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.