Saturday, September 13, 2014

Always Honor Your Teacher(s)

We all start out our journey somewhere, right? Some folks decide to go no further and stay where they are - in happiness or misery - because it is the known. Others head out on a quest to know themselves better or understand the world more or find a deeper connection to Spirit. Like Morpheus offering us the red or blue pill, we make our choice. Those who continue to follow the windy road of self-development will come in touch with some dark places within themselves and be either forced to accept them and move through and beyond them, or creep back into the darkness. But whatever that choice is, the reality is that a light was already shone to you that you can never again turn off.

Teachers help us uncover these insights in one way or another. We have all had teachers - some we label as good or bad, but the truth is that everyone and everything is your teacher for the good. Your limited understanding and falter to ego makes them "bad."

There is an interesting trend in the yoga community. With last year's departure of B.K.S. Iyengar, it sheds the light on this even more. We are a growing yoga community with growing number of teachers from vastly different styles and understandings. Students now often jump from studio to studio - seeking a more physically demanding practice to "take them to the next level." And I have to wonder if loyalty to one's teacher is a fading ember?

My very first yoga teacher changed my life. She opened me up to a world that I had no idea existed and I am the person that I am today because of the journey that I began with her. Some time after I started my own yoga studio she moved out of the area without a way in which to contact her and dropped any affiliation from Yoga Alliance and the yoga community at large. She chose a different path. And I had to progress from there on my own for a long time, without my own teacher.  It was scary, but I still think about her very often and am continually grateful to have had the privilege to start my journey with her.

Someone asked me a year or so past if I ever felt lonely watching my students take yoga teacher trainings with me and then leave the nest, sometimes to never be heard from again. Honestly prior to her inquiry I had not been. Afterwards, however, I suddenly was. I think about the many students that have gone through their journey with me to be a yoga teacher and where they are now. So many brilliant teachers out there making a difference in the lives of so many people. When one of them pops into one of my classes, it makes my entire day just to see them again. But I am so grateful for the many students that I continue to see every day and then truly keep my teachings meaningful.

Over the years there are some fallouts - every relationship has it's ups and downs, including that of the teacher and student. But should it be? The yoga tradition is steeped with the deepest amount of respect for one's teacher (guru). And whether or not life takes you on a different journey, you should always hold the deepest respect for your teacher. The moment that you think that you are better than or outgrew your teacher, is actually the moment that you have moved the furthest from your yoga practice and completely forfeited to ego.

The school year has just started. I can already hear the thousands of children coming home complaining about this teacher or that one. And truthfully kids are maybe a little too young to understand this, but if you are reading this then you are not. Learn from every teacher that comes across your path. Always be grateful and respectful, even if you THINK they do not deserve it. I am not advocating blindly following anyone, for that is something else entirely. But I am saying that we need to keep the sacredness of the student/teacher dynamic in tact. It starts with gratitude and respect.

So in light of the new school year, reach out to an old teacher of yours and offer a few words of kindness. Or if you are a student of mine, pop into a class of mine soon. I'm always thinking of you, fondly…yes, even those of you that made my job a little more difficult. Because I learned from you too.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Yogi Corner: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: Dhyana

Yogi Corner: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

The most famous part of the Yoga Sutras is called the "eight limbs." Sometimes referred to as branches, these limbs are to be worked on until the impurities are dwindled away in order to achieve yoga. For September we will discuss the next limb, that of "Dhyana."

"Tatra Pratyayaikatanata Dhyanam
B.3, V.2
Translation: Dhyana is the continuous flow of cognition toward that object. 


Quite simply, Dhyana is Meditation. Many students will often comment to me that they have not "tried" meditation. Well, first of all, there is no trying in meditation. Meditation is an effortless state of being that one simply achieves. Could this state take time? Yes. Could one achieve this state immediately? Yes. And is it possible that one has already achieved Dhyana and simply is unaware that they have? Most likely.

You see, mediation occurs when you have lost sense of time and space. You are not asleep, but you are not conscious to what is happening around you either. It is the in-between space where you are locked in an unbroken flow of consciousness with the object in which you are meditating on. 

Those who knit, garden, ski, paint, or enjoy activities such as these, will probably be able to easily say that they have "lost" themselves in that activity and what felt like a minute or so turned out to be an hour or so. Guess what? That is Dhyana! I have achieved this state many times during my home yoga practice. Moving to the breath and flow of the Universe, I am lost into the practice. 

Many people still think of meditation as sitting in a traditional seated posture, with the back straight, eyes closed, and trying to concentrate on one thought, image or idea. Guess what? You are trying again. You will probably never achieve mediation this way. Many teachers will guide you to meditation by reminding you to allow any thoughts, at first, become aware of the breath and slowly release the other thoughts. When they flow back in, acknowledge them, then let them go again. This is the "practice" part. But after some time, you may get better at just letting it go. For other people, I usually recommend an activity oriented style of meditation. If you like to do any artistic endeavor, let that be your meditation. Any physical activity can be a source of meditation. Be creative and enjoy the process - that is the key. Not everyone has to sit up quietly in a traditional type way.

We offer Meditation classes on Monday evenings with Robin O'Hagan, a spirit medium & psychic. She has developed her skills of meditation through her own gifts and can show you how to tune into yours. Drop in any Monday evening 7:30 pm in the Meditation Room to explore this avenue with Robin. Or come to any yoga class on our schedule for a more active method of meditation. It's all part of the journey - sometimes we all need to a little guidance in finding our way.