Well, one specific thing I do want to write about has to do with people's questions about "what is the difference between tantra as Lee taught it and Shiva-Shakti tantra?"
To be clear, while there are some differences between the schools, mostly we are looking at the differences in tenor and mood that exist between a small, esoteric school in a traditional guru system and a large world-wide yoga school with public access. Obviously, even if the teachings were exactly the same, the application of the teachings would be different in flavor. Not better. Not worse. Different. Add in that Lee is/was a completely different character than John Friend and you add in another layer of difference, even if the doctrine was exactly the same. Again, not better, not worse. Just different.
There are some differences sure. Like Lee didn't care at all about whether things were essentially good or not. He sided, I think, more with the Buddhists on that. Life, he taught more than once, is essentially nuetral. We are the meaning makers. He was influenced heavily by the Fourth Way work and so as much as he taught us that we were supported in the process of waking up, he had a very healthy respect for what they call the "denying force" and the ways that such a force manifested though the unexamined facets of our psychology and unconscious involvement in the world and would, when given a chance, work to kick us off the path without us even knowing it. The denying force might even dress up as a church or as a cause and steer us off the path with promises of salvation that appeared to be our dream come true. He wasn't a teacher who was concerned much about happiness. Not his own and not ours, when you get right down to it. He taught a lot that the deepest aim of sadhana was to become transparent to the flow of Grace, to be in service to the shakti to such a degree that he described his essential teaching as "Spiritual Slavery." He said that Spiritual Slavery was the deepest freedom a human could experience and there were no guarantees that your psychology would dig it. None at all. He was not casual and he was not in it as a hobby. He was also fiercely loyal, loving, compassionate and I think he may have been the kindest person I have ever known. I could go on but my point being is that sure, there are differences.
I am so hesitant to discuss things here because one thing about yogis in our current world is that WE LOVE OUR YOGA and its a personal thing and pointing to difference and comparing is really hard to do without implying value judgements. It's also hard to read about differences without inferring value judgements that are not there. And value-based judgements are not at all at the heart of this discussion for me. I think the most accurate way to explain my choice to resign my certification has less to do with dharmic differences between the two communities of which I have been a part and more to do with my own personal dharma; of how best to aim my teaching in the years to come. Its not so much about what "John says" and "what lee says" as much as it has to do with understanding the highest possibliity for my own incarnation. (Wow, this just got big.) And as a student of Lee Lozowick in the lineage of Yogi Ramsuratkumar my purpose lands squarely in that stream. (And yes its all one and all that. But on a practical level, it's also about resonance. Like we all love yoga, but we do not all love the same practices. Like that. We resonate at certain frequencies. It's as it should be. No problem.)
So we are clear: I love John Friend. I love Anusara Yoga. I love my friends in the system. My students continually inspire me beyond belief. I hope I have been super clear about that. I keep repeating it. It's the truth. I have benefited form my involvement with the organization and the method in so many ways. And I did my best to serve the organization and the community as an expression of my gratitude. Want a different story than that? LOOK SOMEWHERE ELSE!
So, having said that, a bit more of my personal process that might fill out the story goes like this: Over the last few years a very subtle yet strong and consistent interest has been rising within me. I started to realize that I was interested in yoga in general more than I was interested in Anusara Yoga in specific. I have never been an Anusara purist, as anyone who reads this blog knows. I like it all. I practice it all. (Okay, well, not all of it, but A LOT of it.) In fact, over the last 5 years since I moved to Austin, I have probably been practicing asana more outside of the Anusara yoga system than in it. Not by design or by intention but simply in an organic way of following my curiosities and inclinations and finding good teachers who could and would help me with my practice, regardless of method. And since I was the only Ansuara teacher in town, that left me the option of visiting other styles a lot. So Baptiste, Bikram, Ashtanga Vinyasa, Iyengar Yoga, Prana Vinyasa, etc. I do it all. I like it all. And I have for a long time.
And I am a student of the yoga culture beyond Anusara Yoga's culture, as many of you know as well. I am always interested in why people are doing what they are doing and how they are going about it. I love getting inside a system and seeing what they are aiming at and how they are going about meeting and aligning with their aim. I have that kind of mind, I suppose. And I see so many effective ways to do this thing called yoga.
And, I am bit funny, I suppose, because as much as I am not a purist, I believe in structure, methods and boundaries. Big time. I am a fan. I love nothing more right now than walking into the local Bikram studio and watching them just rock that script and transmit the method the way their teacher wants them to. They are good at it. It works. I benefit from it. I don't wish for it to be different. It is great with me. I get it.
Anyway, all my "research",was not consciously done as research but was more like me being me, just sniffing around for good yoga. Truth be told, I have never been one to fall for name brands. I am always gonna be where a good teacher is. So for me, I didn't leave my studies in Iyengar Yoga to study with Desiree and then John because I was unhappy in Iyengar Yoga. I was a believer. I still am. I love that system. Mr. Iyengar and his senior teachers are some of my biggest heros. Truly. I got involved with Anusara Yoga because at the time I was looking for a teacher in my area, Desiree was the best teacher around. She could have called what she did ANYTHING and I would have done it because my poses were getting better. That's the thing for me. She helped me. I got better. I stuck around. Simple.
In the long run I got way more than "better poses" out of the deal which is why my gratitude cup runneth over. (See paragraph #4) However, back to the story about my own interests: Not only did I realize I was more interested in yoga in general, I also got interested in yoga in 200 years, in 500 years. One of the big thrusts in Lee's teaching work had to do with "making the Teaching available" and preserving the majesty of tradition over time. He was kind of radical about this. In so many ways he was progressive and intellectually far out but by temperament, he was very conservative. He hated the internet, he thought that technology was the antichrist and after 30 years the ashram still has no dishwasher, no automatic clothes dryers and no television, wifi, cable or satellite.
So I got interested in how do we, in an age where yoga is becoming increasingly popular and increasingly paired with rock concerts, wine tasting, hula hoops and so forth, preserve the fundamental rigor of the practice, the fundamental sanctuary that a disciplined life yields so that the person who needs a sober, sane and profound access point to the teachings still has it in 200 years? in 500 years? Look, I am not interested in being the yoga police. I am not interested in telling you what is yoga and what is not. I am not saying the modern trends are in any way wrong. I get that those things on that list are some peoples access point. I am cool with that. I really am. None of that is my axe to grind. It's just that I realized what I am into is the preservation of the teachings through the training of practitioners in whom the teaching is so firmly rooted that they become an access point for others. And then my students become teachers and their students become teachers and the continuity of the tradition is carried on like that. I think, in my heart of my heart, that people preserve the teachings, not systems. Not trademarks. So I am interested in teaching today so that the person who, in 200 or 500 years, needs the sanity that yoga and all of its accompanying practices have to offer, will have a place to find it and people to learn it from.
So, as I continued to take council from the wise elders in my life, and as I continued to listen to my own heart, I simply got interested in that vision over and above my job of teaching and preserving the Anusara Yoga system and the standards that keep the trademark valid in the marketplace. It is not because of some major disconnect or drama with John or a quibble with the philosophical underpinnings of Anusara Yoga that I resigned my formal certification. Its more that I recognized that my work in the world would best be served teaching yoga in general over and above Anusara Yoga in specific. (And yes, everybody, I know that the anusara system is broad and inclusive and does not limit its teachers so please, not another conversation about that. Not here. Please, I beg you. If we descend into that I am going to change the subject abruptly. Be warned. That's what I meant yesterday when I said its not really an on-paper problem at all.)
And yes, I want to teach in the name of my guru and give honor to the fact I feel like the true potency of my teaching is informed more by my connection to Lee Lozowick and to his guru Yogi Ramsuratkumar than it is by Anusara yoga. But it's not like I want to make Lee Lozowick Yoga into some kind of style of yoga. I do not. In fact, I actually want to teach a whole lot LESS philosophy and a whole lot more asana. I truly believe that the shape carries the shakti and I am more interested in the practice of the practice itself as an agent of change. Yes, the theory of the practice is important, but that is not my job as a teacher right now.
And as time goes on, my job will shift and change, I assume. It's the way of things.
As for what's next, really its business as usual. I spent the day yesterday practitcing and teaching. I started to day with a practice and spent the rest of it writing an article for Yoga International. They asked me to be the Art of Asana columnist for 2012, which thrills me. I head out to Corpus Christi tomorrow to bring that training to a close and in the meantime I am catching up on a new website design, my schedule and rewriting curriculum for trainings that are still on the books. Most of my hosts for future workshops still want me to come and so my life continues much in the same way it has been.
One fun local thing on the agenda is that next Sunday- November 13th- I am going to teach a Level 3 Vinyasa class at BFree so those of you who want to join me for that, it should be a good time. 6:00-7:30. Come ready to sweat. This will not be a class for the casual.
Well, time to sign off. If you made this far into the post, I salute you. more soon.