Monday, December 10, 2012

Like salt in water

One path says dissolve into your experiences like salt in water. You dissolve into the world and the sense of individuality ceases. The other path says stand strong against the influence of the world like a diamond, and recognize that the world is in you. 

In either case, the destination is the same. The sense of separation melts. The world is in your awareness and your awareness is the world.

These two paths have been articulated in many ways, and it often the dogma surrounding them created by intellectualization rather than practice that causes some problems.

By practice I do not mean regimentation of a physical kind, or any kind.  One practice might be to read a line of poetry and pause and let the images begin to find a home in awareness.  Another practice might be getting angry and feeling where the anger is inside, then watch it shift.  Or you could create your own practice.

Practice becomes interesting when the objects of our desires become less interesting.  It is not something you can force or should do, anymore than falling in love.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Don't be shifty

Standing, it is common to shift weight from one foot to another. This temporarily avoids the consequences of misaligned hips - discomfort in the low back. Shifting gaze frequently moves awareness from one visual object to another without fully absorbing any one object into awareness. When we see someone shifing both weight and gaze, they appear shifty.

Holding a posture long enough to recieve the karma - the results of the action - is the opposite of shiftiness. It is said while most try to avoid consequences, the yogi seeks the causes.

Asana focus - even breath and gaze, longer holds in traditional poses.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Caught in yes or no

The mind is like a corn maze. At every intersection, there is a left or right - a yes or no. Yes creates no, like right creates left. What we seem to be seeking as yoga folk is a higher perspective. However, running through the corn maze of the mind generally only produces lefts or rights. To see the maze, you have to climb out of it and view it from above. From that vantage point, you can see what kind of game it is we’ve been playing. This would be the difference between philosophy only - the maze, and philosophy plus practise - climbing up.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dharma - "That which holds together"

“That which holds together”

I open my eyes
and the whole world appears.
I can take any road I choose
Drawn into my life experiences
Like puzzle pieces.
It seems like an arbitrary freedom.
Yet as the pieces I draw to me
Dovetail into the piece that is me
I become a fit for those pieces too.
Until I pull back and
the edges between pieces disappear,
then the whole picture is complete.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The last days of Coffee

I awoke and began my stomach-churning-cleansing yoga regime, cleansed my nostrils and began a few slow yoga poses to stimulate my digestion.  I’d been waiting to drink the beloved coffee until after I’d eaten, as coffee is an appetite suppressant and shuts down the digestive system.  I loved coffee.  I’d been drinking it since my first experience with espresso in Germany in 1985.  This particular morning, I poured the oily black substance into the cup and began to raise it to my lips.  Stomach churned on its own.  I tasted it and felt the gag reflex.  I’d known coffee was not so good for me for a long time, but rationalized my way out of not drinking it.  This day, looking at the coffee, I was done.  Not a suppression, not a “I really should cut down”.  It was a visceral response, as strong as repulsion is.  How could this have happened.  Coffee, how could you.

Now I can look back on my time with coffee.  “Let us go for coffee” I would say to someone I found attractive.  No more.  I’ve haunted Coffee Shops for most of my life.  What now.  It’s a wonderful cloud in the sky that has evaporated for me.  It does help to remember I’ve spent approximately $150,000 on coffee since I was 20 years old.  It helps to remember I’ll try to use the money I would have spent on coffee to experience something slightly more interesting.  Like seeing the world.  But I will miss the romance of the drink.  The artistry of a well made cappuccino.  Don’t say decaf.  I’d rathe walk than drive a horrible car.  No, I shall make my way forward alone.  Yes, alone.

Monday, July 16, 2012

How much do you like your friends?

Facebook and social media is based on a great idea.  You can stay in touch with friends and acquaintances you don’t see very often, and their friends might share interests with your friends, so you can have more friends.  Awesome.
Because there is a physical and psycological distance online, we sometimes say things we wouldn’t say if someone was right in front of us.  We can always log off a conversation on Facebook.  Can’t do that in person so easily.  Distance makes us a little more bold.
Many are now looking for “passive income” from the internet.  There is plenty of talk of “monetizing” - or “making money” somehow from a website, or your relationship with others online.
The Facebook updates I enjoy, and the friends I have online that I like to hear from generally offer humorous or interesting things when they update what is going on for them.  Sometimes they mention a party or get-togehter, or even an event they are attending that I’m also interested in.  I “like” this.  These interactions are gifts to me.
But there are other sorts of friends.  Some of these friends self-promote products and services they are offering for sale.  I’ve done this myself.  “Shameless Huckseterism” is a term I like for this kind of behaviour.  Essentially, these friends begin to use friendship to make money.  But there is a problem here.
A friend is someone who likes you - not who “Likes” you.  A friend likes you because of qualites you possess, but often they like you in spite of the qualities you possess.  They love you.  The reciprocity of friendship is a gift - it is not for sale, nor can friendship be monetized.
When we try to turn a gift into money things go wrong.  Imagine a friend gives you a gift for your birthday, just because they want to do something for you - not because they expect a gift back.  You open it and say  “Thanks - do you have the receipt?”.  A shamed silence descends over the birthday party, everyone feels awkward. Why?  Because when arbitrary value (in the form of dollars) is introduced  to try to measure the unmeasureable - love - it diminishes it.  The gift given was picked to suit the person, maybe it was even made by hand.  Money is the same for everyone.
When we try to use the internet to make money, it would be prudent to remember who your real friends are.  Your real friends would probably rather lend or give you some money than have you diminish their gift of friendship by trying to turn them into customers.  They like you.  They don’t need to “Like” you.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Not too sweet

We consume that which is already refined.  The gasoline in the tank of my car is a very potent distillation of bones, leaves, trees.  The sugar in my tea had to be worked out of a sugar cane - beating it to a pulp, processing it to squeeze out the sugars.  Not long ago a person was considered “refined” when they wore the most fashionable clothes and spoke with a certain accent and vocabulary.
The things that sustain us physically are abundant in nature and hidden within it.  Eating refined sugar causes the body all sorts of problems because the sugar enters the bloodstream too quickly.  We get an immediate high and a corresponding low, and no lasting benefit.  Eating something like a vegetable requires digestion - the participation of the body in breaking down what we eat into nutrients and waste.  
This is also the process of uncovering wisdom - taking information, often from various sources, and breaking it apart to find what nourishes us, leaving what doesn’t behind.  Your personal yoga practice is the nourishment of your teaching.  The process of practice, inquiry, digestion and deepening understanding is a radically personal one.  Taking workshops from traveling teachers can be fun and energizing - much like eating refined sugar.  That experience either moves through you quickly without digestion, as the teachings are the experience of another.  Worse, one can end up parroting the language of another teacher without the digestive process in place at all.
The process of refinement must be ours, because it is that internal processing that creates wisdom from information.
Once we’ve done that, we become nourishment for others to do the same.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Spare parts or art?

Picasso took two pieces of a bicycle and turned them into a bull's head.  His genius was in seeing something ordinary in a new way.  Did the potential for this piece exist before he placed the handlebars behind the saddle?  We value this as art - as an expression of human creativity - clever, funny, brilliant really.  Would a second piece of art just like made by another artist be valuable or even necessary?  Of course not.  Even with gratitude given to the original artist, no second "copy" would have value because the art is not in the leather or the steel, the art is in the discovery of something seen in a new way.  We are all unique.  No-one else in the world is just like you.  No-one puts a sentence or and idea or a joke together like you can.  There is value in studying great master's work.  Watching the habits and dedication of a master is extraordinarily useful.  There is no value in copying their creations exactly.  Whether you are a writer, singer, yoga teacher or cook, the value of your creation is in the way you create, the things about your character that compel you to create difference  from what you might even consider great, because greatness lies in ability to surrender to the unknown.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Stomach it with a soft heart

(I will continue to post class themes on this blog as the come up.  If you like ‘em, please use them and share them!  If you have some of your own, comment and add them with a link.  These ideas come from somewhere.  That somewhere is the space between our hands when we bring them together - we are all in that space.)
Stomach it with a soft heart.
There are times when I can just let a tough moment pass by like a leaf in the wind, maintaining my breezy outlook on life.  At these times, when I see other folks suffering with what seems small - an argument, a sense of unease, I can get dismissive of it or offer cliche platitudes.
In fact, I don’t want to feel what they feel, so I disassociate from it and contrive to diminish the importance of another’s distress through rationalization “well, shit happens - we’ve all experienced that”.  As if to say, because our suffering is universal, there is no point in really stepping into it.  I think this is a mistake.  It is by stepping into our pain when it is there that we can begin to understand the causes, and digest - literally break down into components - the “poisons” and turn them into nutrients.
Sounds like a good idea, but how?  With a soft heart yes, but a strong stomach.  When we feel really uneasy, the digestive system goes into panic mode and you might even want to vomit.  To get rid of what is inside.  What we can do instead is recognize the unease, and invite the stomach back into the strength of the ribs and spine, invite the butterflies into the cave that also holds the heart.
Asana focus - stability of the front wall of the abdomen via filling the back of the body with breath, maintaining an open chest while moving through a flow of longer-held poses culminating in headstand, shoulderstand and plow - “Halasana” - poison -removing pose.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Open Source Yoga Teacher Training

I never know who is going to be interested in yoga, and when students arrive for the first day of training they come in all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities.  Looking out at them, even after 5 years of leading teacher training courses 6 - 8 times per year, I still can't guess which ones will embrace the practice of teaching completely.  If there is a commonality shared by the students I've had that have become great teachers, it is their ability to concentrate.  Whether this is innate or learned I don't know, but when I look out into a pair of steady, soft eyes it feels good - feels like home. And curiosity, too, is a common element- there are students who seek to know, and there are students who seek  They enjoy the process of learning, entirely apart from making final decisions.  Maybe that is why they show up in my trainings - the attraction to inquiry I feel is mirrored by them.

In the courses I teach I try to make each day as practical as possible, to give the students tools they can use to teach effectively.  Hatha yoga is in many ways a very practical practice.  Learning how the body works, how the poses integrate and expand consciousness (because if the body is expanding, so's awareness).  But often I feel that the physical yoga is also just a way to become present.  Teaching the practice is a way to become aware of one's own presence amidst others.

Reviewing the course on the last day this round, the consensus was the student's needed more time and practice integrating physical adjustments to poses.  Therapeutic adjustments based on Holistic Biomechanics is a wonderful way to help people feel the yoga, to make a connection.  I'll be putting together some training for this very soon.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The revolution is within

Seeing Charles Eisenstein speak 2 nights in a row in Port Moody and Vancouver felt like... a Deja Vu experience I've never had. I've seen old footage of Jidda Krishnamurti speaking, and the reaction of the audience to him. Listening to Charles, I was moved on an intellectual and emotional level, but both at once. This has never happened to me listening to anyone before. There was also a very strong positive reaction from the audience to the awareness that came through his words - we all felt it. I'm slightly too young to have been to Woodstock, but I imagine that movement must have felt, in a way, similar.

Jidda Krishnamurti spoke for years of an "inner revolution" of inquiry - of not taking things we've learned as absolute truths. I believe Jidda grew tired of trying to explain "how" to become more conscious. I fear that Charles may have the same challenge. It seems to me that awareness can be brought to a group through an individual's own strength in that regard, but cannot be left behind when he leaves. Charles speaks of a new world of interconnected individuals remembering their deepest connections, and the natural compassion resulting from that remembrance.

The shadow side of a community, or a tribe, or any group is that as it includes it must by nature exclude. Whether it is a group of sports fans, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yogis, or a group of concerned citizens, there rests, embedded in us, an "us and them" mentality of separation. If you are "in" then someone else must be "out" - separation again. Charles has left that behind, heart and mind. As I watched the crowd begin to "whoop' collectively at some of the observations Charles made, a soft alarm bell began to ring in my chest, and that alarm said something like "Each of us must find our own way, and meet further down the trail, where no words are necessary".

It was a blessing to hear Charles speak.