Friday, November 21, 2014

Nurturing or True Nature

Traveling a lot lends itself to being exposed to non-stop consumer culture, artificial light, continuous human chatter, not to mention hours upon hours of hip flexion in small spaces from which reprieve comes when its broken up by standing in front of someone whose main job is to discern whether or not you are a threat to the safety, freedom or economy of the country you are entering. The more I travel the more I find the same airport designs of the same shops selling the same clothes, creams, devices that you will use maybe once (if you are lucky), the endless bottles of liquor and the countless boxes of cigarettes making its way into each city.

As I walk down the street the shops repeat, the style and fashions are almost identical and it seems in many places that the natural progression is toward an ever increasing homogenous shopping complex where we are encouraged to move from sale to duty free to entertainment and back to another sale.

Even yoga is not safe from the gravitational pull of the heavy, dense, sedentary body of a culture based on immediate results with minimal action and maximum fanfare and acknowledgment from others. I go from place to place trying to teach what I know and have experienced about the ancient teachings of yoga and sometimes I cannot help but wonder have I become another product in market that sells what you want only to keep you from what you need.

     When I fall into this feeling there is only one thing that helps bring me out of it and remember that my true desire to create a shift in myself so that my happiness is not based solely on material possession or exploitation of others - including the earth; by physically placing myself in a setting not entirely human made. To find places that are ancient and silent, to explore areas off the beaten path to see the manifestation unfold and to interact in ways that are beyond my intellectual understanding, these opportunities communicate to me a way of being in the world that I have lost touch with yet yearn for. I want to be an ally, friend and even champion of these special enclaves. I want to be immersed in the peace that is found in the simple act of sitting silently with the trees or walking over rocks that have been shaped by the great forces of time and environmental change.
Most recently I went to the Blue Mountains about 2 hours north of Sydney. An area that has been preserved since the time when Australia was still connected to Antartica and New Zealand. I went with a dear student and friend Sandeep, in fact it was her idea. We spent most of the time in silence using our mantra and mala while walking through the rainforest. As we did a whole new world opened up with sounds unheard of in an airport or in most major cities. A sound of nature that only comes with the diversity of species and a wide array of micro environments and climates. The whole thing revived me and reminded me of the importance of what I do.

I use yoga as a tool to expand my own consciousness, to bring a greater sense of intelligence to my understanding of the interconnection of life and of our human impact upon the world around us. It is from that place that I teach. So many people live in cities and most often people with the most influence to effect change spend most of their time within the environment of the metropolis. It is here that yoga can be of enormous benefit. If we can together create a shift in what our values are, what we choose to support with our money perhaps a change is possible. If we can see how our food choices are diminishing the worlds resources and our desires for recognition through sense gratification is blinding us to the beauty inherent in nature there may be a chance to be an ally of nature. Going alone can bring about a deeper feeling of commuion but going with others has benefits as well. Walking with other that know the surrounding and the wildlife that lives there can help guide our interaction. Sometimes we want to be of service and end of causing more harm than good. 

The Day after the blue moutains I went ot Wattamolla Falls and was about to through out my food scraps when one of my friends who also work on keeping native species thriving in the Australian Bush told me creating soil that was too rich would encourage weeds that would then kill of the diversity of the bush. I needed some help to be a better ally. Go out, with friends and alone. Just spending time with another allows for the ability to nurture to arise. Let nature remind you how to nurture...and maybe a friend too!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Practice, Prepare, Teach

Practice, Prepare, Teach

I am writing this from a coffee shop in Beijing, China. It is November 2nd. Some mark it as the 2nd day of the month but due to my study habits I mark it as the second day of the focus of the month. Each month Jivamukti, usually via our teacher Padmaji (Sharon Gannon) releases a “Focus of the Month” (FotM). The overall effect is that if you are a practitioner of Jivamukti and go to an Open level class you will have an experience of a single theme through the multitude of personalities, experiences and knowledge of the individual teachers that make up the Jivamukti Lineage. 

I cannot express how immensely important the FotM is for me both a s teacher and a student. However I would like to share how I use it and how it guides my practice and teaching using this months focus as an example. 

The FotM is titled Soul Power and has a corresponding selection from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali chapter 4 verse 28: 
hanam esham kleshavad uktam"The greatest obstacle to the practice is one’s own prejudices based on one’s own preferences.

The translation is Padmaji’s own and is very similar to that of Shri Brahmananda Saraswati’s translation. I would highly recommend reading the whole 4th chapter in at least two different translations putting the verse and the translation into context. 

The first thing I do is read over the whole of the FotM and the teaching tips. I then highlight the sections of the focus that really resonant with me. As with all teachings I may not be ready to accept or feel comfortable teaching each and every aspect of what is presented. I have faith in my teacher that we must look deeply into what we are being told and to uncover the truth for ourselves. If I am not sure about a certain point in the focus I leave it and come back to it later. The sentence that I am choosing to use in tonights class at Le Yoga in Beijing is the following: 

“Our culture of materialism, exploitation and utter disregard for the well-being of other animals, all of nature and the Earth herself is inching us ever closer to a breaking point, while at the same time we are undergoing a huge shift in consciousness.” 

This is something that I truly believe and feel comfortable sharing and discussing with students who I do not know in a land that I am only superficially familiar. I do know that all beings can relate to feeling exploited for the temporary enjoyment or financial use of another. We can look around and see the pollution and the correlating ills in the external and internal environment. Each day, if we are willing we can discover our own ignorance, expose our prejudices to the light of inquiry thereby shifting our consciousness.

We will begin tonights class (a three hour inversion workshop) with these ideas. Most people are afraid of what it means to turn the world upside down as it will necessarily mean looking at the world in a new way. Confronting fear of our normal way of being as well as the instinct to “play it safe” even though the short term gains are minuscule in comparison to the long term detriment. 

If we can look at ourselves in a new light perhaps there is hope to alleviate the suffering of others as well. Peace, Love and Vegetables.