My mom looked at me and said, "I don't really know how that happened, Tina." (At the time, I was called Tina. I started using my full name, Christina, in college, at the urging of one of my mentors, but that is another story for another time.)
A few days later Mom walked into my room and told me she had been thinking about my question. She explained to me, "I was a budding feminist at the time I had you. When I was a girl, we were raised to be beautiful and to get a good husband. I wanted you to know that you were smart, capable, funny, athletic, independent and confident--not just beautiful. I must have forgotten to tell you that you were cute in my efforts to help you know that you were more than that."
I found that same "free and clear" feeling when I first came to yoga. I didn't feel beautiful during class, mind you. My first teacher was long, lanky and wore white unitards. She had that long, sinewy classic "yoga body" so common of the hippie practitioners of the time who had been tying themselves in knots since around the time I was born and hadn't had a hamburger since before the Vietnam War. I was twenty two years old and probably twenty pounds heavier than I am today. I spent most of my first class feeling short, stocky and let's just say it- fat.
However, I remember getting up from savasana, walking down the hill to breakfast after class and feeling beautiful. Radiant, even. I can still recall the calm, tingly feeling I had in my body and the knowing that I had found something important for myself.
And personally, I am very interested in the part of the discussion that mirrors my mother's wish for me as a child. In the same way that she wanted me to know I was more than my appearance, as a yoga practitioner I want to use my practice to stay connected with the part of me that is "more than my appearance." I want to know myself as compassionate, funny, strong, vital, sensitive and courageous, not just beautiful. I want my asana to be about how I feel in my body and not about how my body looks and who validates that as beautiful or not. As a teacher I want to be be valued for my depth, my insight, my knowledge, my clarity, my hard-won wisdom and not for how good I look in a pair of tights.
In short, I want to live and teach from my "Something More."
I recently had a chance to review the many ways my own "Something More" gets hijacked and recruited to serve my conditioned, reactive negativity. Last week, I spent three days at a program called Inner Work for Leaders at the Hoffman Institute. I re-connected to what I love about practice and teaching and-- BIG SHOCK-- it had nothing to do with social media, marketing plans, industry trends or community dramas of who did and said what to who. And certainly, how I look, how much I weigh or what other people are thinking about any of the above was far from my concern. The answer for me is simply not solely in the analysis of the issues at hand but in the direct experience of my Something More.
And it is clear to me that I must safeguard and nurture those things that connect me to my Something More for them to remain sustaining to me and to others. Sometimes we are called to safeguard what is sacred through outer work and activism like ad campaigns, social movements and writing projects. Sometimes we are called to safeguard what is sacred through a refusal to sell ourselves out to the lowest bidder in fear-based and competitive consumer culture. And so on. I suppose, like so many things, the work is different for each of us at different times.
What I do know is this-- the power of the practice is real. The power of intentional community is real. And that effort to share this power is what makes my life worthwhile.
And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.
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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."