Sunday, May 8, 2011

Ananda- Divine Discontent

So- wow, It's been a while since I wrote. I have been in Los Angeles/Santa Monica teaching Immersion 1 with Noah Maze for the last five days. Our days have been super full and I have found it next to impossible to get any time to sit down and write.

Here I am now in the airport getting ready to go to Arizona. Darren and I start Part Three Immersion on Wednesday and so I am meeting up with Kelly in Phoenix and we are gonna head up to Prescott for a few days of R&R with my friends at the ashram there.

The week of Immersion was amazing and inspiring. Noah and I set a very high set of expectations for the group and asked for a very high standard of studentship and participation from everyone. It was amazing to see the students rally and rise to the occasion with flying colors. The group was diverse in experience and knowledge but very unified in the longing to go deeper, to improve their practice, to learn the method and to explore their inner landscape. They were a pleasure to be with and to teach. I feel like I learned a lot along the way, as always.

At the end Jen told me, "I know you do these all the time and tis is like your every day life but this was truly life changing for me." I told her that each group changes my life also. I have to become bored with Immersion, yet to feel uninspired by the process or untouched by the depth of who we become when we are all together in the field of consciousness that is Anusara Yoga. Truly, every group moves into. My heart in both predictable and completely unprecedented ways.

In one of the group shares, one of the students, Jerry, who teaches dance, was talking about his work training dancers. He said that while you can train people in technique and you can help them learn the forms relevant to the dance, dance is essentially an art form of expression and what you cannot do for anyone else is determine how deeply they feel the need to express themselves. He was interestingly unequivocal on this point that not everyone feels the need for expression to the same degree. Dancers who have "it", who have that certain something that makes them stand out, that makes them more likely than others to succeed than others, do not necessarily have more talent. What they have is a hotter fire, a stronger need, a deeper impulse toward expression. He said in his experience, dancers have that or they don't and he has not had much much luck in helping someone who does not have a need to express, develop it.

It made me think about a story my parents always tell about me as a toddler. I was trying to talk before my vocal chords were even developed. My parents always laugh as they tell this story and it is often told a bit at my expense- I mean, let's face it, "being at a shortage of words" is rarely a way I am described! But I think this story illustrates Jerry's point quite well. I came into the world with an strong urge to express. What I lacked was the vehicle of expression and a set of communication skills. I needed my physical body to mature, my vocal chords and mouth muscles to get stronger. I needed to learn the language and gain skill at "using my words" and so forth. But to Jerry's point, I have never been at a loss in terms of creative impulse or expressive need.

Even as I was in addictive cycles and dysfunctional psychological patterns at different times throughout my life, I can now see that those things, too, were driven by a deep impulse to express myself. Certainly, the mechanism of communication was unhealthy, even life-threatening at times and most often painful for me and others, but still, from a certain vantage point, I can see it was essentially an attempt to communicate the intensity of my inner experience.

Jerry was saying that in dance, by the time he is working with people they either have "it" or they don't. And so we got to talking about that idea in terms of studentship and in terms of the responsibility of the teacher and the responsibility of the student. It's an interesting concept to consider. I think I have always unconsciously assumed that people have the same degree of impulse to express and my job is to give them skills, perhaps a kind of permission, and the inspiration to bring "it" out. It's odd to think I would assume that people have the same need for expression because I absolutely think people have different aims, desires, paths and capacities so it does make sense that the innate urge for expression would vary in degree and intensity as well.

So perhaps as a teacher I need to add in a clarifying point for myself that the skills, the permission and the inspiration provided would be to serve the student relative to their urge, their need and their aim. It may sound like a small distinction but I think it is important. In Anusara we call this urge to creation and expression ananda and it is considered one of the primary reasons we practice. (the other reason being... immersion grads, repeat after me... Chit. Self knowledge.)

I read one time in some of the writing BKS Iyengar did about yoga and dance that he defined dance as "the expression of the emotions" and yoga as "the sublimation of the emotions". In Anusara I think it is both. We both express and sublimate the emotions through the asana, which is a unique paradigm of yoga in a lot of ways. Like Jerry said, you have to have "it" to dance, you have to have some degree of "it" to be happy on the mat in Land Anusara.

Seriously, we are going to tell you to move with a feeling, to tap into your inner experience and create a posture attitudinally, emotionally, physically and technically. We are also going to implore you to make those feelings an offering. We will ask you to transform and sublimate the gross level of posture,the psychological level of emotion toward the more subtle aspects of the Spirit in an integrated, unified and often ass-kicking way. If you don't have an urge, a fire or an impulse toward expression, this yoga is not for you! (Just so we are clear, this statement is not officially endorsed by Anusara Yoga. Its just my opinion. And seriously, everyone is welcome. I am just saying, you might not like it unless you have this kind of fire.)

It's kind of like having a pebble in your shoe, I think. The urge to express is a kind of discontent a lot of times, for me. It's certainly not always easy. For me it's more like an irritant, a disturbance of sorts, an inner unsettling that doesn't go away until the words get down on paper, until the speech is made, until the letter gets written, the class is taught, the asana is performed, the meal is made, or the cake is baked. I guess sure, at the non-dual level the expressive aspect is "blissful" (ananda) but for me in the relative domain, in the refracted, more contracted form called me, it's more often a feeling of frustration that exists on a scale of mild to severe.

But what's cool, is that it is divine discontent because it is the frustration that overrides procrastination. The pain of the discontent eventually outweighs the pain and discomforts of the various sacrifices involved in creation and expression- and let's face it discipline is required to create- time, money, comfort on multiple levels, recreation, sleep, etc. get sacrificed- and the discontent drives us on toward the Divine- toward our higher aspects- though the art and what it requires of us to bring it forward.

And sure, I also enjoy the creative process and the making of the art is often satisfying and delightful so its not all discontent. But its not all chocolate cake either just so we are clear.

So like that.


Leanne said...

I think with that pebble in the shoe is that on going voice that asks- why? I have not met an Anusara yogi who has not been driven by a sense of curiosity and questioning of the relative world. I came to Anusara through frustration: both discontented and asking why- and I am happy to say though I am still asking why in various forms of that question and I may be somewhat discontented- it is not that frustration of discontent but a longing to go ever deeper into both the self knowledge chit and the complex dance of life. Great piece Christina- and beautiful new pics too on the side!

vsulzer2615 said...

Thanks Christina! As an artist, yoga practitioner and yoga teacher sometimes (often ) I feel a push / pull dynamic between these mediums. Where the impulse to do one of these expressions is so much more intense than the others, and because of that, I get down on myself for not feeling inspired to do all 3 all the time. This article helped me see that it doesn't really matter what medium I have the impulse to use, just as long as I'm expressing. Much Gratitude, Vanessa Sulzer

KarenF said...

This puts me in mind of a perception that I've run into that Anusara Yoga is "for extroverts"- those willing to put "themselves on the outside" like the asana has a performance component. What I know as a long-term practioner though is that our energy can be fully expressed quietly, loudly, inwardly or outwardly, but most importantly--with purna,fullness.
Maybe "purna" is the pebble.

The teacher can ask the questions:"What are you in service to?"(kriya) "What do you long to know"(jnana) and "How deeply do you want to connect?"(iccha)so that each student has the opportunity to find her path of meaning (inwardly and outwardly)-- but how Fully can she step into the current on a given day? It's 100% that we're asking for- on that day in that circumstance and that's hard work.

PK said...

To further the point Karen raised, I have felt similarly about Anusara being more extrovert friendly. I am a beginning student but am very drawn to the Immmersion. As somebody who has trouble with social interactions, I wonder if I am ready for Immersion.

I would love a post discussing how I as a student should gauge my readiness.

Christina Sell said...

Ooooh, great comments. Soon. Maybe even tonight, if I get through the email!

Emma Magenta Blog said...

y two cents: I totally think that your dancer friend is right that people have different degrees of wanting to express the life within them. And I agree with you (I think--don't want to put words in your mouth) that desire is something that can be cultivated and increased. It's tricky because in order to increase desire, you have to have some sadhana, but it's hard to establish sadhana without desire. That's where the teacher comes in. Charisma is a very important ingredient in a teacher because the teacher's charisma calls forth the desire in the student, makes it possible to initiate and stabilize sadhana, then desire increases, sadhana increases, desire increases, lather rinse repeat.