Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Inner Authority and Outer Teachings

Kelly and I got home from Tucson, Arizona late last night/early this morning. I woke up, had some tea and offered my last Gift of Practice Webinar. The topic today was on The Power of Play which was an awesome way to bring so much of the work we did over the course to a close.  The webinar course exceeded my own expectations in a lot of ways. I originally wanted to offer an affordable, cost-effective course that would support people in staying connected to themselves and their practices through the holidays which is often a very stressful and busy time.  I had thought I might offer some asana tips and so forth however as the course developed and I dove into my outline more I found myself exploring the inner aspects of practice and clarifying topics such as what is practice exactly, how can we bring an integrated approach to our life of practice, how can we productively work with anger and practice forgiveness, how does gratitude help propel us forward on the path and what is the role of play in a life of practice and awakening. 

As is so often the case, we had a great group assemble for the sessions, both live and via recording, and the work was relevant, useful and thought-provoking. I told Kelly today that I actually taught myself some things over the course and clarified some important  issues for myself.  Really, that was an unexpected bonus for me.

If you didn't do the course live, it is not to late to sign up for the recordings. That is a picture of the online classroom and so you can see what it looks like if you have never joined me for a webinar. There is a lot of meaty material in the six sessions- plenty to chew of for a whole year, really. But at any rate, it was an awesome experience for me overall and a lovely way to spend the morning home after a wonderful week in Tucson. 

The week in Tucson was our sixth week of a year-long Live the Light of Yoga  program we began in January. The first three weeks were Sadhana Intensives and the second three weeks were Teacher Training weeks. Many people combined the experienced for a 200-hour Yoga Alliance-approved program while some folks did the first half and still others joined us only for the teacher training portion. Many of you have been following that journey via my blog so I won't go too deeply into it now, but I must say that I feel like came through a big personal process throughout this program.  Nothing like a year-long program to hold a container in which we can see and experience our growth.

I often wonder about the correlative and causative relationships between these kind of programs and personal growth. I think on one level most of us grow and change a lot in a year. I also think that when we sign up for year-long yoga programs, we initiate a kind of growth that might not otherwise occur. AND I also think that having the container of a group and a program provides a kind of structure through which we grow more aware of the changes that would occur anyway as it also does its work of helping us accelerate a kind of inner process. I see it every year in the students who enroll and commit to the process and I watch myself as a facilitator of the process have to step into my own grow deliberately with each group and with every program.

The big thing I felt by the end of the training was an appreciation for my Anusara Yoga experiences and training and gratitude for the support I had during that phase of my life. I feel like something healed inside me throughout the year that feels very freeing. In a lot of ways, I feel more "anusara" than ever, ironically. (I did chose to write that in lower case to simply say I feel more in my own flow,  more concurrent with the greater  flow which is what the word means, not to indicate yoga style or brand.) 

I also feel more clear about my direction as a more "independent agent" yoga teacher, which, pardon the pun, actually has a lot to do with owning a sense of my own Independent Agency or Inner Authority in my own work as a yogi, not just as a teacher. I feel more comfortable then ever bringing  parts of my past forward into my new work and I feel more clear about my aim for my practice and teaching in the years to come.

I have long been interested in the dynamic relationship between the outer teachings and  the outer teacher and one's inner wisdom and how these two domains  inform one another. Outer teachings and teachers give us references points, instructions for "how to know" and "how to recognize" and can be instrumental in helping us clarify and sort through the various aspects of ourselves and our sometimes competing urges and ideas.  Too much reliance on outer teachers, however,  and we doubt our inner instincts. Not enough doubt of the inner makes us subject to narcissistic tendencies and the pitfalls that come from being too self-referential.  I watch a lot of sincere yogis doubt their inner knowing, particularly  if it, on the surface seems "negative" because we do not want to be "judgmental. I know I have made that mistake many times.

The truth is I need to judge what is good for me and what is bad for me. I need to judge where I will be most likely to grow and thrive and where I will most likely wither or grow malnourished. It is important that I learn to judge good character influences and bad. And so on. Outer teachings help with this and so do those uneasy, uncomfortable and often times, seemingly negative feelings that arise from within. At any rate, I have made some progress with this work personally this year. 

As a teacher, I am more clear than ever that I do not want to teach a system of yoga or to represent a singular darshana or viewpoint, no matter how inclusive and brilliant it may sound or may indeed be. While one is never free of a viewpoint that informs their work, the main thing I am interested in as a teacher is  providing practices and experiences that help point people inward to their own wisdom. About as far as I can go right now in terms of clarifying  "what I believe" as a practitioner and teacher is the following:  I believe each one of us has intrinsic wisdom and dignity.  I believe that the yoga tradition- for all of its problems and pitfalls- has some pretty amazing tools that can help people of all faiths and those without religious orientation  recognize their inner authority, strengthen their awareness  and to build their capacity to live from such a recognition. (yes, I know, sounds a lot like Chit-Ananda as we learned it in Anusara.)

I believe yoga  practice- even if it is the physicality of asana divorced from any philosophy- still contributes to this inner knowing because it can build mind-body awareness in the practitioner. So to me there is not "physical only" asana even if someone is only looking at, caring about or dealing with the physical sheath. And I have said it more than once, I love asana as exercise.  However, I believe the other layers of our being  are affected even if we do not consciously cultivate them or mine them for what is happening. But I digress. 

My main point is that I think the tools of yoga are useful to the extent they help us grow into ourselves, not to the extent they help us fit into an outer ideal, even if that outer ideal is a spiritual community of like-minded people. And I believe that a community is most helpful if it nurtures the  individuals within it, rather than continually asking for people to sacrifice their personal ideas, needs and feelings  in its name, even if it is "for the good of the group" or "for the continuation of the teaching" and so on.  (Keep in mind this is coming from someone who considers herself a creature of community with  long-ranging experience in communities like 12-step groups, several spiritual schools/cults, several yoga methods, etc.) From my observation and experience I believe the "needs of the individual" must be balanced and supported by the needs of a group and to repeatedly ask individuals to sacrifice their needs guarantees a toxic mess will be brewing somewhere beneath the surface. 

Well, more can be said and all that may be read in all kinds of ways and all kinds of conclusions may et drawn but I feel really great these days. I feel very happy to look back and see immeasurable support and to look around and see the same. I am indeed, hopeful for the future, as the year comes to a close. I have learned a ton.

On another very practical note, as some of you know I have been posting weekly "Yoga Tips" on my blog and on Facebook as an effort to support people in practice and in teaching and to return the  content of my offerings back to asana practice and proficiency and away from so much subjective content and inner musings. Yoga Tips has its own Facebook Page now, so please go there and "like" the page and post questions and requests for  tips on postures of problems in postures you might like to explore.

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