My good friend and certified teacher Christy Nones came to some of the sessions and we had a chance to spend some time afterwards and I was was telling her how weekends like this one are really pretty ecstatic for me. To have a group of well-trained, committed and sincere students who want to learn and go deeper into their practice and to have the time and opportunity to explore some of the nooks and crannies of the asana is so fun for me. In situations like that I really feel like I am offering something useful and something that people can continue to cash in on long after the weekend ends.
I have been doing so much teacher training these days which I love because I always get a chance to refine my own teaching and to consider the reasons why I love to teach and what calls me forward on the path. And what really turns me on about teaching are those times- like this weekend- when what I am offering is beyond just a yoga experience and is in the category of "ways to practice" and "ways to go deeper". Don't get me wrong, I think big classes and large events where I have a chance to conduct class, offer an experience and all is also great. It's just for me, the thing I am into is practice. So as a teacher I am into teaching what serves people getting on their mat and practicing- not just coming to class. Not just having a peak experience. Not just having a flash of insight. I am into exploring together how to sustain those peak experiences, how to incorporate the insight in a real and useful way. I am interested in opening up the field of practice.
See, I think that the path of practice in and of itself is valuable. I do have focus and goals within that but if you get down to it in an honest discussion with me what we are going to arrive at sooner or later is that I practice to, well, be able to practice better. I am not so much a yogi in pursuit of enlightenment or salvation or anything like that. I am actually a yogi interested in increasing my capacity for practice because I think that is the life worth living. A life aligned with ideals of the Heart ( be clear I am not talking only about asana practice here but a life path oriented in a certain way) is a life that is full of dignity, honor and depth. That is the life for me even if "I never get enlightened" or anything like that.
It is kind of like diet and exercise in mind. I do not watch what I eat or exercise to ward off some unknown future ill, like "I won't get cancer if I rat raw food" or "if I never eat trans fats I will never have a heart attack" or any such thing. I am more interested in the immediate effects of self- care because eating well today makes me feel better today and honestly, I am not someone able to delay gratification long enough to put off a reward so far in the future! And truly, there are no guarantees about any of that stuff anyway. We may follow a pristine diet and still have a stroke, get cancer and so forth. So many factors seem to play into health, wellness and disease that it seem a bit grandiose to me to think we can be 100% in charge of that. (although I do think we have a lot of power to use toward that end that we are not claiming as a society. For instance, how many chronic conditions would be eased by simply losing weight? A lot. And who, other than us, is in charge of what and how much food we are eating? No one. But that is a different discussion for a different day.)
Having said all of that, I do believe that the discipline we bring to bear on our current choices will prepare us for whatever life brings our way in the future. I do not think yoga or any of it's companion practices spares us from suffering. ( although I do think it can help us avoid the unnecssary suffering due to our own ignorance, self-inflicted violence and/or neglect but that is a different post for a different day.) I know great yogis who get sick, have injuries, experience profound tragedies and so forth. The main difference I see in the lives of yogis is that we get to face those things with the Teaching. We get to face those things with tools for managing our minds. We get to face those things in a supportive and loving community. We get to bring skillful action into our life circumstances and that is a difference that can make all the difference.
In a simliar vein, I read a excerpt this morning from a talk my teacher gave last summer:
"The point is not to integrate the extraordinary experience into our everyday lives. The point is to align your every day life with the extraordinary and move in that direction."
That about says it.
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