I spent the weekend down in San Marcos with Gioconda and our awesome advanced teacher training group. The weekends are full of strong asana classes, lectures, writing assignments, group discussion and experiential activities designed to explore not just the alchemy of Flow-based yoga and Form-based yoga but the alchemy that exists inside each of us as we practice yoga with an eye on the way the various practices affect us in body, mind, emotions and spirit. The content is rich and the group is humble, open and fun to be with.
I am also enjoying the collaboration with Gioconda a lot and the structure of the program is like nothing I have done before. In past programs I have taught with colleagues we have spent a lot of the time together in the classroom and we did a lot of co-presenting the material throughout the day. In this program we have divided the time throughout the weekends so that Gioconda teaches an asana class, I give a lecture, she leads an exercise, I teach a class, she gives presentation and so on. I am enjoying the clear, boundaries of this particular approach a lot. Also, each weekend the students receive a clear schedule of which topic we are covering when and for how long and when the breaks will come and so on. I think this might be the most structured and coherent curriculum-based program I have offered yet. I am so pleased with how it is progressing and we are only three weekends into the year-long journey.
Because the content of the training is so varied and full in a weekend, it is hard to say exactly what the theme of the weekend really was but it centered around an inquiry into how each person practices yoga in both similar and different ways and so as teachers each one of us takes the teachings we have been studying, practicing and exploring and presents them through a lens that is neither completely unique nor standardized.
The more I go about the work of practice and teaching the more this idea is taking root inside me with greater conviction. I keep thinking about how the teachings are like seeds and the practices are how we nourish and support the germination, sprouting, growth and eventual blossoming of said seeds. And what exactly gets planted and how exactly it is nurtured inside each of us is both similar and different. However, I believe this inner nurturing process is the way that yoga is transmitted and passed along through the generations. I believe that the teachings are preserved, not through structures and organizations only or even essentially-- although systems, schools, certifications and so forth have a role to play-- but through the ongoing collaborative process of nurtuing the seeds of yoga that are planted inside the heart of the practitioner.
Perhaps one of the great paradoxes of yoga is that no one can do the work for us and yet we can not do it alone. I call the process collaborative because while the seed is planted inside me and I have the primary responsibility to care for it, to keep it safe from predators and weeds and so on, I simply can not do the job alone.
I need teachers and guides to help point the way and to answer my questions when I run into trouble. I need colleagues with which to confer, I need friends with which to laugh and cry and who will reflect back to me both my beauty and my shortcomings. I also need students to push me toward greater clarity and understanding and to help me grow in and through the reciprocity of giving and receiving that lives in our work together. And truth be told, although I am not one to enjoy this part- I need my critics, the thorns in my side and the nay-sayers to keep me honest, humble and in touch with my humanity.
So to the extent that our professional structures help with this collaborative process of yoga, then wonderful- I am all for them. But ultimately for me, the preservation of the teachings is not a process of certifications, pure lineages, contracts, licenses, trademarks and so on. For me, the preservation of the teaching is an inside job done within a context of community.
I often read through the enormity of yoga-related posts on the internet and lately there has been a lot of commentary on how dramatic the world of yoga is. And I know that that is true but it seems to me that the more I am in the work of planting and nurturing the seeds of yoga inside myself and in the work of standing vigil for my friends while they do the same and exploring effective means to support the process in my students, the less dramatic it all seems to me.
Don't get me wrong, I love a good rant, a good sermon and have gotten swept away in my own outrage at what is happening to yoga, the industry the teachings, etc. more than once, as anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows. So I don't mean for this to sound pedantic or sanctimonious.
My point is that when I get "yoga-industry fatigue" and I am overwhelmed by who said or did what, and which company is doing what and which charismatic leader did what unethical thing to who and which alignment is right and which style is more popular and who is marginalized and who feels unrecognized and what is real yoga and what is not and who has a patent and how the whole thing is running off the rails in ten-thousand different ways based on ten-thousand different standards of evaluative criteria, I find solace in the practice itself and in the simplicity of tending the garden of seeds inside myself and with the people right in front of me in the moment who I am fortunate enough to be teaching. At the level of helping people with their poses and with their practice and with the always-rewarding process of glimpsing some aspect of inner Light the work of yoga is decidedly un-dramatic.
So I think that is a take-away from the weekend for me. The actual work of this thing is ordinary, simple, majestic, beautiful, challenging, gut-wrenching, rewarding and worthwhile. The interface with the stuff around it holds a level of drama that can be captivating, seductive and alluring and yet ultimately seems to be distracting and enervating. The more I place my attention of the actual work of teaching and in making an intelligent contribution to the conversation of yoga, the happier I am, the more grounded I feel and the more straightforward this job seems to be. And that is how the weekend was- straightforward and rich.
Here is a moment from the training that Kelly captured on film. This was at the end of our Saturday group practice after some big work on big and not-so-big "shapes".
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"There is a light that shines beyond all things on Earth, beyond us all, beyond the heaven, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in our heart."