“It is far more important to listen with the depth of one’s whole being, than to indulge in merely superficial explanations. If we can listen in that way, with the totality of one’s being, that very listening is an act of meditation”
I left my stressful job in advertising last October to teach yoga. I’m loving every second, but none of those seconds are made easy without me designing them that way.
You see, my programming from the 10+ years in the ad world stuck with me; I’m really good at moving fast and filling my time. What I’m not so good at however, is slowing down. I can push, sprint and jump (how high?!), but ask me to slow down and I’m either instantly annoyed or instantly challenged. Often both.
But I kept finding myself overwhelmed…by choice. My schedule was part of my daily design. I kept saying “yes” to everything that came my way from teachings gigs, writing articles, offering retreats - all things I figured would boost my new career. But I ran out of time. I couldn’t find time to do it all whole heartedly and that drove me nuts. I was conflicted and stressed. I ran out of personal time too - I couldn’t find time to meditate, to practice daily, to enjoy my dog and even my husband. I had no time to keep the promises I made to myself because I had made a new promise to someone else. I kept saying “yes” yet again.
So now, I’m saying “no” to at least one thing per day. It was my life coach’s idea (thanks Handel Group and Hildie Dunn). When she first suggested it, I laughed and thought “what on earth will I say no to?!” Sure enough, there was lots. This past week I was able to enjoy meals again, had dinner out with my husband, I finished reading a book and even went for 2 runs. I practiced yoga and held poses longer. I slowed the eff down and enjoyed myself.
In my new daily design, saying “no” is just as important as saying “yes.” I like to think of it this way: By saying no, I’m saying yes to myself. To my soul. To what I really need to be able to make the next “yes” whole hearted.
And let me tell you, whole hearted yes’s are the best kind out there.
This was my journal entry - almost word for word:
I wrote a letter to my Daddy.
I needed some healing.
I wanted it to feel special so I lit candles and placed a few of his pictures around them.
Sometimes I still can't believe he’s gone - I remember so clearly. Other times I forget - I can’t quite see his face… can’t quite get in touch with it.
So what if I can’t remember his face? His essence is so clear to me. I think that’s how it should be, at least for me.
I live with his essence.
Writing the letter I cried. I felt close to him. At the same time it felt forced; I cried because I knew I needed to - because people say that’s what you should do. There’s something numb about that - not exactly what I’m looking for.
I want to feel.
I thought my letter would be long, but it wasn’t.
I thought it would take me all night, but it didn’t.
I’m filled with gratitude for having him as my Dad. I drew fishies on the top of my letter. He liked to fish and this made me feel silly and sweet - like his little girl again.
I never realized how attached I was to the idea of being Daddy’s little girl.
I took the letter to my hometown.
I cried in the car on the way there. Caio thought it was because he put on a really great song. It wasn’t.
We drove to the cemetery and I asked Caio to leave me.
It’s my first time here since he passed. We had had no formal burial - my Mom took my brother here one day and arranged for it. It was ‘no big deal.’ But it was. I avoided the visit for 6 years.
I was scared, terrified and anxious. What if I couldn’t handle it? The thoughts were dizzying.
I saw his stone.
Nothing happened. Numb again…or was I? Was it just not as bad as I thought?
I sat down. I really wanted to. I touched his stone and brushed it off. I checked out his neighbours and saw that they all had flowers. I forgot flowers. So I made a frame with sticks - he’d love that! Rustic.
A distraction from feeling or a sign of honor?
I cried a little. Cars drove by and the lack of silence surprised me. Defintly not how I pictured it. I thought a cemetery would be peaceful, but the road was busy and people come and go often.
I pulled out my letter. I put it on his stone. I lean back to see how it looks - did it look cared for? I decide yes.
I opened the letter. Fishies!
Daughter to Father…
Tears. Achy throat. I’m reading out loud.
People come and go. I worry that Caio will come back too soon and I look at the road too much. I set the letter down until people leave.
Leave leave leave. I want to be alone.
…Alone. I finish reading. I cry a little more. I text Caio and ask if he can bring flowers. He can.
With my phone out I take a picture of the grave, the frame (rustic!) and my feet. I did it. I’m here. Accept. Let go. He is at peace. Now I can be too.
Peace peace peace.
“Help me accept where you are.
Help me feel only what is mine to feel.
Help me release the pain of you leaving the Earth.”
Peace Peace Peace.
It starts here, with me, telling the truth to myself. I needed this. I’m here because I was finally honest with myself. Telling the truth will change a life! My life.
A lady arrives two rows over. She takes out a brush and brushes off a stone, kisses her fingertips and lays her hand on the stone. So sweet. She plucks a dead flower and asks if I’m ok.
I kiss my fingertips and place them on the stone. It’s cold. I prefer the Earth in front of it. I lay my hand there, close my eyes and send as much love as humanly possible. It feels good. It feels amazing.
I make a fist in the air and give 'props.’ Thank you Dad. You’re amazing. I feel silly for telling the air - and I feel amazing for letting go.
So. Much. Love.
Caio comes. The sun hits the grave stone and I think 'perfect timing.’ He brings the flowers.
“Because they’re from you.”
I lay some on the left and some on the right.
Caio says “Hi Larry” and I tell him he’s not very talkative.
He’s not there - not under that. He’s everywhere.
Caio goes to the car.
I get up.
I smile and I tear.
I’ll be back.
I go check the grave two rows over that received a brush and a kiss. “Forever together” it says, with an empty space next to it.
So. Much. Love.
This illustration by Kathryn Macnaughton is one of my favourite things right now. It’s the ultimate expression of life…
It bends me over backwards.
It takes everything I’ve got.
But there’s this bit of light that I hold so closely to that makes everything worth while.
It’s heart opening.
Or maybe you see this illustration more like my husband does: Life is like a colourful, delicious hotdog - you’ll bend over backwards to get it. ♥
Inspired by a recent teacher training program with Darren Rhodes, I’m now practicing conscious yoga teaching.
It’s not that I wasn’t a conscious teacher before… I just wasn’t conscious enough.
Sure I knew what I was doing, how to raise and lower the energy of the room and how to avoid injuries, but I wasn't totally conscious of everything I say and the potential meaning behind it.
You see, I was encouraged to say certain things while teaching (I’m sure most of us teachers are). It’s not necessarily because those words felt right for me, but because it was right for the style of yoga. Indeed I follow a style of yoga because it feels right for me, but that doesn’t mean I should say something out of habit vs. making it a conscious choice.
Conscious teaching involves a lot of listening and correcting on the spot, to the point where I’m asking myself why I use words like “lift the leg” vs. “lift your leg.” This may sound nit-picky, but each word has a meaning, and I want my class themes to be a conscious choice, gifted consciously to my students. I don’t want to miss a thing.
With the magnifying glass on my own teaching, I expected to hear a whole lot of “your” and no “the’s”, but when I tuned in, to my surprise, I did use “the” more often.
I had to ask why. Was this on purpose? Is this a technique I’m imploring to help students avoid a sense of ego in their yoga practice? (note: “ego” is used here to reference a person’s sense of self - not over confidence). I sat with it for awhile and pondered both sides. There’s no right answer, except the one that’s right for me.
I found that giving an instruction using “the” followed by the name of a body part, felt a little cold. I could see the benefits from a Classically dual point of view where eradicating the ego is considered a good thing. But for me, for now, my path hasn’t called for that. I sit well with the idea that embodiment (human-ness yo!) is a gift that was meant to be, and with embodiment comes a very human sense of self. I prefer to work with my ‘gift’ instead of eradicate it. Moving forward, I’m changing all instances of “the” in my yoga classes to “your.” Bear with me, it
may will take some practice.
Another word I’ve caught myself using is “advanced.” “Advanced” suggests it’s better than another option but realistically, it’s not. What’s truly advanced is knowing what’s right for you at that moment and that will and should, change often.
My focus on conscious teaching has snuck into my life outside the yoga room. Staying conscious is calling me to get closer to my truth and understand why I do what I do and say what I say. It matters. Here’s why:
Take care of your thoughts, because they will become words.
Take care of your words, because they will become actions.
Take care of your actions, because they will become habits.
Take care of your habits, because they will form your character.
Take care of your character, because it will form your destiny.
And your destiny, will be your life.
I really don’t want to miss a thing. What are you missing?
Teachers out there - any thoughts, tips or experiences to share on your teachings?
The Internet has brought us many wonderful things, but this new one, you may want to prepare for.
Previously, I mentioned that we’re still ethically trying to catch up with the Internet and what it’s presenting us. The Web and more recently, social networking, is much more than a way to get in touch with old friends, more than moment to moment updates, and more than a way to meet your potential life parter.
Sure we’re all over the Net posting our best pictures and quotes of the day, but we haven’t yet figured out what it means to have our personal lives also be our public lives. Some of us may remain “clothed”, but some of us don’t… either by our will or someone else’s.
The Web is clearly laying everything on the table. Our cards are being dealt revealing our faults, lies and dirty “secrets” right alongside our sweetness, talents and pride, leaving very little for game playing. Thanks to social networking, sharing our cards, as well as peeking at someone else’s, has been made so easy.
I ended it immediately. I felt hurt, ashamed, embarrassed and used.
It turns out, I wasn’t the only one (pun intended!) and social networking is being hugely related to relationship problems - even divorces. Take for example these recent statistics:
Facebook is quoted in 1 out of every 5 divorces in the United States, according to the Loyola University Health System.
81 percent of the U.S.’s top divorce attorneys say they have seen an increase in the number of cases using social networking during the past five years, according to a survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML).
Facebook is the unrivaled leader for divorce evidence with 66 percent quoting it as the primary source the AAML said.
The saddest part of this isn’t the stats. It’s the fact that these stats are greatly in favour of pointing the finger away from us and blaming something else - in this case social networking tools. That finger should be pointing directly at us and our reliance on game playing.
In my instance, the biggest problem wasn’t that this man was yet to be divorced (although that was a major fault), nor was it Facebook for revealing a previously secret part of his life. The problem was that neither of us were telling the truth.
His truth: he wasn’t waiting on divorce papers and his wife, whom he claimed to be separated from, was very pregnant with his child.
My truth? Something didn’t feel right. I kept asking him when the papers would come and how he was feeling. I often asked if he wanted to continue with our relationship. He always provided a soothing answer, but my gut feeling never changed. I didn’t ask again the next day simply because it was too soon to ask, not because I felt confident. I wasn’t listening to my inner truth.
No more games. Welcome to the age of truth. It’s here, it’s now and it’s long overdue. This is the age when we’re called to tell our truth… or else we’re revealed.
To be clear, I’m not promoting that we no longer have any privacy in our lives. There are definitely moments and situations that should remain private. I’m saying this: It’s time to hold integrity. Mean what you say. Practice what you preach.
We’re going to see a lot of individuals make mistakes as this age progresses: what it means to be human, faults and all, will be clearly examined and magnified. It will continue to challenge our beliefs, judgements and ability to forgive. We’ll be presented with many opinions and facts surrounding the mistakes - enough to overwhelm. Heads will spin and we’ll be left with only one question to answer: What’s my truth?
If we have nothing to hide, this won’t be scary. If we’re honest, transparent and hold our integrity, this age of truth is no longer intimidating. Instead, it becomes an absolute blessing.
Telling the truth calls us to live consciously and to make conscious decisions. It asks us to be aware and deeply in touch with our inner feelings (gut feelings baby!). As soon as we’re aware, we can act on what our heart is saying.
Consider social networking and the Internet a reminder to tell the truth. Consider them a tool for your spiritual practice that acts as a reminder to follow your heart and practice what you preach. Don’t fake it… or else.
He fell. He fell hard.
This someone might have been a largely popular teacher of one of North America’s fastest growing schools of Hatha yoga. But it wasn’t so much a physical fall as it was an ethical spill, if you will. Actually, it seems he may have face planted straight into a sidewalk made of morals. My hope is that he’s currently in the intensive care unit of his own consciousness, retreating to treat the root cause of the spill.
Here’s something I found interesting:
It didn’t surprise me.
Not because I expected this of him by any means. I just understood that he was human and human’s make mistakes. Even though I had often seen him on a stage positioned higher than others, I knew better than to hold him on a pedestal and expect perfection. I knew better than to call him “guru.” I knew he was smart and created a brilliant method that I would fall in love with and use to help others, but somehow I knew not to fall in love with the man himself. It’s the method that stole my heart and changed my life. It’s the method that continues to change the lives of my students.
What did surprise me however, is some of the reactions from the Kula (community in Sanskrit). It’s the Kula that I held in high regard thinking if anyone would know how to deal with this gracefully, the yoga Kula would. I stood confidently, watching and waiting for the storm to reside and the dust to settle in new places. Just as my yoga taught me to, I paused. I breathed.
But a new storm took force, one that I didn’t expect. Some 'yogi’s’ came forward, lacking information yet full of judgement and anger - it started to look like a crucifixion. Now this gossip has taken over my Facebook and Twitter feeds and in turn, my head.
I can’t stop thinking about it.
So what went wrong? Why are so many people shocked, surprised and down right hurt by learning he screwed up?
High expectations can be poison. When we expect something great and it doesn’t turn out great, we’re disappointed. Expect perfection or anything close, and you won’t get it. Expect a God-like performance by a human and it’s bound to fail. Expect a perfect teacher and you won’t find it. Expect a perfect Kula… I can’t find it either.
I’ve started to wonder if our leadership expectations have been set by prior stories of leaders such as Jesus and Buddha. (I’m by no means comparing this yoga teacher to either Jesus or Buddha, I’m comparing the position as a leader.) There are very few stories about how these previous leaders made human mistakes, yet, they were both clearly human and with humanity, comes imperfection. It seems only the best, “God-like” stories survive and are shared most often. It’s our habit to create an idol out of someone who’s candor and brilliance wow’s us, but that idol and model of leadership is imperfect and always will be.
We needed this. I needed this.
The teacher is completely and utterly perfect in his imperfections. As a leader, his fall is a lesson for anyone listening: it’s a reminder of what it means to be human. My envisioned perfect Kula, revealed to me as no longer perfect, is also made of humans.
Revealed is another word that makes my head spin around this topic: should our private lives really be so public? I’m not sure, but I do know that if I’m telling the truth in all aspects of my life, it wouldn’t matter if people knew everything about me. In an effort to always be upfront and open I can’t think of anything I have to hide from my students… or anyone for that matter. Nothing needs to be secretive, for me. It doesn’t mean I’m perfect - I just have nothing to hide. Sure, some things I might find embarrassing, but they’re no secret.
My guess is that we’re still trying to ethically catch up with the technology of the Internet and what it means to have our personal lives reflected in our public lives. With everything public it’s clearly revealed that we all make mistakes. Moving on from that fact, can we learn to embrace our mistakes as part of the gift of being human? The gift of our life?
“…the humanexperience is the point of having been born human. You are the point the universe has decided to make. Own that experience, receive that as the gift, never stop wanting to become more human: that is divine.” Douglas Brooks
There’s a whole lot more to this, but for now, I’m still working the rest out in my head.