Monday, June 4, 2012

Monday Morning

Well, let's see- since last we spoke....

Honestly, this has been bit of a rough week for me in a lot of ways. Rumor has it its in the "stars" this week and from all reports, I am not alone in a certain process of soul-searching, self-inquiry and life-review. Obviously, most of this particular challenge is "internal" as the outer circumstances of life are, for the most part,  just fine. In talking to my therapist these days she says this is all typical of a "mid-life passage" which I think actually may be her nice way to say "mid-life crisis". Crisis, passage, opportunity.... whatever.

I was telling someone recently that when I resigned my license to teach Anusara Yoga, it wasn't because I knew firsthand  of all the scandalous details and tidbits, it was more that I had been dealing with the symptoms of the dysfunction for so long and in so many different arenas of my involvement that I had come to the stark and liberating conclusion that Anusara was solely owned by John Friend and that we, as his teachers, actually did not have the freedom he told us we did or that we thought we did. Furthermore, I had this moment of clarity that it was actually his right, as sole owner, to do whatever he wanted to do with the company, his personal life, his professional relationships and so on. Don't get me wrong, I didn't agree with this situation but I realized that I had placed myself, unknowingly and a bit too trustingly in a very precarious situation personally and professionally. I kept thinking about those West Wing episodes I used to watch where the members of the President's staff said they "serve at the pleasure of the president" and in some ways, while this was not what it looked like on paper, this was exactly what the situation was on one level. (Not every level, but on certain, very important levels.)

Pause the story- keep in mind I am simply musing about  my experience, not everyone's. My blog, my story, etc.

So for me, resignation was simply the result of the blinding flash of the obvious that it was his company, he had no "real" reason to do with it anything other than what he wanted to do and that if I resigned, it could, potentially,  cease to be my problem. And initially, I did have this great period of freedom, joy and liberation. And then, as we all know, the shit hit the proverbial fan and my reprieve somehow ended and there have been other issues to reconcile, deal with, move through and sort out.

I am dealing with loss, I suppose.  Necessary loss, but loss still the same. It's sobering to look back at a long-term relationship and to weigh the pros and cons, gains and losses from my involvement. Part of that process is examining to what degree the "Anusara Yoga Experiment" was successful and to what degree it wasn't. I am also questioning  to what degree did parts of it fail, not because of implementation or John's shortcomings as a leader,  but because the vision was off in some way.

Take community, for instance. To what degree did it become so toxic because we lacked training in communication, conflict management and everyone needed to do a bit more therapy these last few years and to what degree did it become toxic because large-scale community simply cannot meet the needs of true intimacy and so it was set up to fail/disappoint/exclude/etc. from the beginning?

Or even alignment- I love the UPA's and benefitted from them (and still do) but I also think that every pose is not the same and they do call for different actions-- especially as you work into the advanced syllabus-- and people are so different that I actually think the principles  are "almost Universal". So did they fail people or was it faulty at premise, that the art of asana could be reduced down to simple broad strokes? (Yes,  I know the principles are sophisticated and so on and are aimed at balanced action between the practitioner, the optional blueprint, and the form, but really, generally, they are not taught and understood in a  sophisticated manner, in my opinion.) I worked with them a lot as a practitioner and a teacher and in my opinion, that approach is a bit of a mixed bag. Lots of good. Some problems but why do we actually need to have everything be so consistent and "match up" all the time? Why can't we actually learn what each pose requires as well as the universalizing actions?

Same with philosophy. I mean, the thing with "it's all good", as we know, has some pretty significant limitations and the power of tantra, in my opinion is in it's tools for helping us mange what is dark, unseemly and uncertain within us, not in its ability to simply create a philosophy of silver linings. More could be said on that for sure and I know its not that simple, but that is kind of my point- its not that simple.

Or with teaching expectations- is it realistic to expect that every student feel inspired in every class? No way. Not that I didn't have my own issues to work through and sort out as a teacher, because I did and I have and I am- but I have had that premise thrown in my face more than once- "Well, I did not feel inspired by the way you gave me that adjustment/correction/feedback" etc. Again, I needed to and still do need to refine my skillful means as a teacher and yet, I think the premise we were working with placed an undue amount of responsibility on the teacher.

Of course, all this can go on forever and a day and I give these more as examples of the review that I am doing as I sort out and move into a new stage of my life both as a practitioner and a teacher. It's not like I think I have some "better way" but I can't kick a feeling of feeling a bit homeless these days as I become some weird hybrid blend of Iyengar, Anusara, Ashtanga and Bikram Yoga! My practice is improving and I am certainly learning a lot and my thoughts on practicing and teaching are expanding but I have to say that that is happening in a way that is surprisingly uncomfortable.

Maybe its like being a kid and getting new shoes every year before school started. I used to get two pairs every fall- one pair of gym shoes and one pair of "school shoes". And we always started the year with the shoes a bit too big, knowing that throughout the year, my feet would grow. At the same time, after a summer of being barefoot, the shoes felt confining. Yep, that's how it feels. Roomy, yet tight.

Anyway- thanks for the indulgence this morning of my personal process a bit. Just writing it all out helps me recognize this stage clearly. I have been here before and I know this stage ALWAYS carves out something quite worthwhile inside me.

And  as always, feel free to chime in about your process if you care to.


Kim said...

What a relief to have many of my own feelings articulated (of course with different context). In many arenas, but perhaps most poignantly in relationship to yoga and teaching, I have had this feeling of wandering (or "homelessness" as you describe it). However, I don't feel totally aimless. I've got a wealth of tools and many appealing avenues ahead of me. But as you have reflected, that freedom can be "uncomfortable". Usually I enjoy a sense of direction, and many of my experiences have been directed by an external force (institutes of education for example). Currently it feels all up to me. I acknowledge this as feeling new, but not "bad".

Our time in Chattanooga made me reflect intently on this discomfort with options, and mourning the loss of a feeling of direction and certainty I had had when pursuing a particular style, or having been in grad school, etc. Things felt much less complicated when they were neatly packaged and "Universal".

I keep coming back to "how cool is this!?" when I realize that I can feel like a beginner again. In fact, my current reflections lead me to feel that my main goal in practice is to stay humble, and maintain a beginner's spirit.

This comment only speaks to a small part of what you address here. I feel like this entry (like many of yours) touch on a deep and rich amount of reflection. Thanks for sharing...

Olga Rasmussen said...

Once again, you touch upon so much of what I have been thinking. I love your experience of "homelessness." Feels that way to me too. At first, I felt the freedom - and I still do - but in the midst of questioning everything and having some of the same thoughts you have - I wonder - what's next? I am sort of opening the doors to that now in so many ways, I'd have to write a dissertation!

Love and blessings,

alohajerseygirl said...

I really appreciate the way you've been sharing your process, Christina. I have been going through something similar in my own practice. It would seem the combination of John's transgressions and revelations about the underside of Anusara and of John's leadership occasioned a good hard look at the ways in which the UPAs were actually hurting my body--and had been for years. It came as a revelation, although I remember a moment during my very first workshop with John six years ago when I thought to myself, "What makes him the expert on body mechanics, and how do we know he is right? What if what he is telling us to do in these poses is actually hurting our bodies?"

And yet, because I trusted my teachers and found the tantric message to be not only inspiring, but essentially life-saving at a difficult juncture in my life, I stuck with it.

Now, nearly six years after I first started as an Anusara student, I realize that one of the principles repeatedly re-injured and exacerbated a longtime chronic injury. Yet I denied and denied and denied it was true, probably because I feared losing something that had been my salvation.

So now, like you, I am finding my own way. And that's one reason I'm loving your classes. Your mashup of Anusara, Astanga, Iyengar and Bikram is working for me because I am doing something similar myself.

On some days, I turn on my computer and allow a growing musical playlist guide my practice.

Other days, I do a class with you and/or Noah on Yogaglo.

Other days, I do a class on Yogaglo with Jason Crandell.

Other days I start doing a class on Yogaglo and then turn it off and do my own thing.

I miss my teachers, but not their Anusara lessons. I miss my kula too; they've been my friends for years. I don't know where I am going, and it's not easy, but it feels right.

Thanks for your part in my journey.