Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Few Reflections on Community

Well, it seems longs past time  to check-in here on my blog. I was reflecting this morning on how much busier my life has been lately. I used to have time to wake up, meditate and spend an hour on a blog entry before launching  into my day. It seems lately that has just not been the case. I suppose part of that has been the three weeks straight of intensive trainings which start first thing in the morning. So I wake up, meditate, get ready and go!

My week back home has been super busy and since I am dealing a 2-hour time difference it adds another component of challenge to the formuala-  sleeping till I wake up puts me two hours behind Texas time since my body is on Arizona and California time still!  Anyway the time home has been productive for me- I am making some headway on my to-do list (although  I am still a bit behind on video watching and correspondences that require thoughtful responses!) Oh well, I have a long plane ride to Hawaii on Monday and plan to watch certification videos then.

We began the Part Two Immersion last night at Breath and Body Yoga. It is great to have some many people continuing on with the program from Part One and also I am enjoying meeting some of the new folks who have joined us. One thing that is awesome about this group is that they came to the Immersion with good habits in place and with good training so we were able to begin the program with a high level of knowledge, expertise and focus. Every group is different and enjoyable in unique ways for sure but its a great delight to teach an Immersion to people who are not brand new to Anusara Yoga because we can move quickly through the basics and into the refinements of the practice.

And so Part Two is fun in that way. Instead of the huge bulk of introductory material that we cover in Part One Immersion, we move into refinement and artistry a bit more with both the asana and the philosophy. This is the third Part 2 immersion I have taught in 4 months and so the material and how it fits into the whole program is really familiar and enjoyable for me. We spent a lot of last night talking about the three  goddesses and about Shri and it is really a great contemplation. The more I ponder and teach about these archetypes and ideas, the more interesting and relevant they become to me.

I talked about this last night a bit. It is not so much the teaching about Shri that I find so interesting when I teach an Immersion. What I find interesting is what the teaching of Shri means to me at any given time in my life, in what it means to the students in the group and what we do with the teaching relative to our own experience and viewpoints. So as an Anusara Immersion teacher I am responsible for presenting what I affectionately call "The Doctrine" but what brings the doctrine to life in an interesting way is when the students in the group chew on the teaching and work to make it come alive within themselves. That is what I am into. That process is why I love to teach yoga.

I think the process of making things real and personally relevant is super important in any community and especially important in spiritually-oriented communities or else we run the risk of being in blind following mode or in a mode of keeping our true thoughts to ourselves for fear of not being accepted or we rebel internally or externally from the group in order to preserve our own sense of autonomy. Being part of a group, to me, is not about agreeing with everything or having to mimic certain group affectations or traits as way of appearing to belong. I don't know about you, but I had plenty of that in jr.high and high school and am not so interested in it as an adult. I work hard to keep any kind of "scene" out of the work I am doing. 

To me being part of a group is not about joining a scene or anything like that, it is about aligning with the big picture and vision of said group and slowly, deliberately proceeding deeper into the experience, all the while making sure I can be me as I continue. It is like any relationship, really- it takes a long time to know someone and for them to get to know us. I think being part of a yoga community is the same way. There is initial resonance (or not) and then there is the process of understanding the different levels of intimacy we can operate at within a group and that work just takes time. And obviously, like in any relationship we are going to make mistakes, bump up against our issues, have our feelings hurt, be misunderstood and reach limits and roadblocks.  That is just the way that it works and it is not a sign that anything is going wrong, in my opinion. Of course it may be a signal that deeper inquiry is required, but that is a different story.

Well, maybe its the same story but for a different day! Time for asana practice.


kwajnman said...

The idea of yoga community is a very sore spot for me. I spend the first many years working on making and being a part of the community where I practice ( and when I say working, it means really making an effort)and the I had to realize that the people I practice with, with a handful of exceptions, are no closer to me than the people in the supermarket. We don't want the same, our interests are completely different, goals and horizons are different. And the more there is talk about kula the falser it rings. As the commercial set up is for yoga studios these days I can't really see how it is possible to create real kula because people are not brought tpgether on the basis of interests or common interface but by availability and convenience. If other people have found real community I think they are really lucky.

Nathan said...

I have had similar experiences to Karen. Even going to much more spiritually minded, holistic yoga studios, there's a lack of attention paid to developing community. Getting to know each other, and talk with each other about issues that matter is either none existent, or occurs only in small bursts within a highly structured class or in occasional after class chatting.

I'm currently in a teacher training program, and while there is more time to talk with each other, and dig into the practice together, even there developing a community of practitioners feels secondary.

In part, I feel that the overemphasis of asana practice plays into this. And also the fact that nearly everything seems geared towards the individual.

My other background is in Zen Buddhism, and after 10 years as a member of a sangha, it's amazing the differences I see. There, I know people. I have practiced with folks, and we've played together as well. We've worked through challenges together. And we regularly talk about how important community is to our practice, something I have rarely heard in yoga classes.

themanatee said...

i feel very luck to have had the opposite experience at at Yoga Union in Portland, oregon where I practice and teach. Inspiring group of yogis spending time together on and off the mat. Growing.

Steffany said...

Karen and Nathan,
...there is a certain amount of vulnerability. the options are really few to just be completely ourselves, vulnerability is deeply called upon...

of course our history plays into the why and why not of vulnerability being an option...

I am sorry the threads of your communities were thin...

i am not often a part of a community but I know I belong.
I belong for many reasons and my differences are really so often I am not a “part-of”.

i loathe bullies. i loathe when people are exclude.
often by lack of awareness this happens...

... but as far as Kula goes, YOU are a part of mine.
I believe in Yoga and if I use the word Kula in this fashion it is inclusive, ALL who practice (for me) Anusara yoga.

at times myself and my world is all i can deal with and often i see beyond that.

often it is me who lets go...
holding on, get past the difficult, believe I belong... can be the hardest Asana I practice.
my breathe shortens and my heart tightens....

i’ve done enough work to know the “why” of that sentence.
...being the change in Action is my focus.
How do I make/ allow my “kula” to be strong, supportive, nurturing?
Am I doing that for my self...?

Karen & Nathan, our paths have crossed, let’s keep passing it on. Whether our eyes meet our hearts will speak a clear vision.


Christina Sell said...

I love this thread and the honesty and vulnerability and even the frustration.

I don't have time right now to write much more than that but I will later. I just wanted you to know that I am happy you shared your truth.

I have had great and not-so-great community experiences for sure. And for lots of different reasons.

more later.

kwajnman said...

Today in class a woman across from me noticed that I was looking for some extra support and threw me a block. This made me very happy and got me thinking how little it takes to show a little bit of caring.
I recognize exactly what Nathan is saying, because the people I have met that are members of one of the few spiritual communities that I know of here in Copenhagen, have a very strong sense of community about them, apart from, without exception, being extremely nice people.
I am not fortunate enough to be able to get a good and satisfying sense of community from people long distance but Steffany, I envy your sense of belonging and I am glad we are talking.