Saturday, September 26, 2015

Act as if it's rigged in your favour

I love this quote from one of Rumi's poems - paraphrased - "Act as if it's all rigged in your favour".

This to me is a very clever sentence, and an affirmation that is real and actionable.  When one acts "as if" things are rigged in their favour, then every event is cast in a different light.  The seemingly unfortunate events can be appreciated, for this too is part of the "rigging".  For instance, ageing and death are life's way of rigging in your favour.  Imagine not dying and having the world so full of people we'd be like sardines in a can - death is rigged in your favour.  Imagine not ageing.  Not having the opportunity to let go of youthful narcissism - not losing the "war" on getting wrinkly.  Things are rigged in your favour.

Acting "as if" is playing.  It is not imagining or believing there is a supernatural power that is bestowing miracles and curses.  In that model, prayer and surrender are the tools.  Acting "as if" is acting, and it is taking action.  It is playing with the idea that everything is rigged in your favour.  It does not suggest things are actually rigged.  For if they were really rigged in your favour, that implies someone else's life is rigged against them.  If a playing field is tipped in a fortunate direction for you, it means it is tipped in an unfortunate position for the other team.  If god is on your side he's not on the other side.  The way we usually feel successful is by "winning" something - in other words, comparing ourselves in some way to others, or to former versions of ourselves.  Winning and losing mutually arise, like up and down.

Children know how to act "as if".  They can slip into imaginative roles easily, maintaining the perspective that it is all in fun.  The game is not ultimately serious.  But you can for a time act "as if" it is.  When you act "as if", your innate intuition, playfulness and joy are available, potentially allowing more skill in action.  Acting "as if" actually works, because it recognizes and works with what is actually happening.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Northern Japan yoga students, and Chinese amusement parks.

We just got back from the island of Hokkaido from a week-end workshop for yoga teachers - "teachers tune-up".

Prior to coming, we asked the Sapporo students to give us a question each about what they most wanted to learn over the weekend.  I'd planned to narrow the focus to just one pose - side angle, or parsvakonasana, using that postural geography to explore simple and more complex muscular actions that create beneficial results, encouraging relaxed observation and clear cueing.

Many of the student questions centered on how to teach beginners.  Through talking with them (translated by Kumi, of course) I realized that they, like most yoga teachers, had been exposed to a great number of touring teachers.  Though these teachers each offered something valuable, there was little or no through-line to the education.  Postural focus was different teacher to teacher, sequencing guidelines
changed, and sometimes conflicting postural alignment philosophy.

Our host put it well.  She said she felt as if she were teaching yoga like a Chinese amusement park, and through the week-end with us she began to feel that she could teach yoga like a small cabin in the woods, furnished simply.

This was really my goal for the week-end and the reason I narrowed the focus so much.  I wanted to offer not another technique or flashy pose, but to develop critical reasoning faculties in each student so they'd be able to prune their teaching and offer good, simple and effective instruction to their students while relaxing into competency in teaching postural yoga.

Essentially my point was this:  Let's remove the less essential from the teaching and increase the essential.  Find the "niche" in yoga where the student really is, and can benefit.

Hatha Yoga is the process of understanding and performing balanced muscular action over a  pose duration long enough to create a beneficial re-patterning within the tissues of the body.  I left everything else off the table this week-end, and I'm happy with the results.

We yoga teachers have a responsibility, I feel, to not export more confusion.  We have an opportunity to empower people both physically and mentally to take responsibility for their health via a practice they can do on their own if they like, and to think through their decisions and beliefs.