I enjoy sewing and was a big fan of the show Project Runway in its early days, when it focused on the craft of designing and constructing quality under daunting deadlines. If you have never seen the show, it brings together a collection of 16 or so talented, up and coming fashion designers and gives them a chance to showcase and grow their skills. Each week they are given challenges--make a wedding dress in two days, create an outfit from only things you purchase at a garden supply store--and over the course of weeks their particular voice as a designer emerges.
I always waited for the challenge when they brought in everyday people from outside the fashion and entertainment world to be the models. This challenge often brought out the worst or the best in designers as they expressed their frustration that the new clients weren't like their models or they showed genuine care for the uniqueness of the individual in front of them. I still remember vividly the episode when the designers were asked to create for female veterans attending a special event. The winning designer not only created a beautiful garment, but he also treated his client with care and respect. Her new outfit showcased her bold spirit and her prosthetic as she confidently walked the runway.
For yoga teachers fresh into teaching, there is often an experience similar to the "everyday people challenge". After spending 200 hours or more studying anatomy and the ideals of the asana poses, we enter our first class to see a room full of people who don't look like the glossy photographs and respond to our well rehearsed cues as if we are speaking a foreign language. One of my teacher trainees and now dear friend and colleague, faced this on her first day of teaching. She skillfully guided the class into the pose Trikonasana, or triangle pose, only to see poses that looked nothing like what she expected. Instead of giving in to panic or trying to fix everything, she picked two key points and then allowed them space to feel the benefits of the pose. I was so impressed with how she handled this that it has become a cornerstone of how I train aspiring teachers . . . do the things that will keep people safe and encourage them to feel some joy in the moment. That's the best thing you can do, on the mat and in your life.
Over the next months I will be making some changes to my website and adding new offerings. I am changing the name of my blog to better reflect what I want to share with you. While it's still true that everything we do in life is yoga, what I most want to share is that yoga and life don't need to look like someone else's ideal. Yoga and life meet us where we are, whether it's waiting in line at the grocery store, comforting a loved one who is having a challenging day or cleaning out the clutter in our closet. Our practice is to decide how we want to meet it in return--with love and compassion or with resistance and the desire for it to be different than it is.
I see the goodness and kindness in you and honor it from the same place within me, knowing that we are one in our hearts.
“We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create."
-- John Lennon
There were times along the way when I was so focused on where I was to place my next footstep that I missed everything else around me. There were times when the trail seemed to get lost among the rocks and I wondered how much further it was and whether or not it was worth the effort. And there were times when I remembered my husband's advice. With my eyes up I was never intimidated because I always knew I had it in me to make it to the next turn in the trail and I could assess from there what my next step would be. I could notice how a higher vantage point gave me a broader and more breathtaking view. The people walking around me that meant I altered my pace or changed my course became friends and community along the way. If I had known what the whole path would look like I may not have chosen to take the first step, but once I did it was easy to take the next one. My first yoga teacher often told us that if you want to start a yoga practice, just make an appointment to sit on your mat for 15 minutes a day and let everything else flow from there. Almost 15 years later I am touched and grateful for the view I'm enjoying along the way and learning to trust the route as I go.
Thank you to all who shared your heart opening stories in the comments for the previous blog entry. I'd love to hear what you notice when you lift your eyes up from your daily tasks to see all the support and beauty that is around you.
On my recent trip down to Oregon I packed for all sorts of contingencies: there would be activities where I was outside in nature, inside ones where a certain standard of dress might be appropriate; a wide range of temperatures to dress for and then the possibility of some downtime for self-reflection, reading and finishing up my knitting project. Like the good daughter that my mom raised, I filled my suitcase with all that I thought I might need and felt blessed that I was travelling by car and did not need to worry about the restrictions of air travel. If I thought it might be useful it went in the car. Remember my past blog entry about the yogic concept of "the pain of the future is avoidable"? Well I found another interpretation and application on this trip: The future isn't here yet and we can avoid the pain of the future not by over preparing, but simply by staying present in the moment.
The trip started off well enough with the big suitcase just able to slip inside the back of the Mini and the scrapes on my fingers to make that happen healed quickly. There was that moment when the 2 gallon water jug hit the bottom of the dashboard and split open but I had towels and the B&B I stayed at had ways to repair it enough for it to remain functional. There was the cobblestone pathway to my room and the flight of stairs that I had to carry the suitcase over but that gave me a chance use the strength of my body. Even though the suitcase was heavy I could stay in the illusion that being prepared was making things easier rather than more difficult. Then came the moment when I didn't have any of things that I thought I needed. A dear friend asked me if I was okay. I paused and answered honestly, "Yes, in this moment I am." Wow, what that opened up inside of me for the rest of the trip! To acknowledge that in this moment I had all that I needed and to be open to asking or changing the situation when that no longer seemed true for me. I began to see how blessed and taken care of I am when I allow myself to let go of my perceived control over my life.
I often make it a practice when I travel to purposefully leave space in my suitcase for things I might pick up along the way. This is what I brought home with me this time: there is no right or wrong way of doing things there is only the willingness to show up fully and give it your very best or to allow yourself to play it safe and remain small. Trying to "do it right" leads me to over prepare in ways I may never use and to resist taking that first step into something new. I returned home with a suitcase that could have been half empty if I had not over packed and a heart that was completely full and ready for the next adventure.
A few months ago a student shared a comment with our office staff that said they felt that the teachers spend too much time talking about their personal life. As with any feedback I took it to heart. Was it true? Were there things that I was being asked to change about my teaching that would be instrumental to my own growth and align me better to being of service to my students? For a long while I've pondered this, tweaked my teaching style and watched the results in myself and my classes.
Yesterday one of my teachers shared a story from her life in class. It was a simple story about bug bites and an orchid and yet it shaped the rest of my day. Stories are inherently "sticky" according to Chip and Dan Heath in their book, Made to Stick. This means that we remember them more easily and are more apt to apply their message to how we live our lives in the future. My teacher could have just as relevantly shared the yogic concept from the Sutras of Patanjali that the pain of the future is avoidable. Perhaps even in Sanskrit so that she sounded like more of an authority: Heyam Dukham Anagatam. I have certainly heard that phrase enough to remember it and know what it means, but if you ask me how I've applied it in my life, I would have to spend awhile thinking about it and in the end I'd tell some sort of story, perhaps like the one that happened to me yesterday . . .
Leaving the studio, with my teacher's story still lingering in my awareness I noticed my inner voice suggesting I make a detour in my trip home and stop to do an errand. This was not in my plan but I listened to that voice just like my teacher had shared the experience of listening to hers. The errand didn't seem that important and even when I did stop to do it they didn't have what I thought I was looking for. I ended up buying a shower curtain which was nowhere on my radar as something I was looking for, but my teacher's story had inspired me to listen and trust. Back at home after installing the new curtain and for the rest of the day, I began to notice the quiet thoughts that run in the background of my daily activities. The simple act of hearing a story and buying a shower curtain I didn't think I needed, led to me feeling ready to welcome my daughter home from college despite my busy teaching schedule, brought my awareness to things I hold onto even though they are not who I am and opened me up to more fully inhabiting my life. What are we really sharing when we share our stories? I think we are doing more than recounting the events of our day in hopes of some comfort or validation, but instead sharing what truly inspires us and shapes who we become. What is inspiring you in your life today?
I’m in Canada and my cellphone is trying to decide if it likes it here. It started as soon as I landed when it let me send a quick message home to tell my husband I had arrived safely and happily but then ignored me moments later when I tried to call my host to find out which door she was at waiting for me. It continues throughout my visit, connecting on one floor of a building but not another, allowing me to send or receive messages at odd times during the day and evening, and in general being completely unpredictable and therefore unreliable.
When I look back at the things that have flowed smoothly in my life, the things that have offered me the most growth while also enjoying the process, I find that I was always guided by my heart even when my head
thought it was a crazy idea. Intuitively this make sense to me. There is a part that just seems to see a bigger picture and knows the clearest straightest route to the next steps in the journey. It is an internal connection that some call soul, intuition, guardian angel . . . Yet, there are times when it seems as intermittent as my cellphone
coverage in Canada and times that it seems as clear as the comforting touch of a dear friend. I have often wondered how to find it when it seemed to be missing or gone quiet. In my practice, I find that my intention and meditation are the quickest ways to clear away the outer interference to the inner voice.
On this trip, I’m reminded of the solution to the seemingly unsolvable computer problems that I sometimes have. My computer savvy husband always gives me the same answer . . . turn everything off, unplug the connection, wait for a while and then restart the system. A few weeks ago on retreat, I was given the opportunity to do this in my life—completely unplug from the outer world and check in with myself. Now my life and my cellphone are offering it to me again. This is not a to-do list item you complete one time and then check it off the list. It is a practice just like everything else. How will you unplug from the outer world and take some time to connect with yourself this week? I’m off to the lake and some quiet time reconnecting. See you when I’m back in Redmond.
I'm just back from a 4 day personal development retreat with Eric Plantenberg. What I learned most is that when you slow down and notice what is around you, you realize that you have all you think you need and growth is
always being offered to you. When I fly these days I always opt out of going through the scanners and what I've noticed is that my experience of this process is directly related to my state of being in the moment I go through it. My husband was kind enough to drive me to the airport for my noon flight, but he was distracted by the meetings he was missing and the discourtesy of the drivers around him. I arrived at the airport feeling not in the mood to deal with the perceived hassles of security and that indeed is just what I got.
Fast forward to my return flight when I was full of gratitude for a weekend spent with the most amazing people, completing unplugged and learning so much about the effect of how I show up in my life . . . The line was long at security but I saw it as an opportunity to have a sweet conversation with the woman in front of me. I opted out of the scanners and got the chance to compliment the TSA agent on her professionalism and courtesy. I waited for a friend and she graciously bought me lunch. Walking to the gate unrushed I arrived just as boarding started and sat with a lovely couple.
What I realized . . . and I imagine my husband will be delighted to see this said publicly . . . is that at any moment anyone of the people involved in my flight out experience could have shifted what was going on and the one person most responsible for my experience was me. I only have the opportunity to opt out of the scanners when I travel but I have the choice of opting out of the blame game every day. Next time the cat escapes from its carrier just as we are about to take off (true story from the flight out) I'll see the humor in it and opt out of the drama.
"There are two ways to live your life. One is as
though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."
- Albert Einstein.
My first yoga teacher told the most amazing stories and helped me realize that yoga is meant to be lived off the mat in your daily life and not just when you are doing Supta Padangusthasana.