Monday, July 19, 2010

Tuesday Morning

Well, let's see what to write about today. One thing I am pondering lately is the learning process. In part this inquiry got stirred up because I got an email from a student in Los Angeles signing up from my online mentor group. She was excited about the opportunity to learn more and to go deeper into her studies and then at the end of our exchange she posed an interesting question. She asked me if one ever stops chasing after knowledge. If one ever just settles into what they know and feels confident and satisfied with that.

So I have been thinking about it and of course, like everything I think about for a while, it seems to me there are many sides to the consideration and a whole lot of yes and no and it depends involved. Also her heart felt question had me reflecting on my own journey in Anusara Yoga. In the beginning of learning this method I think the learning curve is very steep. It is fast and furious and every workshop and every class yields some great ah-hah, some great insight or some new way of working more effectively. My experience is that after a while that rate of learning slows a bit- we start to grasp the philosophical precepts, we start to understand and feel the UPA's and we glimpse the logic of our sequencing strategies and so forth. So, while we still (hopefully) have ah-hah moments and so forth, the reality is what we have in front of us to do at that point is practice. We are charges with the task of bringing to life what we know, day after day, class after class, practice after class. This can actually be boring to some and even frustrating at time when the answer, for instance, is NOT something new but is the continual task of actually getting our thighbones back!

So in this way, I do think the chase ends. Or at least it slows down. So yes, we eventually stop chasing.

And yet, my experience has also been that I am always learning and I have ceased to be bored with the acquisition of knowledge. I find the process of learning to be one of the best things in life. And, I am happiest as a student of a great teacher. And while every situation can teach us and we can learn from everybody and all of that, in truth, that perspective is not what I am talking about. I am talking about the sheer delight in my Heart of Hearts, the rightness I feel inside when I am sitting at the feet of someone who is truly great, someone who is a master at what they do. I love nothing more, than being around someone who knows so much more than I do that I am happy to just hang out in case their cup runneth over in my direction and I can drink just a little bit from their wellspring. I have to say, in those times, I am in my deepest flow. Nothing beats it for me. Not teaching, not practicing, not reading about it, no movie, no hot-fudge sundae, no fine wine. Nothing compares. So in this way, no, it never ends. Why would I want it to?

Also as I have chewed on this question a lot I also though about the context of what it means to chase after knowledge. And I think a relevant aspect to explore is what is motivating the chase. Is there some seed of emptiness in our psychology that consciously or unconsciously believes that "more knowledge" will fill us u? Like are we in the grip of anava mala with feelings of lack and self-hatred and think that if just "knew more" then we would prove ourselves worthy? Or is the chase motivated by a burning zeal to expand out Light inside and to serve from a deeper place of wisdom?

There are variations on the theme of those questions for sure but the real thing to ask ourselves is: are we chasing knowledge from emptiness trying to get full or are we chasing knowledge from fullness in attempt to glorify and expand what is already great within us? There is no right answer to the question but the truth of that answer determines the answer to our opening question, right? And there are shades of gray here also.

If we are chasing knowledge from emptiness then we have to know that the cure for that kind of emptiness is never "knowing more stuff." But how do we learn that? Many times we pursue the outside answers long enough to realize they don't fill the emptiness. Then we look inside. Depending on our type, temperament and so forth we might never actually get off the outside search and actually get to the real inner work of sorting through the true reasons why we feel unworthy, separate or alone inside. It is hard work to do- it is much easier to think organic food, acupuncture, drugs, a better diet, the perfect herbal supplement, a different asana method, a new partner, a better job, a fancier car, cuter clothes, bigger boobs, thinner thighs, some advanced posture, fame, fortune, babies, etc. will do it this time. Seriously, all the different approaches out there to "fix it" can and do consume a lifetime.

I am not of the belief that "everyone is eventually going to turn inward and find themselves." Not by a long shot do I believe that. I think it is rare that anyone would engage the painstaking process of really getting to know themselves and rooting this stuff out. And I think those of us in the process should remember that it is a rare thing to do in this life and no matter how ugly it gets in the inner world at times, no matter how scary and dark it may feel as one approaches the inner regions of their shame-based beliefs, there is Dignity in the work, there is Necessity and there is intrinsic value.

So, if the outer journey fails us and we turn inward and we find, even glimpses, of our Great Light inside, then I think that the process heals us. The sense of emptiness is alleviated. And I think, in that way, the chase ends. When the chase from emptiness ends, well, we can, from our Fullness, listen to ourselves to hear how best to continue to walk the path. I know for me, the desire to learn and grow has not ceased. And its lands pretty squarely in the world of yoga for me. And I am happy to chasing it, in a sense. (Although I wouldn't actually use that word.)

But seriously, I know a lot of people who were chasing the yoga path and what they realized, as yoga helped them listen to themselves, was that yoga wasn't actually "it" for them. Parenting was. Environmental Action was. Writing was. Dancing was. Gardening was. Asana fell to the wayside for a meditation practice. And so on. And so the chase from fullness didn't take them in the same direction, it led them down different roads and into other experiences of learning and growing. I am not of the belief that everyone should do yoga and everyone should teach yoga or anything like that, for instance.

So there are many more facets to the question and to the answers but that's what's on my mind at the moment. I know in my case that I am an experiential learner. I tend to plow directly into experiences, totally go for them, spend a ton of money on them and sort all the other stuff out as I go along. It is not always a pretty path but generally when I am done with something I am done. I knew it. I learned it from the inside out. And if I stick with something, same thing. I am not casual about it. I believe we have to take things to their natural conclusions in order to complete the experience. I do know, however, that as I have grown older and wiser the natural conclusion is often less extreme than it was in my youth. I seem to complete things without as many dire consequences!

But you know, come to think of it, I have yet to find the conclusion of this particular path called yoga so I am still very interested in it and happily chasing after great teachers and great teachings. And as far as throwing all our money at our yoga studies, well, there are worse things that that, if you ask me! Its pretty much where all my money goes. (And to Lululemon clothes.)

So speaking of more ways to spend your money and more knowledge and experiences to chase after, I got a note in my email yesterday from Rachel at Yoga Oasis telling me that there is still some room in the upcoming Teacher Training that Darren and I are offering. This is Part One of a 3-part training program and even if you have done Level 1 Teacher Training before, I think that this program will be full of fresh perspectives, new approaches and effective techniques to grow and expand as a teacher. If you want some information about it, please email me directly at or call Rachel at Yoga Oasis at 520.322.6142.

Have a great day.


Julie Taylor said...

I loved this blog and your thorough chewing of the question of chasing knowledge! I find it exciting to be able to learn more, to know more and over time it seems to me the quality of my knowledge is the important thing. That is, can I embody this? Does my experience reflect this?
I really resonated with your thoughts on the inner work of Yoga, of going to our dark places and getting to the root cause of our motivations and drives. I feel that's where I'm at right now as my outer process has come to a standstill and I feel I have one way through this - straight through, not around. If I don't go there (inward) I feel I will only be putting philosophical framework up as a kind of shield to protect myself from the harder parts of life and discovering one's divinity. That said, the vision of Yoga is a great guide map and to be in the presence of great teachers is a great blessing on the path. The time I did a training with John, I came away with my inner lights switched ON! I too love nothing more than to be a student. Are we not all students first??
Love your heartfelt wisdom!

Christina Sell said...

Thanks, Julie, for taking the time to write and to share a bit about the process you are in. It's like Carl Jung said, right? "The only way out is through." Glad to hear you are walking the path straight through and keeping the faith.

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