musical monday

My regular readers may have noticed that I haven’t written much lately about yoga, Buddhism, Tibet, or social action, the subjects that are near and dear to my heart. For whatever reason as 2007 draws to a close, I find myself pre-occupied with other things: my impending trip to India, a medical procedure I will have next week, and teaching at a new yoga studio. but the drama never ends at the studio where I used to teach.

Another teacher quit last week for the same reason I left — the alcoholic dysfunction of the owner. It so happens that the teacher who quit was the only teacher who supported me when I had my confrontation with the owner in September. it had come to her attention that the owner yet again had taught her class in, shall we say, a less than functional state, and my friend decided, enough is enough, that she could not continue teaching at a studio that is based on lies and delusions and the denial and complicity of the other teachers.

as the saying goes, all things happen for a reason. I am enjoying teaching at the new yoga studio. I live in a suburban area about 45 miles outside of Chicago — think of the stereotypes about “white bread suburbia” and that pretty much sums up where I live. But all I have to do is drive 15 minutes and I’m in the middle of corn and soybean fields, and in another 20 minutes the landscape is dotted with farms and stables and farm tractor companies. I prefer that environment much more but we live where we do so The Husband can have a quasi-sane drive to his office.

The location of the new yoga studio can be called rural small town which happens to be right next door to a small university town. So the vibe and the mindsets of the students are immediately different. For one, they are appreciative of whatever style of yoga is taught at the studio, it’s yoga for the sake of yoga. There is no yoga snobbery. There is no sense of entitlement as the students had in white bread suburbia where Tyler and Tiffany are bought a brand new Hummer for their 16th birthdays. The students don’t come in the latest yoga clothes with the hand-painted chakras, endorsed by Seane Corn, don’t cha know — many come in sweat pants and baggy T-shirts.

So I am grateful to teach in this environment and am humbled by the response to my teaching. I did a second yin yoga workshop yesterday that had over 20 students and because the first two workshops were so popular, the owner asked me to do another one in two weeks. Twelve students signed up for it immediately after yesterday’s workshop.

Maybe humbled is too mild a word — blown away would be more accurate. One of my students who studied with me at the other studio lives in this town and has just gotten a job with the local paper as a free-lance writer on fitness. She gets paid $20 an article — I told you it was small town — but she is happy for it because as she says, it pays for a yoga class. She wrote a story about my first workshop that was entitled “Local Yoga Enthusiasts Thrilled as Popular Instructor Comes to Town.” She gave me a copy of the article yesterday and I got all choked up. really. wow. I felt like Shiva Rea. But you’ll never see a picture of me with my hair blowing in the wind.

Yup, all things happen for a reason.

another kick in the yoga butt

“Actually, Sama, if you understood the extraordinary gifts every single challenge in your life makes possible, even inevitable, you’d celebrate your challenges, new and old alike, as the omens that they are of new beginnings, spectacular change, and enhanced super-powers.

Perfect for where you are, huh?
The Universe

I get daily emails from the Universe…yes, really, THE Universe. You can get your own, too, just visit the Universe’s website! The one above is what I received today and I consider it serendipitous considering what I’ve been experiencing lately.

My regular readers know that before I left for my retreat I left the yoga studio where I was teaching. I got tired of the owner walking into my classes drunk. I was going to blog about the whole situation but decided against it. I wrote about her alcoholism earlier this year after she walked in 20 minutes late to a workshop I was teaching, drunk and disturbing everyone with her loud sighs and sobs. I wrote how two other teachers and I attempted an intervention with her the next day, showing up at the end of her last class — which she had taught, once again, drunk. Needless to say, the intervention failed miserably. However, I deleted that post. She had a few links to this blog and I felt that if she chanced upon that post (although of course no names were mentioned) it would hurt her terribly and I did not want to do that.

Fast forward to a month ago. She walked into another class, drunk, when my students were in savasana. I told the three other instructors who were involved in the original intervention, telling them in no uncertain terms how I felt, that I had had enough. I went to the studio two days later to talk to her about it after one of her classes when students are gone. I was met with more lies, accusations, and denials. That was it for me. Gone. Finished. Locked out.

Since that time I’ve been dealing with lots of rage about the situation. Not rage about her alcoholism, but about the lies, deceptions, and manipulations that the studio is built upon. Rage about being abandoned for telling the truth. Rage that out of all the teachers — most of whom knew about her addiction before I did — only one supported me and defended me to her. All the others kept their mouths shut, even two who were involved in the intervention. The phrase “yoga community” makes me gag right now. As all our emotions manifest themselves in our bodies, I felt my rage settle into my body.

I went to the retreat feeling as if my body was a toxic landfill. Thank goodness we meditated for hours every day because the meditation began to chip away at the sludge. Thank goodness we did metta — loving-kindness — meditation. But after my return I still felt as if I had been abused. And those of you who live with an addict in your life know what I’m talking about. Until they own their addiction, they have to protect at all costs their right to drink.

I AM feeling the rage less and less, bits and pieces are falling away every day, a pebble here, a boulder there. It is still there, but the fire is slowly dying out. And then I got this email from a friend, who is also one of my students:

“I received (a quote) in my email that made me think of you:

‘I always say that there’s a kind of implicit mindfulness and wisdom in metta practice. The very process of letting go of a distraction implies in some way seeing its transparency, not freaking out over it, not being angry about it, not getting involved with it, not identifying with it. You may not consciously say to yourself, “Oh, look, this moment is changing,” but you can’t let go of the distraction unless you are actually seeing that. You would be trying to push it away from anger rather than actually letting go. So to do the metta practice, you actually bring forth that level of wisdom.’ — Sharon Salzberg, in Spirit Rock Meditation Center Newsletter, 1997 from Everyday Mind.

It was no irony that the quote came from Spirit Rock, where I had just been.

He continued:

“I know that you are angry & not yourself…. please look at it as an opportunity. not to be trite, but from my outside position I feel like it happened for a reason. don’t close down, don’t push people away, don’t let hubris take over, and don’t dwell on it.

you were obviously meant to teach somewhere else. focus & figure it out. you have a lot to teach & my joints are not so juicy. and please keep on writing about your retreat – like the buddha who chose to stay & teach after attaining enlightenment. the worst thing that you could do is not share it & not help guide the rest of us.”

As it has turned out, I will begin doing workshops (and maybe teach) at another studio. I already teach out of my house on Saturday mornings but I am adding one more night for the students who supported me and who don’t want to return to the studio. As for writing about the retreat, my next post will be about the asana aspect.

Through all this I also found out who my true friends are for which I am eternally grateful. You know who you are.