forbearance and the “me” factor

“some of god’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers,” sings good ol’ Garth Brooks.

i face inner struggle… resistance to what is… urges to fall back into familiarity in the face of the big bad scary (insert suspenseful horror movie background music) UNKNOWN. (scream)

dramatic i know… it keeps me entertained though, and man, if we can’t be entertained by the endless happenings on the stage of life, it’s going to be a bad movie! and i want my money back!

i felt like that this morning at my Bikram class. despite all my years of asana practice, and my experience as a teacher, i was that student who hated everything in class today — myself, my appearance, the teacher, the smell of the carpet, any excess talking from the teacher, any corrections received from the teacher, and especially the bee keeper lady who kept me up late waiting for her call and then also woke me up at 2 am and proceeded to talk way too enthusiastically for the time of night and act as if it was completely normal to do such things at 2am and behave in ways so that i judgmentally dub her as a drug addict…hmm that’s a whole other thing… the point is, Bikram is a set sequence of 26 postures in a really hot room that’s always that hot! the variables are dramatically limited; we’re down to the teacher, the time of class you attend, and you. you (or me rather) (er uh i…) can contain numerous variables — what we eat, quantity and quality of our rest, regularity of practice, knowledge of alignment, attitude, will power, inner resiliency, the quality of our patience and forbearance.

forbearance really hits the nail on the head: “patient self-control; restraint and tolerance.” ooooh! tomorrow’s word of the day!

first, variables…. so when the variables are minimized it’s very easy to see that when you have a “bad” class, it’s not the sequence (again, in Bikram it’s the same every time), its not what the teacher says (most of Bikram is scripted— yet the teachers still ad lib, and that can be aggravating), it’s probably not the time of day, (unless you know you’re a morning person and you go at night or vise versa, but that still falls under the “me” factor), it’s you! my friend used to say, “what’s the common denominator in this equation?” (it’s me… er you)… sigh… so there’s that… it was me. it was me the whole time, and i knew it. i got through the class. savasana was so restful. i literally melted into my mat/towel. i was very grateful for un-talkative ladies in the restroom. and yet it seems that may be some of what i needed– some interaction. for on my car ride from the studio i made a couple of phone calls, one to my paw paw who i don’t get to talk to much. i adore him. he lives up in minnesota with his lady and they often make crafty things, like right now they call it “lawn art,” pretty flowers made of various metal scraps that they paint. i’m always impressed with his interest in life, his continual creativity and quest to be involved. just getting to talk to him briefly started to shift my mood.  then i called two girl friends and my twinny and left them nice messages. much better… i dorked out at Wholefoods… mission: drink green juice first after Bikram, cuz otherwise i might dive into an all out binge… (“know thyself”) (“forwarned is forarmed” – Lee Lozowick)

also, one of my girls facebook messaged me and shared some of her honest suffering. initially i see the surface of it as different than me. as i sit with it though, i see her suffering is the same as mine, despite varying physical circumstances. this realization helps me to settle, feel a sense of connection, and thus have compassion. instead of wallowing in my ick, i can reach out and write her a message to offer her some connection, love, and hopefully share some wisdom, for so often in reaching out to others i share exactly what i need to hear.

(i’m going to do that now) (stay tuned… unanswered prayers… then forbearance….)

and we’re back!… (uproar of applause)

chuckle chuckle… so back to the song. i’m a not-so-in-the-closet country fan (i was raised with it in the background), and this lyric came to my head today after reading my friend’s facebook message, “some of god’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” gotta love garth brooks… or you don’t and you just judged me and decided to stop reading my blog and never look back, and probably defriend me on facebook and certainly talk poorly about me behind my back… blink blink… … … blink…

anywayz…

unanswered prayers– the gist of the song is that the singer’s life turned out beautifully and perfectly and he only realized this when he saw an “old flame,” the one he’d always wanted and prayed for, and yet when they saw each other at this stage of life they had little attraction and nothing in common. “just remember when you’re talking to the man upstairs, that just because he doesn’t answer, doesn’t mean he don’t care.” the point: we face discomfort in the face of not getting what we want…

(reminds me of another song, by wah: “she gives you what you want and hopes that someday you’ll want to take what she has to give.”)

… subsequently we feel anxious urging toward that familiar place of comfort. yet, that place of familiarity is not where we grow, says DR Butler… he says, “We can no longer afford to allow ourselves to be hypnotized by familiarity. To allow the familiar to continue to be the fundamental reality is like functioning in this world asleep. When we do this we unknowingly create outer appearances of our fears and anxieties — all because we have no awareness or appreciation of the power of attention, the effectiveness of a conscious intent, and the final declaration of will.” (from Living in the Truth of the Present Moment.)  so, the consequence of choosing to be in the unfamiliar for the sake of “waking up,” as they say, is that you feel uncomfortable… “comfort” was a yogahour word of the day a few weeks ago. i discussed how it was an advanced concept that the yoga asana should be “steady and comfortable”, as stated in “the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,” for only through dedicated practice over a long period of time does one accept, and thus get comfortable with the sensations that arise in the midst of transformation.

(((in the new super man movie superman’s father tells him (us): continue to push limits, test your limits, to see how strong you can get )))

so this too applies to our lives (for doesn’t it all?), in that in the discomfort of our life’s MG9952-Mcircumstances we have the opportunity to fall back into old ways, old habits, and tendencies for the sake of comfort, ease, familiarity, OR we have the opportunity to endure the discomfort with strength and sensitivity– not a teeth grinding sort of endurance, but rather an openhearted willingness to feel the gift of the moment. (manorama says in a decrescendo ending in a breathy whisper, “feel it. feel it. feel it.”) for that is what every moment is, a gift. and as we unwrap the gift fully in the moment, we receive as much as we are ready for, (or as much as our curtains’ openness allows for the light to poor in– Swami Gurumai Chidvilasananda). and this readiness expands as we practice being with whatever unfolds in the moment. thus it was all there the whole time, “always already there,” as Mr. Paul Muller Ortega says, and it is our perception that expands (HA! again! the “me variable!!!”)

(took udu doggy fer a walkee. nice night! big moon! it’s actually called a “supermoon!” yep, not making it up… two people confirmed it who don’t even know eachother. lol … it’s supposed to be the biggest moon of the year… and of course there’s symbolism there, right hippy?! the notion of dark becoming light. and how this moon at it’s brightest represents how we too have the capacity to achieve our fullest potential and shine at our brightest…. man this goes right along with what i’ve been writing about. so perfect, of course)

back to the point (Manorama moment…what’s the point?)

now on to forbearance…

such a fine definition my computer dictionary offers! “patient self-control; restraint and tolerance.”

this is precisely what yoga offers us the opportunity to cultivate (and it is always an offering, an opportunity, “an invitation,” as Mr. John Friend used to say… it’s never an obligation… for we don’t have to do anything, life beckons to us and we always have the option to refuse. to decline… to say no… hmmmm… but why not say yes? … and see what happens… fyi, you’re probably going to get uncomfortable… hahahaha). patient self-control; restraint and tolerance. the Bikram practice in a relatively small room heated to or over 105 degrees Farenheight, in which students face a large mirror, are not supposed to talk, fidget, wipe sweat, or even drink unless at a specified break… needless to say, all your buttons are pushed… and then what…? Ha!… this is an instance in which peer pressure is of great service. (do i really want to be the only person scowling and making a fuss?) you can really tell the newer students, as they’ve not figured out these subtle rules that you learn as you go… no body really tells you overtly, you just learn as you go, and everybody begins to conform in this beautiful synchronized unity that perfectly exhibits the very definition of yoga. (so i’m on a Bikram kick right now… doesn’t mean that other styles don’t offer these attributes, it’s just that this is the style i’m focusing on right now. i’ve experienced the same phenomenon in the Ashtanga method, and in Yogahour with Darren Rhodes, and in certain teacher’s offerings of Anusara Yoga, and John Friend and Desi Springer’s “Roots” Practice…) i learn to not express my emotional outbursts through mindless fidgeting, dramatic facial expressions, or talking. i come back to tadasana (steady mountain pose –the steadiness offered from within my own self), and seamlessly onto the next pose. these styles of practice are a beautiful metaphor for life, in that it’s always on to the next thing.  (reminds me of a time Christina Sell was teaching about inversions and quoting one of her teachers said, “Don’t freak out about your freak out.”)  in Bikram they say, “Let it go.” In a recent Lesson from DR Butler, he commends the “many principles of Truth exemplified in the world of sports,” and he quotes head football coach at Cornell University, a former Rhodes scholar, and ‘very intelligent man,'”To me, the number one thing is to play the next play and forget the last one. The last play is not relevant to the next one. The most important play of the game is the next one, not the one already behind you. You have to learn to forget quickly. It does not matter what happened before — drop the baggage, drop the pressure, and just play.” on to the next moment. may we move into each moment untethered to the drama of the past…

…through the practice i face my thoughts, my emotions, my “ways of being”… and practice moving in the face of them…

i continually recognize my tendencies to think poorly of myself, to talk badly to myself, to want to quit, give up, to be tempted to wallow in self pity, to feel isolated and singled out, uncertain, overwhelmed…(this helps me to feel profound connection to my students, especially the beginners and to really appreciate the intensity yoga presents in a matter-of-fact sort of way, like, “here it is.  here’s the path.” the rest is up to us… walk it, or don’t– no judgement.)

and then there’s the next pose, and tadasana, and the next one, and tadasana, always coming back to center — physically and mentally.  through practice i can now recognize which postures the final postures, signaling that class is closer and closer to savasana (which ultimately means death — how much we long for this relative peace, ease, and comfort!). this familiarity with the set sequence brings a sense of calm to the mind, knowing the finish line is near… (i always hear my twinny’s voice — which funny, sounds like mine… “you can do it steffi, you’re almost there”) and the pranayama comes and then we die…

the end… you’re dead “did you do.. did you do all you could?” (sings Ani Difranco)

 

 

 

 

 

 

thirsty

i’m just going write for a minute to gather myself… there’s nothing wrong except in the way i am thinking about events and circumstances (i hear the teachings in my head)… everything is fine in the moment… but then why this ache inside? i want to cry and i feel an inner sinking… empty… i suppose depending on the perspective, it could be beneficial… (ha! this sinking…) to be empty is to have space within, to be open and hae room for new things, new information, growth, wisdom, insight. Gurumai Chidvilasananda shares in her book, The Yoga of Discipline, how it is ideal to only eat until the stomach is 2/3 full (or whatever the fraction was… 3/4 maybe? ha! that’s what i’d prefer) so as to leave hunger for God. so rich, so beautiful. Manorama said that the teacher cannot give the student thirst. they have to bring the thirst. the thirst is the gift. our yearnings, our thirst, our suffering motivates us, drives us to act. its so intense. this human condition — embodiment, like a wild animal, waking up to find herself in a cage, disoriented and confused, lonely and scared. we’re right where we are, doing what we’re doing, with every experience manifesting from within this cage and the only thing to fear is the wild animal in the cage… (eye roll… profound… but almost feels right)

… sigh… satisfaction there… in the pause… in the space between.

when there’s no where else to go, you can’t get away from the caged animal, at a certain point it’s surrender or death (whatever that means)… dear friend quoted a poem, “you were once wild and free, don’t let them tame you.”  hm… can’t we be all?  i mean wild and free and tame…

… we’re the ones to tame ourselves …to be truly free– at least that’s how this analogy goes– we tame the animal or it eats us.    … and by ‘we’ i mean ‘i’ and by ‘us’ i mean ‘me.’

head bowed.

 

the dawn

Day 2 of Live the Light of Yoga with Darren Rhodes and Christina Sell… I’m grateful to be in Tucson, to get to be a part of this great community.  A little over two years ago I moved to the lovely land of Tucson, the land of heat, saguaros, bicyclists, gorgeous sunsets… and what I believe to be the Yoga Mecca.  The sangha of Yoga Oasis and it’s extended posse of visiting students has become my family.  Each day I get to do what I love and be around inspiring beautiful people who are walking on the same path of awakening.

It’s exciting and inspiring to be a part  of Darren and Christina’s blossoming vision.  They are two teachers I look up to and have studied with for several years, although Darren longer than Christina.  Their recent departure from Anusara is an interesting turn of events.  Many people in the community watch in curious suspense.  I thought it was very interesting that of all of the immersions and teacher trainings the duo have done, this is the first time they’ve had a wait list.  (eye brow raise)  People are attracted to their boldness.  Speaking of boldness, in our afternoon philosophy and contemplation we discussed the following quote by Goethe:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back.  Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:  that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.  All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.  A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in one’s favor all manner of unforseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.  Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.  Begin it now.”

This quote sounds a lot like the notion of Grace we speak of in Anusara Yoga.  Gurumai Chidvilasananda in The Yoga of Discipline speaks of effort and Grace as two wings of a bird, that the two work together.  The teaching is, Grace meets our efforts.  We have to set the foundation with conscious intention and open to the presence of such a benevolent force that would so willingly match our efforts.  With Grace at our back, or rather, the awareness of a Grace that was always already present, we engage whatever situation is at hand.  (i’m dorking out in the UPAs for a moment, bear with me, it’s good practice)  Muscular energy is an active engagement with which we embrace what is as it is and thereby expand its potential.  We must first see something as it is before we could ever hope of affecting it in some way.  We move with intention… going in, back, and apart …over, around and through… together, forward, and out… (giggle giggle)… spiraling through the play of our lives to ultimately expand from the center of who and what we thought we were into a heightened understanding, a more evolved version of ourselves… one who wouldn’t go back to the way things were even if they could.

I’m working on the Anusara certification process, emphasis on the ‘ing’ part.  Anusara certification has offered me a process of growth and maturation beyond any other professional endeavor I could have ever dreamed of pursuing.  I would never go back and choose anything different for my life (well, other than maybe being a naturopathic doctor who can prescribe yoga and dietary changes, but hey, life’s not over yet…).  Yoga practice helps me to find myself, to be present with myself, and to feel worthy of sharing what I find in the service of something greater than myself.  Yoga helped me to find my body again after a near-fatal car accident in 1998– to feel, process, and release stored trauma and shatter limiting expectations of my physical body.   Yoga gave me some place to turn to in my college years of losing myself in drugs, alcohol, food, and relationships, and it stayed with me the whole time.  It never turned it’s back on me when I was inconsistent with my commitments to make it to class, or even when I showed up to class bloated and teary eyed from a binge, or  imagining nobody would notice my bloodshot eyes.  It stayed with me no matter what I weighed, no matter what pose I could and couldn’t do, no matter what I thought of myself, no matter what I thought of my teacher, no matter what brand of yoga pants I wore (that’s kind of a joke), no matter who I dated, where I lived, how much I was late for work… no matter what.  And now like the maturation of a beautiful fruit bearing tree, my life offers me  juicy fruits of living the live of my dreams.  I always wanted to be able to support myself doing what I love and here I am.  I do massage too, but primarily I teach yoga, and the majority of my clients are yoga students.  Yoga helped me to touch deep places within me and feel the highest highs and the lowest lows and I’m so blessed to get to transform my life experiences into teaching lessons.  I always enthusiastically thank my students.  Usually they don’t understand, they act like it’s weird, that they should be thanking me.SONY DSC

Specifically the Anusara method has nurtured my spirit and helped me to get to where I am today, and for it I am profoundly grateful.  My struggle with the certification process has instigated noticeable progress in my teaching as well as inner growth.  However, I feel like I’m in a dark place where there is promise of an imminent dawn, and I kneel here, pranam even, eyes turned upward, for yet another disappointment.  The method which promotes freedom and creativity feels like anything but that.  I question the steps necessary to experience such a dawn.  (when I know the sun rises for other people!  hundreds of other people!) But then again I consistently question myself…I just need to think of things differently… shift my perspective. No, this is not the first time.  This has happened numerous times throughout the process and I’ve always persevered, head down and hooves digging to be better, to do it right, to be that damned teacher that’s worthy of certification.  And I’ve always claimed to be better because of these struggles.  But now I don’t know… will I be better if I persevere or will i merely be passionately pursuing the script that I set out for myself so many years ago?  I don’t know if I’m losing hope and therefore tempted to shift to an easier course or if I’m gaining clarity and expanding my vision.

Thank you for reading.  Thank you for participating in my process.