We spend the morning playing in deep back bends- lots of work on bhekasana, supta bhekasana and then urdhva danurasana, drop backs, standing up and even viparita chakrasana. We had all the toys out- the ramp, what back bender (sometimes known as "the whale") and it was a good, solid 3 1/2 hour practice. In the midst of the morning I kind of shared some thoughts on community which have been on my mind a lot lately. Interestingly enough, later that evening Manorama touched on a similar theme.
The thing on my mind is about opinions and how in community, we need to strengthen a muscle around the fact that people have different views and opinions. It does not have to be some big deal if someone in the room loves one thing and someone in the room sees and experiences it differently and even voices their dislike. (Of course, lets keep in mind there are appropriate boundaries, rules of engagement and so forth that I am assuming are in place here. And, if I disagree with just about everything that is happening in a certain group, I might just chose to remove myself from the group rather than be involved, constantly expressing my disagreement. So, assuming all that, I am talking about groups that form with a general agreement about protocol, ideals and values and yet also need a functional way to manage and relate to disagreement and difference. To me, community is not about sharing the same thoughts and ideas as much as it is about sharing similar values about how to be in relationship together. For instance, if we truly value freedom, then we need to create a circumstance where we are free to agree and free to disagree.
My opinion and experience is that we- as a yoga community- have a situation on our hand these days where the "political correct" expectation that no one ever getting upset and offended has become a bit extreme. Of course, the flip side is also true where the "freedom of expression" is often unbridaled and undisciplined and through the mediums of social media, the inner life runs the risk of becoming a bit exploited. So, obviously, as always, we can fall off either side of the razor's edge of practice and the only answer to this dilemma is discernment and the only way to cultivate discernment is to pay close attention to the feedback life is giving us interiorly and exteriorly.
But my point is that as yogi's, the path is to look at ourselves first when we are offended-- to see what set of beliefs, patterns and thoughts got "activated" and to unravel those knots within ourselves. The path of the"ordinary human" is to ask someone else to change to spare us the discomfort of our "offense." But the problem with that is when you put 30 people in a room together or 50 or 100, etc. you get an exponential number of possible offenses because viewpoints are multiplying and opinions are increasing and so forth. Like I so often say, if we try to remove every possible offensive word from our vocabulary, eventually, we are going to run out of words to use. (I am not talking about worldless, thoughtless reality here. I am talking about being tied up in co-dependent neurosis that has, at its heart, a desire not to cause harm but also contains a seed belief that people are too weak, insecure and damaged to actually manage their discomfort as an adult.)
Manorama touched on this suggesting that one avenue that becomes possible in yoga is that we get established in our Self in such a way that we are rooted in a deep abiding presence of truth that allows us the freedom to extend curiosity and spaciousness to others. She was clear this is not a rigid stance but is instead a sense of being anchored, established and unshakeable at our core in such a way that we can allow for differences among us. She said that if we do not know who we are, we are much more threatened by the variety of opinions, experiences and viewpoints that will inevitably arise in life. Yoga, she said, is not about getting our preferences met or about having our comfort maintained. It is about getting off that conversation altogether so that we can live in a different state of consciousness than personality-driven desire. (I am paraphrasing here.)
So anyway, we started that convo in the morning with back bends, had a great lunch break, worked on hanumanasana in the afternoon. Kelly cooked up a great vegetarian meal for us all and we shared dinner together before Manorama came for satsang. We ended the day with what me and Manorama have been affectionately calling "Cake Satsang." She and I discovered that we both have an affinity for cake and so we all had some vegan chocolate tres leches cake. Yum.
All right- more soon.
A few pics from dinner and the start of the evening program.