Both Darren and I shared with the group and each other that we had our own variations of anxiety during the week prior to the intensive. I suppose the reality that we were stepping more fully into our seat and into the project we have taken on began to land in reality and not so much in theory. And like I have been writing about a lot lately, many times these kinds of thresholds are accompanied with emotions of fear and inner messages of doubt, like gargoyles that make us face ourselves and pay the price of honest self-scrunity and self-examination before experiencing the gifts and opportunities that live on the other side of the threshold. In facing fear, we develop courage. In hearing our own doubts and yet forging ahead, we develop perseverance. Like so many qualities of heart, the virtue we need lives in seed form in its opposite expression. And in these cases the only way out is through and the only way to the higher virtue is through the threshold itself.
The cool thing is that for both me and Darren, it was obvious that once we stepped into the work of the week we found ourselves enjoying the teaching, the group and each other more than ever. For me, I have always loved the work of the intensives and immersions but this week was really something different in both content and context. I did not expect the quality of my experience to be so radically different but I have to say I have never felt so at home in my skin, so relaxed in what I was presenting, so curious about the group I was teaching and so aligned with myself. In many ways, the week was both a culmination of my cumulative experience and training as well as a new beginning.
I think the thing that I loved so much about the week had to do with our aim of making the teachings relevant to the people in the room and keeping all of the larger concepts grounded in experiential exercises. I felt like we gave manageable chunks of theory and practice and provided what could actually be absorbed and digested. I watched the group have profound inner shifts and insights with relatively little breakdown in the process.
We used a model of self called the Quadrinity Model to identify the different aspects of who we are. We talked about how the School of Yoga is aiming its work on the harmony between the parts of the being-the physical, the intellectual, the emotional and the spiritual. We worked on clarifying aims for each quadrant of being and how an aim in one part should not be at the expense of the other. The conversation was rich, full of texture, grey areas and the tacit understanding that being human is not easy and that finding a way to live authentically in harmony with ourselves is a life's work. Yoga asana is one tool of integration and we worked with that while incorporating other pragmatic tools and methods as well.
We talked a fair amount about the power of ritual and ceremony and we started each day with an invocation to Ganesh, the singing of the Guru Chant which we are using as an invocation in School of Yoga and the Gayatri Mantra and a puja. It was amazing to me what taking 10 minutes to do formal ritual can do for me personally and for bonding a group. We closed every day with the offering of our prayers through a convocation or closing mantras. Many people shared that the puja was one of the most meaningful parts of the training for them.
We kept the asana focused on the level 1 syllabus and in the "hard work in the basics" which was awesome. We didn't push to big poses at all but we went very deep in the alignment and the relationships between the postures. We explored the outer alignment a lot and covered very simple unifying actions of inner alignment. We worked a lot with the shapes of the postures and how much gets accomplished in skillfully executing the shapes relative to one's actual capacity. We spent a lot of time building for work in inversions and the whole week laid a tremendous foundation for the physical practice.
The students did lots of journal writing, some art work with mandalas, small and large group sharing, learned mantra, pranayama, basic meditation techniques all with emphasis of developing a life of practice relative to one's true and authentic aim. The thing is there is no School of Yoga prescribed way to be. There are techniques we can teach and community we can share but really, the School is about offering a place to connect to one's Light and to explore ways to uncover it more fully and to express it more radiantly. That is going to look very different from person to person and it starts by having a place to come and just tell the truth about where we are at with ourselves and each other.
And all in all it was an incredible week.
Enjoy the pics.