Year Of The...

I think this has been one of the most significant, beautiful, joyful, sorrowful, wretched, ecstatic years of my life.

Somehow almost every nasty coping mechanism I invented early on came rearing its head. Somehow I learned that love is real and actually the only TRUTH. This is the year I have had to come into right relationship with my WILL.

I buried my last living grandparent this year and changed my last name. That one felt huge. Huger than huge.

I also decided it was too painful to stay quiet and am trying with courage to say something, do something, be something of whatever teaching lives in my soul. Hence why I have started Applied Psychology for Yogis. I feel so committed to the enlivening and re-membering of the lost parts of us as students, teachers and practitioners.

I started using the word God a lot this year. I learned that I have an even deeper level of emotional regulation than I ever thought possible. I learned I am pretty good at counseling after all. I was tested in so many ways from the deepest core to the most external of circumstances.

I also scored on my yoga mat. The pose of the year was hands-free lotus. Success!

This is the year I had to learn that I really must always choose life--always affirm life. I had to make choices that forever change the course of my life. I found a total new independence. I started talking to the angels. In the last few moments of this year I am realizing, I am far more spiritually inclined than I ever believed.

So all in all I really full year of goodness but with so much pain. In the coming days I am going to lie this year to rest.

I have never felt so pulled to the earth inside my skin.

I also had to give up some of my darkness. I was forced to say ‘enough for now’ and move on. I was reminded it is ok to be joyful, juicy, enlivened and that life is just as authentic and meaningful when you are not shoveling shit (so to speak.). 

I am far less interested in analyzing others and myself. It actually is not that productive. I am interested in being with people. Sitting with them. Sharing with them. I am most interested in being cracked open repeatedly and letting the world shape me and smooth my rough edges.

I was a bride this year and in so being I discovered the truth of Mary Oliver’s brilliant words. “I want to be a bride married to amazement.” So pose of the year this coming 2014 will be sitting in amazement. I want to be amazed over and over and over again. My deepest prayer is to find the light of amazement and wonder in everything. I want to be curious and open and welcoming. I want to receive the world, myself, my beloved, my work, all to the fullest.

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Blessings to you as you transition between the calendars. May your retrospection be fruitful and productive. May your prayers and wishes for the future be courageous and bold. May the good Grace of Life fashion itself in such a mysterious way that those prayers come to fruition. 

The Walk

This is a piece I wrote a while back but it is worth posting again. I suppose my christmas wish is a deeper sense of connection and authenticity in every way possible. I think one of the hardest pills to swallow and make use of is one's privilege. 

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The other night strolling along downtown Boulder after sushi I witnessed something truly touching. No, that’s not really the right word. Maybe it was enlightening. Maybe it served to remind me of kindness. I think it reminded me of human being-ness.

We passed a man with a sign who was asking for money and the sign said it was his birthday. Elliot stopped, let go of my hand and walked up to the guy.

“Hey man, I don’t have any cash or anything but look, happy birthday.”

The man’s face grew a big smile and his eyes had the glimmer of something--recognition, maybe hope--something where he felt of personal value I think.

“Thanks.” He said back.

“Yea, sure. I hope its great. Happy birthday”

And then just like that, Elliot retook my hand and we walked on. I looked back at the guy like I was five years old or something and he was smiling at us and nodded at me. I turned and kept walking hand in hand with Elliot proud to be his fiancé. Shit, I was proud to be his friend.

A while back he said to me that the worst thing to do when someone on the street is asking you for money is ignore them. I know you know what I am talking about.

The person blatantly asks you as you walk by for nickels and cents or a few dollars and you walk on like you didn’t hear, like you magically went deaf temporarily. Eye contact in those situations is almost impossible and so you walk on.

I think Elliot said to me that it’s the worst thing to ignore someone like that when he saw me do it one evening stroll. He saw my awkwardness, my momentary lack of sensitivity. I suppose I decidedly walk on because I tend to not have cash in my wallet (enter the world of universal plastic) and so I feel badly I don’t have anything to offer, or at least give them what they want so I just ignore the whole situation altogether. Also I think I just feel like I can’t help. And so in that powerlessness I pretend like I don’t care. In fact, he explained, it is not even about the money.

Anyway, so he says to me that even if you don’t have any money you should at least make eye contact. You should at least acknowledge their presence and need. You could even say: “Sorry dude (or dudette) I don’t have any but I hope you take care.” Just words or body language to acknowledge that they are there on the street is something to give. The worst thing is to pretend its not happening. The worst thing is to ignore. The worst is to let them slip through your consciousness like a waking dream of no consequence.

Note to self: We all want contact. We all want to be seen. We all want to be acknowledged for simply existing in a body as somebody. It is not always easy to see things as they are. To see the truth in all its painful beauty is a skill cultivated through acts of kindness in simply acknowledging presence and existence of whatever is present in one’s field. 

May kindness find its way through each of us, in the biggest and smallest of ways.

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Assessing Genius

In my ten plus years of teaching yoga, I have taught in many different places. Boulder has by far been the most difficult in which to build a following. I must say though, over the five years being in Boulder I have managed to build and sustain a mighty Saturday class that pulls about twenty five to thirty five students on any given week. I feel like this is a huge achievement in this town. NOT because of the number but because of the number of regulars. People have a plethora of great classes to choose from along with teachers who are considered institutions in this community. So if you get people coming back for more, its good thing.

I would say I see about four or five new people to me in class each time. The vast majority though come like its church/synagogue etc. They come every single week. Frankly that makes me so proud.

When I love something I devote myself to it or that person fully. I might take a long time to warm up but once you have me, I am yours. Similarly, I might be an acquired taste, but it seems once people get over the brashness, the blunt truth-ness, the outrageousness, and intense social awkwardness they realize I am alright after all.

I am a student who believes in resonance. I believe in the power of learning through being with and hanging out with. So for me to have helped build a crew of people, who express their devotion by getting out of bed come rain, shine, hot or freezing temps, this is a high achievement. 

I share this not to boast but rather to say that what I wish studios and teachers looked at more closely was retention and attrition. The student who has ten students might seem low on the list. But, if eight of those people come each time, that’s really great. It is worth a whole lot. If you have someone pulling twenty or sixty people but they loose them quickly or have a low ratio of retention and thats your goal, maybe its time to reassess. if your aim is pure numbers. If your aim is to introduce as many people to yoga as you possibly can then retention will not matter as much. In fact, new student ratios will be more valid. 

I want us to consider deeply what we want as teachers and studio owners and whom we are teaching to and what our aims actually are.

My aim has always been to build a community, to collect a tribe, to form a movement. I used to be really shy about this because I felt like it was ostentatious and who the hell would want to be part of the group? But more and more I am celebrating that deep knowing in my bones, blood and cells that my aim actually is in reinventing modern yoga and psychology culture to encompass the old and create the never before seen. As you can probably tell by now, I am not so shy about it anymore. That is all a little off topic.

The point here is the need to make our goals measurable with appropriate standards.

My goal is not numbers. My goal is quality of numbers. So why should I be assessed by amount of people? The instrument for measuring success towards my goal should be retention should it not?

Furthermore, if someone is teacher-shopping they will still reap tremendous benefit from my class. But the person who is looking for depth and breadth and someone to follow through with, then they really see great benefit in my class. My Saturday classes are each individually unique and make sense unto themselves. You could come once, have a nice schvitz, learn a few things and never come back. When you come over time though, you get a sense of the deeper current of my 'body of work'. My teachings are a little more time-release if you will.

So again, the assessment tool for success should be appropriate. Like are people emailing from years ago that something made sense to them finally? If so great! That’s a measure of success. Do I pay particular attention to the comments that are highly polarized like “I LOVE your class” or “That was just completely inappropriate”. Well, no. do I notice when you show, week after week, month after month. Yes. 

So the long and short of it is I suppose, what are your goals? What is your aim? Who you are serving? Is your assessment tool valid?

It is like Einstein said: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Every teacher has their genius and every studio has its sense of purpose. But if we rate them based on attributes that have no meaning and bearing on them, they will always fail. I was taught yoga was a way to unlock, celebrate and express my genius. So why hold myself and ourselves to standards that perpetuate neurosis, psychosis, and falseness?

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Hide and Seek: thoughts on practice from the underworld.

“You have two choices,” I thought to myself. “Sit in pain and suffering, or move through pain and suffering.”

 I decided on the later.

Within fifteen minutes I was in the yoga studio at a very full class. I had to talk myself into staying when I saw all the mats. I also had to talk myself out of lethargy and inertia at 5:30pm on a dark cold evening.

I recalled the voice of my teacher and mentor. “When you are tired, dance tired. When you are sad, dance sad.” So I figured: "since I am depressed, I’ll yoga depressed."

I stayed, moved, breathed, turned my body into various shapes. In so doing I rediscovered an aspect of yoga practice I had, I suppose, long taken for granted.

So here it is.

I remembered that, indeed, the body knows. The body has the incredible capacity to unwind itself—its pains and aches, its feelings and beliefs, its shock and awe--the body is its own knowing organism. Our emotions, like obstructed rivers, held in the deeply grooved river beds of our bodies will flow freely when we remove the rocks and debris. Our bodies will unwind the tightest threads and well kept secrets that we have locked away deep in our hearts when we treat ourselves with gentleness.

There is an unnecessary assumption that gentleness means moving very little, that gentleness equals stillness. Sometimes though the sweetest thing to do for an aching body, mind and heart is to dive into the ocean of a movement practice. Sometimes we must simply and profoundly let ourselves be rocked by the pulsation of rhythmic movement.

These I know and have learned with a steep price tag and a big degree. But I was so acutely reminded in going to class that now I KNOW these to be true.

Yoga and dance are the original somatic psychology methods. Their teachings are many and though universally profound, distinct when they come through each of our unique experiences. Movement reveals that...

The truth is not anything other than what lives inside. We must let go and hold true simultaneously. The game is to get lost to get found. We must be willing to talk to god.  God is not the big G up there somewhere. It is the biggest G that lives in every cell, every tissue, every muscle and that is pumped moment-by-moment through our blood and beat across the heart. When every waking moment is a version of a heaven, do your yoga. When every waking moment is a version of a hell do your yoga. When every day is just another day of earthly living do your yoga. It works.

By 'it works' I mean to say that if you allow the spirit to stream through you as you move your body into different shapes, you are literally creating 'seats', shapes, asanas, within which the spirit as you will rest into itself as you. Do not expect the experience to always be pleasant or joyful. But fully expect that your practice will unravel all the necessary layers.

Your body is so filled with intelligence and wisdom. Your job is to create the possibility for the river to flow. Nothing needs to be locked up and stored away. Ok, perhaps sometimes it is appropriate to hang stuff in the proverbial closet for a while, but every ache and every tingling has an origin and is seeking a completion. Your job is to be curious about what they are. Be so curious that you shut-up, and do your practice and become ever more open to discovering what is seeking you.

My philosophy teacher always teaches the concept that whatever you are seeking is seeking you. There are days when we are lost and we do not even know what we seek. On those days move your body, even if just a little. Your body will, through its sensations, seek its own beginning and end of movements, and in so doing perhaps reveal what it is you seek.