We had a very incredible week down in San Marcos for the Living a Larger Story Intensive. It is hard for me to know exactly where to begin because in many ways I am still very much in the digestion process. Maybe I will start with the end in mind because the whole week really landed inside my heart in such a strong way as we sat together for the closing circle. Mary had spent a lot of time talking about archetypes and how the zodiac gives us a lot of information about archetypes and how the sun moves through these different signs throughout the year and I reflected on how this is the 12th month since I resigned from Anusara yoga and in a lot of ways I have passed through several different archetypes throughout this last year. Some have been wonderful and some aspects have been horrendous and painful, of course, since that is part of the deal here on Planet Earth, or as Mary referred to it Tapa Bhumi. Bhumi is the Earth Goddess. Tapa, like tapas means heat, austerities, challenge, fire, burning zeal, etc. So "Tapa Bhumi" is the acknowledgement that we came here for growth, for change, for the opportunity to turn our human difficulty to our soul's advantage. This means that the challenges we encounter are not ultimate mistakes, problems or punishments but are instead the means through which we will evolve.
So I was reflecting on this trip around the sun that has been this last year and I remembered back to sitting with Darren in his house as we talked about letting go of such a defining structure as our certification, our formal affiliation with a community and what had become my career as well. I remember thinking to myself that I might lose all of those things in the choice but that I had this place down in San Marcos, TX and I could offer programs there and I would simply teach who showed up, whether that was one person or 40. As the story has unfolded this year, I didn't lose everything externally like I thought (And like many people told me I would) but in a certain way, being prepared to walk away from it all was a very strange and free moment. Some grace had swept into my heart in an instant of clarity and I knew- with one student or with many or with a job bagging groceries instead of teaching yoga, that I, me, Christina, would be okay. Deeply okay. I had this moment of knowing that what was most true about me and what was most true about my real friends wasn't tied to my outer success or to the boundaries of an organization. It was a big moment.
Having said that, when I looked around at the group that was there all week, I was very aware of how deeply I am tied as a teacher to my students. Paul Muller Ortega gave a teaching one time about how, as students, we live in the grace of our teacher and our lineage of teachers. He went on to say that it is also true that as teachers, we live in the grace of our students. I know both aspects of this teaching to be true. The last week for me was a full experience of living in the Grace of my teacher. Mary, me and Darren are all students of Lee Lozowick and practice our sadhana under the influence of the lineage of teachers that came before him, namely Yogi Ramsuratkumar and Swami Papa Ramdas. So there was a joyful connection and reminder for me personally to be be sharing the teaching responsibilities with my sangha mates. And while it wasn't a week of "Lee's teachings" I felt the potency of the shared lineage in a personal and immediate way.
And also, I felt the way that the students held me in the Grace. See, to me, Grace is not some mystical magical thing that works outside of my life or through some outer agency. Grace to me is made Real in and through my life. The "support" of Grace, for instance, is not distinct from the reality that people pay me money to learn yoga and that money pays my bills, etc. The support of Grace that the scriptures all talk about to me is not something outside the very fabric of my relationships. I feel Grace at work when someone listens to me and hears my deeper truths. I feel Grace when a wise elder tells a story that sheds light on my own confusion or brings clarity and forgiveness an inner haunt or darkness. I feel Grace in the sharing of laughter, the breaking of bread, a knowing glance, and the good and sometimes challenging work of living and working in community. I also experience Grace in the trying moments of difficulty, uncertainty and doubt for how else will I learn discernment, faith and hope? In my world view, Grace has no agency except through us and through this life here on Tapa Bhumi. How else can it work?
So, as this first trip around the sun is nearing conclusion post-my Anusara resignation and the lessons keep coming it was very cool to look out in a room and to recognize the deep connection I share with so many of the people present for the week and with so many people who were not there. It is clearer to me than ever that was most true about what we shared has not died but has simply shed a skin and morphed into something that is more aligned with what I most truly wanted anyway AND so many new people have entered my life as well. But that process of re-invention has taken some doing. And some undoing.
Mary told a story- well she told lots of stories- but she told a story about Innana's descent to the underworld. The Godddess Innana hears a call and she descends to the underworld where she dies and is hung from a hook. I mean really, think about it. That is one graphic image. Not only does she get stripped of her vestments of power along the way and then has to walk an increasingly upsetting road to get to the underworlds, she dies while she is there. And not only does she die but her corpse is hung from a freakin' hook. So, no nice burial for her. Nope. She, the great goddess- or should we say former goddess-- is hung from a hook. Dead.
As luck would have it she left some instructions with the folks up above in her former life that if she didn't return they were to come and get her. So there is a long sordid tale of the various failed attempts to get her out and finally they do get her out. Of course, once she is out, there is a bit more bargaining that has to happen and it is not quite happy ever after. There is more involved which involves some trading of souls and so forth until the tale- or this chapter of the tale- ends.
At any rate- the story is a great reminder, I think. Each one of us is going to descend at times. Each one of us is going to get stripped bare. There are times when we are going to be hung from a hook- either interiorly or exteriorly. And hopefully, each one of us has some people who stand vigil for us. Those who guard the gate and who come and get us before we rot in our difficulty. And still, even if we make it out- there are some scars and some negotiating we are going to need to do. We are going to have to navigate the terrain that exists between our former life and our new-found wisdom based on the time we spent in the underworld. None of it is easy. It is not designed to be. It's Tapa Bhumi, after all.
So many of my students held vigil for me this last year. And not just this year but over the long haul. That's the thing. We are held in each other's grace time and again and it is my great good fortune to walk this path with so many amazing people. The week in San Marcos was filled with the recognition of this truth for me and I felt very happy, very soft inside and very inspired. Once again I am reminded that the more willing we are to do the inner descent and to bear the discomfort of self-scrutiny, we are given the corresponding ability to appreciate our good fortune and to experience the lighter end of the emotional spectrum as well. Oddly, we spent a lot of time journeying through the underworld together and yet the mood of the week was quite high. it is a world of contrast, it would seem.
All right, onward with the evening. More soon.