I am my shadow self

Scott from Scott’s Thott’s posted this Seane Corn video and I wondered what your thoughts were about it.

A long time ago I did a workshop with Corn where she said almost exactly the same thing. When she mentioned the junkies and the whores I looked around the room and saw more than a few eyebrows go up and eyes go down. While the asana practice was good, I loved what she had to say even more.

Corn says that the teachers she is most attracted to are the most human, the realists who are honest about their history and path. In my last workshop with Sarah Powers she said the same thing: that her favorite teachers are the ones whose “humaness” shines through. I agree.

Last weekend I became 55, a fit, fabulous, “woman of a certain age.” While I have my aches and pains I don’t allow my body or my thoughts to define me — I am not this body, I am not my thoughts. And on my birthday I realized: I should be dead. There was a time when I and others thought I would not live to see 21. I tried to kill myself when I was 16. Ask me if I care who knows that.

And now I’m planning my 4th trip to India. I’ve come a long way, baby.

I teach at a domestic violence shelter and the ladies told me that they appreciate me so much more because I’ve been where they are now, that I am not a “white suburban do-gooder” (their words) trying to tell them how to be.

I question how some show biz yogis can teach me because I wonder if they’ve been where I’ve been — abuse, rape, addiction, and domestic violence. I usually do not trust the om namah shivaya types with the ethereal smiles and the wispy, breathy voices. I am a survivor, so what can they teach me? I’d rather get down and dirty.

I loved Scott’s comment:

“A friend and I joke about the “Om Shanti” and “Namaste” crowd. These people who say Yoga is all about love and light, peace and happiness are deluding themselves. It’s so pretentious – just say hello, how are you, have a good day… whatever. I would no more say Namaste to someone (outside north India) than I would say bonjour or auf wiedersehen.

If Yoga isn’t pushing you outside your comfort zone, it ain’t really Yoga. Leave the frills off for me, mama, and gimme an extra dose of darkness.”

“If Yoga isn’t pushing you outside your comfort zone, it ain’t really Yoga.”

Why do you yoga? Not “do yoga” because yoga is about undoing, not doing. Yoga does us. I’ve always thought that the reason more people don’t yoga is because stepping into yoga takes courage and many of us (most?) are afraid to see what might come up, we’re afraid of our shadow selves. It’s so much easier to push that shit down and resist our truths.

Roll around with your demons and become uncomfortable until it hurts. Set yourself on fire because that fire will either kill you or transform you.


23 thoughts on “I am my shadow self

  1. I would like to get certified this fall and teach at least a couple classes free of charge to help those who might need yoga but cannot afford it, but I did wonder if I would just come off as a white/Latina, rural do-gooder. 🙂

    I have a friend who is incarcerated (DWIs) and a best friend (and mother of two) who is on parole and on another downward spiral. I know I don’t know where they are coming from because I have never gone through what they’ve been through, but I wish they’d give yoga a try. I think it’s like you said, though, some people are scared to do it and have to look within themselves. I think that’s why, initially, I didn’t “get” yoga, either. It was too hard to slow myself down and do that internal work when I was 21. What a different place I was in six years later.

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  2. Agreed! I often thought that some of the yoga classes I have attended focused too much on the positives in life. It’s about discovering the deeper nature of the universe, not feeling happy all the time.

    I wonder about some of the people who go to class, release lots of tension, feel relaxed with the music and saris hanging around, then go back to their same life. Like a day at the spa.

    That being said, (and I know this wasn’t the point) I have had some great transformational experiences chanting “Om Nama Shivaya” all night long, staring at a picture of Shiva smushing that little green guy and smiling at me. Very eerie and trippy.

    My goodness! Thanks for sharing this.

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  3. don’t get me wrong — chanting OM NAMAH SHIVAYA and other mantras is one of my favorite things to do! I LOVE CHANTING!!!! and I wish more American yoga teachers would do it.

    but I was speaking of a certain type of person who you see at yoga studios and retreats who always walks around with that half-smile on their face looking like they are lost in their own 24/7 samadhi and every time they speak it’s so low and breathy and wispy that you’re cupping your ear and saying “WHAT? WHAT? CAN YOU SPEAK UP?”

    but then the next time you see them they’re all red in the face and muttering to themselves because another samadhi-head has just eaten the last of the muesli and drank the last of the soy milk.

    yeah. you know who you are…..;)

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  4. Great post. This is something I think about now and then (usually when I’ve encountered the breathy wispy types you’ve mentioned, and I have to bite my tongue in order not to laugh). I love yoga, but as a kind of pagan I guess (not the candle magic kind, mind you) I get a good balance of the peace and love with the take a look at your shadow self and getting in touch with your inner hag:)

    In the end, we’re all human. We’ve all farted in yoga class.

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  5. “If Yoga isn’t pushing you outside your comfort zone, it ain’t really Yoga.” I’d add that if you think you’re comfortable looking at your shadow, you’re not looking at your shadow.

    Great, great post.

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  6. I was thinking about this this morning about “the om namah shivaya types with the ethereal smiles…” and I thought this isn’t just a yoga thing, I know some born again Christians who are like this. The have that air about them and yet they’re talking about sinners and the end of world (as if they’re happy about it) and then hug you good bye with a “god loves you” and it just feels so insincere–like they’re just trying to say all the right things because they’re suppose too.

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  7. What a thought provoking post!
    It all boils down to not judging or labeling either our students or teachers. The “White suburban do-gooder” may come across as superficial but may really want help from the bottom of their heart. The “Om Namah Shivay” types may sound insincere but may have found their bliss in chanting. Labeling people is quite dangerous. Being non judgmental is after all easier said than done.

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  8. what two readers had to say:

    “I totally identified with your post. The “ethereal smilers” I think are totally annoying to us, because people who have worked through their CRAP can so easily seen when other people are just completely REPRESSING their anger. Trying to be pretty and shit rather than REAL. And that’s just CREEPY. I can’t be around people like that for more than few minutes, and it has kept me from any ashrams or teacher trainings because I fear they are just filled the brim with these zombie types.”

    and….

    “isn’t it interesting that those love-and-lighters chanting Om Namah Shivaya are unwittingly invoking the energy that will cleanse them, perhaps violently, of every shred of manufactured peace and tranquility?”

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  9. Linda, this is a brilliant post. Worth the wait. Happy birthday, BTW – you are amazing.

    I don’t like the breathy Om Namah Shivaya crowd, but then, I guess they could be into much worse things. The Om Namah Shivaya crowd, about 15 years ago, were the love and light beam me up Scotty dolphin-chanelling, angel-seeking New Agers. I’ve written a post about my journey through this quagmire a few months back.

    What is really bugging me about the world of yoga at the moment is the focus on yoga as JUST asana and nothing else. I can’t see that all those people who just put asana and more asana out there as yoga can possibly be dealing with any more than a fraction of their inner shit pile. Asana is just the warm up. The serious work comes with the meditation, the chanting, the self-study.

    Om Namah Shivaya! And thanks for an awesome post.

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  10. oops confused the paragraph with what Amanda said.
    But regardless your post sums up all my feelings with these new ager types. All Tibetian bowls and no dharma.

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  11. An amazing and inspiring post! I love your voice, your attitude and your real experience of yoga. I’ve added you to my blogroll so I can get regular doses of inspiration. Thanks for keeping it real!

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  12. I love this post! I quite dislike the om namah shivaya and the om shanti kinds. I though all Americans liked that kind of thing. I am happy I cam across your blog when I was searching for something on KYM.

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  13. Wonderful post on such a true subject. So often yogis are depicted as those who are always and only good. In reality, we have to see the truth beyond duality, but to do that, we have to see the presence of duality itself. This means recognizing that humankind, and each of us, has a dark side. How can we work through to what is beyond us if we do not acknowledge all aspects of ourselves?

    Adding you to my blogroll, Linda! Thanks!

    http://tryingtowake.blogspot.com

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