YOGA SUTRAS OF TRAVEL: PART 21
1.21-23 TIVRA SAMVEGANAM ASANNAH/ MRDU MADHYDHIMATRATVAT TATO’PIVISESAH/ ISVARAPRANIDHANAD VA
“Before enlightenment I had to chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment I had to chop wood and carry water.” – Old Zen Saying
When I travel and come home the laundry and the list of things to catch up on are both piled high. It doesn’t matter so much because there is this warm feeling about being back in my space, nestled in my polartec fleece sheets, and surrounded by the people and things that most ground me. The shift away during the working holiday brings perspective to the comforts of a daily routine. I really love to travel and I love the state of returning as well.
In a spiritual or emotional journey we can often travel to many extremes. In some ways we are all trying to “get” somewhere and our minds travel furiously through the many options trying to make sense of it all. I was experiencing a bit of this pattern as my exhaustion levels rise and the reality of jet lag settles in. My mind was racing this morning with all of the chaos and my eyes blinked on the verge of tears as the overwhelming sensations of work, anxiety, and sleep deprivation dripped through my being. I was vividly aware of what was happening and why. I know that this is the biggest part of the practice. It is easy to work on staying present when all the puzzle pieces fit. It is not a big deal to bring my attention back to the present and sit with things as they are when you are in a good space and everything seems to go with the flow. Bringing my awareness into full focus and breathing calmly into the chaos is where the real practice for me begins.
Every December I spend a little bit of time with a few of my close friends pondering our intentions and looking ahead at the visions of what we are wanting. My dear friend Deven Sisler and I had a few years where we would set as one of our goals, the ability to do a press hand stand. After several years had passed our inversions had become much more refined and stable, and the press still was just on the verge. Deven stated clearly again that "this" year was going to be the press hand stand. I asked , "what is going to be different." She laughed and said, "This year I will really practice my press hand stand." We had a good chuckle.
I look back on that sweet moment with Deven and it reminds me of what practice means. It is more than a thought and setting an intention. Practice of a physical, mental, or spiritual nature requires us to act. The intention is merely the seed that must be cared for to be cultivated. The physical practice helps us understand the concept of work and action at the kinesthetic level and reflects our internal worlds. It is not surprising that many people come to yoga seeking physical relief and find themselves getting much more than they anticipated.
Side Note: My friend and amazing colleague Daniel Scott wrote an article recently called, The Yoga Provocateur Asks: Is AcroYoga Really Yoga? He sums up the movement from a physically centered practice to a life centered deeply connected practice with a beautiful eloquence and charm that is worth the read.
This particular set of lines from the Yoga Sutras for me are all about setting our internal compass. Thoughts of work ethic, personal responsibility, dedication, vigorous pursuit come to the front of my mind. As a know work-aholic I know that I must work smarter not harder. I am realizing that dedication and process must be balanced and that I can continue to refine the choices I make about what I will give my fullest attention to.
"Practice and all is coming", Pattabhi Jois
I have come to the conclusion that I often step into my inner child who is sitting in the back seat of the car annoying my mother with a constant barrage of ,"are we there yet?" statements. Where is THERE in this emotional journey? WHAT is it that I really seek. No matter where I go I always take myself so my inner work is the best place I can think of to be. THERE: for me is a place of consistent contentment with all that I do and the WHAT is refined clarity that will allow the contentment to flourish. This will be the process whether I am on the road our doing my laundry. In every part of what I do I have the opportunity to experience life to the fullest. My dedication is to make sure that I do not disconnect and go on auto pilot.
YOGA SUTRA’S OF TRAVEL: PART 19
1.19 BHAVAPRATYAYO VIDEHA PRAKRTILAYAANAAM
A wise older woman once told me that God hands us the same lessons over and over again until we are ready to learn them. I have not been religious in nature and do not follow the Christian heritage of my parents, however as far as life goes; I have had many lessons on repeat. I have stepped back to witness my own patterns. I have had moments where I recognize certain patterns and still find myself caught in a loop of the same dumb mistakes. Refreshingly I have also broken through some major patterns in the last few years that have created a great deal of love, emotional freedom and abundance in my life.
The sutra here refers to actual physical reincarnation. I choose not to take this on any more than the concept of a “God-head” for this discussion. No one can really know what happens after we die other than the dead. It is a topic of little interest to me. Instead I know the one thing I can focus on no matter where the flow of the universe may carry me is living this life to my fullest potential.
This verse speaks to me more metaphorically of deeply submerged patterns that can rise again and again. Each time we revisit a circumstance we carry at least some part of our previous experience with us. We can look at the current circumstance through the lens of our past to help us navigate the situation, but that lens might be clouded with past judgments and ill feelings that may not always serve us in the way we hope. To remove an old pattern we must replace it with a healthy one. This requires that we can step back with the clarity to notice the pattern in the first place and that once we see it for what it really is we actively make a different choice. To choose we must believe we have the skills the options and the power to do so.
Today was the final day of the Sydney Lunar Immersion at House of Yoga with Stefanie Glasenapp, Julia Weis and Jewels Ashby. This final day of the immersion is all about empowering the students to own the skills that they have learned over the week. We began the day with a silent practice of the Lunar Asana sequence. The students self-lead the postures and have the support of everyone doing it at the same time in case they get lost in the flow. When we are lead all the time a certain part of the brain shuts off and always listens for the next cue rather than using its self-direction. Experiencing the practice in this way allows one to really trust the wisdom of their embodiment. It is also wonderful to have the mental spaciousness created by not listening to an instructor to give more time to feel your way into poses and cultivate the subtle aspects in the body.
The rest of the day followed a similar pattern of freedom in movement while having a lead person providing some inspiration. Julia and I each lead a silent Thai massage sequence. Students could visually follow our flow, take variations, or detour completely. Stefanie gave a beautiful demonstration of a therapeutic flight moving our beautiful student (and Birthday Girl) through the air with grace while transitioning in and out of a variety of poses. The students followed suit and the Maha (great) therapeutics flying was touching vision.
The day ended with some chanting and sharing of what we wanted to carry with us from the immersion container. Releasing patterns and creating new ones was top of the list. The exact details vary from person to person, but the clear thread remains, we are all working to become the best part of ourselves. In a space such as this, we have the opportunity to share what that is for each of us and in saying it aloud it seems to take on a very different power.
I thought back to the few days before I left for this trip and stated out loud that I was beginning this blog project. I have wanted to work on my writing more and yet have failed miserably to commit to any consistency. This time when I made my statement to a group I knew that putting it out to my community and giving it voice would help to hold me accountable; So far so good. The more I write the easier it is for me to feel vulnerable and want to drop the whole thing, yet each day I receive some small note that lets me know that at least one person was tuning in and I am again reminded to step towards new patterns in order to release my old ones.
I think the next pattern to shift will be replacing lack of sleep with a commitment to napping. I hope to be held accountable for this one too. Ready to tackle the long flight and face my jet lag!
the yoga sutras of travel: part 18
1.18 VIRAM PRATYAABHYASA PURVAH SAMSKAARASESO’NYAH
Each of us holds a story. We carry with us our lineage and the teachings of our parents, culture, friends, relationships and current communities. Many things are easily processed and forgotten. Some events are fresh and alive in our mental modifications. Others still may have made impressions that can lay dormant until they are ripe to reveal themselves once again.
I am not sure if this trip has been like an Escher painting, where when you soften your gaze and look the image pops forth with unbelievable clarity, or if I am trapped in eerie coincidence after coincidence. Maybe there are other forces at play and I am getting into a groove with the universe that is both messing with and creating clarity in my head simultaneously. It is day three of the Lunar Immersion in Sydney and the body-work is all back body (our yang side and protective framework) and back flying (heart opening and deep back bending moves). The girls and I began our planning and the discussion turned to how we hold onto our old stories and often resist coming into the best part of ourselves by clinging to old ideas of who we are. These latent impressions (memories) take time to simmer and with the right focus and circumstance can come back up. Sometimes this is a sacred and conscious choice as we know what we are working through and at other times the very nature of being human will present the opportunity for us to look at ourselves again and again until we can release what no longer serves us.
The sutra today reflects that final stage where we gain such ultimate control that we can transform our experiences to a point where they no longer hold power over us. It takes the fire of courage to look at each of the pieces that resurface for each of us. We can make the choice to stuff it back down until it will rear its head again, go into denial, or let it build to anger or sorrow, or recognize suffering for what it is and move in the direction of radical change. Transformation doesn’t have to happen all at once. We can take it in stages. This is why we practice the prior sutra 1.17 to move through the many layers of understanding needed to truly be free in our minds.
I am confronted here by a significant shift in a specific relationship. One of the students here, I have met before and We will just call her “My-LESSON”, about two years ago, at a weekend event where we were both in the role of studentship. My recollection of this introduction was anything but endearing. Details will not be provided as it would not serve the story and feel like ill gossip, however to get clear in the scope of this story let us simply say that communication was atrocious, words were cutting and unkind, and lastly I lost my temper and left the relationship with very harsh words and a significant chip on my shoulder. My-LESSON walked into the opening day of the immersion about 45 minutes late. I recognized her immediately and felt my triggers going off full force. Julia was leading a Thai massage sequence and I became instantly aware that as the only teacher freely walking the room at that moment that I would have to partner with her in this dance of compassionate touch. She didn’t seem to recognize me and as I looked at her face I could see that she was worked up and very rushed. I told her to take her time and warm up on her own for a moment while I set up another station.
We proceed to the station and she seemed surprised when I offered to give her the massage first. I wasn’t sure that I was ready to receive from her and I could see that she really needed to calm down and relax. She lay down facing up and closed her eyes. I took a moment to breathe and as I observed her breathing. Her face was holding sadness and I instantly felt like I wanted to cry for her. I channeled every bit of my attention, empathy and compassion towards her. I moved slowly. I didn’t worry about catching up with the group and as I palmed my hands up and down her legs I could feel her thin limbs soften and part under my skin. Halfway through the session I looked back at her face and although she was almost asleep, I saw that she was smiling.
The rest of the day she smiled at me every time I looked in her direction. I later found out that she was late due to caring for her mother who has been very ill. I was informed by a few others that they had experienced resistance to My-LESSON at past classes. They also noticed that she seemed different somehow. We continue with the day and at the end when we all sat in our closing circle she shared some really sweet insights. I had to be willing to change my story to let this new one play out without coloring it from an old history. The love I feel for her as a human, as a woman, as a student, and as My-LESSON is a very powerful source.
As the day plays on I find many different patterns and old stories sitting at the surface and I am curious as to how I can best keep my concentration and allow the process to work for me. It is so potent to breathe through the discomfort of resistance and watch it unravel. A new tapestry is painstakingly woven into something more beautiful.
More photos are coming soon. I hope to have the time to upload them tonight. The pics below were taken by Jewels Ashby.
TAT PARAM PURUSA KHYATER GUNAVAITRSNYAM
Each AcroYoga immersion you enter has a similar feel. There is a wonderful anticipation and welcoming of new people, places and spaces. Each Immersion with its very unique blend of individuals also seems to take on its distinctive community signature or vibe that is unlike the pulse of any other immersion you have participated in. It is a co-created adventure between students and teachers, individuals and small groups.
During the final day (5) of the Nelson Elemental Immersion, we had collectively discovered that the topic of consciously choosing your path had surfaced repeatedly among the various groups. Several of the participants were moving toward powerful life shifts just before, during, or immediately after this event. Changing jobs, schools, moving, having children, and many other life altering situations were bringing about a level of excitement coupled with the perfectly normal amount of uncertainty. We continues to work throughout the week to find personal clarity in all that we were doing while actively trying to let go.
According to Ayurveda (the sister science of yoga, or life science) the constituents of nature (the gunas) are either Sattva (Pure) or leaning toward one of the extremes; Tamas (heavy, dull, lethargic) or Rajas (stimulating, action, mutation). it is human nature to dip towards the sides, but the aim is to ease ourselves towards the middle where we are light in thought, word and deed. This middle state brings us closer to finding our True Self.
The true self is always there, but like Waldo, it can be difficult to locate. We distract ourselves by assuming we are the temporary thought or action rather than understanding that we are the constant that is simply experiencing the thought or the action. When we take ourselves to be these impermanent cloaks when can settle into a path that might be the most skillful way to illuminate our path. Many of us will create our own roadblocks and barriers to our own happiness by never really looking at who we really are or what we are wanting from this life. It is scary to ask such questions when we know that often it will lead us in a potentially different direction from where we are and change is often a frightening concept. In reality it is usually our massive personally created mental dance around our excuses not to step towards our ultimate happiness that causes more pain than the actual shift itself. We must be willing to release all to gain even more.
I have currently transitioned to Sydney, AU where I am having a heartfelt reunion with my acro-sisters Stefanie Glasenapp and Julia Weis. It has been several years since our last reunion. We are so grateful for this opportunity to reconnect.
On our way to Wellington, just before B heads back to the states and I head to Sydney, our ferry was canceled so we had a joyful little ride in a very tiny plane. The cows wished us well on our journey.
Brian will be almost home after almost 36 hours of constant travel (Picton to Nelson to Wellington to Auckland to LA to NYC, bus to Delaware Water Gap and a cab ride home) by the time I get this posted.
the yoga sutras of travel: part 13
1.13 Tatra sthitau yatnobhysah
Welcome to Middle Earth. That is the sign that greets you at the Wellington Airport. Hobbits and all things, lord of the rings, have been embraced in this part of the South Island. The larger than life representations of the characters were really quite impressive, but nothing captivates you like the views of the pristine scenery where you walk out side. The further South you roam, the higher and more rolling the mountains get; the more expansive the water appears; and more entranced you become with the natural state of beauty that exists almost untouched.
Each new view or small town has me somewhat distracted. I try to settle my eyes on one section when another whips into my line of sight and pulls me completely in another direction. I think I have given Brian quite a few laughs with my short attention span. I work to steady my mind and find a little bit of one pointed focus so the experience can become more of a moving meditation. I have moments that are really solid and then my inner child takes over and my mind and attention act like they are rolling down one of those crazy high mountains. It calls for all of my consistent attention to stay steady in my intake process.
The last two days have been pure travel mode. I don't think I have ever transferred to so many modes of transport one after another. We left Devon port by Ferry and Caught a bus in Auckland to the Airport where the plane took us as far as Wellington before catching a bus to the next three hour Ferry to Picton. We have to stay the night in Picton because there is only one bus a day from Picton to Nelson so we are stuck until the next morning. At each phase I was told there would be internet. This was only partly true, many places ha signs for internet, but the signals were so weak I could not connect. This was actually fine. I had a moment of panic about getting behind on some work, including the blog, but I realized quickly it was a blessing to stop and really allow myself to slow down and once again become the observer. The last leg of the journey I had finally settled in to a spot where I was able to appreciate each section of view and spend a bit more time with it before passing onto the next point.
B and I are now at The Life Centre in Nelson. The space used to be an old church that was turned into a school and has now been converted into a Yoga Centre run by Brian Brown. The space is very large and you can see all of the personal touches that Brian has put into the space. The owner has done most of the work himself, so you can really see the love that has been built into this place.
Tonight all of our colleagues have arrived and we are preparing for round two of AcroYoga goodness. AY JAmbassadors Trevor Gribble and Amanda Farrell have been helping to build community here and I am super excited to spend the week with them. I met Trevor back in 2012 in NYC. It is another story for another time, but I am always fascinated by the people we meet in seemingly random ways that cross over in your life again and again. Happy that Amanda and Trevor are some of those people.
Now that I am stationed for the next 5 days at The Life Centre. I will have full access again to my computer and will keep you up to date with the next Sutra and AY Immersion photos and celebrations.
I certainly will be working towards finding a steady place in my wild mind. It is a continued practice and the most important part of my yoga.
Boundless Yoga Staff & Students
We are continuously interested on how our reactions and responses to our personal journeys, albeit travel, adventure, new job, etc. mirror and reflect our social, emotional and spiritual ups and downs. We try every day to apply what we learn about ourselves on the yoga mat to our personal lives. Thank you for tuning in as we share some of those aspects with you.