Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Free to Choose

So I got home late Sunday night after my trip to Tucson, Prescott and then Chattanooga. As always, these kinds of trips leave me with lots of insight and ideas to chew on and digest.  As time continues on and the Anusara saga continues to unravel I find myself with more and more to reflect upon relative to my own goals and aims as a teacher. I have talked to so many students and teachers at various levels of involvement who seem to be working with several themes related to how best to keep studying, practicing and teaching. I find myself in the midst of some soul searching about my own role as a teacher and what I really have to offer, share and contribute.

One thing that I am reviewing for myself is the relationship between High Vision and the dignity that lives in simplicity, humility and authenticity.  And before I go any further, let me be clear that I do not believe these things are by necessity at odds with one another. I think that it is great to have a High Vision and  a Clear Aim and then to ground that all the way down into the daily acts of practice, appointments and so forth that seem to make up the content of life. Once again we are pulling on that thread of context and content so that they exist in integrity with one another. I am big into this. Too much context and we can live in the clouds and in dreams and vision only. Too much content and we run the risk of being consumed by the mundane drudgery of obligations and details. Strike the right balance we can see that our small repetitious acts of humanity are there to serve the deeper urges of the heart and spirit. Okay, great. That is the thing. I am into it.

HOWEVER-- one thing I keep thinking about is a teaching Lee used to give. He said that the solution to financial insecurity wasn't having more money. He also said the answer to self-hatred wasn't self-love. He said the solution to our third dimensional problems was simply referencing ourselves in a place where those dichotomies don't exist. For instance, what if the answer to financial fear was faith?  What if the answer to self-hatred was the recognition that we do not exist as a separate self? He said repeatedly that the answer to a lot of these kinds of problems did not live in their opposite but in getting off the question all together. 


So the thing is that we all want to give up feeling unworthy, right? But its pretty hard to actually give up feeling superior.  We all want to give up feeling different and outcast, but are we ready to give up feeling part of an elite group or belonging to the "in crowd"? We all want to give up feeling afraid, unable and so on but can we part with feeling invincible,  uniquely talented, special and so on? (And before we get worried here, I am not talking about giving up positive self-regard that tells us that sees our worth truly, that knows we are wanted and recognizes our competence and capacity.)  I am simply reminding myself and others that the answer to what plagues us, is not always what it seems. 

And this relates to Big Vision because Big Vision can run the risk of feeding grandiosity and a sense that nothing is actually as bright and shiny as it is supposed to be. I watch it all the time in myself and others these days. I mean, what if we were just to teach hatha yoga, not the "most sophisticated and elegant method of yoga ever"? What if we just had some good friends we were walking the path with, not "a world-wide community of like-minded and like-hearted people who were both tight-knot and loosely bound"? What if we just helped people with the postures and didn't try to "facilitate a heart-opening, inspirational encounter with the Essential Self through the expression and physicalization of virtue"? What if we just reminded ourselves and others that we have a body and there is something more and we simply looked for signs and experiences of the "something more" in our lives without having to claim superior knowledge of the ins and outs of thousands of years of philosophy?

I mean, what, god forbid, if we were ordinary? 

Now, don't get me wrong, there are times to drink from the well of inspiration, and Vision. There are times to allow the veils to come apart, to thin from the experience of the deep sanctity that lives at the hart of these teachings and these practices. We are, after all, free to live into any story we chose about the thing we call our life. One of my favorite teachings from Werner Erhardt is that that "human beings are meaning making machines" so that means we can give whatever meaning we choose to the challenges and triumphs our lives. We really can live a larger story than our circumstances. And anyone who knows me knows that I prefer to see myself as Arjuna on the battlefield than as victim of misfortune. So I am all for that. I really am. I am, as I say so often, into it.

All I am saying is that I also think we have to keep an eye on the opposite side of that tactic so as not fall into a different trap. We have to stay connected to the ordinary, to our humanity, to the simplicity of life as it is. 

All right, anyway- more could be said, but this is long enough. 

A moment for shameless promotions-- I am offering a webinar on sequencing. Info below--

Pinnacle Poses in Practice and in Classes:Sequencing Strategies Webinar with Christina Sell 

Dates: June 6, June 13, June 20
Time: 5:00-6:15 pm Central Time
Tuition: $99

All sessions will be recorded live and will be available for download for registered participants so it is not necessary to attend the webinar live.

*Have you been teaching and practicing from a basic template of postures for a while?
*Would you like help exploring new and creative approaches toward the postures?
*Would you like help sequencing classes for a variety of levels so that every student can be successful?
*Do you want help deepening your knowledge of the postures and how they relate to one another?

This 3-part webinar is will explore several sequences developed by Christina Sell and will examine some of the underlying principles behind sequencing toward a pinnacle postures. This is a perfect webinar for experienced students and teachers who want to be more precise in their practice and teaching and learn practical strategies for working more effectively. Christina, known for her clarity, precision and creativity will walk through each sequence and discuss various approaches and adaptations to the sequences given. Students will be provided with a handout of the sequences for note taking and personal reference. A text function is enabled throughout the call so students will be able to ask questions during the presentation.

Course Outline:
Week #1- Overview of Basic Sequencing Strategies; The General Template; Decoding Light on Yoga
Week #2- Back bend emphasis- Working toward Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana
Week #3- Twist Emphasis-- Working Toward Pasasana


Materials Required- Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar

Friday, May 25, 2012

Brand Identity

Well, here I am flying from Arizona to Tennessee. I haven't written in a long time it seems. I was in Arizona teaching the third part of The Shravana School of Yoga Path of Practice Intensive with Darren and I had a deadline I was working with for my next Yoga International article, which took up most of my writing brain power.

So between writing that article, teaching for 6 days straight,  and the whole Anusara situation continuing to unfold, I didn't have much left over with which to write.  I was deep in thought about the whole Anusara situation and  I figured that as I thought about it,  I might get more clear about how I wanted to contribute to the discussion. But oddly,  the more I sat with it the less I wanted to say, which, as we know, is sort of rare for me. So, here it is almost two weeks since I last wrote anything and I still have no real wish to comment on that situation and its current events.  I have had conversations one-on-one with people about it and have been able to respond personally to peoples' concerns but I have found my times on the front lines of that discussion to be more and more taxing to me personally. I know all the details are interesting and important to many but as I search my own heart, I keep coming back to the recognition that what I want to spend my time an energy on is what I am doing now that I have resigned my license to teach Anusara, not on the reasons why I left or the reasons why others are leaving or  why others are staying or what I think should happen to the brand, to John Friend, etc.

Like I have written a lot lately, I recognize that people need to process at their own speed and that people will move through the challenges of the situations at different rates and in different ways. Mostly, I am interested in the conversation that exists on the other side of that very important phase of work- the conversation that deals mostly with how best to continue to practice, study and teach. I am also in a bit of an inquiry about how best to conduct myself in the rapidly changing world of yoga where the notion of the day is "You are your brand" and personality so often trumps practice and we are putting our private lives on display and turning them into marketing tools to stay competitive as teachers. I am finding the whole thing  a bit exhausting from both ends.

See, I am not sure that I actually want to be a brand because I think that creates some pretty difficult boundary issues. I do not really have it all figured out so I am, like I so often am here, thinking  a bit out loud. But I keep wondering about what happens to me inside, once I exploit my life and practice for marketing purposes, and spend a lifetime selling  Christina Sell instead of asana, pranayama, mantra and meditation. Look, I get that yoga, in a lot of ways has always had a very teacher-centric thing going on and that the teacher-student relationship comes right along with whole package called yoga. I get that.  And I get that if someone is going to teach us something and we are going to endeavor  to learn something, its super great when we like the teacher, we relate to them, find them inspiring, compassionate, etc. No problem there.

But something inside me these days has an uneasy feeling about where we are as an industry and where we are going and how I want to participate in the whole thing and how I don't. It's so easy these days to see outer success and emulate the things we see certain successful teachers doing without asking ourselves if those actions are  right for us and if, what  the outcome those actions achieved for that person would actually be "success" for us.

I was talking about this in Tucson recently and using my own experience in Anusara as an example of why we need to be checking in with ourselves A LOT about what we want and not just allowing ourselves to be dragged in the popular current where trends and group-mind determine for us what we want, how we apply ourselves and what we get.  For instance, as an Anusara teacher I was handed a whole set of parameters to implement as a teacher- Classes were supposed to be fun, light-hearted, and inspiring. I was expected to use  heart themes in  a particular way and generally, to sequence in a certain way. Whether I liked it or not students were always clapping at demos, chatting in the practice space, expecting  lots of partner work, lots of talking and were used to an ongoing narrative throughout class rather than being inside themselves, with their breath and with their practice.  I was even beholden to an expectation that people needed to feel good when they left from having glimpsed their true nature,  etc. which is a fairly high expectation for a 90-minute public class, in my opinion.  But honestly, it's not like any of that, in and of itself, is some kind of major  problem for me its just that over time, I found the culture of all of it had a life of its own and felt less and less  like "me" as I continued to grow and change.

And "success" in that world involved bigger events, more traveling and so on, not necessarily, deeper states of consciousness, more profound stillness, quieter silence, more sophisticated conversations, etc. Again, I am all for yoga parties and events that are jovial, social and dedicated to the simple joy of being together and practicing and so on. I love to put on music and roll out a mat with a bunch of people and enjoy moving, breathing and being together in community and creating a  celebration through upbeat and extroverted asana. No problem. Anyone who knows me knows I love that.

But I also like the other stuff.  I like  the quiet practice space where I can hear myself breathe and where I am directed inward and not outward. I like the community support that isn't necessary verbal but is exerted mostly through presence, consistency and shared dedication. I appreciate  the magic that happens when people commit to  practicing  together over a long period of time and who understand that yoga community is not a social contract with cliques, games and politics but a spiritual contract to support one another in practice. I like the quality of energy that exists in a room after a practice when no one is talking, clapping or chatting.  And find I am craving this aspect of practice more these days as the pace of life is so fast and the speed of change is so rapid and the thread of emotion is so intense for so many.

So, while all the marketing folks these days are saying "brand yourself"  (and I get that on one level its true that even "not branding yourself" becomes your brand so its good to be conscious about what you are doing and how best to represent your work in the world)  I am also a bit wary of how that approach runs the risk of  taking us away from seeing that our yoga teachers are there to teach us how to practice, not to entertain us, amuse us, fascinate us, or otherwise take our attention off the teachings and the practice. And I think  that we also risk ourselves in the process of "being our own brand" if we do not have clear boundaries about  what part of us belongs to the public domain and what part of us is ours and what part is for the intimate circles of our lives, etc. Once we make ourselves into a "brand," we have to make sure that we are in charge of that brand and not the other way around. With social media being what it is these days, we can so easily give ourselves over to public consumption and be left with nothing  with which to feed ourselves.

So anyway, this isn't the cheeriest of postings today, but it is what is on my mind. See, this next evolution of teaching isn't being handed to us by Anusara or John and so we have a very lovely opportunity to author our involvement based on what the past has taught us. But I am finding that as I search inside for how to write the next chapter I am having to revisit and revise a fair amount. All in all, it feels like good work.

More soon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Slide Show From The Intensive

Here is a slide show of some of the weekend in San Marcos.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Power of Choice

Well, we had a great week with Noah and Tracy here for the Intensive. They arrived on Tuesday, we went to yoga and began our webinar that night. The webinar lasted four days and was an overview of some of the ideas and objectives we have formed Shravana School of Yoga around. It is still possible to register for the webinar and listen to the recordings. If you want information about that contact Kelly at kellysell@me.com. Once our Shravana School of Yoga website is up, running and fully functional the links will be available in our store as well. I was really pleased with the webinar- both with the content that we offered and the attendance and the feedback we received. In general, I think being with each other in person is probably best, but it is pretty great the ways that technology can bridge the gap of physical distance.

Also, I think there is something very healthy about being able to stay immersed in one's own life and then tune into the teachings for an hour and consider them without creating so much disruption to the normal flow and routine of life. There is a time for retreat, for coming together outside of the normal rhythm of our lives and I am a believer in that also. For me, its never one thing or the other but about seeing the cost-benefit relationship to our choices and understanding what gains come with what costs. So one thing about the webinar format that is great is that it  models how householder yogi's actually do the yoga. We have full lives with obligations and activities and all kinds of things in which we are participating and within the scope of that we carve out time for our formal practices as well as  call ourselves to the interior work of what my teacher called Remembrance in the midst of our very mundane endeavors. Manorama calls it "energizing on the teachings" which I think really says it. She told us when she was here that there is no problem with doing the things we like in the world and yet she said clearly and repeatedly that we must "energize on the teachings" and spend some time cultivating our inner lives consciously.

Like I said, I think that this work of yoga happens both formally and informally and  practice, for me, embodies both aspects. I think of formal practices like sitting or meditation, or adhering to a certain dietary plan or practicing asana or repeating mantras. these are the things that we can check off a list and know that we have "done" them. Also, there is an informal domain and by this I do not mean casual or cavalier or less important. Informal practice is where we are working with yogic principles interiorly, without a sticky mat, a meditation cushion or an assigned time. This might be holding an attitude of compassion for others, this might be taking breath before speaking to be clear in our use of speech, this might be practicing giving others the benefit of the doubt, remembering to dedicate our work to the Highest, and so on.

So one thing about the "yoga event" that becomes a downside (and believe me I think there are tons of upsides that are well worth the cost and so again, I am not making a case against one or for the other) is that I think people forget about how important the daily life of formal and informal yoga practice  is to the full spectrum of our sadhana. I saw it happened a lot over the years where people would think "life on the road with the merry band" was their yoga and get a bit addicted/dependent on the Big Experience of that. To me, the Big Experience is meant to bolster, inspired and infuse our lives with inspiration and be more of a punctuation mark, not the full sentence of our yoga practice.  So I think the webinar format is great because it folds these studies into our daily lives in a way that is realistic, sustainable and potent without taking us away from our families, meaningful obligations and so on.

Wednesday, Noah and I went to the advanced practice at the Bikram Studio here which was a lot of fun. We both enjoyed the hard work, the insight offered and the foray into their world of advanced practice. At one point I was on my sweat-soaked towel and looked over at him on his and thought, "yep, this is really our idea of fun. What a friend!" Anyway, after that and a trip to Lululemon so Tracy could get some yoga clothes, we headed down to San Marcos for the Intensive.

We had a 4-day Intermediate/Advanced Intensive which was great. We began every morning with a period of quiet - with puja, mantra, pranayama and meditation. Then we took a short break and did a strong back bending practice. Then we had a 2-hour lunch break and joined back for  a quieter practice of forward bends and inversions. It was a great intensive with some very wonderful moments and definitely my kind of fun.

One of the things I am really hoping to provide in these workshops is a shift away from social, chatty yoga and toward a more focused, practice environment. Don't get me wrong, I love fun and laughter and I am not into a rigid thing when we practice. I really am not. What I want is for the practice environment to have some rigor and for  us as practitioners to have the discipline to not talk and to not express everything the moment that we think it AND I want us to have the lack of rigidity and the freedom to laugh together and to be light when that is what is appropriate. For me,  the culture that "yoga has to be fun" is a bit problematic and even in writing that down I start to worry that people will read it and think  that I think "yoga should not be fun" which is not the case at all.

To me, its about energy management and we talked a lot about that this week. Noah and I asked people to not record the sessions, to leave the cell phones and cameras out of the room and to even keep water bottles and notebooks out of the room so as to be able to be fully present for the experience. It's not that any of that is wrong or I am making a moral issue out of it but the point we were exploring is- Can we have our own experience first, let it feed us, nourish us and fuel us and then decide consciously how to share it? We kept Facebook updates to a minimum and encouraged people to simply be with what was offered before making it public knowledge as an exercise in building energy for ourselves.

Also in the room, we discouraged a lot of chatting, laughing and exterior expressions- not because those are wrong but as an experiment/experience in harnessing one's energy for the purposes of practice and fulfilling one's aim.  One thing I am exploring a lot these days is the idea that if we focus intensely for a period of time in practice what that focused period of time can do for us is provide us with a kind power and potency with which to step out of the classroom and into our lives with greater force and accuracy, relative to our aim and intention.  There is one theory about practice that says "how you do anything is how you do everything" and according to that theory if you want a fun, happy life, you should have a fun, happy mat-based practice. But I am considering a different theory these days based on my own experience- "If you want a fun, happy life in alignment with your spiritual aims then you must cultivate, not just the energy necessary to manifest and live that vision but you must also have the requisite focus, determination and discipline to direct your energy consciously toward what you really want not just what your patterns and conditioning wants."

Again, its not a rigid thing. It is not "do not talk" as much as it is "be able to talk and be able to not talk and then chose which is the most appropriate to the circumstance." To me, its always about making conscious choices rather than living in unconscious patterns of reactivity. And for our aim this week- intermediate/advanced postures in a rigorous environment over 4 days we needed a lot of focus, energy and determination. And then what was cool was we had great community space to share on the breaks and we could chat it up all we wanted outside of the practice space.

I know for me if a teacher never held the boundaries of discipline for me I would never have found the gifts of the yoga. I never, for instance EVER would have done timed forward bends left to my own devices. But because  a teacher put me through them, created a space for introspection and a boundary of time, quiet, etc. I found the nectar that comes from that kind of work. I had to have help passing though the door of what was unfamiliar, uncomfortable and new to the chamber that those particular poses hold the keys to. Obviously more could be said about that but its time to get on with the day.

All in all we had a great week together- lots of hard work, lots of good company, great sharing, deep silences and the kind of slowing down that happens when we get out of the busy pace of our lives and use the "time out" for infusing our practice with focus, work and inspiration. And while this was a bit of a "time out" experience as opposed to the "energize on the teachings in the midst of life" kind of thing, it was certainly not designed to be a Big Event, but a grounded expression of forward movement though practice. I think it went well.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Caterpillars and Butterflies

It seems these days I am often writing this blog  on a plane coming home from some teaching gig. This usually means that I am a bit tired and yet also full of insights, reflections and observations from wherever I have just been. Today is no different from that typical scenario--I am on a plane coming home from Los Angeles where I spent the weekend teaching at Yogaglo. Amy Ippoliti came to town on Saturday night and we had a chance to spend a lot of time together on Sunday, which even included teaching a 90-minute asana class together on our favorite topic “Radical Self-Esteem.”
It was pretty fun to spend time with her since the last time we saw each other was in August and a whole lot has happened since then. Of course, in the midst of all that we have been on the phone a lot, on email tons and in sometimes near-constant text exchanges but even still, getting together, face-to-face is always fun. I love how social media and modern technology helps us bridge the gap of distance and stay connected to the mundane and profound details of our personal, communal and professional lives, I really do. But when it comes down to it,  seeing friends and colleagues in person holds such power and sweetness. (Of course, it holds all the other stuff more profoundly too, because if conflict arises in person, its a whole different deal then it is is to zip off a snarky email, a trite comment or just “unplug” from it all. But I digress. That’s another post for another day.)
So getting to hang out with Amy was a real highlight of my time in California. I also had a really amazing meal last night with Amy and Tracy and Noah Maze in celebration of   my 43rd birthday, which is today. Typical of so many restaurants in LA, the food was fantastic,  the atmosphere very “hip” (although yours truly had not planned on going out for a nice LA dinner and arrived to said restaurant in jeans, a t-shirt and my chaco flip-flops, which even for LA was a tad casual...oh well. ) and most importantly, the company was supreme.
Like I have mentioned on this blog before, I think there is a ton of dysfunction still getting sorted out in the Anusara community  and in the recently-resigned from Anusara Yoga community and I respect the different ways and means people have for working through their particular feelings and perspectives  relative to that saga, so my upcoming expression is not a “get over it, look for the silver lining" kind of expression of gratitude. Everyone has their process and expressing the difficult aspects of one’s experience does not mean that they are discounting the beautiful. They live together, different sides of the same coin and each with their valid truths, vantage points and importance.  
So having said all that, I personally  have been reflecting recently on how happy I am that so many of the friendships I made in Anusara yoga  are still in place.  I count that as one of the many things I am grateful for from my experience in Anusara yoga. Obviously, some relationships didn’t weather the shift or at least, at this point in time, they are not as strong as they once were, but all in all, the people I cared most about before I resigned are still close by my side and true to the bond we forged and shared for years now. 
A while back someone forwarded me a Facebook thread that mentioned how I wasn’t “taking a stand” about my feelings about John Friend and his behavior and it was suggested that I was still being “politically correct” and so on. I found the conversation interesting on a lot of levels for a lot of reasons:

I feel like resigning in October  2012 was a stand about where I was in my heart compared to where I saw the company and its leadership. Kind of an “actions speak” kind of statement. just saying.

Big long discussions about John Friend and his behavior, ethics and so on are not interesting to me. My dad taught me a legal term recently: Res ipsa locator and it means, according to my understanding of what he said, “the thing speaks for itself.” What I mean by using that phrase in this post is to suggest that  anything I might say is already there to be seen by anyone who wants to see it. The good, the bad, the wonderful, the problematic, the blessing, the curse, so to speak. (Okay,  so “curse”  sounds a bit dramatic. let that one be creative flair, okay?)

And, along those lines, while I think its important to have the reflective mirror of shared and expressed experience, I think the important work right now for everyone to do  is to take responsibility  for their perceptions, perspectives and decisions and to claim them and validate them for themselves. There is something key about that right now as I see it. So much healing and pattern reversal can happen if we can really know and claim our truth as our  own.

At the time I resigned, it was considered radical “testimony” to suggest on my blog that I was not always a fan of heart themes and that I actually thought the training protocols could be improved upon. At that time, I got so many emails and phone calls from my still-certified friends who found my posts to be upsetting. How far we have come from October to where what was once scandalous is now “politically correct!” (And, so we are clear, I don't actually deny the "She's being politically correct" observation. There is certainly truth in that for various reasons.)

I am a strange mix of evangelical minister and libertarian politics. The thing is that I am in no way shy about preaching the gospel according to the way I see it. Any of you who have been around me for any period of time know this to be true. Give me a platform,  a moment and a microphone and I am in my happy place preaching the good word. But when you get down to it, I prefer to preach to the choir rather than to convert the masses. So for me, the conversation of convincing people of staying or going or the rightness of my choice and the wrongness of their choices and all that is just not me.  I am the same way as a yoga teacher- once someone is in my class and into yoga, I am a great teacher for them but I have never been one of those people who goes around telling everyone they should do yoga or how much they will love it or how much it will change their life. Its not bad that other people are, it's just not me.
I am as opinionated a person as they come (anyone who knows me also knows this about me) and yet I am also plagued/blessed with the ability to see things from many angles. So those dynamics all live inside me and sometimes confuse people. How can someone so opinionated and self-righteous and preachy actually understand where other people are coming from and let it be and not speak up about it? I am not saying all these dynamics are perfectly balanced within me but I am not really an “activist”  by nature. And other people really are. One is not right or wrong, mind you, I am just musing about my nature. (My blog, my birthday, my nature... like that.)

The fourth thing is that I really love a lot of people who are remaining in the organization and who are working tirelessly for change and while one person suggested I am “kissing ass” and another suggested “I am just trying to stay relevant” I believe I  am simply doing my best to uphold my end of our friendship in the best way I know how.    

Which brings me to the fifth thing which is kind of where I started and that is that I believe my friendships in the community are at the source of what sustained me in Anusara yoga for so long and are at the source of many of the transformational boons I feel like I accessed as a student and teacher of that system. Look, my asana practice blossomed under John’s guidance, it really did. And my knowledge of functional biomechanics will always be informed by the UPA’s as he outlined them (informed by, not limited to or identical to, mind you) and yet, he is not the only good asana teacher I have had and he is not the only person who has taught me great biomechanics. And as the system grew my emphasis and orientation moved more away from him and more towards a mandala of good friends, colleagues and students through whom the teachings came to me quite profoundly. 

I found out in our Myers-Briggs type analysis work that my type is actually organized around relationships so this makes perfect sense that preserving my relationships during this time is crucial for my well-being. Other types are organized around ideals and so “seeing justice served” might motivate these folks more than me. Competence governs other types so “weeding out dysfunctional power differentials that compromise the teachings and the teachers” might be important to others. 
The work with types is so enlightening because I think, as much as so many of us value difference and individuality, the reality is that we do not have lots of training in what that really means and how to do it functionally in a way that does not threaten our own sense of autonomy and validity. It can be SO easy to say “We are all different expressions of Grace” and still unconsciously assume people think, feel, respond and perceive the world just  like us or that at least, they should. Again, I am not saying that it’s conscious, just that I think that it’s a common phenomena, even if we intellectually value differences among us. It’s a serious edge to walk especially in the midst of no-dual, unity-based philosophies.
 At any rate, as time passes these are my thoughts and I am happy to still be in collaborative relationships with my friends and to be forging new alliances and opportunities to learn and practice the teachings. I can’t help but feel we are on the brink of  (or in the midst of) a very profound paradigm shift in the way yoga is learned, practiced and taught. I had a mentor years ago who talked about paradigm shifts more typically arising as paradigm collisions and that the process of upscaling our awareness isn’t necessarily gradual, graceful or easy. Generally, she suggested, it's the opposite.
The age-old and over-used metaphor of the caterpillar becoming the butterfly comes to mind here. Really, we are just fine as the caterpillar. And we are lovely and beautiful as the butterfly. What’s tricky is the phase in between caterpillar and butterfly where we are neither one or the other. Clearly,  we are no longer what we were. Certainly, we are not yet what we will become. And if someone were to look inside the chrysalis at this point, we would appear to the outside eye to be all mushy and worthless. Yes, to me the in-between state is what is interesting to consider because if we look upon ourselves with an outside eye and make outside assumptions about our current “messy” inner state, we are missing the profound truth of the moment: We are in a process of alchemical change. We are being made new. We are not who were were. We are not yet who we will become. The process can not be tricked, rushed, robbed or otherwise interrupted but must be seen through to the end to reap the full rewards of its inherent Possibility.
So important that we have friends to hold space for us while we are in the chrysalis. My best friends are the ones who stand guard over me during this time.  They keep the predators from attacking me and they help keep the germs from contaminating me so that the  process can complete me and I can complete the process. My best friends are not forcing me out of the chrysalis before I am ready, but they are instead,  cheering me on so that I can do what it takes to shift states. And lest we get sentimental here, its not always a hands-off thing because sometimes the germs are in our own thought processes and behaviors and our guardian needs to speak some painful, necessary truths that do not feel kind in the moment but serve the larger process at work.

Anyway, that's it for now. Onward with my birthday day. Here are a few pics from our birthday meal last night.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Creative Tension

I can not believe it is Wednesday already.

We had Teacher Training in San Marcos over the weekend  which went really well. We worked a lot with the forms of the postures from Light on Yoga and talking about how the posture- the classic form, the basic shape, the basic "how-to" of the pose can be a scaffolding upon which the whole task of teaching yoga rests. I used the analogy of a tree and how the posture can be like the trunk and the main branches and out of that grows these other branches and flowers and fruit like safety cues, modifications, refinements, energetic actions, heart themes and so forth.  We went deep into the basics of the postures throughout the weekend which was really fun and educational. And I have really revamped and refined my own ideas about how to train teachers now that the order of the day is not "training Anusara yoga teachers".

I will carry so many wonderful things from that training system over into my future curriculum but honestly, my ideas have changed radically in the last 6 months since I resigned. I am in a very creative process and I am very excited about it. More on the details of all of that soon- my time to write this morning is a bit limited to draw out some of the things I am contemplating right now, but the thing I am clear on is that I am not just teaching Anusara with a different name or without its name. I am, in fact,  in a very real evolution and integration process of bringing my various trainings together in a unique approach.

And the cool thing about that is that Darren is in that process and Noah is too and so the three of us are also working together on how to take our individual observations/experience and combine them into our joint offerings.  Like I said, its a highly creative time.

Another cool thing that we worked with a lot in this training was the Myers-Briggs type analysis. Cari, one of the trainees has expensive training in this area and she administered the test to us and scored it for us and gave us a presentation on our various types. We were then able to talk about how that relates to our studentship and to our practice style and our teaching styles and preferences. It is such an interesting discussion because when its all laid out on paper, it is really easy to see that we are not all the same. And that while humans may have a universality of experience and at a very deep level share a Oneness, at the level of personality and how we experience the world and assign meaning to our lives, we are not the same at all.

I got a lot of food for thought personally from the test as it was timely for me in my own self-inquiry.  I am thinking a lot these days about who I am- not who I can be, how I can adapt as needed, how I can shift when necessary, etc. but the honest-to-God truth of who I am and how, if the reins were free, I might run. Weirdly, its not easy work. So this was a nice doorway into some of that personal work for me. More  on that later.

Also, I got a lot out of The Myers Briggs test  from a teacher training perspective because as I am moving away from teaching a system or a method of yoga and into a process of helping people learn a variety of doorways into the postures, the practices and the principles of yoga, I am increasingly interested in what it means to have a personal relationship with traditional teachings. And if, at the level of personality, we are very different, then that means that people are going to be in relationship to the yoga, to community, to learning in widely different ways. There is a dynamic tension in yoga where we- in our individuality- are always part of the equation and yet we are taking that individuality and funneling it into certain forms that are more constant and unchanging.

It hit me as we were exploring the forms of asana outlined in Light on Yoga that really, that is the conversation of yoga. (Or at least one of the ways to see the conversation. Or at least one of the conversations. And yes, it is my type to see all these different possibilities of how something could be approached. Also my type is to see the step-by-step progression toward goals. Hello, progressive sequencing girl! Anyway. ) As we looked at the postures and gave the basic "how-to" of the posture, the students kept saying, "but I can't do that" or "but my students can't do that" or "but look at his arms" etc. And it dawned on me that on one level what we are actually doing in yoga in a very real way is figuring  out how to bridge the gap between us and the posture or us and the teaching. Like here is this picture of an Indian man defining a near-impossible form and here is each one of us with our unique set of circumstances trying to do the pose. And since the pose is hard and our capacities differ as do our motives, abilities, knowledge, and arm length, etc. yoga classes/methods/systems etc have sprung up trying to helps us bridge the gap between ourselves and an externally defined form. And the gap is full of modifications, energetic actions, props, alternative postures, heated rooms, no heated rooms, various sequences, breath techniques, bandhas and so forth.

It sounds really obvious but sometimes it is really making the obvious obvious that teaching is all about. So it gets back to that tree I described where we are looking at asanas - or philosophically we are looking at lofty teachings, etc- and then we are looking at ourselves and the stark reality that is us at any moment, physically, emotionally, intellectually, etc. And we have to navigate the disparity and find our way. Yoga, seen like this is both subjective and objective and the conversation between the two realities is pretty darn rich. I am interested in that terrain and in that discussion and I am interested in a yoga that trains us all to live in the domain of creative tension between subject and object.

As I see it, some yoga fights exist because one side is arguing for the subjective experience of "its my personal yoga" and the other side is testifying "the form leads the way and there is  the yoga itself" and really I think its both. If we didn't have an aim to shoot for called "the pose" how would be even know where to begin? However, if all we had was "the pose" then we are shoving ourselves into forms thinking the form itself has some mystical answer or power. To me, its both. I have to aim toward the pose even if I can't achieve the form because its in the aiming that I am making my modifications, refinements, and check myself against something other than me.

And so in some way, as a teacher, part of what I am doing is helping people navigate that terrain- here is the objective lesson, here is your subjective lesson, how will you be you in that process of learning? And depending on type some students and some teachers  will gravitate toward one end of that spectrum between objective and subjective. And none of that is a problem at all. More on this as time goes on- this is my new thing so expect to hear a lot about it!

Anyway, this month was really significant for me because I finished part 3 of two different trainings (one in Athens, GA and one here in TX) that began as Anusara Immersions and became Shravana School of Yoga programs before the teacher training component began. It has been such a meaningful and rewarding process too take these two groups through the teacher training and to bring them to completion both in the same month.  Oh, and shameless plug for my birthday celebration--

If you live in Austin, join me at Wanderlust Live on Monday May 7th from 6-7:45 for a birthday practice with yours truly. Come, practice, make a donation and eat some cake. Please help me spread the word- I don't want to play alone.