"I know what I have given you. I do not know what you have received."
I wrote this post on another blog 7 years ago. Just yesterday in class, I was talking about how paying deep attention to our practice allows us to collect tools for our own personal tool box. There is the attention to movement that might help with understanding how a shoulder moves or a foot supports you (or doesn't), but there is also the noticing of the feel of a movement or a shape. Maybe you notice that when you do a particular shape you feel energized or calm or restful or alert. Then you can tuck that into your toolbox to use when you feel like supporting yourself in that particular way. Over time it gets more subtle. Fast, slow, long, short, warm, cool...the tools become more refined. This is why I'm still practicing after 40 years or so. The noticing is still rich with surprises.
Under the Weather....
"I woke up this morning feeling under the weather. Grey skies, rain...it felt heavy. I was feeling frustration, and something else, sadness maybe? I felt a kind of bewilderment leftover from yesterday. Nothing stays the same. Impermanence.
But then what to do on my yoga mat this morning? I just stepped into my practice. Nothing I've been doing felt appealing or appropriate. I've been feeling my way into lovely backbending, upper body opening postures. Today...I didn't even want to stand up. All I wanted was to fold forward and to have something catch me. So I dragged my meditation cushion over so my forhead could rest against its softness. It's not one of those sort of firm cushions. It's filled with buckwheat hulls that get more mushy and pliable over time. I did forward bends, soft, easy forward bends. I soothed and supported. It was short. It was not effortful in anyway. I was not fixing. I just gave in to what was arising in my attention. Sometimes I say in class, that doing a mild supported backbend can be nice if you're feeling blue. True. But sometimes it's nice to just cradle and care for yourself, not wallowing, just being with things. Letting them clarify if they want to...or not.
Then I just sat a few minutes with some pranayama and meditation with the sound of the rain...and Samputa mudra said to remind us of the treasures we have within. And for today...that was enough." - March 22, 2010
"You get better at what you practice."
- Erich Schiffmann
So what are YOU practicing?
When I first posted this quotation on my Facebook page a year ago or so, a friend commented that someone she knew practicing lighting cigarettes...so much so that that became part of the pleasure of smoking and made it very difficult to quit.
That was exactly why I wanted to remember to ponder this. It's not a question about what kind of yoga you do or what yoga postures you might be trying to get "good" at. There's a lot more to play with in this question than there is in some of the longest articles I've read or written.
"You don’t actually do the work of transformation. You don’t do the work of changing yourself. What you do is begin the conversation and the conversation then does the work of changing you." ~ David Whyte
Over the last few years I've been cutting back on my teaching schedule and making a few changes of location. Some of those changes were premeditated some were in response to outside forces. This year I will be teaching only 3 daytime classes during the week plus a monthly restorative yoga class. As of August 1, 2016, all of my classes will be held at the All Life Community for Integrative Well Being (123 Hyatts Road, Delaware).
For about 13 years, I've been spending a weekend each October at the Ojai Yoga Crib in Ojai, California. Last October the founder/organizer/curator of that event, Kira Sloane, decided to move on to other new interests. These new pathways include the online yoga resource Yoga Anytime. I highly recommend it if you are interested in online classes.
Not long after that, my long time teacher, Erich Schiffmann, decided to cancel his yearly weekend workshop in Yellow Springs, Ohio. That was another event that I've attended for many years. He had other things that he wanted to pursue right now...writing...his own practice.
It got me thinking...what do I want right now? I am more excited than ever about my teaching and the amazing new things I'm learning from a variety of cutting edge movement scientists and teachers. But I also felt like I wanted more time for my own practice. I wanted to offer fewer classes...most likely to fewer people. And I'm more interested in ever in living the questions rather than providing answers. So classes will be playful and full of curiosity...hopefully yours as well as mine. Stop by.
In class the other day, someone asked...why have you stopped meditating at the beginning of class? Part of what she noticed is that people are often lying down...sometimes by choice sometimes by direction. So meditation is only when vertical? I also haven't been ringing my bell to indicate "the end" of meditation. Can we put ourselves in the way of deep attention and and have it weave its way through the whole practice? And when should that "end"?
"I'm just standing still, and then suddenly
I think I am waiting for something.
Once I've decided I'm waiting it's like
I'm not standing still anymore."
This is my new inspiration. If you are in class with me I may give you some ways to play with this. But here...I think I'll just toss it out for your to pick up and explore.
What keeps us holding out for these perfect, comfortable lives that we imagine? And how can training your attention help address these habits?
Please...watch this 11 minute talk by my friend and mindful attention trainer extraordinaire, Daron Larson from TEDxColumbus.
See also: TEDxColumbus talk transcript with links http://bit.ly/DontTryToBeMindful
Today, in savasana, my mind was whirling away about a variety of things. Not worrying, not fretting, just thinking. I was thinking about yoga and how it really takes discipline and patience. That's the tough love bit I haven't been sharing much lately. There's the nice relaxing "I-sleep-better-on-the-days-I-do-yoga" experience of yoga. There's a lot to be said for that kind of experience. But I suspect there's a little bit of cotton candy quality to it. It seems substantial but melts into nothing fairly quickly.
I was thinking about how there's "change" and then there's "transformation". Change happens no matter what. There's no stopping it. Transformation takes discipline, mindfulness, and patience.
The first of the yoga sutras of Patanjali is sometimes translated as "And now the teaching of yoga begins", as if that occurrence happens once and then we are on the path. I've come to realize that that moment where the teaching of yoga begins happens now...and now...and now. And so do the opportunities to miss the moment. Fortunately the moment comes around again. It's never too late.
While this was all swirling around in my head, I woke up to the fact that my body had found a place of profound relaxation. So profound it sent a ripple of pleasure through me to notice it finally. Mostly that doesn't happen. When the mind is busy the body sort of picks up on it as well. But today my body took me where I needed to go and then waited for me to notice.
And now the teaching of yoga begins.
Why the Floor is Your Friend
This is a great article from the Huffington Post...read then play.
"When I stand on the floor in my bare feet and walk around, I can sense the ground better. If I do this slowly and attentively, focusing on how my feet contact the floor, I become more grounded. This practiced sensation of grounding not only promotes dynamic posture and helps me balance as I age, but also calms me when I become anxious. It reminds me that I can be more rooted to the Earth with little effort."
Yoga teacher and perpetual student of life in this body, this mind, this moment.