Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
from Rumi: The Book of Love: Poems of Ecstasy and Longing
translated by Coleman Barks
I spent the weekend in Aptos, CA at Yoga Within. I always love teaching at Yoga Within because the students there have so much depth and experience. This trip was my first teaching gig since my mother passed away on Valentine’s Day. The experience of her passing was very fresh and tender in my heart throughout the weekend and the kind, generosity of the students in attendance bolstered me considerably.
In fact, the title of the workshop was Bolstered From Within: Asana for Inner and Outer Strength. For all the problems that have been identified in our industry, in our ever-changing understanding of anatomy and physiology, and in our expanding dialogue about teaching methods, psychology, and unchecked biases, I still find refuge in the practice.
Asana has provided me a structure through which to find discipline, self-understanding, and awareness. Asana gave me a means through which I discovered both humility and empowerment. I have learned ways that effort and surrender inform one another. And the postural practice has taught me that transformation and change must be tempered with compassion and acceptance. In a somewhat imprecise and non-linear way, practicing the poses has taught me more about what lives beneath and beyond the shapes than seems logical or rational.
Of course, sometimes I look at the asana practice and how much energy so many of us give to the pursuit of postures and the whole endeavor seems odd. Take a scroll through my social media feed— where yoga selfies coupled with inspirational quotes abound-- and the whole thing gets even weirder. Pairing an acrobatic feat with a claim of inner peace often lands somewhere between the bizarre and the delusional for me.
And, just to be clear, I am not saying anyone should stop making yoga memes or cease promoting their prowess and insight. I have played the game myself and found great pleasure in the many facets of creative expression inherent in the types of posts I am describing. I am simply saying, that for me, some days, the whole thing makes my hackles go up a bit.
Clearly, asana’s pathway is not a straight line. Like any relationship, there are twists and turns, surprises and stretches of boredom. There are times when I give my relationship with asana a lot of my attention and there are times where my relationship might best be described as avoidant or neglectful. I have expected too much from my relationship with asana as often as I have taken our relationship for granted. At some point, however, I stopped trying to do it all so right and began to trust that these ebbs and flows were simply the way I was doing it— for better or worse, rich or poor, sick or well. Somewhere along the line, my relationship with asana became my own, not anyone else’s.
My therapist once cautioned me about making life too much about competence and doing things right. Life, with its many complexities, is full of paradox, mistake-making, triumphant achievement, and abysmal failure. We love, hate, betray, forgive, and continue on. I was reminded of my therapist's caution in the hours after my mother passed when the issue of a “good death” came up.
My mom spent the last six days of her life in the hospital before dying from complications with pneumonia. I had my hand on her heart as she exhaled for the final time. How ludicrous to assign a good or bad label to something so mysteriously natural as death. And, by the same token, how unfair to judge our living, breathing moments by the limiting narrative of competence and skill or good and bad.
More could be said, but it seems to me that the strength that asana yields and the ways the practice bolsters me, is not so easy to define. Furthermore, what makes life worth living is even harder to pin down.
Oh-- and many thanks for the sincere, heartfelt support you all gave me throughout the process of my mom's passing. You made Grace real to me in and I have been truly bolstered by my family, friends, student's, colleagues, and teachers.
Follow This Blog
"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."