Category Archives: Musing

Do No Harm

In a recently published article in The Walrus titled “Yoga’s Culture of Sexual Abuse” a lens is turned toward the yoga community and a renowned teacher who abused his position of power in a similar manner to many of the #metoo stories which have recently come to light in other industries and organizations around the globe. The major difference in this story is that the abuse took place under the guises of spirituality and spiritual practice. A painful article to read, this expose on Krishna Pattabhi Jois’ inappropriate behaviors as a yoga teacher not only brings to the table an uncomfortable conversation but also the need to recognize blind trust in the yoga community, and to understand its detriment to a person’s health.

While the #metoo movement has made it more common to out sexual misconduct and inappropriate behaviors of men in power, accusations and exposes of the sexual misconduct and deviancy of male leaders of yoga schools are nothing new. Back in 2012 John Friend the founder of the Anusara Yoga tradition, the tradition that I study and teach, was himself accused of deviant sexual misconduct and consequently stepped down from the organization completely. Jois and Friend are not alone, they in fact are in thick company, joining the many male leaders of varying yoga schools who have been accused of sexual wrongdoing. These men are undoubtedly excellent yoga teachers; this is why they have generated enormous followings and grand schools of tradition. Yet these men were always human no matter how beautiful the practice they were teaching was; these were always men with human faults.

The article mentioned above relays the stories of nine women’s accounts of being sexually perpetrated by their venerated yoga teacher, all while being assisted in asana. Reading the article made me very upset. As a yoga student I have only been the recipient of respectful touch. As a yoga teacher I am diligent about touching respectfully and with consent. As a studio owner I expect my teachers to follow the same protocols. To be the victim of sexual assault is detrimental to one’s health on every level, to be the victim of sexual assault while pursuing a spiritual connection is damaging beyond words.

As students of yoga we generously follow our teachers with great swaths of trust. Most yogic traditions espouse absolute and unquestioned devotion to the Guru and in general, a great teacher can charm you into trusting and following blindly with charisma alone. No matter how much the teacher reminds you to be in your own body it is easy to get swept away in the current of the room, the bigger the body of water (i.e. the more students there are) the faster and stronger the pull. Such a pull has a hypnotizing effect, as does the asana, and the subsequent re-wiring of the brain and nervous system make the practitioner ever more vulnerable.

As I understand it Jois’ assaults were not protested in the moment. They were not protested because they took place in an environment that championed spirituality and surrender. The rewiring of the nervous system in the context of spiritual practice must have led to confused minds which muffled the inner knowing that something was explicitly wrong.

Vulnerability is inherent in a yoga practice. For the practice to do its work the practitioner needs to become vulnerable on every level. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to find a teacher who is trustworthy and will respect such vulnerability.

For students of yoga who have become intoxicated on yoga’s goodness it is easy to believe that the leader of an international and long standing yoga school is honorable. It is just as easy to walk into a relationship with the leader of such a school with unwavering trust. Because the roots of yoga sit deeply in principle and ethic, being sexually abused by an internationally renowned teacher is never a consideration. Such a thought would not cross a passionate student’s mind amid the gift of being able to study with their “teacher” or “Guru”. Violating a student in such vulnerable space is disgraceful and must be exposed and eschewed.

After reading the article I have questioned the value of hands on assists. I know that in my own experience they have been very beneficial. I also know that I do not need those assists to have a spiritual connection and therefore must question their weight. In an environment where vulnerability is inherent anything I as a teacher can do to nurture trust is valuable.

When new students arrive at Shree I like to remind them that the instructions are an invitation and not a command. Some schools of yoga approach such concepts differently but in the end, it is all the same. The practice of yoga is about getting to know your own inner voice of authority and teaching it to be wise and discerning and in alignment with something bigger than oneself. That authority which is bigger than oneself is also bigger than the Guru touting it. Questioning authority must be inherent in such a practice. Teachers of self-realizing practices who put the kibosh on self-authority must be left behind. Tolerance of forced deviant behavior from leaders of any organization on their subordinates must never be condoned, it makes everyone look bad and prevents full vulnerability and true personal and spiritual growth.

The practitioner always has the last say on what is right in the pose for them, what is good about the practice for them, what serves in their body, mind, and spirit, and what to leave behind. For many years now I personally have had to wrestle with the ugliness of this industry and the many misguided values of the greater yoga community. The fall of my own yoga teacher invited me to ask the hard questions many years ago and in the end, I do my best to remember to first look for the good, second remember what serves, and lastly choose something that enhances life. Sharing this article sheds light on some of the ugliness of this industry and at the same time the power that it is inherent in everyone to make choices. Doing nothing is a choice. Following blindly is a choice. Listening to your inner voice of authority and saying no to the outer voice of authority is also a choice. The purpose of the practice is to quite the fluctuations of the mind-stuff, not to spiritually bypass them. Be vulnerable, be trusting, and be your own Guru.

With Love and Respect, Always, in All Ways, For Giving,

Genevieve

 

 

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Guest Post By: Liz Fox

I’m 62, And So Are You

As I was checking a visitor into class the other morning, she was asking what style of yoga I taught.  It just came out of my mouth, “I’m 62, and so are you!”  She was likely in her 50s, but she totally got it.  As did I at that moment. I don’t really look my age, and I certainly don’t act my age, and I don’t really feel my age, but my body, especially in the morning, owns its age.

I never thought about it until I started teaching yoga. I would always do the class the teacher provided, inhaling and exhaling on cue, lifting this limb or that, reaching, bending, folding, etc.  It was all fine, but it was actually not fine. I was listening to the teacher, not to my own body.

Once I was in control, it all changed. I realized my body was not usually ready for what the teacher provided, and it was my responsibility to take this on. Let me explain: I remember the first morning I woke up in pain. I was about 28, and had been at an all-day horse show the day before, where I won the All Around. That was 14 classes, really pushing it. (I now wonder how my horse felt the next morning.) I woke up and felt stiffness, and it was really the first time in my life, and I said, “Wow, this is what they are taking about.”

Now, every morning is a form of that first experience. The first thing I do is lower my 14 pound dachshund from the bed. (I try to limit his jumping, which is hard on his long spine.) That experience, which I do every morning, I compare to every other day that I begin with the same movement. Even with super safe lifting technique, I feel it in my back. I joke to myself that I will now move from being a cripple and transform into a yoga teacher.

This is normal for most of us, right? Our bodies have been used, enjoyed, pushed, tested, and that is life.  But many of us, in our 2nd or 3rd acts, are in the best shape of our lives.  I could to a backbend in a doorframe when I was 14, but so what. Those amazing photos on Instagram of young girls doing backbendy and strength moves are impressive, and impossible for most of us. Inspiring, but like a trip to the moon. Yet, we are taking much better care of ourselves now, and appreciate each breath in a way we never could in our youth.

Hence, Morning Yoga.  Sonya told me a story once about a guy in her classes in Mysore. The poor guy was in his 40’s, and the Mysore practice was a strong, early morning Ashtangha practice, so he would get up 2 hours earlier, which was like 3 am, to do Feldenkreiss, to prepare for yoga practice. The point being, that Ashtangha was designed for bodies much younger, like teens and 20’s, the first act of life.

That story resonated with me. First, because I am not that responsible to really get up that early to take care of myself. But wow, yeah, that is what I need. Sure. (Nothing against Ashtangha, not at all. There is so much wisdom in that practice, but it is not for everyone!) But it also gave me total permission, as if I needed it, to look into my own body, and prepare what needs to be prepared, and I saw the value of this.

It is an open secret that yoga teachers teach what they are experiencing. If my shoulders are hurting, I will likely gravitate towards a shoulder opening practice. When my hips feel tight, I will go to that. And since my body is stiff in the morning, it is natural for me to teach to that.

My injuries have been spinal, so for me, a long slow, consistent, somewhat predictable spinal warm up works best. Others might have knee injuries, and need to attend to that. We all have stiff shoulders.

Morning yoga, the way I teach it, assumes we are all 62, or older, and our bodies do not spring out of bed ready for an strong practice. We might get there in half an hour, and might do the most lovely utthita hasta trikonasana of our lives, twisting our spines, lengthening our limbs, lifting our hearts. But first, we listen to our bodies, offer them some time to unwind, and recover the bloom of youth.

Yoga is a journey, often one without goals. Sure, we have goals, and sometimes the goal is to feel better in our bodies, in our souls, to more deeply connect to ourselves. Sometimes the goal is to face reality, putting our limitations into context, yet seeing what might be possible.  For 6 years, I started each class I took with the intention of “I will not get hurt.” Nothing wrong with that, but now I am learning, and hopefully teaching, more thoroughly, that precaution.

My favorite book title is Pema Chodron’s “Start Where You Are.”  Duh, but so profound.  Even if you do not know where you are going, or where you want to go, or where it is possible for you to go, find out where you are now, and start there. Take care, let fear go, and trust yourself.

A Love Manifesto

To be made of Love, unquestionably

   To question everything in the search for Love

To walk in fullness, breathing deeply everyday

To touch the earth and everything living with defenseless courage

   And give thanks for every opportunity to love each other

To dream unconditionally and act Honestly

To create fearlessness where fear is Tempting

To be a fountain of Light where confusion abounds

To liquefy all that is solid in our hearts

    And enliven all that is weary

To listen to the crying of our sisters

To listen to the crying of our brothers

   and not grow bitter but strong

   with unwavering compassion and

   confidence, go forth in the direction

   of Freedom

To Honor our truest selves and remember

   Our spaciousness in Spirit

To celebrate each other uninhibitedly

   with the laughter and Love our deepest thirst is for.

                             Amen (Anonymous)

Walk Strong, with a Gentle Heart

Current political circumstances are intense. To say the least. With blatant outright bigotry, lack of tolerance, and escalating violence it is nearly impossible to stay away from, or uninformed of, the present political environment. In such palpably contracted times one’s commitment to their yoga practice, or any mindfulness practice for that matter, must be exercised as diligently in the world as it is on the mat in order to walk strongly with a gentle heart through this crazy realm.

At times like these apathy has no place. The fundamental teachings of yoga demand attention too higher ethical and moral values. Ahimsa-lovingkindness; classically non-violence, is at the top of the list. And what is lovingkindness? In its simplest it is the pure intent to love all with kindness and care. It is easy to get caught up here. Does lovingkindness only exist for that which an individual knows and understands, resonates with and is aligned to in belief? No. Lovingkindness is the most basic notion of its value as the first Yama-precept for being with the world, (and self must be included in this) has to extend to all existence. So then the question becomes, must we be loving and kind to people who actively hate, are violent, seek out ways to harm others maliciously and subversively? Yes. If your aim is to truly practice lovingkindness or non-violence then yes, the teaching demands that you love them in the company of their faults. However, the word love and the practice of love is not synonymous with making oneself available for abuse, nor acting and speaking out in alignment with something bigger.

Mindfulness practice means using the mind in a discerning manner. In this vein to use the mind to acknowledge that while a human or a group of humans are severely misguided they are not outside the circle of deserving love. This discernment is then followed with action. What is the appropriate action to take in the face of true racist hate? When the teaching is to love? Love exists with boundaries. There is too much awareness, knowledge, wisdom, and understanding in this world to play ignorant to the harm racism, bigotry, and simply the belittling of any human for any reason. Therefore appropriate action in the company of such ignorance is to first acknowledge with love the lack of value in such awareness and behavior, and to withdraw contact with such a person until the time when they can see beyond the limited vales of their perception. To share the premise of your choice with such a person may or may not be valuable to them, but is ultimately valuable to the greater good. To do so with words that emanate from love is to act in alignment with the precept of Ahimsa. This is Sakriya-with action; one who performs one’s responsibilities; putting into effect what one has learned from their spiritual teachings. Acting with a moral compass.

To do nothing. To say, “it is all good.” To say, “I am practicing non-violence and lovingkindness and they are only doing the best that they can.” To be apathetic. To avoid confronting the ignorance for fear of making waves, especially when the hatred is espoused by someone you deem friend or family, this is Niskriya-without action; one who does not perform one’s responsibilities; one who does not put into action what one has learned.

Apathy, fear of rocking the boat, just plain old doing nothing does not cut it for the sincere yogi. Such Niskriya is far from in alignment with a good moral compass. This is nowhere near doing the best you can.

A true yogi assigns themselves to shining the light of awareness into the darkness of ignorance. Lives in their responsibility of practicing the Sakriya of love in the abyss of discrimination. From love, with love, for love.

A Yogi has a large toolbox from which they can pull the correct tool for the situation at hand. Mudras are such tools. A mudra is a hand gesture which correlates reflex reactions from hand to brain. Mudras are powerful tools which redirect energy flow. And in the case of standing strong with a gentle heart in a crazy world, mudras can bolster a yogi’s capabilities. A combination of Varada Mudra and Abhaya Mudra can be used to support and enhance a yogi’s aptitude of Sakriya in harmony with Ahimsa.

Varada Mudra is represented with the downward facing palm of the left hand. It is the mudra of the accomplishment of the aspiration to devote oneself to human salvation. The five extended fingers of the mudra symbolize respectively; generosity, morality, patience, effort, and meditative concentration. This mudra expresses not only the act of giving and benevolence, but also the act of receiving. Varada Mudra is seldom used alone and is regularly used in combination with Abhaya Mudra.

Abhaya Mudra is represented with the upward facing palm of the right hand. This mudra is not only known worldwide as a gesture of waving and salutation; it is also known worldwide as a gesture which means “stop.” Abhaya in Sanskrit translates to fearlessness, and the mudra is also one which dispels fear and symbolizes protection and peace as well as being seen as a gesture of good intentions, offerings of love, and reverence to the highest.

Together the combination of these two mudras powerfully express an individual’s capacity to simultaneously be generous with love and maintain discerning boundary. This is what is called of all humans who seek to live in the awareness that dispels ignorance in this world, at this time. This is what is called for from those who have committed themselves to the primary tenant of yoga, Ahimsa. As crusaders of awareness, as practitioners of love and non-violence, it is a yogi’s responsibility to hold the human race to a higher standard, knowing that standard can be met. To say “they are only doing their best” when one knows that they can do better if they are liberated from the veils of limited belief, is to be apathetic. Is to walk in Niskriya. This is not the time for apathy this is the time for courage. Now is the time for Sakriya. To speak and act with love and a gentle heart.

With Love, Always, in All Ways, For Giving, In Joy,

Genevieve

Hurdling the Monkey Mind

As humans it is all to easy to get myopic in our view. The minds tends to eclipse broadened perspective with the excessive cataloging, sorting, dialoguing, and chatter of the mind. Practices such as meditation and yoga have for centuries been medicine for this, and many other challenging aspects of the human experience.

Simply being in concentrated relationship with the breath enables the faculty of the mind to do what it does best, focus. The continued focus of the mind on the breath relieves the mind of its grasp on the other stories it has latched onto. Similarly, a challenging and vigorous asana practice directs the minds attention to sorting the movements of the body in concert with the breath. In essence this distraction liberates the mind from the ceaseless chatter of monkey mind.

If we sit long enough with our breath, if we practice hard enough on our mat, there is a moment of freedom. And while this moment might be fleeting, the space experienced there expands into a subtle yet sustained spaciousness that spans the course of a lifetime. If not more.

Practice is a discipline that leads to freedom. It may require hurdling the monkey mind to get to the practice. But once arrive, the gift of the spaciousness that is your natural heart space will be revealed there. Worth the leap every time. Even when your feet get caught up on the hurdle along the way!

A simple practice for these coming weeks in the epoch of eclipse season where the mind moves fast, and then faster, is the practice of sama vritti pranayama. This is a simple breath practice of inhaling and exhaling in equal portions. The basic rhythm of this breath practice enables a calmer mind and a calmer autonomic nervous system response, naturally reducing stress hormones in the body.

To practice this simple, yet profound breath exercise, begin with a comfortable seat. Take a few moments to watch your breath rise and fall in its natural, unadulterated rhythm. When you are ready inhale for a count that does not create a feeling of anguish or anxiousness, a count that you can sustain without extra or exerted effort. At the top of the inhale pause momentarily in the feeling of fullness. Exhale for the same length of your inhale. Again, pause momentarily at the bottom of the exhale in the spaciousness of emptiness. Continue like this for as long as you are comfortable. Attempt to continue beyond the agitation of monkey mind discomfort and into the spaciousness of your heart. A general marker for a beneficial meditation practice is 20-25 minutes. However, three breathes may be enough for you. The beauty of designing a practice that enhances your life is that you get to decide.

No matter what course you choose for your journey may it be a course that brings you into the light of your own innate beauty.

With Love, always, in always, for giving,

Genevieve

Contemplations on Supreme Consciousness

Everything is supreme consciousness. Supreme consciousness is as the heart of all things and simultaneously permeates all things. It is muted by the laws of maya, the veils of the koshas, and the bondage of the malas, appearing to be something other than it is. Atman, pure divine consciousness is as much a part of every living thing, as death is the fate of all things living.

Maya creates delusions of appearance. Also from maya arises illusions of reality. Such illusions are tied intrinsically to perceptions of identity, perceptions of ego, and perceptions of self in place. The essence of supreme consciousness is an eternal dance of Shiva and Shakti, the knowledge and the expression, the energy and the form, united and forever bound. In the Koshas, maya is the Shakti (the creative force of the universe) pulling us away from ourselves while simultaneously manifesting all that is beautiful about life itself.

Revealing themselves in five sheaths the koshas expressions are explained as follows. Annamaya Kosha, the physical sheath or even more literally the sheath of food. The body needs food for survival, without food hunger limits perception of the divine. Pranamaya Kosha, the energy or prana sheath is the vital force which produces the subtle vibrations related to breath and connects the physical body to its senses allowing the Atman to animate in the manifest world. Pranamaya Kosha ties perception of divine to the senses, if it is not tangible it does not exist. Manamaya Kosha, the sheath of the mind. The mind is the supervisor of information reception and distribution. Manamaya veils the capacity to clearly perceive thoughts and emotions without doubt and illusion. Vijnanamaya Kosha, the sheath of wisdom, the knower, the judge, the discriminator. In the delusion of the veil of maya the Vijnanamaya Kosha attaches wisdom to the story that is written by the outer sheaths. The koshas simply tie our identity to their veils of delusion. Liberation from these veils of consciousness enables supreme consciousness to reveal itself as the eternal center of experience and knowing. As the veils of the Koshas are lifted, perception expands.

In consort with the veils of the Koshas are the malas, the delusions of impurity. Anava-mala, Mayiya-mala, and Karma-mala all manifest in the human experience to create the illusion of finite and mundane experience. Anava-mala generates the experience of feeling incomplete and imperfect, it is the primary structure that creates the basis of the limited illusion of finite life. Mayiya-mala forms the perception of separation, the “I am alone and will always be alone” thoughts. Karma-mala creates and sustains the perception that one is unable to do anything of worth or value, that all efforts are without aim or satisfaction.

Why would supreme consciousness manifest itself hidden in the veils of such limited perception? Why would feeling incomplete and insecure be built into the fundamental principles of human being? Why would the capacity to know oneself as the essence of the nature of the supreme be veiled from consciousness by design?

It is said that the reason for human life in general is that supreme consciousness wanted to experience itself so it veiled itself from itself to be rediscovered again. In rediscovery is the revelation that generates such a spaciousness within that the amrita, the nectar of the bliss of knowing the nature of the divine becomes so sweet its flavor cannot be ignored. In revelation is connection, in connection is bliss. In life is forgetting so the dance can be done over and over again. Forget, remember, experience bliss, forget, remember, experience bliss, and on and on. The experience of the bliss becomes the incentive to stay committed to the practice of remembering. Over time the waves between remembering and forgetting get closer, get smaller, and are perhaps completely washed away when all that remains is supreme consciousness.

Additionally, when we allow ourselves to perceive everything as supreme consciousness than we allow ourselves to remember that are never really truly alone. Through such a perception we remember that we are connected by the web of consciousness, the breath of life, that from which all arises and all returns. We remember consciousness is what is at the heart of all energy and is what enables energy to align intelligently, to manifest into life forms that are more than rudimentary and single celled. We come to know without question that consciousness is what generates thought and simultaneously the energy that turns thought into action. If all of life arises from consciousness than all life is connected through consciousness. Even when the energetic imprint varies, it is consciousness that makes the imprint. So while an experience of life is so often singular, it is also an experience of consciousness as a whole, which ties all things together. Consciousness is the thread of connection, from nothing to something, from breath to action, from thought to form, from heart into the world.

Through the awareness of consciousness and the realization of deepest connection as a result of the web consciousness weaves we have the great opportunity to step out of questioning and self-consciousness and into confidence and community. The veils of maya lift, the bondage of the malas is broken, and all that remains is the supreme self. Self with a capital S.

 

With love, always, in all ways, for giving, in joy,

Genevieve

 

 

Resilience and Adaptabilty

Resilience and adaptability are an intrinsic part of nature. Weeds survive, cockroaches will inherit the earth, and water will always find its way. Unfortunately, the possibility that one can become stuck in a rut of being, obdurate and unable to be fluid like water, is as great a potential as falling in love. 

Nevertheless, life invites us to be flexible. Too much fragility and we will crumble under life’s pressure. Too much rigidity and we will stubbornly refuse to adapt with changing times. Get left behind, looking out at an unfamiliar world from an inner gaze hardened by our own stubborn shortcomings.

So much of this journey of life is a dance among paradox. Dancing between stability and freedom is the dance of liberation. Freeing ourselves from our attachments to the past and desired outcomes, yet holding the gaze steady on the intent and the motive is the recipe for a vibrant life. Despite the length of that sentence, the concept is still much easier said than done.

None of us are outside the circle of loss. None of us are exempt from desire. None of us are without needs. Life, being what it is, will test our capacity to meet ourselves in the company of ourselves, during loss, overcome by desire, with needs unmet. What we do when we arrive at thes thresholds is what becomes the fluid and flexible bouncy of resilience or hard brittle bark of unfluctuating obstinacy. The most beautiful part is that we get to decide. We get to decide how to respond to life’s undulations.

The key ingredient is knowing that responding is not reacting. Life happens. Take a breath. Connect to the deeper part of you. The part that evolved with the ever evolving universe, conscious, adaptable, resilient, and remember what drives your heart. Take another deep breath, move away from the drama, exhale. Take another deep breath, choose the direction you wish to go, take one small step in that direction. Responding mindfully to life’s unsavory as well as life’s more rich and delicious circumstances is like becoming the resilient and ever buoyant material of a trampoline. Not only do you bounce back but you catalyze movement into the future.

Regularly returning to practice returns you to your capacity to connect to your breath. Regularly returning to your practice invites deeper connection to your adaptable and graceful heart. Regularly returning to your practice reminds you of your ability to skillfully spin, twirl, and jive on the paradoxical dance floor of life. Stepping gracefully between stability and freedom, acknowledging your innate ability to be simultaneously fragile and rigid, embracing your innate ability to be resilient and adaptable, will bring you ever closer to the vibrant freedom of peace you were born to enjoy. Carry on!

With Love, always, in all ways, for giving,

Genevieve 

Building Personal Capital 

One of the great gifts of this life is that we can all learn to skillfully respond to life’s challenges and build personal capital. i.e. build confidence through inner strength. This is great because I think it is safe to say that no one of us actively seeks to experience shame, guilt, and remorse. It is not part of our nature to seek suffering, though it is part of our nature to relive our suffering over and over through the obsessiveness of our minds. Suffering is in fact a quality of the mind, the quality of attachment. When we attach ourselves to an idea of how things should be or how things were, then we do not permit ourselves to experience things as they are, in peace, spaciousness, and a willingness for the potential of things to get better.

 No matter who we are, what our backgrounds or trajectories, life will challenge us, life will bring us to our knees. Not all challenges are devastating, but life in its essence tests our concepts of comfort and ease. Sometimes it’s just a simple conversation with a loved one or a co-worker that sends us reeling into a flurry of inner turmoil and anguish, other times it’s something greater like the loss of a job or home. No matter what the trial is, the opportunity to meet it with composure and equanimity is also there.

 What does that mean exactly? Well rather than flying off the handle because your mom pushed that same button for the nine-thousandth time, you can calmly respond with a request to not go down that road again. Or rather than respond to the trigger, guide the conversation into neutral territory, into gratitude, into love. Rather than going into a tailspin of depression or substance abuse at the loss of a job or after an intense personal attack by some mindless person, drink a cup of chamomile tea, take a hot bath, take a walk, take a deep breath. Gather yourself and be mindfully and courageously in the company of the discomfort, rather than taken out by it.

 So few of us actually have skills to use in the face of life’s challenges, rather we have coping mechanisms. And our coping mechanisms are often synonymous or entangled with behaviors that are less than those we would feel proud of sharing with the world. I know that one of my coping mechanisms is to be mean to others when I feel vulnerable. I regret this behavior after I have expressed it. I feel guilty for hurting someone else because I felt vulnerable. I feel ashamed when I behave this way and I know I could have behaved better. I have learned that in order to not have to visit ourselves in the waiting room of shame, guilt, and regret, we can cultivate skills to respond to life’s challenges that enable composure, equanimity, restraint, mindfulness, patience, and calm.

 When we know and accept that life will challenge us and press up against the rough and sometimes sharp edges of experience then we can more actively step into our bigger selves, to see our potential to react, and rather than react, respond. Respond with composure, self restraint, calm and equanimity. To live fully in the company of grace.

 Our time on the mat is valuable because it translates. Asana practice pushes us up against the boundaries of our comfort zones and into the rougher sharp edges of where we are not comfortable. Through mindfulness of breath and our thoughts we can learn to be in the company of the discomfort in a state of composure and equanimity. This translates off of our mats and into our lives, so that when life pushes us into the uncomfortable experiences of our everyday we can restrain from behaviors that leave a residue of inner turmoil and exercise skillful responses. Knowing that you are the only person in your life who can make it more comfortable gives you the power to do so. This is the great gain of confidence ind inner strength that comes with building this kind of personal capital.

Perfection and Relation

It is all to easy to hold ourselves to unattainable standards. Especially in the world of yoga today where so often the images of physical perfection permeate much of our visual concepts and by proxy our deeper understanding of the practice. Instagram, Facebook, yoga journal, the list of images of what it’s supposed to look like goes on and on. And in the midst of the sea of perfect postures the ultimate value of the practice gets lost.

At the heart of spiritual philosophy the understanding of perfection is that all things are perfect no matter how they are revealed. However, when we look at ourselves the natural tendency is to see imperfections before sorting through the critical dialogue and seeing the innate perfection. Constant asana practice does over time generate more skill in the asana postures, but more importantly it generates a presence of mind that enables sorting through criticism, judgement, fear, and more, to arriving at spaciousness with a perspective that is life enhancing rather than depleting. A perspective that honors the way one feels before what one looks like.

Bringing attention to a more subtle value inherent in the practice is not meant to diminish the value of striving to achieve an image of beauty in the form of a pose. Rather, bringing attention to such nuance increases the capacity to experience grace where we are. And in the company of grace energy softens, the form of the asana softens, the light that shines innate perfection from the inside out radiates, and no matter the level of skill expressed in the form, beauty is there for all eyes to see. In this sense the standards of perfection that one may wish to hold oneself to become more attainable, in asana practice as well as life off the mat.

Through a practice that is focused more on the inner experience rather than the outer presentation a deeper connection to self is gained. And this is one of the greatest gifts of any spiritual practice (and yoga is inherently a spiritual practice), to gain a deeper connection to self. Not only the self that is associated to personal identity but more importantly that self that is connected to the inherent perfection of all things. Such a connection provides not only the grace that softens asana, but more palpably the grace that softens perspective in the face of the difficulties of life. This is where the practice translates. Not in Facebook likes or Instagram views, but in spaciousness of spirit and palpable heartfelt connection to the deepest perfection of an evolving animate relational world.

With Love, always, in all ways, for giving, in joy,

Genevieve

Love Is All You Need

 With Valentines Day lurking around the corner it seems only appropriate to touch on the subject of love. Beautiful love, healer, connector, forgiver, magnanimous in all ways. Love the mover of mountains and the soother of broken and weary hearts. 

 For many years I was personally disgruntled about the upcoming holiday, for numerous and oftentimes silly reasons. Fortunately for me, and those close to me, I am mailable and my convictions change. This inevitably leads to a change in the words I espouse which is why those in my company have found my changing mind fortunate. And to be fair, through their love and acceptance I have always been permitted the space to voice my opinions without loss of love, not always in agreement, but always with allowance. My unsavory feelings around the holiday stem mostly from a personal desire to see all hearts experiencing the expressions of love every day, not just one day of the year. This has been such an important personal conviction that much of my life has evolved out of it.

 Love has many definitions, many feelings, and many different expressions. In it’s essence love is allowing, accepting, all encompassing, and simultaneously transcends all things. The quality of love that we may feel for another person in regards to sexual desire and intimacy is classically known as Eros. Love for those that are familiar and creates a sense of closeness in your heart is known as Storge, this is the love we feel for our family or those we relate to in specific ways, like our yoga family. Then there is Philia which is the love of true friendship. Philia is the type of love we feel for our “chosen family”, those you will accept and allow to be who they are whether you are related to them or not. Finally there is Agape, this is the all encompassing and simultaneously transcendent love of the divine that exists despite changing circumstances. 

 The more aware we are of these levels of love the more capable we are of seeing our own and others expressions of love in clear terms. Valentines Day has become quite simply and beautifully a celebration of Eros, the delight that can be found in Eros, and the value of such pleasures. Forgiveness and allowance of family members despite their shortcomings and inability to be the people we believe they should be is the quality of Storge love. After thirty-five years of personal experience in this department I think this can be the hardest quality of love to cultivate in the human experience. And by proxy the most liberating and profound. Philia is a type of love that is easy to experience. It is the motivating force behind making plans with friends, answering middle of the night calls of friends in distress, reaching out to a friend you haven’t spoken to in years. Philia is a branch of love that adds deep texture and quality to our lives in the presence of changing intimate relationships and challeng and loss in relationships with blood family members. Agape is the quality of love that created a planet where life thrives in concert with itself. Agape is the force of love that reminds us no matter our shortcomings and transgressions no one is outside the circle of deserving love. Agape is the force of love that witnesses our birth and embraces us in our last breath without conditions of where we have come from or where we are going. 

Through awareness of love and of our relationship to love at these levels we can relate to others through love with greater skill. Stewarding the earth in gratitude for her generosity. Contributing to the greater good in our daily activities and work through the lens of true friendship. Honoring those we don’t understand as we would our family members with whom we don’t see eye to eye. And cherishing the fleeting and powerful moments of intimacy we spend with our beloveds behind closed doors with dignity and respect. These are just a few examples, and I invite you to deepen your own contemplation on the subject of love. Working always with the knowing of loves true nature, allowing, forgiving, generous, accepting, spacious, and unconditional. Through contemplation you may arrive at the realization that everyday is an opportunity to live in Love. To live in love in relationship with the whole of the universe…multiverse…and beyond!

With Love, always, in all ways, for giving, in joy!

Genevieve