-based class. I will be teaching this week only.
More soon. Enjoy.