(originally uploaded by http://www.flickr.com/photos/macchick1/)
I’m leaving the country for eight weeks in 15 days so I’ve been feeling a bit scattered, making my lists and checking them twice. I have to sit down soon and concentrate on writing my dharma talks for Africa — one is an introduction to mindfulness meditation and the other is “Buddha’s Four Foundations of Mindfulness and how they relate to your yoga practice.” Deep. I only have two more classes to teach this week and I won’t teach again until March. The thing is, I’m relieved bordering on glad. I need to fill this vessel with soul food because I’ve been running on empty.
In between jotting down my dharma notes I of course take time to read my fave blogs so here is some food for thought….
the title of Sadiq’s latest post resonated with me: absorbing what we already know. Sadiq wrote:
“What if we took a single lesson and thoroughly absorbed it? Rather than being gluttons for more knowledge, what levels of spirituality might we reach if we remained with only one holy sentence – a single, spiritually potent concept?…
Traveling the mystical path isn’t about learning more or doing more. It’s about absorbing what we already know – a vastly more difficult task.”
“Absorbing what we already know” and when you really think about it, it IS a difficult task. What do I know about yoga and meditation? What people have told me or what I intuitively know in my bones?
Real knowing has nothing to do with accumulated knowledge, borrowed from others, from books, from parents, from teachers. After all his travels and teachings from ascetics the Buddha parked himself underneath a tree and merely watched his breath, nothing more nothing less, and when he opened his eyes he knew. His awakening came from his experiences and when asked what he taught the Buddha said that he taught about suffering and the end of suffering. There comes a time when you know that you know.
Many of you might think of me as the snarky yogini of a certain age, but I can’t even begin to tell you about the doubts I had about teaching in Africa, about whether I can really do this. People are impressed with the yoga celebrity culture nowadays and I am a nobody comparatively speaking — maybe that is why I must leave here to truly fly. There comes a time when you know that you know.
I believe we have to reach a certain point to truly know that less really is more. Reading the post I was reminded of Chogyam Trungpa’s concept of spiritual materialism: we search for so many things that we dig many shallow holes instead of one deep one. Lots of asana practice out there, but not so much sitting. I surely did the same until I knew that doing less gives me so much more.
Fernanda quoted Peter Kupfer on sankalpa, i.e., a firm resolve or intention about putting your dharma into practice…you will have to use the Google translator:
“Sankalpa means resolution…Aims to enhance a positive aspect of personality at a subconscious level.
The sankalpa goes underground, strengthening the structure of the mind and awakening the latent forces that will facilitate the achievement of our goals. Is to activate the positive qualities that exist within us all, but remain locked in the subconscious. This will give a direction more suited to our existence.
We need to do a self-examination to identify our primary need and recall vividly what we want to update and improve. Although sankalpa is made mentally, it starts the heart.”
Swami Sivananda said “just as you require food for the body, so also you require food for the soul in the shape of prayers, japa, kirtan, meditation, etc. The food for the soul is more essential than the food for the body….”
What is your soul’s food? Yoga classes usually take a hit during the holidays, at least in my area, and frankly, I don’t understand why people feel the need to starve themselves during this time and not feed themselves what they need — and I’m not talking about fruitcake, darlings. Then people complain about how much running around they do and how burnt out they get during the holidays. Our lives are created by our choices.
Fernanda wrote that the “End of year is time for renewal, transformation. Time to let the old go and embrace the new. Time to go back inside and rethink what has been done and what will be done going forward.”
Her words made me think of my upcoming travels and how much has changed for me in the past year and yet, very little has changed in essence. I am the same person but this year I’ve let go of so much that did not serve me. Last year at this time I was in such a deep funk that I experienced PTSD and an old addiction raised its ugly head. I mostly kept this to myself, even my friends did not know how depressed I was, but I knew what brought it on. While I was in my funk, I resolved, as Kupfer wrote, to awaken the latent forces that would facilitate the achievement of my goals. At the bottom of that dark well that I dropped myself into I found my sankalpa.
“As you establish your sankalpa depending on your need, we must first see what the need is. To take this course, nothing is better than a good self-analysis, deep and sincere, so as to identify the most striking aspects of personality…Then, the sankalpa is established on the basis of attitudes…Every mistake is a lesson, each winning a deepening of understanding.”
How blind we are to what we really need and how ruled we are by our wants. As a teacher I used to want so much but now I know what I truly need in order to continue teaching.
What do you truly want and need as a yoga teacher? I used to want lots of students in my classes, I assumed that meant I was a “good teacher.” Now I am happy with the two or three private students on any given night where they are content to listen and not necessarily practice. A packed group class means more money but at what cost? When is it legit to quit?
“When teachers become disillusioned with teaching, sometimes it’s about what we are teaching….At other times, our disillusionment has to do with whom we are teaching.”
What and whom are the operative words for me.
I am finding that I like teaching meditation more than teaching asana because I truly believe that people need the former much more than the latter. My yoga classes are infused with mindfulness as much as my personal practice is informed by my vipassana practice. I find it interesting that my own students tell me “we love that you’re here and we are grateful for your teaching, but you need to get out of here.” I wonder what is it about how or what I teach that my own students tell me that I don’t belong here.