Image via WikipediaSeveral years ago I met a man that seemed quite remarkable. A 'Master' Yoga Teacher in Direct Lineage to the "Teacher of ouor Teachers" Krishnamacharya. He was well known and respected; had just published a book. I attended one of his classes in Santa Monica, and afterward he flagged me down, signalled for me to wait, not to leave until he had an opportunity to speak with me.
He came over to me and gazed deeply into my face and asked, "Have I met you before?"
I chuckled. This happens to me a lot. "Not this time around," I answered.
He seemed genuinely excited to meet me. Commented on my practice which he descibed as beautiful, intentional, authentic. I discovered that teaching Hatha Yoga in a somewhat isolated community in the High Desert, my practice and my teaching had developed in Surprising alignment with this man's teaching. We both believed strongly that a yoga practice must be discovered unique to each person, that ultimately a physical practice must spring from the body like a flower from the soil. We agreed that too many yoga classes were being taught like "this is the right way to practice or the best way, the only way" and were ultimately creating more harm than good. We both taught from the breath, always coming back to the breath. He acknowledged something in me that I was hungry to feel acknowledged. I thought I had at long last found a mentor.
I hosted him at my little Joshua Tree Studio, and later introduced him to Urban Yoga in Palm Springs. While visiting in New York he invited me to drop in on his Teacher Training. A real friendship and mutual respect seemed to be developing.
Then his book really began to take off. He was flying across the country, around the world, giving workshops and Teacher Trainings. Friends I had introduced him to began to tell me how he had begun to talk about "My Yoga" and saying "No one Teaches Yoga the Way I Teach Yoga" Over the next several months I would send him an email asking for his advice, or asking him to put me in contact with someone he had introduced me to. I stopped hearing back from him. I was still on his mailing list, so I would still receive announcements about his upcoming workshops at fancy places that on my meager wage as a Yoga Teacher in an isolated community were way out of my reach.
It happenend again recently. I reached out to him one last time, asking his advice about spiritual travel (see my last Blog) via a facebook message. He received my friend request, but didn't respond to my message. The other day I got a message announcing his latest retreat or workshop.
Ironically, this is not the first time this has happened to me. On several occasions over the last decade as I struggled to carve out a way for myself in the High Desert Community of Joshua Tree, for several years without any Teachers to look to for advice or support, I would connect with Celebrity Yogis from the LA area. They would seem to see something in me; again that acknowledgement. And I would think "I must be something special" because this person who the outside world sees as special, sees something in me. Then I would see them again, and they would look right through me, or act in rude disregard.
Now, don't get me wrong.
I get it.
I get the glaring lesson. I recognize that I was looking for confirmation outside myself that I am something special. I recognize that as long as that confirmation is dependent upon an outside source, it just becomes a source of addiction, a weakness and a dependence. I even recognize that this desire stems from a deep seated longing for my Father's recognition and acknowledgement.
Believe it or not, that is not what this Blog is about.
In addition to waking me up to the fact that I need to provide myself with that acknowledgment, that sense of value and worth, these repeated experiences caused me to examine what it really means to me to teach Yoga. What is it I am teaching, and why?
On the surface a Hatha Yoga class is as it appears, a physical practice. But as one refines the practice of postures its like the tarnish begins to rub off the surface. Little by little we begin to see things just beneath the surface; our attachments for instance, to the "perfect pose," or our own knowledge, or the flat abs or tight butt. Many never make it this deep. For many tight abs and a tight butt are enough.
Some times I even envy those folks.
Scratch a little further and one might notice "I am such a good breather" or "I am so focused, my mind is so controlled right now. I bet I am the most unattached person in this room." I am going to become a Bodhisattva before any of these clowns.
I am guilty of it as much as the next person. I am guilty of getting up in front of a class and teaching from a place of fear and anxiety because i feel everyone in the room is judging me. How egocentric is that? I am guilty of getting up in front of the class with one particularly hot girl and approaching some pose or another with a "Now check this out" attitude. The Goddess is usually right there to knock me down or tip me over every time to keep me in my place. Hot girl is unimpressed but I've learned my lesson. For the moment anyway.
I am reminded of a story I heard Tony Briggs once tell of the first time he took a class with B K S Iyengar. He was excited, and nervous. Looking around the room, all these Yogis and Yoginis were self-consciously stretching on their mats. Posing. Aware that they were being watched. Look how flexible I am. Notice my perfect alignment. Amidst all these peacocks, Briggs chuckles to himself at a frail looking little old man warming up quietly in the back. What is this old guy doing here? Tony thinks to himself as looks around the room "Where is Mr. Iyengar?" Then Tony is shocked to watch as the little old man walks up to the front of the class and introduces himself as Iyengar, and takes the reigns of the entire group. Briggs was deeply impressed by the quietness of the Masters practice. Nothing that demanded anyones attention but his own.
So why am I doing this? Why was I called for this particular path? It is not any easy living by any means, unless you are a Celebrity Yogi, and let me tell you something happens to you when you become a Celebrity. It is true of the Yogis just as much as teen idols and movie stars. Celebrity only vibrates on the material plane, and it is sticky. It has hooks. It creates, again that energy of addiction. It is ultimately that same attachment, that same addiction to the outside confirmation "You are Something Special."
So I am reminded that the reason I chose this path was to remind everyone who comes through that door and unrolls a mat "You are Special." Right here, right now. With out needing to improve anything, without needing to change or fix anything, you are perfect.
You are the perfect expression of Spirit having a Human, embodied experience. The Great Spirit chose You, chose your vessel, your body, with its particular palette of strengths and weaknesses, talents and limitations, for this experience of limitation, of longing, of Love that only you can provide. You are right where you need to be in this moment, just as you need to be. This is not to suggest that there is no room for growth or expansion, just not in the sense that you will be better or improved when you have grown or expanded. This is the nature of energy on the material plane. It either contracts and descends, which keeps us bogged down, resistant or it expands and rises up. The choice is yours.
You have the potential to achieve Self-Realization in this lifetime. That is, to wake up to the fact that you are Godstuff itself, always have been. To become a Bodhisattva is your birthright.
Do not get hung up on the Super Powers that might develop along the way. Patanjali warns that the Siddhis, the apparent Magic Powers can become entrapments in themselves. One might believe that these Super Abilities, like Invisibility or Flying or Psychokinesis might be used to serve Mankind, to save the Humanrace. Again, what egotism. Celebrity, the Power to Charm, to Attract is one such Power, and one such entrapment.
The difference between the Siddha Masters of the Hindu tradition and the Bodhisattvas is that the Enlightened Yogis were interested only in their own Transcendence and Liberation. In the mystic traditions upon attaining enlightenment a Master is released from the Binds of Karma and the Cycle of Birth, Death, and Rebirth. Often they would simply vanish in a flash or leave behind an empty shell. The Bodhisattvas, upon attaining this release, choose to remain in the cycle of rebirth and dedicate themselves to the Enlightenment and Liberation of all sentient beings. If we are all drawn from the same energetic source, the same Godstuff, the same Atman then it follows that as long as one soul remains in bondage we are all bound.
This is why I teach yoga. This is why I will teach yoga in everything that I do, whether it be leading a group of Intentional Beings singing songs of praise, cooking burgers at the local Greasy Spoon, or taking out the Trash, Cleaning the Toilets at an Assisted Living Facility.
What will you Choose?
One night a man was crying Allah! Allah!
His lips grew sweet with praising,
until a cynic said, “So!
I’ve heard you calling our, but have you ever
gotten any response?”
The man had no answer to that.
He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.
He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,
in a thick, green foliage.
“Why did you stop praising?” “Because
I’ve never heard anything back.”
“This longing you express
is the return message.”
The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union.
Your pure sadness
that wants help
is the secret cup.
Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.
There are love dogs
no one knows the names of.
Give your life
to be one of them.