Saturday, November 26, 2011

Life is the Teacher

Well, its been a great week so far here in Arizona. I have spent most of the time out at the ashram and came into town Thursday for the weekend. I had an appointment with my favorite miracle-worker Osteopath and I am teaching a yoga workshop this weekend in Prescott. In fact, we had a wonderful turnout last night for a 90-minute flow class to kick the weekend off. It was so fun to see so many folks in attendance who I taught when I ran Prescott Yoga and I  also enjoyed  meeting so many new folks who have joined the fun. Also delightful was having students from other cities taking the workshop.

I worked with the theme of the guru, since I  have been using an invocation to the Guru for my classes since I resigned from Anusara. Obviously, Anusara Yoga doesn't own the invocation they use but it seemed appropriate to me to use a different invocation now that I am not formally aligned with the system anymore.

So this is the mantra I have been teaching with:

guru mantra in sanskrit

Summary of the Mantra

The Guru is Brahma (The God of Creation)
The Guru is Vishnu (The God of Sustenance)
The Guru is Shiva (The God of Annihilation)
My Salutation to such a Guru, who is verily the Supreme God

This mantra speaks so much to me and reminds me of a great teaching that Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron gave about trust and about developing what she called a Reservoir of Trust. She said that as spiritual practitioners we develop trust, not in positive outcomes and not in some idea or promise that everything is going to work out in our favor at the level of preferences, hopes and dreams, but in the felt experience that Life itself is always attempting to communicate with us through its dynamic flow of energy.  Our task as practitioners is not to learn how to shift everything toward our own egoistic desires as much as it is to learn to be sensitive to the teachings that Life is making as it creates (Brahma) as it maintains (Visnu) and as it destroys (Shiva). In that way, the entire cycle of life is the guru, the teacher, the force of revelation attempting to teach us who we are, not in an abstract way,  but through the direct experiences of our lives.

Creation, Sustenance and Destruction are not value-based nor are they isolated from one another. Destruction, which often sounds bad, may be a positive thing. For instance, think about ending a cycle of abuse or dissolving a dysfunctional relationship or the death of an illusion or limitation. In those cases, we are grateful for Lord Shiva's presence as he destroys what is no longer serving us. In the same way, creation, is not always a wonderful experience- think about how an illness might be created or division may begin or how we often create a problems for ourselves and others. So these are just forces of energy and are not good or bad, right or wrong and when skillfully engaged, they can each be utilized and applied toward learning the truth of who we are. And in the dissolving of one thing is the birth of another; held in creation are the seeds of dissolution.

I am not someone who believes that everything we experience in life makes us stronger. I have watched plenty of people make mistakes, suffer terribly due to life's ups and downs and experience tragedies from which they never recover. It is not the case, in my opinion, that hardship makes us better people. I do believe that it can, however. I believe that difficulty holds within it the power and possibility to elevate us and our awareness to new heights. I believe  the apparent "bad thing" has the potential to become our most profound teacher, but I also believe that the circumstance itself holds no guarantee that it will do that for us. The difference, in my opinion, as to to whether or not difficult experiences strengthen us or destroy us has to do with how well we are able to make use of them. The answer to growth is not on the side of the circumstance. It is on our side, as students of Life.

Once again, we come back to this idea of adhikara, of studentship, of preparation for the Path. Just because everything can be a doorway to the Heart doesn't mean that everything will be. To me that is the whole thing about the yoga. Yoga is a way that we can develop the skillful means required to be in relationship to life's lessons, to be in relationship to the guru function as it manifests through Life itself.  As an idea, it can be very inspiring to say things like "we can learn from everything" and "everything can help us see the truth of who we are" and I do agree with that teaching. I really do.  However, having that perspective is one thing while living in the work of that particular  demand is something else entirely. To make use of the tragedies and triumphs of life and for them to help us develop a reservoir of trust, a firm sense of OK-ness inside ourselves that is independent of circumstance, requires tenacity, courage, persistence and lots of practice.

I am not a practitioner that is interested in a kind of Grace that gets me good parking spots, puts the traffic lights in my favor and gives me a perfect job and  so on. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate that level of "flow" but to me its way too simplistic of a world view. I am also interested in watching who I am when I hit every traffic light on the way to where I am going and there is no parking spot within walking distance to my destination, etc. and when my job gets hard. I am not praying for difficulty, mind you, its just that the domain of challenge holds such interesting insight and grist for the mill that there is no way, in my opinion that that too,  is not "the flow." And come on, we are in Earth School and there is a ton of suffering here. Best, I think, we learn how to be with that in a skillful, elevated and down-to-earth way.

So, obviously, more could be said but its time to finish planning my class for this morning. 


Unknown said...

Christina, how wonderful it was to have you back in Prescott this weekend to teach. Both classes I took were excellent! Your teaching really inspires me to go a little deeper. Thank you! Please consider coming more often if you can.
With love and gratitude, Linda.

Julie Taylor said...

I love this post. I'm relieved to read your thoughts on 'Grace' and found myself nodding a lot. I guess that's why I keep coming back to this blog for more. In my experience, times of great difficulty can be the most profound teachers if I am able in those moments to embrace the opportunity for growth that is often hidden behind the pain. If I am not able to embrace or recognise the opportunity, so be it. I am no lesser for it, it just is what it is. Blessings, J.

Roo said...

Dear Christina, I am sorry I won't get to meet you and take your workshop up here in Flagstaff. Grace. I was so looking forward to it...Here's my chance for growth. You have no idea how today's blog touches my heart. I'm looking forward to your immersion in January.

Love, Roo

Kathy O'Rourke said...

I learned this prayer plus 2 more stanzas of it as part of morning and afternoon prayers at The Himalayan Institute. I read your post and then woke up with the cadence of it in my head the next morning and it's been with me for the last week. Do you know the scriptural source?

I am coming to MSP to study with you in Jan. I LOVE the stream of wisdom you are transmitting, Christina!