saturday observation

I love teaching weekend mornings downtown!  It’s such a great group!  I enjoy a 25 min bike ride to downtown Yoga Oasis studio, get it all set up: ac on, candles lit, incense burning, sign-in sheet ready, sweat wiped off, welcoming smile on my face.  I put myself in the shoes of my students, who would be waking up on a Saturday morning and choosing to start their weekend with yoga.  how would they be feeling?  what makes them come to practice?  what do they want from practice?  What can I offer them to brighten their day and teach them something?  Doing this helps me to get out of my own head, whatever drama may be playing out up there, so I may be fully present to be sweet and helpful to whomever arrives.

Today’s word was “observe.”  One of my first yoga teachers, Ulla Lundgren, said that yoga is ‘Svadyaya,’ or study of the self.  I just started a book called Self Observation, the awakening of Conscience, An Owner’s Manual, by Red Hawk.  Red Hawk summarizes a principle in physics called Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle” in the following way, “The act of observation changes the thing observed.”  I remember learning about this in school, how the behavior of particles changes simply because they are being observed.  I remember being in awe by this, but sorry to say, it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind and priorities, so I’m grateful to receive it again in very clear, jargon-free language.  I dived into further research on Wikipedia and vague memories of past physics classes re-emerge along with forced focus to combat glazed eyes and mind-wandering tendencies… There is much more to this principle and these ideas, but for now, I’m using Heisenberg’s principle.  Thinking about this makes me realize that the observer is what is being observed and is therefore constantly changing all the time.  …

I recently finished a book called, Gurdjieff, A Beginner’s Guide, How Changing the Way We React to Misplacing Our Keys Can Transform Our Lives, by Gil Friedman.  The core practice in this book was also Self-Observation.  Friedman says, “The only person who can do the Work is ourselves… The only way to make the Work functional is to actually apply it by observing ourselves uncritically.  We are the subjects of this Work.  The aim of the Work is not to change the world but to change ourselves.”  Yoga asana is one way to practice this concept in our bodies, minds, and hearts.  We affect ourselves through our direst observation and subsequent interaction with what we observe.  For example, in triangle pose, we observe our leg muscle is disengaged and even bent to a degree.  Simply observing this may instigate corrective action, but observation comes first.  The teacher’s presence and guidance, along with the big energy of a packed yoga-hour room may also motivate fuller participation, for it has been scientifically proven that when people are watched they perform better.  Christina Sell spoke to this in her recent workshop, “Teaching the Raw Beginner.”

If we practice watching ourselves from an objective viewpoint regularly we change just by this simple act.  Again and again, simple, but not easy.

sustenance

“So I guess my father Yogi Ramsuratkumar has not been happy breaking my heart once. He breaks it again and again and again and again. But I have to be very grateful to Him because without a broken heart, it’s very easy to forget God. So I wish that I could tell you miracle stories, but I don’t have any to tell. I would only suggest that we not look to miracles to make us forget our broken heart. We must have a very powerful urge to realize God or we never will. And in my life the only thing that has taken my mind from money and my stomach and from other things that are so easy to satisfy in America, is a broken heart. I think that’s all I have to say. I could say that again and again but I think that’s enough.”

 

Last night I thought about this idea, and I wake up to read this. Im forever awed by the synchrony of life! This excerpt is from Sunday’s Daily D. It’s a quote from Lee Lozowick talking about his experience with his guru. I was thinking about this same idea before yesterday morning’s class. I read from Friedman’s book regarding “The Law of Three:..every manifestation in the universe is the result of three forces. The first is the active force, the second is the passive force, and the third is the neutralizing force. Unless we have all three of these forces, the event or manifestation will not occur. The first force can also be thought of as the initiating force, the second force as the resisting, and the third force as the connecting force or point of application…(ie Hinduism: God=3 Gods/Forces: Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, the preserver; and Shiva, the destroyer.) So Friedman gives an example of a man who wants a job (first/initiating force). He doesn’t like performing the efforts necessary to obtain a job (second/resisting force). “If only these two forces are at work, nothing will happen…. We drift because the third force is not present. Let us suppose, however, we are overdue on our rent, behind in our car payments, and have little food. Then this condition becomes the third force that makes us go out and do what is necessary to find a job.”

 

Today I heard a woman share about her suicide contemplations, obviously as a cry for help, willing to talk about the problem, and even announce her lack of work towards any solution, other than talking about it, which is definitely something… whoa almost started a little rant there… anyway, in a sense, it was great for me to hear. Because here i was stuck in my head about my own lame drama and feeling hopeless. Hearing her suffering got me out of myself and helped me to remember that there are things I can do to remedy my own situation, that I am not a victim of life, that by my engagement I can shift things, if not dramatically alter them. In the situation, the woman got some great feedback. A lot of it was really awesome, but I’m sure hard for her to hear cuz she probably only wanted sympathy and hugs or something… The general consensus was to dig in and do simple, but not easy work. It’s all laid out for us, and yet we still don’t do it! Here I could relate to her though. Even though my ego sat on its high horse for a second (the nerve! ha!), like “omg! she isn’t even trying to help herself and she has the audacity to come and whine! gasp!” and yet, what am I doing today? when was the last time i did everything perfectly? what am i doing today to be pleasant and helpful? how can i be of service? I do a morning practice on a daily basis. Some days it’s more elaborate than others. Some days I ritualistically go through the motions, seemingly just to check it off the list. Some days it’s rich and deeply moving, with tangible peace and ease. My thoughts are what can take me into self-destruction and my thoughs can be healed through doing my work.

I meditated for 20 minutes this morning. It was satisfying to my ego who loves accomplishments. I am grateful to get back into it with more commitment and regularity. I admit I’ve been doing about 11-15 minutes each day to maintain and occasionally even skipping it, with a wistful intention to do it later. I feel better with regular meditation, reading, writing, classes, gatherings of good people.  However, evident in my life, suffering leads me into the depths of the work. I came to this path of yoga from the beginning as very literally a broken girl, mending body and brain from a car accident at age 17, not to mention all the emotional crap busting through the seems of the curtain (in my head that’s alluding to The Wizard of Oz and “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” that man is what makes it all work! the big scary voice and image was all due to that man behind the curtain…So the character we are trying with such great effort to hide is really the driving force…) When I suffer I dive zealously into efforts to escape from it. Today I work to dive into efforts that nurture body, mind and spirit using meditation, yoga (teaching and practicing), reading, writing, calling people, riding my bike, being active in anyway, being creative, instead of digging myself deeper into suffering by using external means such as: food, substances, sex. I am not perfect in the impeccable sense, I am perfect in the “full” sense, perfectly imperfect and I am grateful for all of my sufferings and the “sustenance” they give me. (Tonight’s word was sustenance. All three downtown classes were rockin!)

 

“We truly appreciate what we have to make efforts to obtain.” Friedmangod pic

 

complain challenge!

“If we want to try an experiment and apply the Work, the next time we are in a conversation and someone is criticizing something, or someone, we can see if we are able to withhold our criticism.  It is much more difficult than we might think.  …  The problem with being negative, such as continually complaining, is that we lose force or energy.  To do this Work we have to accumulate energy to make greater efforts than the efforts needed to get by in life.  If we withhold the criticism or complaint, we will gain force or energy.  We will also feel better.” Gil Friedman

I read this last week and used the word “complain” for this past Tuesday’s yogahours.  The word was a little challenging to weave throughout class (is that complaining?), but I presented this challenge to my yoga students and reported humorously that I’d been working on it.  I say humourously because it is funny to observe how often the tendency to complain arises.  I choose to be lighthearted otherwise I’m criticizing myself and it’s counterproductive.  One of my regular students came in to class today and  reported how she’d done so far on the “experiement.”  We shared about how we both arrived at times where there was nothing else to do but keep our mouths shut.  My Grammy always told me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  I wonder if she realized the magnitude of this lesson.

My computer dictionary defines complain: to express dissatisfaction or annoyance about a state of affairs or an event; (complain of) state that one is suffering from (a pain or other symptom of illness); state a grievance; make a mournful sound; groan or creak under strain.”  The thesaurus:  protest, grumble, whine, make a fuss; object, speak out, criticize, find fault; informal kick up a fuss, raise a stink, bellyache, moan, snivel, beef, bitch, sound off, gripe.  My observation has led me to realize how often I even make little noices in protest of something, or facial expressions when I dislike something.  It’s been an enlightening week.  I am grateful for the experiement because I do feel better doing the work.  I may not always catch myself before I complain or criticize but I’m dramatically more aware when I do it and I am getting better at catching myself before it progresses into a full-on rant.  I love this practice.  It’s an endless endevour and I’m so honored to get to share it with you!SONY DSC