So Much Talk and Yet I Know Very Little

I’ve backed away lately from discussing yoga in written text. As I read so many blogs and Facebook posts about people and their yoga beliefs I realize how little about yoga I know, even after studying it for 15 years. I’ve realized that through all the chatter and with all the popularity of this practice, people are just spewing memes about what they have heard yoga to be. The more articles and blog posts that I read, the more stupid I feel for ever writing about it in the first place. This is my evolution, right here on this page.

More and more I am feeling how yoga really is a spiritual practice. More and more I see how one turns inward about their relationship to this very sacred and holy path. So to discuss it ad nauseam is no longer what I want to participate in. My inbox is full of opinions and advertisements for yoga. Which in recently reading I ask myself, “Do I sound that stupid when I write about yoga?” Yes, Maureen, you probably do.

Then I go through the frustration phase of wondering where they learned this stuff and how did this writer come to this conclusion? This is so wrong! But it is all chatter of the mouth and of the mind. The more we discuss our sacred path, the more it burns away the progress that we have made, dissolving it. The mind becomes cluttered with opinions and arguments and more questions. So the next day we get up, perhaps falling into the same trap. The “yoga” has defined us as who we are, and ego, a perception, a misconception of the self.

So for now I will focus my writing on lighter topic on things I know more about, like where to get a good rice dish in downtown Orlando or how to sew curtains, or what it’s like to live in a home while your property is a construction site. These are things that I am familiar with, that I know, that I have fully experienced. But yoga, I have not fully experienced, so therefor I am no expert, nor will I claim to be by discussing it on the internet. And truly, I don’t want people to know where I am on this path because it’s not a competition, it’s not even a lifestyle, it’s about evolving into a quieter, more peaceful person. Which I have never been, but learning how important it really is. The more you talk, the less they will listen. Answer only when asked, and give of yourself when no one is watching.

What Ashtanga Yoga Has Taught Me About Commitment

commitment

When you say you are going to do something, do it. I long ago stopped using the word “promise” when telling someone that I would do something. It’s an empty word that is often overused and frequently broken. So instead, if I agree to do something, I do it and if I am not sure or cannot, I say it. But it took several years to put this into practice as did creating a daily Ashtanga Yoga practice.

I failed myself many days on the path to a six day per week practice, but I never gave up trying to attain it. At lunch time in Mysore when the Ashtangis gather, we often joke how most of us are “Type A” personalities. But maybe we weren’t always. Maybe we needed to discover the discipline of Ashtanga yoga to see things clearly, in a straight line and how we could create that type of organization in our lives. The path is clearly laid out in Patanjali’s Eight limbs, and the sequences of asanas are perfectly ordered to create healing and growth withing the body.

Get up early, every morning, do your practice, all is coming. This is true, if you get the difficult part of your day out of the way, and face your inner self first thing in the morning, then the rest of the day becomes more linear, clear and the path before you unfolds without confusion. With practice the body does not start out the day with confusion, and the mind will follow.

But teaching this to people, in a society where so many think that I should “just do what feels good” and “I should be able to do what I want when I want to do it,” with no consequences to their prior commitments; which in reality, were their prior “wants”, is difficult. People move from job to job, from state to state, from partner to partner and from “commitment” to “commitment”. This in essence is the monkey mind at work in the physical vessel. The mind saying, “Oh look! Something shiny over here! Oh wait, something shinier over there.” And, “I didn’t really want that to begin with, I just thought it would be fun/interesting.”

The monkey mind can also have us clinging to an abusive relationship, a codependent family member or a dead end job, swinging emotionally in the wind of the other person’s problems or desires. But if you wake up early every morning and make that commitment to yourself, first, then the monkey mind is clear to see the choices that you have made, and whether or not you are sound with what you have chosen to do.

Making decisions without a clear mind can hurt others. It may mean that you were not honest with yourself, that your desires took over and now you abandon them to seek out other pleasures, leaving those who depended upon you empty handed. Especially when the other person made a commitment to you. This can often happen in a marriage, a teacher/student relationship, a volunteer opportunity, or a job you just took for the money.

Ashtanga yoga has taught me that we cannot simply do what feels good. That most of what makes life worth living is doing what is difficult and challenging and sometimes feels yucky. Ashtanga yoga has taught me that when an opportunity comes up, I am not going to simply say yes because it may satisfy me in the short term. I now ask myself these questions:

1.) Is this something that I am going to do half ass or wholeheartedly?

2.) Is this something I really want for the long haul or something I want right now?

3.) If I decide to do this, can I complete the task?

4.) If I take this opportunity, will it prevent me from working towards what I really want, or will it help me move closer to what I really want?

5.) If I do not complete this task, who will suffer?

Ask yourself these questions the next time you are considering a commitment to someone or something. It can make all the difference in not only your conscience but in your relationships.

 

Things Are Not Always as They Seem

cheese

I bought this cheese from the shop down the street fully knowing that is was Swiss cheese and certainly not cheddar. This is my second package. The first one was good, so I went back for more. And this Swiss in cheddar’s clothing prompted me to write this blog yet again from India.

Like this delicious package of cheese, things are not always as they seem, and if you keep your mind open and aware, things can actually be better than what you had expected. Had I expected cheddar cheese from this neatly wrapped package, I would have been sorely disappointed as cheddar cheese is my favorite. Alas, no cuisine pleases me more than the spicy cheddar cheesy deliciousness of Mexican, but finding Mexican cuisine in a country so far away yet so eerily similar is near impossible.

Finding unexpected pleasures in everyday places is a gift from the universe that we can only receive if we are willing. And if you are not willing, then you will never see the gifts this world has to offer. We are a mere spec in the face of the universe, our lifetime a millisecond on this planet but our power to give and receive infinite.

I have traveled many places and met many people. Each time I go to a new place I feel like a little child, seeing things for the first time and amazed in wonder. Yet there is always a little fear in venturing into unexpected places. But like a little child, you must venture into the unknown, for until you do, it will always be the unknown. So each time I venture into the unknown, I see things as they really are for the first time and I am changed because of it.

I’ve been to India many times, on a plane, on a bus, on a motorcycle, on a scooter and in a car, but never on a train. But today I bought my first train ticket in India. The process was an adventure in itself, and although my trip is not for another two weeks, I again traveled into the unknown and uncovered a piece of myself that I didn’t know existed.

You may think that buying a train ticket is something so simple, and many of you reading this may have done this many times before; but the first time? What was the first time like?

My first time involved asking friends several questions before venturing on my scooter to the train station (I wrote a blog here earlier about my adventures driving a scooter in India, it’s pretty funny). Every step of this process involved awareness and patience. Finding a place to park at the station was the first step in the process (after driving there) and finding out where to park and how to pay for parking. The next step was to head to the “Inquiries” window in how to go about purchasing the said ticket. Then I proceeded to get in the queue, realizing moments later that I needed to fill out a form before purchasing this ticket. While waiting on line, being the only woman, something not uncommon, the kind men around me said I did not need to wait, just to go inside to the first window. I wondered why this was? Was is because I was a tourist? Who knows?

Despite all the negative things you read in the newspapers about the way men treat women in India, I have had only one negative experience while traveling here and for the most part, they are very helpful and kind.

So, I go inside and go to the first window, which has a “closed” sign at it but a woman is sitting there. I ask about a ticket. She responds, “Fifteen minute break.” It’s 9:15am. Ok, I can wait. I notice that the line outside is very long with only men in it and the waiting room inside is nearly empty, with mostly women. Then I finally read the sign above the window where I had just inquired and it’s a special window for women, elderly and disabled.

“Sweet,” I think to myself, “this may not take all day after all.”

And sure enough, 15 minutes later a short queue begins to form of women and elderly men about the window. A few minutes of pushing and keeping my elbows up I make my way to the window for my ticket to Chennai. The ticket agent, an older stout lady, in no hurry to do her job, curtly asks me a few questions about when I want to go and return and what type of ticket I want. I don’t care how much it costs, I want the best possible ticket available with air conditioning. I know it can’t cost more than $20-$25 USD round trip, so just do it lady, give me your best available ticket. It’s my first trip on a train in India, so I am not about to take any chances. A few minutes later the process is done and I’m back on my scooter heading home; or the place I like to call home here in Mysore, India, the family I stay with each time I come. It’s definitely like my second home.

So what unexpected gifts did I receive today, in this adventure of buying a simple train ticket? First of all, I received the kindness of the gentlemen on line who directed me to the correct queue. Second of all, didn’t have to wait all day to purchase the ticket. Third of all, as I was waiting in the “ladies” line for ticket a young man came up to me asking which line it was for, and I was able to help him and direct him to the correct line (that always happens to me especially in strange places where I am the stranger). And lastly, I received a huge burst of self accomplishment. The heat and intense yoga practices of the each day have left me tired and lazy, but after this experience, the amount of energy pumping through my body was electric and a new part of me became exposed to a world so familiar to millions of people traveling on the trains of India everyday.

So why do I have to go to Chennai? Stay tuned, that adventure is soon on the horizon.

Orlando Doesn’t Suck

orlandoActually it’s quite the opposite. I have made my home in Orlando mostly for the past 17 years and I’ve seen this city grow and change and become a place where I may want to stay forever. In the past I have found that Orlando was mostly a transient city where former tourists came to stay for a few months or years on their way to find someplace more permanent here in the Sunshine state. But more and more, I am meeting people who have been here almost as long as I have if not longer. And the events, weather, people and growth has made it one of the fastest growing cities in America. And a place where people can raise a family, get a decent paying job and live within an hour from some of the worlds most beautiful beaches. And I have been to plenty of beaches around the globe and it’s always nice to visit the vast open beaches of New Smyrna.

First of all let’s talk about the nightlife. Downtown Orlando has a great night time scene. You can always catch a concert or hang out at a bar on any given night and it won’t be boring. Some great places to see a show are The Beacham Theatre or it’s adjoining space The Social. For a small loud show with a great beer selection you can check out Back Booth. Of course if something more mellow is your gig and you want just a bite of food and some drinks check out Elixir, one of my favorite places for happy hour. Either way, if you head down to Orange Avenue on any given night you can find something to your liking.

Orlando has a plethora of good places to eat. My husband and I love to check out new ethnic places and we have a few favorites. Woodlands Indian Cuisine is our favorite. This gem on South Orange Blossom trail is a bit of a hike from Downtown Orlando, but worth the trip. During the day they have a splendid buffet and they specialize in South Indian thalis. You will get so full on their authentic cuisine that they will have to roll you to your car.

Another place we like to dine, especially on those cold January nights is Little Saigon located in the Mills/50 district. They serve Vietnamese Soups that can be spiced the way you like using their array of table condiments, and their summer rolls are out of this world.

We also love Korean food and Seoul Gardens in Maitland has the best Koran food in town (we’ve tried others). They also serve Hite Beer, directly from Korea. And since I spent a year living in Seoul, I am pretty critical of Korean food. They don’t have a website, but here’s the link to some reviews.

And if you can’t decide which style of Asian food to eat check out another gem Hawkers on Mills Avenue. They serve a variety of Asian street foods and beers. You can’t go wrong. Some of the items they will not make vegetarian because they don’t want to compromise their recipes, so I can respect that. But being a vegetarian has not prevented me from finding some delicious dishes on their menu.

For late night food that’s not IHOP you can check out the Vegan Hot Dog Cart on Orange Ave in Downtown, Tako Cheena on Mills Avenue or one of my favorites Pom Pom’s on Bumby.

That’s enough gloating about Orlando today. In this ongoing blog, I will discuss great places to do yoga, interesting places to shop, nature tours and fun touristy things to do that are not Disney, although I love Disney too, there’s is so much more to Orlando than the mouse!

Lead by Example

 

lead  by example

Recently I have found that leading by example doesn’t always work. I have always tried to embody the qualities of people whom I have admired, who were more educated than me or whom have had more life experiences, but it seems that this day in age, no one wants to learn from someone who knows better.

I have studied with some great teachers in the US and abroad. And I am not just talking about yoga or philosophy teachers, but even some of my high school teachers and college professors. Many of them not only taught me scholarly things, but they showed me how to yearn for more knowledge all the days of my life; and that knowledge is everywhere if you just look for it.

When going through a troubling time I asked myself often, “What would Jayashree do?” my yoga philosophy teacher. When struggling with an posture in my asana practice I may ask myself, “What would Kino MacGregor do?” And when dealing with the frustration of others, I would ask myself, “What would the Dalai Lama do?” Modeling my actions after those who have come before me and those who know better.

But as a teacher myself, I sometimes feel like a broken record. I often ask myself, “Why am I doing this? Is anybody paying attention?”

There was this student who used to come to my class. I wouldn’t call him “my student” because he never really regularly attended classes with me. But the frustrating this was that every time he came back to my class, he was doing all these crazy things in his asana practice that I had clearly taught him differently. Postures that were clearly not part of the sequence and doing modifications that made no sense, nor resembled a yoga pose at all.

Soon I realized that he just wanted my attention. He was not stupid or disconnected, he just wanted any type of attention, even if it was corrections or reminders of information that he already knew. I didn’t give it to him. He didn’t need it and I wasn’t going to play into this behavior. He left my class for good one day and did not see him again until he attended a class that I were I was a student.

Of course he set up his mat directly behind me as he has done many time since. Of course he didn’t listen to the teacher, of course he did whatever he wanted and I wondered why he even decided to pay for the class. At the same time I was thinking, “If he doesn’t know how to do the posture, I am right here! Right in front of him is someone who knows how. Why doesn’t he just do what I am doing?”  But I guess he would rather do it “his way” than the right way. No one payed him any mind.

I see people like this all the time in the yoga classes I teach and take. It’s frustrating, annoying and embarrassing. It’s no different than the class clown, the child who causes problems in the classroom, or the child who won’t stop talking when everyone is supposed to be quiet. It’s childish behavior and it  is everything that yoga is not.

The “yoga scene” has become a racket. So many personalities desperate for attention. So many students lacking basic awareness of their surroundings. And I am not sure if going to a group led yoga class can help them. Sometimes I think it makes it worse.

Yoga is such an amazing thing! It has life changing abilities if you really want to explore what yoga really is. It is so much more than a a stretch class. It is so much more than an acrobatics class and it can take you far beyond that blissful feeling you may have immediately after a class.

I have been writing about this for a long time, the benefits of a deeply rooted yoga practice. The difficult path of learning how to act and react according to Patanjali’s 8 limbs, but I feel that no one is listening and the business of yoga has become more sport than spiritual practice, more ego driven than ego dissolving and more theory than practice.

Sometimes I just want to hide in a closet and emerge as something else. I have dedicated to much time and effort into becoming a teacher. It is what I have always done. Maybe I am just feeling disheartened because I would like people to realize the amazing gift that they have stumbled upon. Maybe I am upset because so many people are using something that is so sacred for personal gain.

I used to be more confrontational. It was easy for me to call people out on their façades and stories and tell them what I really think. Perhaps I lacked compassion. But I am not that person anymore. If I didn’t have compassion I would have probably just told this one student to get out of my class. If I didn’t have faith that yoga can change lives, then I would have said that he’s making a mockery of the practice. And if I didn’t have hope that one day this student would realize that he’s been given a gift that so few have the opportunity to experience, I would not continue teaching.

The Long Hot Summer

love sunshine

It was nearly a year ago when I received my last pose from my teacher in India. And I cannot say that I have been wholeheartedly working on that pose for the past year. It has been a difficult year, filled with tribulations and celebrations. Over the past year so many things came to light. In the past year I have been told twice that I was not living up to my potential or living my authentic life, words difficult to swallow.

But since October 2012 my life has been on the fast track. I finally made decisions that would better the quality of my life so that I could be better for other people, and finally made the move to stop holding on to the sinking ship that I was involved in. Making that decision and implementing that decision took nearly a year.

I got engaged in December 2012 and 9 months later married, I had my very first trip to the hospital to remove a fairly large non-cancerous lump on my neck, I turned 40, and then was faced with a lawsuit after being fired from the place I had decided to leave anyway because it no longer served a purpose in my life. And when all of that finally ended and was resolved, I cried for days.

It was a long hot summer as I knew it would be. My asana practice was suffering since the surgery in May because the stitches on my neck prevented me from working on back bends for several weeks. Which sucked because the pose I am working on is a deep back bend.

After recovery, I could not bring myself to practice at the studio where I had been for over 2 years. Going there, to teach or to practice had become something I wanted to avoid altogether. I had made the decision in my head to leave, but not physically. So I continued to work there, but practiced at home, to the best of my ability as I recovered.

But the cracks in the façade that I was keeping up began to show and was finally told that if I did not practice at the studio where I taught, not only did it look bad to the other students, but I would be out of a job. By the end of June I was out of a job and several students left as well.

All I can say is that for me and for others it was not a healthy, safe environment for one to explore one’s inner self. I suppose at one time it had been, but it no longer felt that way to me. Finally I started listening to other more experienced yoga teachers, and I knew the time was right to move on. What was funny was that I had very little contact with these two teachers over the months that I was planning my out. They said very little to me as I did them. But what they did say, separately and on separate occasions was that I needed to be true to myself and show my authentic self to others.

Now that the summer is over, the lawsuit has been settled and the grandiose wedding celebrations a mere memory, I can finally focus on myself and my asana practice. But through the trials and tribulations my yoga practice continued. Patience, non-attachment, kindness, meditation, focus, clarity and honesty remained steady in my daily life. Without yoga, I would have been a mess and not been able to cope with the long, hot summer and the barrage of accusations as well as the financial burden of a wedding and defending myself through hiring an attorney. But the money was the least concern, because although I may not have had it to begin with, it came when I needed it.

Some plans had to be put on hold for the time being. We will take our honeymoon in December, three months after the wedding. But it will be a well deserved vacation and a good close to the year. With nothing but new adventures to look forward to in 2014. We have our health, our family is happy and we have a nice house to to come home to. We have good friends who have shown time and time again that they’ve got my back and I will too hopefully be able to repay the favor.

My asana practice is coming back, quicker that expected, and it feels good to have the energy to put towards it. The weather is finally cooling down and the seasons are changing. I am grateful for all of these things and experiences and without them, I would have never really known what I am capable of or the strength I have inside.

Abusive Relationships…Get Out Now!

exit

Abusive relationships can come in many forms. They can be with a friend, significant other, boss, relative or teacher. But what are the signs of an abusive relationship and when do you know it’s time to leave? In addition, how do we get out?

Unfortunately, if there are children involved with an ex-spouse, partner or parent, it may be impossible to get out of the relationship, but you have options.

In the beginning stages of a relationship with an abusive person, it may seem blissful. The abuser is full of promises and high hopes for the future. You put your faith in this person to travel with you or guide you to a place you may be seeking. For example, you may want to grow in a personal relationship and create a bond with this person. You may want to grow to learn from a teacher or boss who makes promises of a better future for if you do what they teach you. They will even create opportunities for you to help each other reach some sort of goal or “reward”.

Over time you find yourself doing everything they ask of you, and they begin to ask for more and more. You give them what they want, and soon, they start to expect these things from you. Things like catering to them, saying yes to their every request, eventually taking time away from your own life to do this.

Soon you begin to realize that this relationship is only serving the abuser and not you, yourself at all. You begin saying “no” to their “little” requests. You start ignoring their texts, calls and emails. The more you ignore and avoid these contacts, the more they call, text and email, and begin to reach out to others to get through to you. Your friends might start telling you that this person has been contacting “concerned” about you.

The abusive person may say things like, “I don’t know what’s going on with you.”    “I feel like I am walking on eggshells around you.”
“I wish you would just talk to me, you can tell me whats going on.”
Bingo! Gotcha! You’re caught, stuck and you cannot get out.

When you are finally ready to approach this person and tell them how you feel about their behavior the abuser gives a sob story about how they have done everything for you, they’ve given you everything, and they don’t know how else to make you happy. You fall for it, of course, and this whole cycle may need to be repeated several times before you see the need to get out.

When you are ready to break this cycle and move on with your life, it will not be pretty, be prepared. You may try to “back away slowly” from this person, but it may not work. They will do everything they can to get you to stay. They will apologize, ask forgiveness, admit their faults and put you on a pedestal, affirming their admiration for you. Will you fall for this mechanism of manipulation? Hopefully not twice.

No matter how you decide to get out of this relationship, the decision will not be yours, unless you join the Witness Protection Program. And good luck with that.

Be strong. Surround yourself with people who support you, people who would never consider manipulation as a tool to be used in any relationship. Find people who have been through the same situation and ask for their advice. And at the very most, focus on being happy. Happiness and gratitude are things the abuser can never take from you. Know this to your core, that the abusive person will NEVER be happy or truly experience joy. Their only satisfaction comes from making others behave how they want. And when that stops, their only emotion is rage.

Like a drug addict who no longer has their drug of choice, they will take desperate measures to ensure they still have power over you. They will not be afraid to sink to new lows in an attempt to gain power over you. They are not beneath stalking, gossiping, threatening the law or using any means necessary to find out what you are doing. They will spend every penny they can get their hands on in an attempt to make you as miserable as they feel.

It will be difficult to break free. But be sure in the fact that this will not go on forever. For the abuser will eventually become bored in their quest for manipulation and a new “victim” will soon be available as their prey.

In the case of family, the situation may go on for years after you have chosen to leave. But this too will eventually come to an end. Your only option is to continually seek joy an peace through gratitude. Count your blessings everyday and they will soon multiply beyond your expectations.

Where Is Your Focus?

inner peace

Have you ever watched The Jerry Springer Show? If you haven’t, its just a talk show where each guest is basically there seeking revenge on a cheating partner, lying mother in law, thieving brother and all sorts of other inappropriate behavior. It’s entertaining, and that’s why people watch it. I personally find it embarrassing for all parties involved, the accused and the accuser. Everyone wants attention and what a better way to get it than by putting yourself on TV?

It’s obvious that these people live a troubled life. Drama and problems forever intertwined with their relationships. But if you look at the problems they have, you can see that there is no focus on creating a better life for themselves. Their only focus is to create chaos for the people around them resulting in more problems for themselves. But this is also a character trait of those raised in poverty, control over people. It is an unwritten “class rule” written in a book by a woman named Ruby Payne.

In A Framework for Understanding Poverty, Payne defines the unwritten class rules of American society and goes on to explain that those raised in poverty often have the need to control other people, because the continual lack of money allows them to control little else. Choices are limited, therefor love, anger, fear, kindness and other emotions are used a weapons to get others to do what they want. At the same time, they see people as possessions. This is why often those featured on The Jerry Springer Show will mention that they live in the ghetto or trailer park.

Unfortunately, this pattern of behavior can be difficult to break, even if the children of poverty move into middle class society. Or even worse, become wealthy. Not all people from meager backgrounds forget where they came from or have the need to control others, but it is a documented pattern of behavior that is prevalent in modern poverty stricken societies in America.

This “success” of moving up in society comes with entitlement. This entitlement helps to create a barrier of a huge ego, and anyone who is a threat to cracking the shell of that ego, must be put in their place. Which may take away the focus of maintaining this façade.

As soon as their focus moves away from maintaining who they project themselves to be onto others, they begin to loose all of the things they’ve worked so hard to build. In comes revenge, obsession, gossip, lies and in the end, a desperate attempt to “save face” when these measures either fail or people begin to see who they really are. It can be scary, I assume, not knowing who you really are and trying to keep up a persona of something that you are not, of whom you want people to think you are.

Seeking revenge on someone takes a lot of effort. So much more effort than forgiveness or gratitude. Revenge is so time consuming that not only do you have to put your life on hold to pursue it, but you’re choosing to neglect the good things you have in this life in order to chase down a negative, repetitive behavior in your life, choosing more problems over solutions and chaos over peace.

Nothing in this life is an accident. The people we meet, the experiences we have and the lessons we learn. But every decision we have ever made has led us to this exact very moment. If you are reading this essay, right now, your whole life has led up to this.

People will come and go. Their life is not about you. Their problems are not your problems. Their path may not be your path. Their friends, their experiences, their destiny, it is not yours. And why would anyone be so offended by that?

Yoga teaches us so much. One lesson is non-attachment, to people, places, emotions, thoughts and objects. Another is to not harm others, ourselves or any living things. Creating a steady and calm mind without fluctuations and a single mindedness of purpose is also a part of the practice of yoga. To serve others and not to be vindictive. And to speak the truth in kindness. When you live by these principles, you will remain strong and steady through the stormy times of life. You will posses true happiness in your heart that no one can take away. For only those who suffer want that for others, and those who are happy want that for everyone.

Guru

amma

I think since I was a little girl I think I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I have two younger brothers and bossing them around came naturally to me. I worked as a camp counselor in high school, studied Spanish and early childhood education in college, which led me to a career as a school teacher in the states and abroad. But in 1999 I fell in love with yoga. And from the first day I took a class, I knew I wanted to learn as much as I could about it and teach it to others.

But the popularity of yoga has made it become a slippery slope. In the media one can read all these articles about teachers who are using yoga as a means to damage and manipulate people. It seems that having having a huge ego is part of what makes yoga so popular. Everywhere you look you see photos of people doing yoga poses, in magazines, billboards, and all over the social media sights. And these images can either make someone want to learn yoga, or it can be completely off putting.

I have met many teachers who teach the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga and they have influenced how one should and should not conduct themselves as a conduit of this ancient spiritual practice known as yoga. Some of the quotes I honor the most are:

“Yoga is like taking a shower, it is something you should do everyday. Do you brag about taking a shower? Then you should not brag about doing yoga.” Narasimhan, Mysore, India

“Yoga is an internal practice, the rest is just a circus.” Guruji, K.Pattabhi Jois

“The student chooses the teacher, not the other way around.” Amma The Hugging Saint

“A true Guru expects nothing from their students.” Amma The Hugging Saint

So from these I have learned that yoga is there to help dissolve the ego. We all have ego. We all fight the rearing of it’s ugly head daily. We all fight with the inner battle of entitlement, judgement, envy, anger and frustration. It is our nature for these things to take precedent in our lives. So the more difficult path is one of compassion, peace, steadiness and one without fluctuations of the mind. But who is there to help us along that path?

It seems in the Western world today, with the popularity of yoga, everyone wants to make a name for themselves. It’s a huge business of self promotion, products, workshops, styles and studios. How do we know if we are with the right teacher? How can we be sure if we are in the right place for us?

When many people come to yoga, they are seeking something to help them feel better. They may be in pain or suffering. Not having a connection with themselves has become difficult and they may be seeking relief. So having the intuition to know if they are in the right place when they walk into a yoga studio, or meet a teacher may be dim at that point.

A good teacher realizes that this person is in a fragile state and helps them along the path towards connection to the self by allowing them to start feeling the good and bad as they come. Giving them support and encouragement and not expectations, while knowing that the student may come to them one day asking questions on how to create change in their life and for themselves.

A ego driven teacher realizes that this person is in a fragile state and uses this as an opportunity to boost themselves up. They will tell this person everything they think they want to hear. They will tell them what they need to do to change. And they will expect them to prove that they deserve the attention of the teacher.

These are two very different approaches. And the latter may have more followers. Which is not unexpected since so many people in our society are lost and looking for answers and want a quick solution. They want certainty and guidance from a teacher that tells them what to do and how to do it, no matter what, even if it leads to more pain and suffering, because that is what they are familiar with.

The truth in finding a spiritual path is a long, slow process. It takes a lifetime, if not many to be truly healed from the pain we carry inside. A good teacher leads one from darkness to light, hence the word Guru:

  • Gu – dark gooey attachment.
  • Roo – a (liberating) ray of light.

Guru means enlightener or liberator.

We don’t always get it right the first time. But it’s the ability to keep trying that moves us along the path towards enlightenment. We may find ourselves in a place where we thought was good for us, but as we become more self aware, realize that maybe we should not be in this place after all.

If it doesn’t feel right, walk away. If you are feeling uncomfortable, uneasy, manipulated or controlled, take charge of your life. If you walk into a situation that is not safe, or comforting while seeking spiritual guidance, leave immediately. But continue your search, for sometimes we don’t know what we need until we find it. The truth is in knowing what we don’t want before we can actualize what we want, what will serve us, so that we in turn can serve others.

Isn’t that the whole reason we seek? To find a place where we feel whole so we can lift others up? It is not a secret. It is not something that one should hold on to. Yoga is for everyone and for everyone to share.

 

New Horizons

hands

“Spend every day preparing for the next.
As you reach forward with one hand,
Accept the advice of those who have gone before you,
And in the same manner reach back with the other hand
To those who follow you;
For life is a fragile chain of experiences held together by love.
Take pride in being a strong link in that chain.”

I don’t know who said this, but it is a powerful statement that reminds us of how to handle success. When we have done well for ourselves, and know that we have the power to assist others on their path to success then we must do just that. Often times power can make people’s egos explode and they end up walking all over the very same ones who helped them get there in the first place.

I remember Obama making a statement similar to the one above in one of his speeches. As a teacher, this statement resonated with me. Because when we truly empower and educate others in a manner that helps the consciousness of the world grow, then the negative behaviors of others seems not to affect us as much.

The disturbed people in your life may always find a way to poke and prod you to do what they want you to do. And you may do it. Not for them, but for the sake of your sanity or the sake of others. As you see this pattern in them, you can make it easier to not play into this repetitive, non-productive behavior.

There are many people who love drama, it seems to be a reoccurring theme in our society. It is glamorized on TV and in movies, it’s like a drug that people thrive on. Creating true peace in ones life can be scary, for there may seem that nothing is going on. But it is exactly the opposite.

Peace in our lives is like calm soothing waters. A ship of opportunity cannot sail into port during a storm. It must stay away from shore awaiting the right moment, so it will not crash into the sand and rocks. When we are peaceful, opportunity comes frequently and often. When we create a harbor of peace in our lives, abundance cannot stay away. When we create chaos, there is no room for opportunity or abundance.

Patience plays an important role in creating calm waters, for although the waves may be soft and glassy, the tide may not be just right. But the tide will rise, the waves will come and those who know how, will ride them in great glory. These waves are not just abundance and opportunity, they are relationships, acts of kindness and small everyday accomplishments. When we achieve these things that bring about true happiness, it is our duty to show others the way toward peace and happiness.

My peace and happiness comes through yoga. I once lived a life of stormy seas. But as yoga has taught me, I teach others.

What is your peace? What are your great and small accomplishments? And how can you reach back and show others the calm waters of abundance?