Years ago, my teacher at the time, was facing criticism from the community as his work grew beyond a small group of students into a global network. One of the criticisms—of which there were many— was that his long-term students felt lost in the crowd and were missing the close, personal connection they had shared with him in the early days and upon which his growing empire was founded. Additionally, new students felt disconnected, unseen, and invalidated because, in any given workshop, they were one in a sea of people. They didn’t feel what their teachers described feeling from their early days with him, which also created an emperor’s-new-clothes kind of situation.
More could be (and has been said) about that time, but it seemed to me that as the project grew in scale from a close-knit, bonded group into a world-wide movement, the mechanisms of leadership had failed to adapt effectively, leaving both old and new students hurt and frustrated.
At one conference, attempting to quell this rising tide of discontent, my teacher told the group how he was “there for everybody.”
I remember thinking to myself, “Oh, boy, we are in for it now. There is NO WAY he can be there for everybody. The only way this can end is badly.” Later that week, I begged him to changed his narrative so that he stopped promising something he could not deliver.
I think he wanted to be there for everybody. And I think the scale of his experiment was no longer as satisfying for him without the deeper connections that marked the early days of his teaching work. And while the desire to be there for everybody may have features of a narcissism, I do not think that is the whole story or the singular explanation of what was going on. Not everyone agrees with me on this, obviously.
Instead of making bigger, more impossible promises, I wanted him to start to talk honestly about his limitations and how a larger community can not provide the same things as a smaller community. As a community, I wanted us to understand that, even with such limits, it was possible to have many of our needs met, but probably not all of them. I wanted a discussion that acknowledged a solid yogic education— one complete with spiritual inspiration and community connection— does not require perfection of the teacher, ourselves, or one another.
Of course, that shift in narrative is not what happened.
And I should pause the story to say that my perspectives may be what they are because I personally did not feel abused or traumatized by my involvement with my teacher. He hurt my feelings. I hurt his feelings. We had fights. We had misunderstanding and differing views. I made choices that he probably still sees as a betrayal. And there was a lot of good that passed between us. All those experiences are there in all of their messy glory. And yet I did not feel abused. And I feel like my yoga education was good. Not perfect. But good enough.
Not everyone feels the way I feel and I am sympathetic to the difference in perspective. I am aware that each person involved with this teacher walked away with differing views on the time they spent with him. I want to be clear that in some cases, many people feel that the ethics violations were significant and therefore some of my perspectives are not going to be useful to others because a different set of boundaries— internal and external— may be needed for healing in cases of abuse.
Recently, our minister was preaching about how to bring Love and Oneness to life in our lives by staying in relationship. She described how her family of origin would discuss hot topics, disagree, and fight and yet still were able remain in relationship around a dinner table, as a family. She clarified that Oneness of Heart did not mean not to disagree, but lived in the unity of being a family in the midst of disagreement. Then she said, “I must make a caveat here— In cases of abuse, I do not advocate staying in relationship.”
So like that. In cases of abuse, ethics violations and the like, many of my — or anyone’s— philosophical musings must be applied relative to one’s specific situation. None of this work is easy, simple or one-size-fits-all and it often goes more wrong than right.
However, I am still interested in a vision of yoga that is not anchored in some kind of utopian yoga dream but is, instead, anchored in a paradigm of “good enough.” Of course, depending on who we are, “good enough” can vary significantly, making the whole topic even more daunting to actualize reliably. For instance, for folks with a history of physical abuse who come to yoga, a class “good enough” not to re-injure, and perhaps even provide a healing opportunity, is likely very different than for someone who is not coping with those wounds. Same with race, size, gender, socio-economics, education, physical abilities and limitations, illness, health, addictions, etc. And yet, part of the utopian yoga dream (as I see it) is the expectation — conscious or unconscious— that one approach, one class, one set of cues to give or to avoid giving, can somehow address the myriad of needs that exist in any given community of practitioners.
I recently had a discussion with a colleague who outlined a vision for a yoga that was inclusive, politically-active, trauma-sensitive, egalitarian, and more. I nearly had a panic attack hearing the description because I knew there was no way my public classes and workshops could or would meet such a standard. Even if I was doing my best to meet the high standard outline-- and to be clear, I try to do a good job-- there would be people walking into my classroom who, despite my best efforts, would eventually feel hurt, ignored, unseen, unable, and left out— some of which would be my fault due to my unconscious patterns and biases and some of which would be due to theirs.
I think we probably need to do better as teachers and as an industry and there is certainly room for improvement and clarity. I am not discounting that reality. Issues abound. And I think naming problems for what they are is important so we know where to apply our efforts toward improvement.
And, as time goes by, the less I have come to expect yoga will provide. The asana practice has been great form of awareness, physical expression and discipline for me. I also love to hike, bike, and paddle a kayak. As much as I love asana, it does not satisfy me completely as my sole physical activity. And while I have had very few chronic injuries from asana, I also go to bodyworkers of all kinds to help with my aches, pains, unique tweaks and peculiarities. For instance, when my hip hurt, I had an MRI and the thing that helped the most was a shot of anti-inflammatories, not yoga therapy. I have found immense psychological resources in the teachings and practices of yoga. I also have a great psychotherapist. I find some of the yoga philosophy enriching and inspiring. I also go to church, read across disciplines and truth be told, at the end of the day, right now I find more solace in contemplative prayer, time in nature, being with my dog, and writing in my journal than I do in the average dharma talk, church service or yoga class. Some of my favorite people are my yoga friends, students and colleagues and I have found that having friends who don’t care about anything yoga to be immensely valuable, oftentimes possessing a practical, unencumbered wisdom that can be hard to find in spiritual communities so often bogged down in right’s and wrong’s. I have profound gratitude for my teachers and yet, I have found that they are all human, they do not always see me in my best light, and they have each, at some point along the way, hurt my feelings.
I don’t teach asana because I think it is everything anyone needs for a happy, healthy, meaningful life wrapped up in one package. Perhaps, because so much of my public life revolves around my work as a teacher, asana may appear elevated beyond what it is for me— an important facet of the diamond of my full life expression. I think that, as important as it is, as much as I invested in asana and yoga philosophy over the years, the value of these pursuits in my life today exist more in relationship to the other facets of my life than in the totality or singularity of their expression. But let's face it, most of you know me because of yoga, not because I love my dog, I am a good cook, I help my parents, I have a wicked sense of humor, I like alpine lakes, I have a great art collection, and so on. The parts of my life that fill in the fullness of who I am are not as publicized as the backbends, arm balances and teacher trainings. And the fuller the other areas become for me, the more a yoga that is good enough is well, good enough.
All right, more could be said, but I have been wanting to keep these blog entries shorter, not longer and this is now right at 1500 words so I will sign off for now.
“The cure for pain is in the pain.
Good and bad are mixed. If you don't have both,
you don't belong with us.”
I am making my way home from fantastic weekend teaching in Portland, Maine. This was my third visit to Lila East End Yoga, which is run by the lovely, dynamic Genell Huston. Genell has had the studio for seven years and grown it into a vital community of practitioners and teachers and it was a pleasure to step into the room to teach.
Genell and I know each other through our shared background in Anusara yoga. We developed a closer relationship through my Asana Junkies webinars. Talking about Anusara yoga can be a bit like that story of a bunch of people gathering around an elephant, each touching a different part and describing something different. These days, I do my best to see what each person’s perspective is/was rather than argue for the tail, the trunk or flank as being the total reality of the beast.
In fact, come to think of it, talking about yoga— particularly with a large audience online— is also a bit like that story. Depending on style, geographic region, primary teachers, body-type, gender, race, religious background, psychological disposition, socioeconomic situation, and so on— as this list is not intended as an exhaustive enumeration of all the variables at play— one’s direct experience with the practice, as well as the industry, varies considerably.
I am happy about the education I got in Anusara yoga and I lean fairly heavily on what I learned there in my teaching work. And I have grown a lot over the years, which has changed my perspectives in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways. One freedom I now enjoy in teaching is a sense that the alignment I am suggesting through my cues, sequencing and explanations is a starting point, not an ending point. Rather than needing any one cue to be “right” or “wrong,” I am much more interested in said cues being a doorway into awareness and personal exploration. I now see the alignment as something there to serve me when I practice and my students when I am teaching, not something I am supposed to fit myself or others into. Generally, most cues have some value for some people some of the time. And by the same token, many cues have problems for many people much of the time. Like the razor’s edge, one can fall off either side.
Increasing the difficulty further, is that some cues work well for a period of time and lose their utility and even cause injury when we continue to implement them past the point when what they were intended to do has been accomplished. One of the best ways to create injury in our bodies is to work like a beginner— big actions, big movements— once we are intermediate or more advanced students. Many a stiff-hamstringed person has benefitted in uttanasana by bending their knees and working to increase the forward tilt of the pelvis. Many a loose-hamstringed person has weakened their muscles that way.
Another difficulty is that we do not always get the feedback from our actions immediately in yoga. Sometimes the way that we are working, or the poses we are doing, or even the perspectives we are cultivating, take years to register as problematic. Where I used to see so many of the principles of alignment—physical and attitudinal— as guarantees for safety, I now see them as our current best, well-informed guess to go with. My new perspective requires me to be willing to shift my way of thinking and working in poses when feedback comes in that my best guess had some flaws or opportunities for refinement. You know, to be, uh...flexible.
Seems like its taken almost 20 years in the seat of the teacher to feel comfortable with a yoga with fewer mandates and directives. And I have made every mistake in the book along the way from power struggles about alignment with my students, to unnecessary, unproductive criticism of myself and others, to passing along rigid dogma and beliefs to trainees who I am sure have passed it along to others. I could go on as the process has not been smooth or easy.
I have also helped people along the way, which I am also clear on. While the process hasn’t been smooth or easy, I have been in good company, blessed with great students, colleagues and opportunities. And yet, there is something sobering about teaching and knowing I can only teach from where I am. And sometimes, even when doing my very best, my best is not very much and my limitations have less-than-desirable consequences. And the only way to overcome these limitations is to walk through them step-by-step, day-in-day-out, year-by-year and summon the courage to keep learning, growing, offering, and owning up to it all— the ways it goes well on my mat and in the classroom, as well as the ways what I do misses the mark.
Today I see the value in my own journey of passing through the stage of do’s and don’t, right’s and wrong’s. Those structures gave me a scaffolding for a lot of years that helped me engage my practice with boundaries and parameters that helped me focus and channel my energy and attention. I know in my heart-of-hearts that I could not have started where I am now and so I don’t feel ashamed or angry about the way I have traveled the path. And I hope that 20 years from now, this current juncture which feels healthy and integrated to me, will be a place upon which I look back and go, “Wow, I have grown so much since then.”
I suppose these musings are on my mind because the room this weekend was filled with folks with whom I grew up in Anusara yoga. Perhaps these ongoing, remaining connections are the best blessing that came from my formal affiliation with Anusara yoga for all those years. It certainly seems that way to me now.
At any rate, like I said in class over the weekend— Yoga is an both/and proposition, not an either/or endeavor. Of course, both/and may not always be at the same time. Much life like, the good comes with the bad, the difficulty with the ease, and occasionally, often in retrospect, I can feel the Grace in all of it.
May passed in a whirlwind of activity and changes. Locket and I drove to Texas for my final final intensive at The San Marcos School of Yoga. I turned forty-eight years old. I packed up the house and studio and met the moving truck. Locket and I drove back to Colorado. Kelly and I celebrated our 20-year wedding anniversary. The moving truck unloaded our things and I have been unpacking and reorganizing my belongings. In the midst of that, I said many good-byes, taught a lot of yoga, gave several interviews, spent more time socializing than I have in ages, and managed to paddle my kayak a few times, plant a garden, ride my bike, and take a few hikes with my dog.
And, as I result of this last month, I am five days into my new practice--The After-lunch Lie-Down. This is a simple practice, really. The protocol goes as follows: Eat lunch, clean up and then lie down. That is pretty much it. No phone, no book, no TV, just lie down. Sleep or not. Enjoy it or not. No matter. Just lie-the-eff-down.
I recommend a bed or a reclining chair, where you are unlikely to be disturbed, but any horizontal surface will do. In fact, you could do this practice on a yoga mat and it would fulfill the #yogaeverydamnday requirement, to which so many people feel beholden. I set a timer for thirty minutes and stay horizontal the whole time. So far, I have had no trouble completing the entire period. Once, I even stayed for a full hour. Another day, I did ninety minutes. Locket often joins me, making the time even more enjoyable.
I used to think that with all the therapy, spiritual practice and inner work, my Type-A, slightly-compulsive, competency-driven personality would somehow fall to the wayside, revealing a laid-back, go-with-the-flow kind of person who could relax into the rythms of life with equanimity and equipoise. Well, anyone who knows me knows that outcome has yet to manifest. Now, I mostly endeavor to stop fighting my tendencies and put them to use in my own favor.
See, as a fiery-pitta type, I don’t just rest. I kick rest’s ass. I make a plan. I set a timer. I put it on a list. I make it a thing. I get my dog involved. I write a blog entry about it.
So, there you go.
This is what it has come to, friends. I turned 48-years old and adopted a napping practice.
Maybe I could start an instagram challenge. #naptime #napeverydamnday
Maybe Sleep Number beds would sponsor it or those groovy mats with crystals in them. I suppose we would also need some kind of special pillow to optimize results. Maybe an eye-wrap of some kind and certainly, the essential oils folks could get in on this game. We could have a Spotify playlist for the #bestmusicfornapping. We could have a festival, or at least an online summit of some kind to share how awesome it is to actually stop and lie down.
So many possibilities.
But all that planning makes me tired.
I need a nap.
For those of you still reading and interested in my next online program, check out the details on Finding Depth in the Basics: Techniques for Napping Well. Oh, no. that is not it— we are going to focus on forward bends and hip work this summer. Our first meeting is June 14th and registration is open.
Working on the basic poses is not “easy” or even “beginner-oriented” in this course. We are exploring the depth of attention, focus and precision that can come in and through building block poses and principles. If you like Asana Junkies you will like the strong asana-oriented focus of this course. If you stayed away from Asana junkies because you hated the name or it was too advanced or intimidating, this course is a great one to join. Nothing showy or big, just good old-fashioned work on the basics in good company.
Oh-- and for those of you who asked me about my November Asana Intensive at Mt Princeton Hot Springs, the housing information is now posted online.
More soon. (Once I wake up.)
I am in Colorado, sitting in my car talking to my sister, Anne, in Texas. She has spent the last week helping my parents in the hospital while my mom, Andrea, had a kidney infection. Anne tells me that, when it was time to leave the hospital, she said, "Mom, it's time to go home."
Mom said, "Anne, I don't have a home."
Dad said, "You know, Andrea, I just can't call that place home either."
Mom and Dad had been living in an assisted living community in Austin, Tx for about nine months, and while it was not horrible, the situation was a bit depressing. And while the facility provided a more-than-basic level of care, clearly the place had not become "home" for either of them.
I told Anne, "Well, you know, things in life can change on a dime. We never actually know what is right around the corner."
Kelly and I put an offer down on a house in Buena Vista, Colorado.
We invited Mom and Dad to move to Colorado with us.
Locket, Kelly and I loaded up in the Sprinter van and took a cross-country camping, hiking and teaching trip that included visits to some of my favorite yoga communities and gave me the distinct honor of getting to marry two of my yoga students, which was a highlight.
October 18, we took possession of our new house.
I spent a lovely week in San Marcos, Texas hosting Manorama for her intensive and co-teaching with Gioconda Parker.
Mom and Dad moved in.
Anne and Jeff came for Thanksgiving.
December I returned to San Marcos for the Winter Asana Intensive. We had our first Christmas here. Anne and Jeff came for the holidays again.
The new year began and continued with teaching trips, snow blowers, learning to snowboard, going to church again, cooking, cleaning, laundry and the like. Intermingled with all the details of living and teaching, I have been adjusting to living in a new place as well as living in a more extended family situation for the first time since I left home when I was eighteen.
And so on.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Kelly, Locket, Mom, Dad and I are driving from Leadville, Colorado to Buena Vista, after getting our driver's licenses changed. As we passed the sign for Buena Vista city limits, Mom said, "We're home!"
I don't think she meant a lot by her comment in any conscious way. However, her joyful exclamation registered in my consciousness as a meaningful moment of which to take note.
Mom had a home again.
We are part of that home.
I texted Anne: Mission Accomplished.
Three and half years ago, my mom had her second stroke. This one came 13 years after her first stroke and her recovery has been difficult for her, for dad and for our family. As her needs increased, we made the choice for Mom and Dad to go to the Assisted Living Community, where this little blog entry began. Mom didn't talk much over the last few years and had slipped into her inner world to a degree that we, as a family, were unsure if she was experiencing signs of dementia or if she had a more significant level of damage from the stroke than we had previously thought.
In the time she has been with us, her strength has steadily increased, her interest in life has returned and she is talking again-- telling stories, making jokes and laughing at herself and all of us. In more ways than I can list, she has come back to life.
More could certainly be said, but much of that is hers--and Dad's-- story to tell, not mine.
The story that I can tell is that life can, and often does, change on a dime. The day I sat in my car talking to my sister I had been planning on returning to Texas in the fall and getting back to business as usual after a summer season in the Colorado mountains. I had no plans for a big life change. I had not been planning on re-orienting my life and becoming an active participant in caring for my aging parents.
And yet, here I am.
And I am happier than I thought I would be in the change.
A few weeks ago, a visiting Episcopalian bishop came to our church and preached about Lazarus. He suggested that each one of is Lazarus in some way. Each one of us is breathing but not necessarily living, walking but not in freedom of choice--bound and blinded by habits of thought word and deed that keep us locked in a tomb of limitation--perceived or actual and making us ripe for transformation.
He also suggested that each one of us are the disciples saying that the journey is too dangerous. Each one of us is Mary, blaming God. And each one of us Martha, wanting to avoid what is smelly, unsightly and distasteful that must be faced in order to grow. And he also said, that in some way, each one of us can also connect to the power of Love that is Jesus in the story. Each one of us can be renewed, revived and (dare I say it?) resurrected in Love.
The story I can tell is that caring for my parents in this way has clearly been a good thing for them, for which I am super grateful. And our new arrangement has been a good thing for me also. In countless small and often seemingly insignificant ways, the change has breathed new life into my perspectives, has unbound areas of my own self-centeredness and has opened my eyes to a wider world of Loving. Love has called me out of a cave of comfort in to an arena of risk that holds its own reward in the process of living into it.
The thing about Love seems to be that it has the power to transform, not only those who receive it, but those who offer it. Being a part of someone's depression lifting, witnessing someone's sense of humor return, and providing a place that someone can call "home" is deep, meaningful and extraordinary territory to inhabit. Tender, precious, tough and worthwhile.
And don't even get me started on Easter.
And since many folks want to know a lot of specific things about the move so here goes--
All right, if you made it this far, I applaud you.
I have had difficulty writing blog entries lately as evidenced by the fact I have not written since last year. Between the election, the move, the adjustments to a new circumstance, I haven't had a clear notion of what to put down on paper.
I don’t feel like debating politics at all. I think we have a dangerous situation there— not just #45 but the entire regime he ushered in with him. And I am not that open-minded about it and I have yet to see anything in his actions that have convinced me to change my opinion. I do listen and read— as best as I can, which admittedly is better some days than others— to people who support #45, but I have yet to see the situation differently. I do not think that “giving him a chance” makes any sense. (In fact, he has his chance regardless of how I feel about it, so I don’t understand that line of advice anyway. And, larger forces than my opinion need to work through legal channels for his chance to be over and that will take some time. But I digress.)
I do stay tuned to the ongoing developments in the political arena and I see what could be signs of hope in terms of some dynamic leadership rising up in resistance. And I phone my senators and congress people. I also think Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin is a voice, not only of resistance, but of something that might come close to reconciliation. Her smart, generous, passionate and clear-minded perspectives are good for those interested in educating themselves about how to be an intelligent part of progressive politics right now.
When our current president was elected, we were in the middle of an intensive at The San Marcos School of Yoga. I didn’t know what to say to my students but I did know what we needed to do. Walking into the tearful, scared and angry group of people who were in attendance that week, I offered a short ritual that involved movement, expression, visualization and mantra. Oh, and some fire. And then we did our asana practice—a strong, heart-opening practice to work squarely in the face of apathy and fear.
I am not of the mind that yoga actually makes the world a better place. Nor do I think that just because we practice asana we become better people. I do not think yoga— in and of itself— solves many problems. I think yoga may even make some problems worse. For instance, any of us with OCD tendencies might notice that regular counting-based practices leave us counting more than our breath off the mat. Those of us with eating issues may find ourselves in the grips of yoga-inspired food restrictions ranging from vegetarianism to cleansing protocols to well, you name it. Anyone suffering from body image issues may feel worse at times, not better. More than one narcissist practicing yoga has done more than a little harm to the people in their communities. It can be all too easy for any of us to fall prey to the multi-faceted traps of delusion, illusion, and confusion no matter how sincere our intentions are.
So there is that.
And yet, for me doing my various practices bear fruit. I am not talking about practice as simply going to class where we get caught in the nitty-gritty, in’s and out’s of what is happening in any public studio anywhere— some of which is really great, some of which is not my thing, and some of which is downright troubling. I am talking about studying scripture and grappling with the Teachings. I am talking about praying— out loud, in silence, in groups or alone, in faith or in desperation. I am talking about singing and chanting the Names of God. I am talking about moving with my breath. I am talking about exploring the shapes— again— to see, in some way, what the state of my own union is— again. And again. I am talking about charting the territory from my big toe mounds to my sternum and watching the chains of reactions inside of myself that occur as I invite myself again— and again— to be present to my embodied experience. I am talking about writing in my journal, talking to my therapist, going to church, reading inspirational literature and staying close to those things that nourish and nurture my faith, strengthen my ability to live in accordance with my inner compass, to fight the good fight against despair, cynicism and nihilism and to believe in Love.
Practice is not world peace. Practice will not save the environment or pay for health care. This work may not always pay the bills. And yet, I think that there is no time like the present to dive deep into the life of spiritually-oriented practice because we are living in a time where the very structures of our society are eroding— like free press, public education, environmental regulations, health care, arts and so on— and if we do not have an inner connection and are not practiced in taking that inner journey to the source of our innate wisdom, discernment and vision, we will be at the mercy of the outside forces of destruction. We will be that much more manipulatable, that much more able to turn a blind eye to injustice and that much less willing to rise up, resist and persevere.
There is no magical solution, as I see it. There is simply the next pose.
Again and again.
In other news, I learned to snowboard this year.
I am heading back to Colorado, after almost two weeks teaching in San Marcos, Texas. As so often happens after an intensive at the San Marcos School of Yoga, I am tired, inspired and grateful. On the final day of the ten-day teaching streak, two of our Alchemy of Flow and Form students graduated. I told the group that I was brought up in the yogic guru paradigm and feel like, for all of its problems and pitfalls, I benefitted from the structure. I am grateful for the education I received; however, I do not want to serve my students according to that paradigm.
When I resigned my license to teach Anusara yoga and looked at an open road of Possibility, I knew I did not want to reside at the top of a pyramid in such a way that implied I had all the answers, that I had some awakening, some special knowledge, or even some new insight about yoga. Plenty of people I know personally are more studied in philosophy, more accomplished in asana, and spend a whole lot more time meditating than me. I didn't feel like I had some new take on yoga or could offer a unique iteration on the tradition that I could honestly sell to others as a thing. And believe me, I had more than a few "what's your mission, vision, etc." types of sessions with more than a few experts along the way.
Ninety percent of what I teach in terms of asana I learned from my my Iyengar yoga teachers, Manouso Manos, Patricia Walden, Laurie Blakeney, George Purvis and John Schumacher. Not one class goes by that I am not drawing on the wealth of information and insight I got from John Friend. I stand solidly on the shoulders of the great and ever-creative Desiree Rumbaugh, who I consider my Big Sister in Yoga, and the quirky, yet always on-the-money perspectives of my gurubai and long-time teaching partner, Darren Rhodes. My sister, Anne Schultz, and I have spent more hours than I can count hashing over sequences, techniques and teachings from our studies and practice together, and my friend Gioconda Parker and I have explored both the meeting points between vinyasa and form-based practice as well as their points of divergence. I consider myself fortunate to have spent time with the exemplar Afton Carraway, Kathy Durham, Gianna Purcell and Mardy Chen whose clarity, expertise and passion for teaching and practice stand as ongoing, shining examples of what is possible in and through Bikram yoga's often-times difficult and misunderstood points of entry. In short, very little of what I teach is my own. (In fact, ten percent may be a generous estimation of things I teach that I have actually made up.
I love teaching a lot. More than teaching, I love being a student of a great teacher and I love learning. Teaching first and foremost calls me into the sphere of learning and continually asks me to grow and refine—not only my knowledge—but myself, so that I can actually help people. I am continually amazed how much inner work has been, and continues to be, required to exhibit anywhere close to how I want to be as a teacher. I am grateful for the path that teaching keeps me on, although sometimes the lessons are tough to swallow. Of course, I am also happy to report that the lessons also come in pretty lovely packages.
So at some point, I realized I could not make a method, nor did I want to lock everything down in such a way it could be packaged, sold and commodified. And close to that realization was the recognition that about the only thing I felt qualified to do was to facilitate and nurture a community of learning. I can stand in front of a room and play a leadership role only in so far as that role does not require me to have all the answers, to be the best in the room, or to be beholden to the same truths tomorrow that seem true to me today. And for the last few years, that approach has been deepening within me and I am finding that, for a handful of students, it seems to be a viable strategy.
By viable, I mean that enough people have been interested in learning this way that my business is sustainable. And more importantly, than that, I say viable because I am watching people who are willing to repeatedly put themselves in an 800-sq ft room and practice asana, mantra, pranayama and other various means of self-inquiry in a small group setting: These individuals grow and deepen—not just as asana practitioner and teachers—but as human beings living soulful lives with honesty and passion.
I do not mean to imply that my students are all really happy. They aren't. Some are, of course. And none of them all of the time, that is for sure. They are struggling to make ends meet, to parent with integrity, to crawl out of depression, to heal from trauma, to overcome addictions, to love fully, to forgive themselves and each other, and to have faith and hope. We are a very imperfect bunch, truth be told.
And yet, it seems there is no better ground to find compassion for oneself than in the aftermath of our greatest mistakes. No better teacher of forgiveness exists than betrayal. No better way to find love than in the broken shards of the heart that have carved the deep cuts of self-hatred. As time goes by and I learn more of the details of my students' stories, I find their beauty heart-breaking at times. There is not one person in the room without wounds and yet no one is without resilience, depth and longing for something Real. I do not think I could find finer company.
Years ago, one of my teachers spoke about the Grace of the teacher. I have known this Grace as a living and breathing force, with many manifestations. Today, I am reminded of the second part of the teaching he gave that day: The Grace of the Student. For as much as we are held in the grace of our teachers, the teachers also are held in the Grace of their students. We exist in one other, held in this field of grace, participating in what to me is nothing short of a blessing.
Fine company indeed.
At the end of the summer, Kelly and I started making arrangements to move to Buena Vista, Colorado. We bought an awesome house that looks out over the Collegiate Peaks mountain range and invited my parents to move out of their assisted living community in Austin, TX and into the house with us. So, in the midst of the elections, the Thanksgiving holidays and so on, I have been somewhat absorbed in this major family transition.
I still have trainings on the books at The San Marcos School of Yoga through June and so I will be back and forth between Texas and Colorado over the next few months. I am in Texas now, with a few moments to sit and write before 10 days of teaching begin tomorrow with the Asana Junkies Winter Intensive which will be followed by the annual intensive I teach with my friend, Mari Young. I am looking forward to both events.
Mom and Dad arrived in Buena Vista on November 16 and the settling in process seems to be going pretty well for all of us. In preparation for their move, I made contact with the local United Methodist church, Grace Church, hoping to create a connection for them to have when they got here. Of course, it didn't surprise me one bit that, while I went to church "for them" I found a lot of strength and support for myself there as well. I have been playing this game of growing up long enough to know that many times I do something for one reason on the surface, only to find that there are often much deeper reasons driving my choices. I always feel a bit like God is winking at me in those moments.
I loved Jesus as a kid and had a pretty rich prayer life as long as I can remember. I never felt "at home" in church, however, but in retrospect, that may have had more to do with southern culture which was never a great fit for me as a strong-willed, opinionated, outspoken child who asked a lot of questions and had a somewhat difficult relationship to authority. But I digress. My exploration of spirituality beyond Christianity wasn't so much based on anything bad that happened for me as a result of my Christian upbringing, but had more to do with a desire for the experience of God and the experience of community to be authentic, inspiring and alive in action. I found that in the practical work of the 12-steps of OA and in my exploration of yoga and in my relationship with my spiritual teacher, Lee Lozowick, None of those avenues felt like a rejection of my early religious upbringing, but instead, felt more like an expansion thereof.
Last Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent and the minister gave a lovely sermon about how Advent is not the preparation for the birth of Christ as much as it is a preparation for the "Second Coming of Christ." And just in case your hackles go up when you hear that term here on a yoga blog, don't worry. She went on to say that the "Second Coming of Christ" happens when Jesus comes alive within us and when, in that awakening, each one of us brings forth our truest and deepest talents in creative, authentic ways that serve others in awakening to that same understanding within themselves.
I know writing about religion is about as dicey as posting something politically-oriented on Facebook these days. I know this rendering of scripture might not be for everyone. (So, as always, take what you can use and leave the rest.) I loved her message and found the essence of her teaching reminiscent of what I believe is possible in and through yoga. Am I saying that yoga will turn me into Jesus? Not so much. But I have, like many of you have who are reading this post now, had moments where my Heart rises, where wisdom awakens, and where clarity dawns from the clouds of confusion. I have found courage to step up, to speak out and even to shut up, when that is needed. I have developed the muscle of recognition, which helps me notice those moments that feed me spiritually and point me in the direction of my growth. I don't work with definitive set of rules, protocols or guarantees on the path, but I have faith in the process of self-study, self-inquiry, service and action.
I certainly don't have a faith that "things will work out" because I think the human timetable of "things working out" may not match up to the larger story of evolution and, while my personal life seems lovely now, things can change on a dime. And it goes without saying-- but I am going to say it here anyway-- there are many privileges and luxuries I enjoy that others do not and so it seems absurd to match up a good phase in my life with some notion of a more universal trust in positive outcomes.
And in the midst of a heated Presidential election and in the presence of fears for the future, many people have told me that their faith has gone a bit dormant, that they feel disconnected from hope. I get that. The state of current events has been divisive, vitriolic and even abusive for many people. I certainly don't think a better back bend is going to make a big difference in public policy or foreign relations. I do, however, think that those moments when we bend over backwards and face ourselves on the mat-- the good, bad, and ugly-- can help carve out a pathway to the Heart so that it can rise within us and empower our action off the mat. I do not think asana will do the job for us. I do, however, think it can help us grow sensitive, flexible and strong enough to respond to the uncertainty of our circumstance with some measure of consciousness.
It can. Of course, it might not. There is enough evidence to suggest both possibilities are true, but I can not go down the road of "what is wrong with yoga" today.
Anyway-- sitting there in church, seeing the familiar symbols of the faith tradition of my childhood and participating in the ritual of shared worship, felt nourishing to me. I heard the same scriptures with new ears and with different eyes and saw the message of redemption through Love that has always been there with the gratitude of an adult who needs it, as opposed to the petulance of a child who wanted it delivered according to my own ideas. I experienced retuning to church like a homecoming that didn't take away all that I have learned in my studies and practice, but instead gave me a place to integrate my who I am now with the roots of who I have always been.
And in this day and age, I will take inspiration wherever I can find it.
Anyway, lots more could be said but I needed to get back in the game of posting blog entries and this is what was on my mind today. At some point, I will write more about helping Mom and Dad during this phase of our lives but for now, all I can say about that is that it is precious.
Yesterday, after long hike in the mountains, I went to Cottonwood Hot Springs to soak. Easing myself slowly into the sublimely hot water, I smiled at the woman on the opposite side of the tub. She smiled back and said, “I noticed your strength as you walked over here. What do you do to get that strong? Do you do yoga?”
Feeling a bit awkward, I said, “Well, it’s summer so I hike, I bike and I do yoga.”
She said, “What kind of yoga? I don’t look like you do from yoga.”
I replied, “It’s mostly genetic.”
I soaked in the pool, avoiding further eye contact and conversation.
But of course, like so many conversations, I continued the dialogue inside my head.
First, I thought, “Isn’t kind of weird that a woman I have never met and do not know, felt so free to make a comment about my body?”
And secondly, “Isn’t it weirder that I felt obligated to answer her?”
And thirdly, “How in God’s name am I supposed to answer a questions such as, ‘What do you do to look like that?’ ”
I sat, soaking in the tub, contemplating the lifelong story of “what have I done to look like this” as flashes of my life came to my mind, each part of the complicated answer to the seemingly simple question I was asked by a stranger.
I am 13 years old and weigh 98 pounds when my best friend and I go on our first diet. It was called The Sunshine Diet. It consisted of the same menu for 1-2 weeks: Breakfast: 1 orange, 8 oz. skim milk; Lunch: 1 orange, 8 oz. skim milk, 4 oz. hamburger patty; Dinner: 1 orange, 8 oz. hamburger patty, 8 oz. skim milk
Let’s just say, I did lose weight (not that I needed to, mind you), but I certainly didn’t feel too sunny inside.
I am 15 years old cheerleading at a football game when one of the boys in my class yells, “Nice thunder thighs, Tina” from the stands. Let’s just say, I never really loved short skirts much after that moment of shame. Of course, in retrospect, it seems obvious that he should have been ashamed for such a crass, cruel and objectively mean-spirited remark, not me. Instead I felt embarrassed, belittled and ashamed.
I am 18 years old- suicidal, a bit strung-out from mixing drugs, alcohol, and bulimia and I am talking to my psychiatrist about wanting to get some help. Seizing an opening, she said, “Describe to me what it would look like for you and I will find it.” In some moment of clarity, I described, in almost perfect detail, the treatment center I would enroll in within three months: “I would be safe to be honest about my problems. I would have friends who would not care only about how I look. I would be able to go swimming and enjoy feeling the water, not just worry about how I looked in my swimsuit.”
In retrospect, some part of myself knew exactly what I needed and that wise part of me has never left me since that moment. Obviously, I have done better and worse jobs of listening to her and letting her guidance lead my choices over the years, but some part of me was intact back then, even in the midst of a pretty messy time of life. To me, that is Grace.
Images of my healing and recovery working continued to flash through my field of awareness— 12-step groups, psychotherapy, New-age healing circles, more than a few cults, spiritual communities, schools of yoga, esoteric traditions and the like.
I think about how for over three years I weighed and measured my food, according to a protocol of my OA sponsor, in an effort to bring some structure to something as natural as eating that had become so distorted and out of control that I was brought to the brink of suicide more than once.
I think about every kind of eating plan I have tried over the years— raw foods, macrobiotics, low fat/high fiber, South Beach, Atkins, vegan and vegetarian— that each taught me some vital lesson and yet never got close to solving the essential hunger that lived inside me; a hunger for depth, connection and meaning that was insatiable, consuming and which no amount of premium ice cream could ever slake.
I thought about living with the competing inner injunctions of “be skinny” and “don’t make anyone else feel uncomfortable” and “be disciplined” and “don’t be rigid” that created a double-bind where any move in one direction put love, approval and belonging always feels at stake in a game that demanded I keep playing and yet could never be won.
I thought about the various milestones of life that always went along with the curse of gaining weight— puberty, freshman year of college, getting married, turning 40, menopause, etc. What a shame that development along the natural arc of life came with the narrative of “don’t gain weight, or else”, much like an oppressive rider on a good piece of legislation gets slipped through the voting process and accepted as law.
I thought about that “or else” and the power it has had over me, my friends, my students and colleagues to the point where amazing, beautiful, creative and passionate women I know who are kind, smart, hard-working and insightful are also a bit obsessed — existing mostly on kale smoothies and afraid to eat pasta or drink beer. (I know, some of you actually like kale smoothies and many of you are actually are gluten-intolerant. And I am not saying beer is essential for a good life. I know. I mean it metaphorically. Mostly.)
I thought about how my weight fluctuates a good ten pounds throughout any given year, depending on my travel schedule, my stress, my activity level and the degree to which my vanity has a grip on my behavior. And well, truth be told, it’s more like 7.5 pounds but even knowing that the exact number is 7.5 pounds, not ten, speaks to a bit of ongoing crazy that I would rather just keep to myself.
I thought about writing a book on the topic of body image in 2003 and how I thought then that yoga would have answers for me and for other women suffering the same or similar thoughts, feelings and behaviors, only to see overwhelming evidence thirteen years later in my world of work that yoga may just as likely make matters worse as it will make matters better when it comes to body image, weight and food choices.
And yet, Yoga From the Inside Out was about ending war with the body and committing to a lifelong peace-keeping effort where the truce between society’s insane imperatives and my own inner state could be found only in, and through, a life lived from the Heart, dedicated to Grace and grounded in the sanity of practice over time.
So— I deflected the stranger-in-the-hot-tub’s question and said, “It is mostly genetics.”
You see, I have no “5-step Plan For a Strong Body Through Yoga” or a prescribed set of dietary suggestions to offer anyone. I do not actually care what people eat, what kind of exercise they do or even how they look. Nor am I very perfect in the area of food, body image, exercise and health. I prefer breakfast tacos to smoothies, I have stopped trying to overcome my caffeine addiction, nor do any efforts of restriction seem to bear any fruit over the long haul. There is always a swing-back. It may take a week or it may take a decade, but experience has shown me, if I move too far or too fast in any singular direction, the pyschic toll necessitates a swing-back in the other. I have come to appreciate the slow crawl toward change over and above the grand gestures of seemingly rapid transformation.
When I was in therapy groups in my 20’s there were often older women in the circle. I was certain that by the time I was their age, I would not have their issues. Truth be told, I was a bit disappointed in them for not being more together than they were by their age. And of course, I thought that doing all this inner work in my youth would yield a much more “together” older woman than what they seemed to be managing to become.
As I am now closer to 50 than I am 45, I see the whole process a bit differently. I no longer value the perfect picture on the outside or the true-but-trite one-liners that attempt to sum up a lifelong process in a single sentence. I admire the honest struggle to be real. I admire the humility of repeated efforts and repeated failures. I admire faith, tenacity, and any scrap of compassion that is built amidst the shared struggle to live a life of meaning in a body that has weathered the storm of our own or another’s violences. I admire forgiveness. I admire all that it takes for any one of us to live according to our better angels.
Perhaps I should have said these things to this person in the hot tub. Of course if I had, I wouldn’t have written this article.
As always, take what you can use and leave the rest.
I was a racist by the time I was nine-years-old.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t know I was a racist. I didn’t plan to be a racist. My parents were forward-thinking, progressive, liberal Christians who never spoke poorly about people of other races. I was a generally happy, smart and energetic kid who got along well with others and love kittens, candy and playing outside.
So how, you ask, did I end up a racist before puberty? (For those who want the short answer, it is simple: I grew up in America. For those who want some personal backstory, keep reading.)
Between the ages of four and nine, our family lived in Rye, New York. An affluent suburb of New York City, Rye boasted wonderful resources in education, recreation and community-based enrichment activities. It was a great place, as I recall. But the thing is, I do not remember any black people there. Not in my school, not in my church, not in my neighborhood, not in my gymnastics class, not at the ice-skating rink, not at the swimming pool, not at… well, you get my point.
The only interface I had with people of color was through television— Good Times, What’s Happening, Sanford &Son and The Jeffersons. Somewhere along the way, my young and impressionable mind came to believe that all black people lived in ghettos. Maybe a few were lucky enough to get out— as in the the Jefferson’s “Moving On Up”— but really, black people lived in ghettos.
In 1979, when I was nine years old, our family moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I attended Frank Porter Graham Elementary School. And guess what? There were black people there. Perhaps you can imagine my shock when, at nine years old, I realized my parents had moved me to the ghetto.
I was worried.
I was scared.
To make matters worse, I had to ride the bus to school. The bus route went through a low-income housing community before rolling into our white, middle-class neighborhood. I am sure it is no surprise to any of you that the students in the low-income housing community were black. Of course, to my 9-year-old self, getting on a bus that was full of black children was just more proof that my parents had moved me to the ghetto and that I was in danger. In fact, when I got on the bus, the kids who had already been picked up would typically be seated on the inside seats of each row. When the kids at our stop asked if we could sit down, the black kids would tell us to “go to the back of the bus.”
Let’s say, racial tensions were just that--tense.
I found this passage online, which gives some of the back story about North Carolina schools at the time:
"In 1971, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education that it wasn’t enough simply for schools to open their doors to students of either race. Instead, schools must actively work to dismantle the “dual system of education” that had developed during desegregation.
The problem was that segregation had produced separate black and white communities, each with their own neighborhood schools. The solution seemed to be busing white and black children to integrated schools outside of their neighborhoods. While some of the opposition by whites to busing was motivated by racism, busing was opposed by both white and black parents. Many parents were concerned that their children were being bused across town, sometimes for more than an hour, and attending schools outside of their own communities. Some white parents objected to busing because their children were being sent to formerly all-black schools, many of which were in disrepair and underfunded as a consequence of segregation. African American parents were concerned that busing their children to predominately white neighborhoods might expose their children to racism." (1)
At any rate, forced busing certainly exposed me to racism.
I should probably pause my story for the purpose of facts, as opposed to the perspectives of my remembered 9-year-old self. In the move, my dad had left academic research for a lucrative position in corporate America. Our house was beautiful, spacious and much nicer than our house in New York. I was afforded every kind of lesson you could imagine from piano to violin to gymnastics. Our standard of living increased considerably because of the move to North Carolina. I had not been moved to the ghetto. Not by any stretch of the imagination was being in the ghetto the actual circumstance in which I found myself.
However, my felt experience was quite different than reality because I had never seen a positive image of a person of color in the first nine years of my life. Wait— I take that back. My mother had a friend from the city who used to visit us occasionally in Rye. Ruthenia was a Methodist minister and was pretty awesome. So, for accuracy's sake we can say that for almost an entire decade of my life, I knew one black person.
As luck and pluck would have it, I eventually made friends with the kids on the bus and in my class and, looking back I am grateful I grew up in an incredibly diverse, interracial community. Racial tensions were always present. And always tense. Yet, I remember my group of friends being in a constant dialogue with each other around these tensions and striving to do well. I will save some of those stories for another day as they are not the point of today’s walk down memory lane.
My point today is that by nine years old— even with progressive, kind and caring parents, and having only met one black person personally— I had ingested the toxin of racism. The indoctrination into racism I had received in those early years --without knowing it, mind you-- went something like this: “White people live in good neighborhoods, black people live in ghettos. Black people get out of ghettos by acting like white people. Black people are scary unless they are acting like white people.”
Okay, maybe not word for word, but you get my point.
In fact, one of my first friends at my new school was a black girl named Tiffany. Tiffany reached out to me on my first day. She was the only person who did so, in fact. She introduced me to Trixie Belden books and we spent many an afternoon at each other’s houses, playing and talking. She lived in a nice neighborhood. People would say, “Well, you know, Tiffany is more like a white person.”
Anyway, I was thinking about my early racist indoctrination on my bike ride today as my heart was full of pathos after this last week. I didn’t choose my perceptions about race-- I was conditioned to perceive things in a certain way. As I rode, the first step of the 12-steps came to my mind: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-- that our lives had become unmanageable.” Reflecting on my younger self, I realized I had been powerless over racism’s insidious power to influence and govern my perspectives.
I went on to consider, in what way has that made my life unmanageable? Certainly, I have wounds around that school bus ride. And certainly, the racial tensions around dating were fierce enough to keep me from exploring relationships with boys I really liked over the years. And yet, clearly, I am a privileged white girl and racism doesn’t seem to explain any of my phases of unmanageability.
But there have been costs.
The seeds of separation, division and fear rob me of the depth of my own humanity and steer me into the waters of isolation, suspicion, hopelessness and apathy. And, that is just me. Certainly, it stands to reason that those same insidious toxins invaded the hearts and minds of more people than one slightly-spoiled, spunky and tender-hearted young girl. In my opinion, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the toxin on racism got in deep- far and wide- and the painful consequences of infection abound.
(Okay, that last sentence might win an Understatement Of The Year Award. At any rate, I am forging ahead with my story.)
I worked with the first step as I rode today-- “I admitted I was powerless over my racial indoctrination-- that my life has become unmanageable." I remembered the nine-year-old me well. I felt tenderness for her in that move for how scared she was. I felt compassion for her confusion. And then I felt grateful. Grateful that that she grew up and grew beyond her indoctrination and grateful that she can see her life and the pain of other people from a different perspective now.
Don’t get me wrong- I am not some perfect, non-racist, white person now.
I think about personal recovery from systemic racism like my eating disorder recovery. As insane as so much of that thinking is, I still watch eating-disordered thoughts arise in me. I can wake up any given day and decide that some problem in my life will go away if I lose weight. I can be in bed in the morning and watch my mind plan a weight-loss program. It is crazy. And so we are clear, I know I am not overweight. I know that weight-loss will not repair my heartbreak, make my jealousy any easier to face or diminish my fear of growing old. I am smart, soulful woman with a fascinating inner life, not a shallow teeny-bopper who only cares how she looks and yet, those image-based thoughts can come up with the force of a tsunami, depending on the day. I have spent almost 2/3 of my life working with these issues and still, here they are. The difference today, is that I know my thoughts can feel real, without actually being a valid representation of reality. Much in the way, at nine, I felt like I was in the ghetto, and I wasn’t.
And in the same way I wish I wasn’t conditioned by modern society to care so much about looks, I wish I wasn’t conditioned by 450 years of systemic, institutionalized racism.
But I am.
Luckily for me, there are 12-steps or chances are, I could not bear to take the first one. Who can admit there is a problem if they do not believe there is a solution? Not me. Talk about despair. So luckily for me, I also know that there is a pathway I can take to restore my sanity. I have yet to find a path that will make me perfect, but I do know there that there is a pathway for seeing the lies of the conditioned self for what they are. And luckily for me, I can appeal to a Higher Power— not to solve political problems that require action- but to help me hear my better angels and to help me find courage to live according to their wisdom.
(And the cool thing is that my luck, is also your luck. These practices and perspectives are available for anyone interested in taking the journey. Talk about lucky. But I digress. More on that later.)
I have more to say on the topic, but my main take-away from my writing practice today is that no matter how messy I have ever been at Step One— and believe me, over the years, I have been at Step One many times and NO ONE looks good there— that messiness has always led me to some part of me I was happy to find. And no matter how much I may hate my own conditioning and some of my own behaviors, when I can find compassion for myself about how those conditioned thoughts and behaviors got there in the first place, I know I am in the neighborhood of healing and helping.
At any rate, take what you can use and leave the rest.
I wish you honesty, compassion, tenderness, healing, and hope. More soon.
(Here is a somewhat depressing and enlightening interview with North Carolina Senator, Jesse Helms, on the topic.)
Mary, a naturally disciplined sort of person with an outgoing personality fit right into my T/Th 9:00 AM Level 1 class. She came regularly, learned to stand on one leg, made friends with other folks in class, asked good questions and gave me ongoing feedback about my teaching.
She told me about her first major breakthrough with great excitement. The night before, when she was cooking dinner, she reached to the top shelf in her kitchen without a step stool or without calling her husband for help. She said, “You know, I think this stuff might actually be working!”
“The other day, I waiting in line at the bank and I actually felt patient. I am never patient. Once I noticed how I was feeling, I thought to myself that it had to be the yoga. That is the only thing it cojld be."
“Yes. When I first started bird watching I didn’t do ducks. There are so many kinds of ducks, they can be very difficult to tell apart and I was already overwhelmed with all the other birds and how to keep track of them. So, when I saw a duck, I just told myself, 'Mary, you don’t do ducks,' and I wouldn’t worry about it.”
“I see,” I said, not really seeing at all.
“Well, there are so many cues you give that I have NO idea what they mean. When I first started coming to classes, I was so overwhelmed by simply being in a class at my age that I had no idea you actually expected me to do all those things you were saying, much less did I know how to do them. When you would say certain cues, I just told myself, ‘Well, that is a duck. I will let it fly by.’ But the amazing thing is that now, all these years later, when you say those same cues, I actually know what you mean, how to do it and I can feel what is happening in my body. Just like ducks.”
Just like ducks.
(Now, granted, there are some teachers giving some cues that do not make any sense at all because the teacher is not clear in what they want, the cue is given indirectly or in such esoteric terms that you do not know if you are in an exercise class or a guided visualization or if you are supposed to be astral projecting. Sometimes, the cue is a bad idea to begin with and the reason you don’t understand it is that the instruction bears no resemblance to any commonly understood notion of the pose. I am not talking about these kinds of experiences. I am talking about the experience where you actually do think the teacher knows what they are talking about but YOU do not know what they are talking about or how to do what they are asking.)
Instead of being helpful, everything the teacher says sounds like BS or like some kind of interminable run-on sentence. Some of us, at this point, get mad at ourselves and berate our ability to understand and go down the rabbit hole of not being smart, not as good as the other students who obviously know what is going on, etc. Some students, when the cues have moved beyond their abilities and understanding, do not get mad at themselves—they get mad at the teacher, blaming the teacher for being a know-it-all, a show-off, or insensitive to their needs.
No one told me Mary’s secret in my early years, so I am telling it to you now: Some cues are ducks. You can’t do them yet. Don’t worry. Let them fly by. Don’t blame yourself. Don’t blame your teacher. Just work on the cues you can access and do the actions you understand and can feel. Just like in birdwatching, you may eventually build a foundation and a set of understandings that will help you take on the ducks. In the meantime, enjoy the birds you are watching, take in the scenery of whatever inner landscape the yoga takes you to and keep up with one-legged balancings because high up on those craggy inner peaks, you will need them.
Keep the faith.
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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."