Saturday, January 20, 2018

Is It Juicy and Sustainable?


The juiciness and richness that comes from tasting your food. From tasting your practice. For becoming a connoisseur of yoga. Moving from yoga fast food to yoga fine dining. I can really get behind being that kind of chef. “Serving up yoga, one breath at a time.”

When I first started doing yoga (decades ago), it wasn’t about how many poses I could cram into an hour long session. It was about how many breaths I could remain still in a posture. I remember getting all excited when it was something like “I held Trikonasana for 10 breaths 6 counts in, 6 counts out.”
The numbers may not be exact, but you get the idea. It was about how long I could sustain inhale and exhale, and then how long I could sustain that pattern in an asana. I guess I was all about a sustainable practice! And if you think about it, isn’t part of the essence of yoga having a sustainable practice?

Back in the olden days, the really olden days, say 10,000 or so years ago, it was about how long you could stay alive in order to be able to keep doing your yoga practice to give you more time to get enlightened.  Now it seems like the life of a yogi is as long as they can sustain a rigorous practice until the body starts to break down. Reminds me of my dancer days. Dancers have a limited professional lifespan. At some point the body says, “I’m not into playing this way anymore.” There are exceptions – Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham were performing well into their 60s, 70s. And quite frankly, it showed. I had the honor of seeing Merce perform at that age, and it looked like he was in pain. Same with Martha.

Are we approaching our yoga practice as something that we can sustain over the long haul? I’m not saying not to do extreme postures. I’m saying that it’s how you do them. Dharma Mittra does the most wack poses, and he’s 70! But his attitude is humbling. He surrenders each pose he does “for the Lord.” I’m not talking Jesus Christ here, but for the Lord of Life. (Lord is a loaded word, but I wanted to quote him exactly). You can fill in your picture of “Lord” with whatever you want. Whatever you revere. Whatever it is that gave you your essence,  your life as your essential You.  He surrenders everything he does. Patanjali would call it “offering up the fruits of your practice.”

How many of us are offering up the fruits of our practice to something other than a flat abdomen, really cut arms, or the ability to do poses that no one else can do, all of which sets us apart from the pack, making us essentially “greater than,” “more desirable,” or from a teacher’s point of view, “more popular” which translates as “I’m a really good yoga teacher. “

I also fell into that trap. For a while. And I enjoyed it. It only became a trap when I kept on insisting that I practice that way, when every fiber of my being was begging me to stop and re-connect with what yoga really meant to me. To reconnect with why I did it in the first place. And that reason was all about laghavam – lightness. I wanted to feel light, be light, turn to light. I was no longer feeling light. I was feeling hurt, tight, competitive, and easily excitable. I was not able to sustain that kind of practice.

Then I took a class from Rod Stryker at a Yoga Journal conference about 12ish years ago. The theme was sthirah and sukha. (YS 2:46 Sthirah sukham asanam). I remembered my roots. I remembered my stillness. I remembered the beauty of the long, steady hold. I remembered what the heck I was doing there in the first place!

That practice changed my practice. Forever. I remembered. 

So, in order to sustain our practice, we must find something there that is lasting, rewarding, that doesn’t fade with age. It’s not about the poses. It’s not about restorative vs power yoga. It’s about finding what is the real juice, the real flavor of the practice that sustains us. It’s about finding that which can provide us with nutrients in a way that inspires us to be able to bite into life and let the juiciness of it all run down our face. To delight in each bite, whether bitter or sweet.

Thank you all who have taught me, and those who continue to teach me, and remind me to sit down when I’m eating, and to chew my food slowly enough to taste and digest it. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Accountability Challenge

The question of "accountability" came up in our Transformational Tuesday sangha a couple of days ago. The discussion was around #doingitdifferentlyin2018, the process of discerning what it is we want, and then what it is we really want. A very Sri being brought up the topic of internal accountability and the question of being accountable to one's Self. In my bombastic way, I proceeded to say that I am essentially not into the word "accountability." Thank God, someone else clarified and said, "you don't mean that people shouldn't be accountable for their actions, for example, drunk drivers," and I said, yes, I'm not talking about "accountability" in that way. I'm talking about accountability to our Selves. The concept of accountability to our internal dynamic, our internal choices and decisions, and how we may use "accountability" as a way to keep beating ourselves up for the choices we make or don't make.

I loved the discussion and kept having it inside of myself yesterday. Perhaps I can be clearer when I talk about this "internal accountability."

On Tuesday, I went on my rampage about how I don't like how we can use this buzz word, accountability, as another excuse to beat ourselves up, and for us to keep using a reward and punishment system on ourselves. My intention around the rampage was to open the door to find a new way to motivate and inspire ourselves that is based less on reward/punishment, and more on unconditional love, being really honest with ourselves, and using each decision we make as a way to really learn and understand ourselves more clearly. I went on to talk about things like "30 day meditation challenges" and how these external accountability campaigns might be a quick fix, but might not result in lasting change. And the things we really, REALLY want - well, I'm pretty sure we are looking for lasting change.

After class, I went on to think about those 30 day meditation challenges, running programs, diet programs, addiction programs, etc... and how they offer an important service - community, support, and accountability - as we practice the change we seek.  These external accountability programs can be used as a technique to help us get into a new habit. In Sanskrit, we use the word "alambana" which can mean "support, foundation, sustaining." So I say YES to the external accountability offerings out there! Yes to support! Yes to community!

But wait! There's more! It doesn't stop there. It doesn't stop at the end of 30 days (or whatever the challenge time frame was). The accountability I was talking about that caused me to go off on all this in the first place, was that perhaps we have gotten so focussed and used to the external challenge offerings that hit the inbox of our senses on a daily basis, that we might have lost sight of the place of deep and lasting change, which comes from within.

So the question I pose is, after the challenge is done, do you still have resistance to that which you challenged yourself to do? (now we are talking about internal "accountability") Ask yourself,  do I need another 30 day challenge to help me? And do I really REALLY want this? And why do I want it? Is the reason enough to inspire and motivate me? Or maybe we #gethonestfaster and discover that maybe we don't really want it badly enough right now, and that there is something else more worthy of our time and attention. And give ourselves permission to change our minds, (as we do moment to moment anyway!) and stop beating ourselves up for not doing something we think we "should" really want, or we "should" do, and have the courage to explore what it is we really REALLY want.

So the accountability challenge is one of developing a deeper relationship with your Self and understanding who and what is really driving the bus in there. And do whatever it takes to get your own ball rolling in a new direction.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Just Another Pretty Face ... book?

Is Facebook just another pretty face?
Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc... Social media. Fake news? Or the real deal? Can we really tell?  And what makes social media so different from face-to-face interaction with another human body?

Well, for one thing, I don't have to directly interact with another human in the room. I don't have to/get to see the non-verbal cues the person is giving me. I don't have to/get to see body language, hear actual tone from the voice, see what's behind the eyes. I also don't have to/get to see them emotionally check out, walk away, roll their eyes or make a face. I can be anybody. Everybody can be anybody.

Is Facebook just an air-brushed version of ourselves? 

When we see OPP (other people's posts), what are we really seeing? Whatever the person chooses to present. Whatever the person wants you to see. What we can forget, is that its not the whole picture. 

One of the tendencies many of us have, is to compare the parts of ourselves we don't want others to see (reference "From Shame to Shaman" discussion) with what we are being shown. The 2 may not match up. This is what wise woman Paula Heegaard called "comparing insides to outsides." How can our insides possibly match up to the glorious outsides of that airbrushed life we see on social media channels?

Some use Facebook as free therapy. Emotional blast here, emotional blast there, here a blast, there a blast, everywhere a blast blast...  Some post the pretty. Some post links of their personal interest. Some try to educate others. It's also a marketing tool. And more. 

What I think is important here, is to not base your personal worth on what you see on social media, and remember, what you see isn't the whole picture. It's a person's choice for that moment in time. How much does that person's choice affect you? Does it inspire you? Push your buttons? Make you think? Send you into a dark hole of self-loathing? Change your life? 

This "pretty Face"book world may be convenient. We interact when and if we want to. We can wear our heart on our sleeve. We can shout to the world what a great job we are doing. We don't even have to use words. We can just take a picture, proving how great things are. Collecting evidence of a reality that may or may not exist. 

And when we are living in the physical world of "Flesh-and-blood book", how is that going? Or are we constantly evaluating our life events as "post-worthy" or "not post-worthy?" 

I use Facebook. I know why I post. I know why I read OPPs. I check my "likes" like most of us. I appreciate seeing what old friends from around the globe are doing. I share things I want people to know about. I like looking at funny videos of goat yoga. I also like other shiny objects and pretty things that have nothing to do with staring at my computer screen or phone. But I see them for they are. Just Another Pretty Face. And we know the work that goes into making and keeping all those pretty faces...

So, great job everyone! Isn't that what we all really want?


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

When Doing It Differently is a Waiting Game

Who likes sitting in a waiting room? Is anyone really comfortable there? I guess if there are good magazines, or if you've trained yourself to be OK with waiting.

There is often waiting in doing it differently. Waiting for a new way to emerge, a new motivation, a new inspiration, a new point of view. And sometimes this waiting around "doing it differently" is a bit painful and requires patience. Sometimes waiting for change, and re-choosing change, even though you don't know what to "do" so you "do" nothing, can be excruciating and even depressing. So am I willing to stay in my old patterns in order to avoid this new, unfamiliar pain? The pain of waiting for an outcome that I am not sure of?

This is the big trap. The big addiction. The big fear. And maybe The Big Production. How long can you hold to your commitment to do it differently when the thrill of the "new" wears off, and the fear of the unknown sets in? Where the security of the devil that you know looks better and better, and the deep self doubt that maybe you don't really know what you are talking about, and maybe you should just "behave" and do it the way you were told, and keep the status quo alive instead of sitting with the discomfort that comes when the initial "rush" of a new commitment wears off?

This is the tapas, the stuff that transformation is made of. And the deeper the hooks, the potentially more uncomfortable the waiting game. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Other People's Choices

Who am I to judge the choices of others? That would be playing God. And in being God, not playing, I wouldn't be judging.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

3-day weekend!

So many of us have a 3-day weekend coming up with Martin Luther King Jr. Day tomorrow. What does that mean for you? More partying? More rest? More more? Less more? Or maybe take a stand inside of yourself. Stand up for your Self and what it is you really need, without expecting someone outside of yourself to "get it," to "hear you," to "see you," or to even "care." Those expectations could be disappointing (see yesterday's blog).

Take a lesson from Martin Luther King Jr. perhaps. Can we create change (internally or externally) without violence? Can we change from a place of love and integrity? Are we brave enough to even ask what that would mean - to change without coercion, violence, manipulation?

Do we need to beat ourselves up in order to change? Punish ourselves? If we use those tactics on ourselves, and we think they work, why wouldn't we use those tactics on others to elicit the change we are seeking?

Am I willing to love myself unconditionally today?

Just asking....