I spent the weekend with the good folks of New York City (and surrounding area) at Abhaya Yoga in Brooklyn, New York. I had a great time meeting some new people and seeing some long-time students and friends. One thing that keeps filling my heart these days is the recognition of the bonds I have formed with my students and colleagues over the last decade of teaching and practice. For instance, on Friday night in New York I was enjoying a laugh with Michael and I asked him, "How many hours have we been together in the classroom? Hundreds by now, right?" He nodded and I thought- yes, an immersion, a teacher training and countless classes and workshops along with many life changes for each of us and in all of that, a bond was formed and an ease established that is truly delightful. And then multiply that by many people in many places over many years and it is a pretty amazing thing.
Sometimes all of the different connections feel like too much to manage well and to serve effectively and I worry I am sucking at it all. And of course, sometimes the boundaries blur between friendship, work, teacher, student, professional and personal and the water gets murky and connections are lost and the price for what I love so much feels quite high. And yet, well, there are just those moments where I sit back a realize my great, good fortune to be walking a path with sincere and highly principled people who generously give me a seat from which to teach and who, in turn, teach me and train me. Blows me away, really.
So- before I went to New York I spent the holidays re-ordering and re-decorating my house. I threw out files of over six years of trainings and notes and cleaned out my closets and drawers. Kelly built shelves and cabinets and we created new areas to sit and study. We moved the art around and changed the color schemes in a few rooms. We not only purged what had accumulated but also rearranged furniture and created some things that were new. It was a great ending to a year and highly symbolic as well as I wanted to leave some things behind and I very much wanted to carry some things forward into new endeavors and for shifted purposes. I really enjoyed the opportunity to physicalize those intentions on the home front in such a practical way.
The other thing I did was to go see a few shows. Kelly and I saw Willie Nelson play on New Year's Eve. Iron and Wine opened for him which was also wonderful. And a few days after that we saw John Hiatt play who opened for Gregg Allman, both of whom were wonderful. I loved seeing the performances and the way these seasoned musicians and performers offered what they had to give. One thing I liked most about all four of these shows was the utter and complete lack of "blah blah" and the consistent focus on the music without any extra showmanship or fanfare. They simply played one great song after the other. And while each musician had an amazing stage presence, they had very little personality showing, which was very interesting to reflect upon.
Although charisma and personality has been a hot topic in yoga circles these days and has come under great fire from all directions, I have no problem with charisma at all. Of course, I see the dangers and pitfalls of confusing charisma with character and thinking a highly charismatic person is somehow also moral but when charisma is used in service to the right thing it can be a great and wonderful agent of transmission. (And just because someone is charismatic does not mean they are unethical either. And so on.) At any rate, each of these performers was a great example of "charisma in service" as well as a great teaching of what it means to develop one's craft. It is an interesting time in music right now as so many music icons are returning to the stage, writing memoirs and reflecting on a lifetime of making music and so on.
When John Hiatt played "Riding with the King" he introduced the song saying that he had a personal high moment when this song was performed by BB King and Eric Clapton. He said, "So for all you song writers out there, keep the faith... you just never know what might happen with one of your songs one day..."
Of course, I never just go see music without thinking about how it relates to yoga and teaching. I am a bit obsessed with all that, as you may have realized by now. So the big reflection for me was all about developing the craft of practice, the craft of good teaching and the craft of meaningful, ethical relationships. I am very interested in our conversations this year being about the yoga practice as we are engaging it, the craft of teaching, the task of creating learning situations where students glimpse their inner wisdom and the opportunity we have in community to support each other in living honestly from those glimpses with courage and tenacity. I see that as the craft of the yogi and the craft of the yoga teacher and role of community. These tasks of our craft live way beyond charisma, popular acclaim, criticism and trends in the marketplace.
Someone asked me how I planned to stay relevant in the marketplace as I age. I was like "Well, uh, I, uh, just plan to get really good at what I do." Anyhow- whether excellence stays relevant or not, I still think its a better way to go and a more interesting line of questioning to pursue.