Anne and I had a lovely trip to California with a lot of time for work, play and "sisterly bonding." In addition to the awesome weather we enjoyed throughout the trip and the good food and drink, I must say that my Asana Junkies practices were probably the highlights for me. We had a practice in Monrovia, CA and in Claremont, CA and they were both awesome.
I find myself very inspired these days by the continuity in my relationships. Certainly, as time has passed and as the community of practitioners has shifted, responded to and coped with the various challenges of the last few years some friendships and relationships have faded and even ended in some cases and that is never easy. But the flip side of that is also true- some connections have grown stronger, some have been renewed, others have gone from peripheral to more central and watching that process unfold is very meaningful to me.
Like so many things about me, my relationship to community is paradoxical. My friendships are very important to me and yet I am also a bit of an introvert and need big doses of time away from people. I am an idealist when it comes to the what I believe are the transformational possibilities of community and I am also a realist when it comes to my understanding of all that is involved for individuals and groups to move skillfully toward the high aims of conscious community. I believe shared practices and shared rituals are the key to bonding people together and yet I am avidly uninterested these days in any environment that uniformly dictates the terms of involvement or that attempts to govern one's relationship to practice. I believe that one's relationship to Sprit is intimate, personal, and private and yet, I also believe that God lives in and through the people with whom we are in relationship and there is no God separate from that field of involvement.
Someone once told me that a hallmark of an advanced practitioner on the path is that they can live in the tension of paradox without needing to resolve the paradox from a binary position or paradigm. (Binary, in this case, means the typical black/white, either/or, right/wrong, good/bad, etc.type of thinking that the mind does so well.) So perhaps that I am aware of the paradoxes that seem to govern my relationship to something as innocuous sounding as "community" is a good sign. And all that to say, that when I come into town and look around and see some folks on that mat that I have known for a decade of down dogs, something deep inside my heart moves. And to meet the students of my students and the students of my colleagues in these kinds of gatherings is always a treat for which I am very grateful.
Obviously, we can't all go to every workshop and practice and we can be connected without physical presence. Life has its demands and so these ideas are not in anyway to suggest that we need to feel pressured to do everything or that we should go too far down the road of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) when it comes to yoga events. One of my favorite teachings from Lee about community-based practice is that "you never miss anything." One has to understand that teaching from the vantage point of a bonded community with shared intentions and also from an esoteric perspective not literally since a case could also be made about seizing the moment, recognizing rare opportunities, etc. which are also true but part of a different line of consideration. Lee's point, I think, was that if the guru resides within the community and the Spirit is to be experienced and expressed "where two or more or gathered" it also follows that it is the sum total or perhaps something greater than the sum of the parts that is at work in conscious community. Not only can we not do everything but we do not need to nor are we even intended to.
As a group we share interests, intentions, ideals, etc. and we are also diverse in our backgrounds, upbringings, life experiences and personalities. We navigate that wonderful paradox of similarity and difference and are called to do the work of understanding that unity does not require us to be homogenous, identical, carbon-copy automatons to "belong" in a meaningful and spiritually-productive way. Because of our differences, we hold different energetic posts or positions or roles in a group.
For instance in a group there are those who are mothers, there are those who didn't have children, there are people who have suffered abuse, some who didn't. There are people who have lots of trouble getting to their mat, there are people for whom that task is easy, there are people who eat too much, there are people who don't eat enough, there are people with addictions, there are people who just don't relate to that issue and so on. And because these differences are held consciously in a group, when someone is experiencing something in their post, due to their life configuration, we can learn from their experience without having to experience it all for ourself. Learning from one another is a great boon of community because, let's face it, we can't experience everything, and there is always something to learn from everyone.
This teaching also means that when we everyone on Facebook appearing to be doing something more cool, more meaningful and more fill-in-the-blank than what we are doing, we can settle down about it. They are learning and experiencing on our behalf and we are learning and experiencing on their behalf. One person may be swinging on silk ropes on stage in some fantastic pose or winning some award or seeing the coolest band EVER and no matter how amazing all that sounds and seems and how much more exotic, intriguing and gratifying their life might actually be than ours, they are not having our experiences of staying home, watching children build lego sculptures, reading a book, teaching our classes, drinking a cup of tea, etc.
Again we find ourselves in a paradox because we have to be present to get hooked up to the field of energy with a group. And we have to show up enough to stay connected and to contribute and to benefit from our connection. But really, the whole thing to keep in mind is that we each walk this path a little differently and having a shared experience sometimes means the experience of sharing directly in the moment and in person. Sometimes, having a shared experience means that I will do my thing and you will do your thing and we share our different experiences through the subtle nervous system of people who are bound together in consciousness. You will parent your children for me since I did not do that this lifetime. And some of you will be grandparents for my parents since, well, we all know they are "missing out" on that! And I will travel for those of you who are home. And you will stay home many times for me. And so on and so on and so on.
I suppose this musing might be a bit esoteric this morning but it is what is on my mind and to me is a very practical application of the "we are all connected" philosophy.
On a personal note from my time in California, I took great joy in seeing people in person who very much feel like my yoga tribe. And I enjoyed meeting new people also. And that joy doesn't override, take the place of, become more important than, the subtle web of connection we are all weaving as we endeavor to stay connected in our hearts, minds, memories and intentions.
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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."