I spent last weekend in Denver, Colorado teaching at Practice Yoga and Reiki School. Chris Muchow, the fearless leader of Practice invited me to teach and I was looking forward to it for months. When Chris and I discussed content for the workshop we settled on a theme called "Break Through, Don't Break Down" and we decided that I would emphasize progressive techniques for safely, intelligently advancing one's asana practice. (I am actually offering a similar workshop in St. Louis this spring at Southtown Yoga so check that out if you want to come!)
Anyway, Chris got a great group of people signed up and we were having so much fun and the whole thing was going well except for this cough that kept persisting. By lunch, I was hoarse. By the afternoon I was almost voiceless. By Sunday, I was in bad shape.
So I did something that I have never done in all the years I have taught workshops-- I cancelled the day. I went to the doctor, was diagnosed with an acute case of laryngitis, viral bronchitis and so on and I was sent home with strict instructions not to speak for at least 3 days! So, the cool part of the story is not that I couldn't teach the workshop, and not that I cancelled my Monday webinar and my Tuesday webinar and that I stayed at my parent's house while Kelly had his birthday party without me. No, the cool part of the story is that Chris was a yogi in action with an amazing "this is no problem" attitude and Patrick, Livia and Joyce (all members of the Asana Junkies Clan) stepped in to co-teach one of our Asana Junkies sequences. And my webinar folks were gracious about the scheduling snafu. And Sam subbed the local Junkies practice. And so on.
While I was very disappointed that I couldn't finish the workshop and I was bummed to be sick, I was very inspired that people stepped up and into the challenge to support me and to support each other in carrying on with the plan in some form. It was a great testimony to the power of community and to prioritizing practice over personality. It is very heartwarming to be held in such grace by a group of people.
For the 3 sessions that I was there at Practice I did my best to keep the teachings and the experience as grounded and down-to-earth as possible and centered around the awesome lessons we can learn on our sticky mat and in the asanas. As much as I love Big Vision and as much as I love to consider Enlightened Possibilities and as much as I love a good working metaphor, I am on a somewhat mundane track these days. I am not so sure its going to sound so great on a brochure but honestly, I think I have a bit of High Aim Fatigue.
On some of the marketing materials at Practice, Chris has quoted Pattabhi Jois' very famous quote, "Do your practice. All is coming." I hear yogi's say that a lot and it is often quoted as a kind of reassurance that if you keep practicing, the poses will come, we will improve, we will be able to bind in Maricyasana 4, we will be able to put our leg behind our head and that all will work out great. I am not so sure that is what it means. That is not what it means to me, at any rate.
What I take from that often-quoted sutra is simply what it says: Do your practice because ALL is coming. Life is bringing it all to us-- heartbreak, betrayal, good times, bad times, sickness, health, misery, joy, love, death, birth and so on- and a steady asana practice isn't going to stop life from happening. Asana, yoga, faith, friends, religion, philosophy, a great therapist, etc. does not guarantee a life without all of the bells and whistles of experience. I have been somewhat outspoken about this over the last few years and so you might be tired of hearing about it from me by now but the longer I practice and the longer I teach others about yoga, the more clear it becomes to me that yoga doesn't spare us from life, from life's challenges, from the consequences of our own choices or the even from the unfortunate, painful, random accidents of fate.
What practice gives us is the ability to practice. What sustained practice gives us is sustained practice. To some degree, yes, I think practice helps us dodge a few bullets simply because we might be in a stream where we are more likely to be making life-affirming choices and such conscious choices often diminish a certain kind of self-destructive outcome. But, let's get real, most of us do yoga because we need to practice the teachings, not because we are all so naturally honest, compassionate, free of greed, jealousy, envy and so on. We get a chance, through our various practices, to assert a higher ideal in the midst of our lives and in the midst of our initial reactions to life's circumstances. We get to practice the teachings.
So, to me practice is its own reward because as much as I would like a guarantee that the spiritual path would spare me from pain, the truth is that I do not practice for that reason. I practice so that I am in a certain stream of perspective. That stream does not influence what comes my way but I do feel that being in that stream influences how I respond to what life gives me from a conscious vantage point.
Sri Brahmananda Saraswati said that we do not need to practice every day but when we need our practice, we are going to wish that we had been practicing every day. So, if I have been in the stream of practice regularly, when the ALL comes my way, I am predisposed to regard it from a vantage point that will grow me. If I am in a different stream and the ALL comes my way, I will feel victimized, reactive and often cause myself and others agony on top of that which the circumstance has brought with it.
Anyway, like always, more could be said but I am going to sign off. I am at SFO airport getting ready to head to Japan.
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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."