You're a yogi, what's with the attitude?!

As a teacher I absolutely love watching a persons transformation on the mat. A person can go from exhausted to energized in half an hour! From disturbed to peaceful, from stressed to relaxed, ect. I could go on for days with examples! This transformation for myself is what made me want to become a teacher, and as a teacher watching my students do the same, I am time and again so inspired to be the best of myself.

However, I am noticing that many keep this type of transformation solely on their mats. Once out in the world, and many times as soon as they step out of the room, the transformation takes a u-turn and the person is sent back to a blank reality. I have seen attitudes, angry looks, negative language, negative energy, and sometimes down right nastiness. I ask myself whats happening here?! These are not the yogis in training I have so affectionately placed in my heart! Why the drastic change?!

I think to myself, what can I do? As a constant student I am always looking for the answers. Im a scholar of the mind and heart and for this I need knowledge to gain wisdom. This is how I like to lead my students, inviting them to ask questions, to look deeper, to search and learn. But is this the way all teachers are? Lately what I have encountered is that many of them teach on a surface level. Meaning, they only teach about the body and nothing else. When I look deeper into this it is because many of them don't want to loose students on account of teaching too much "spirituality" in class. This to me is a very backwards way of thinking, given yoga in its true origin IS a spiritual practice! Mind you, I am a relatively new teacher, so I am not saying I am a wise and enlightened being myself. However I know that the goal of yoga is not exercise, its Samadhi (enlightenment). Teaching solely on the body means the mind can never transcend to a higher state of being. A person practicing asanas alone will never learn how live wisely and consciously. The studios might as well call them Asana classes rather than yoga classes! But maybe what is needed is a reminder that spirituality and religion are two very seperate things. This is something that brings many people confusion, and if you are one of those people, you are not alone! While religion can be a beautiful thing, it is also misrepresented and can feel quite exclusive. Spirituality is a very inclusive practice, it is of the soul after all. A bit more exploration into this and you will find that spirituality is very much based on selflessness and deep connections with yourself and those around you. While religion can do this as well, spirituality is unique in that you don't have to believe in any one thing, just a deep respect for yourself is quite enough.

But lets go back.

What would the Sages say? 

I think the answer to this is clear. If you are a person looking to get the full benefits of yoga, learn how to be a Yogi, in every sense of the word. Yoga is a lifestyle, not just a philosophy or exercise. Its living beauty, breathing wisdom, moving energy into the daily dance of life. Its being peace, not just talking about it. Its acting out of the heart, not just saying so. And if all of this is what you are trying to attain, then why the attitude?! 

Before you release negativity out into the world, the mind has to create it. It doesn't just come out of nowhere, it stems from a single thought which is fed by the ego. So if you don't want to be negative you must learn how to keep the ego in check. This is where yoga is there to help. It teaches us how to understand the ego, to look at it like a toddler! You must not hate your ego, you must manage it. Give it no attention when it tells you to give someone a piece of your mind simply because you don't like something they told you or they don't do what you want. Desire is ego, expectation is ego, wanting is ego. Putting this into terms of asana practice you can see how the body doesn't relax until the mind tells it to, until you breathe deeply so the heart rate can slow down. But if you only keep this frame of mind on the mat and not when you're stuck in traffic late for work, then you've just missed the whole thing!

So next time you're in class, ask your teacher how to manage life using yoga. She will be so happy to hear this!

And while you're at it, be nice to people, yeah?! Leave the attitude behind!

A story called Purpose

There might be speculation that YEAR26 started on November 8th 2012. It actually started earlier than that, in September. It was the end of summer and leaves were just beginning to turn. I love that time of year specifically because of the color palette. The green to orange to red to brown. And you know that the leaves only have a short life span from then on, and its that exact anticipation of the future that makes this moment, the in-between moment, so much more artistic and melancholy. Death for the leaves is just around the corner, but not yet, so you watch every second you get and you take it in. And as the first few leaves start to cover the ground reminding you more and more of whats to come, you appreciate them individually. Like past lovers waiting to take their exit but because they know the end is coming, they take their time.

I had just heard back from them. I stalled to turn in my application for over 4 years and now they had finally replied. I opened the email and there it was... Acceptance. After being put on a wait list for a month they had finally written back that I was in. I was terrified and excited all at once. It was a chance of a lifetime and it couldn't come at a worst time! I was broke, barely had a savings account, and I couldn't afford to call in sick to work for more than a day. But I have to go, I thought to myself, this is what you need and its time.

I would leave on september 26th, for almost 2 weeks. No phone, TV, cell phone, book, internet, game, dogs, money- NOTHING. I was to be completely silent for 10 days with 39 strangers in a place I had never been to, 5 hours away from home. Heaven.

Dhamma Pakasa was the name of the closest meditation center to Indianapolis. I heard about it from Oprah, the queen herself, interviewing a woman who had started meditation practice in the Alabama prison system. From the minute I heard the story I was hooked and thought up every scenario of how to make the trip happen. 4 years and 3 heart breaks later, I found myself accepted into the program with a lot going against me. But a strange thing happens when you make up your mind on doing something, no matter how many challenges you are faced with. I packed my bags and on the morning of the 26th I began the journey.

Vipassana is an amazing kind of meditation dating back to the days of the Buddha in India. You don't sit and imagine yourself in a different place, on a beach surrounded by sun and sea. You don't say mantras or chants over and over until you forget where you are. There is no praying or bowing to some God you think you know about or saw on a piece of toast that one time during lunch. It's just you, with your thoughts, and the air going in and out of your nose. Thats it. And if you have never been forced to sit with yourself you might be thinking, that sounds really boring! In fact, it would probably be the hardest thing, aside from being in the middle of war, you would ever be faced with doing. Its intense, its frustrating, its beautiful, it's depressing, its challenging, it's heartbreaking, its funny. Basically, it sucks! But I would go back in a heart beat.

What I faced in those 10 hours a day, meditating my little heart away, was more work mentally than any test I had ever taken in high school and college combined. I was tired all the time and I had done nothing physical but walk 3 minutes from my room to the hall and then back. I took more naps in those days than I probably did when I was a baby. I had so many thoughts going through my mind at once that it made it harder to actually sit in one spot for longer than 10 minutes without wanting to cut my head off. My greatest satisfaction came from the couple of seconds in every hour that I got a glimpse of silence in my own head space. They were lovely, but they never lasted and eventually frustration set in again.

But all of that was the point. I needed to know that those moments of silence were possible, and that I could get them back again. I needed to realize my own potential and believe in myself much like when I was a toddler and was just beginning to discover my talents. I needed a lifesaver, and this was it. I didn't want the ups and downs that I had been told were a human condition that would never go away. uncontrollable depressions and breakups that lasted years before I finally came to terms that they actually ended and I was ok. Months of watching my life pass by me as I sat in bed looking out from my bedroom window. Years of my life spent in torment I will never get back. I wasnt satisfied with that.

So I began to look for my soul. The evolution of self had begun and it was a one way ticket. There was no going back. I sat for those 10 hours a day in silence, listening to the thoughts and stories in my head, and I waited. Songs, memories, movies, fairy tales, stories, all came to me sometimes bumping into each other and many of them unfinished but all just as annoying as the next, and I sat just the same. When the silence came, a joy unlike any other burst out of me and I embraced it like a long-lost friend. I held it close like a baby bird, gentle so I wouldn't crush it with my excitement, and just as carefully watched it go. I was completely in awe, speechless and enthralled by all its wonder. And when it left I felt an openness that words do not give justice to. I felt more alive than I ever have, in those few seconds.

When the 2 weeks were over I went home. I found myself being completely mesmerized by this world. Everything was loud and aggressive. Everyone seemed so angry and rushed. I wanted to go back to my life in the center, to the rough schedule and amazing food. But I was a responsible adult and had to take care of my dogs and my boyfriend before they forgot all about my existence. 3 months later I find myself in front of a computer, remembering the days I was a hermit and adored it. My life is back to normal but I'm not the same. My mind has begun a shift. It's not an everyday occurence that I have a clear head, I am still a human after all. But they come with less pain, less attachment. I'm not as stressed as I once was and not as lonely as I used to feel. Life is much better than what I previously told myself it was and I still get that alive feeling every once in a while.

What I have learned is much more valuable than any monetary item could ever be. I am infinite in my wisdom and I am more spacious than the sky and the sea. My life is not limited to one mind and one being, it is bountiful and free. I don't need to figure out the details of every detail, I know the answers already. And when the bad moods come and I feel defeated, I look back to the days in that room and remember the power I felt. Energy flowing through my skin and light bursting through my veins... I am free. I am free. I am FREE.