Life is very busy for me here.
I keep thinking about a teaching that Douglas Brooks gave about ashrams. He said that the word "ashram" shares the same verbal root as sramana which refers to those traditions that emphasized self-effort and translates to mean "those who exert themselves." He said, an ashram, far from being a place of calm and relaxation and so forth, is actually a place where one goes to exert themselves, or as he said, "an ashram is a place you go to have your ass kicked."
So, while it has been a lovely visit here, it has been full of opportunities to work and serve and sacrifice some personal comfort and preferences. One fun thing is that we are having some big easts this week and I am leading some of the cooking efforts for those. When I used to live here I spent a lot of time cooking on the ashram and so its fun to be pulled into the kitchen again and serve in that way. So the better part of today, tomorrow and wednesday for me might best be characterized as a "view from the kitchen."
I spent a lot of time yesterday in menu planning and organizing myself for the week's tasks. I did manage to get a walk in with Cheryl Walters, one of Prescott's certified Anusara Yoga teachers and former student of mine. It was great to touch base with her and talk shop a little bit. We talked a lot about the joys and difficulties of being a full-time yoga teacher and how to "hold on to oneself" in the process of teaching and serving and aligning with the very high vision and expectations that go along with representing the Anusara Yoga method as a certified teacher.
Both of us agree that it is amazing work and we are very grateful for the path we have found and yet, it is not an easy way to earn a living nor is it an easy lifestyle to maintain- whether you teach locally, regionally, nationally, in a gym, or on the road or if you own a studio. Not one yoga teacher I know who teaches full time has an abundance of extra time, is getting enough rest and doesn't feel a bit stressed out. Honestly, every full time yoga teacher I know works really hard. Also, as I have had the opportunity to travel and talk to people allover the country who do this work, it is clear to me that yoga teachers everywhere are feeling a bit at the mercy and negative affect of what I call "the celebrity yoga teacher syndrome."
The more popular yoga becomes and the more we are all inundated with social media and so forth, yoga teachers everywhere are feeling less and less satisfied and validated by their very important contributions to the conversation of yoga. The standard of success seems no longer to be "teaching great yoga and serving who is in front of you to the best of your ability and making a contribution." The standard measure for success is moving more towards "having huge classes, making lots of money, having a "tour schedule" and being famous and acknowledged in bigger and bigger arenas.
Don't get me wrong- Every yoga teacher I know does take great satisfaction in "making a difference in the lives of who is right in front of them. " They really do. Their Best Self is content and satisfied with that. But the climate out there is insidiously planting seeds of insecurity and discontent within even the most centered people and feeding many folks a set of expectations that are often unrealistic, sometime grandiose and many times down right diminishing because of the comparisons that come along with it. Awesome teachers I know, who 5 years ago felt satisfied with their public classes, are coming to me feeling unrecognized and undervalued by the larger community.
I think these are growing pains within the method and within the heart of teachers who sincerely want to make a difference but have samskaras and patterns of looking for validation externally from the world and not so much from the deep personal recognition of their contribution. It is big work to do, to validate ourselves and to stand strong in our offering and our unique dharmic expression even if it is not externally recognized the way we see it happening for other people. The game of comparing ourselves to others is insidious and down right poisonous. I am pretty sure that the outside pressure that feed the comparisons samskaras are not going to change or improve. each one of us is going to have to do the work of recognizing our own goodness, validating it for ourselves and standing tall in truth of our own contribution. We cannot wait for society- even yoga society- to give us what we are not giving to ourselves.
My teacher called this seeing the world through the eyes of the Work rather than seeing the Work through the eyes of the world. The world will always say that bigger is better, that popular means valuable and that famous means worthy. The Work functions according to different laws altogether and is not bound by such limited notions of value. What truly serves may be small, intimate, intense, difficult, challenging, highly uncomfortable and inconvenient and not popular at all. Of course, for some people, their dharmic role is bigger an their sphere of influence is broader. My teacher always said he was working with us relative to Grace and relative to our karmas with him.
So that is the thing. When we compare ourselves to others, we are often forgetting that each one of us has a unique role to play relative to our karmas and while we may not be privy to all the information about what exactly that is, the best way to grow in our unique dharma is to serve fully and vibrantly where we are planted and then follow the Universe's invitations for more as they come. We do not have to worry and we do not have to push but we do need to stand strong in our faith that we are making a difference.
All right. More later.
Keep the faith.