Passing Fancies & Becoming a Super Yogi

Unknown-2My life is filled with passing fancies.

When I wrote about my client Margaret and her experiences piloting military aircraft in World War II, I immersed myself so deeply in the history of the Women Airforce Service Pilots that I took my acrophobic self on a twenty minute flight in an open cockpit Stearman biplane. I remember waking up pre-dawn to write a fictional account of her story. I did that until I reached 180,000 words (give or take a few) and then moved on. Her story remains in a box under my bookshelf.

When I wanted to know everything I could know about anatomy for the yogi I took the journey all the way to Gil Hedley’s cadaver lab. I was cocky enough to consider myself more informed than the average yoga teacher on all things regarding attachments, insertions and bony prominences. I was wrong.

I’m telling you this because then I met Louis Jackson. Louis is a senior teacher at Samyama Yoga Center. He also is an integral part of our Dharma Path Teacher Training and co-teaches with John Berg our landmark course in beginning yoga, Building the Temple. When Louis found yoga, it wasn’t a passing fancy. That’s true for most teachers, of course, but Louis’s yogic path has risen so high and so far that he has become one of a handful of gifted and genuine master teachers I’ve met in thirty years of practice. I feel sometimes that while I skim the surface, Louis dives deep.

He would disagree, of course, but in my mind humility is the touchstone that keeps us learning and growing. Louis is a powerful and humble teacher.

This video is proof. Shot by the gifted Devin Begley, Louis takes two minutes to describe the beauty of the breath and gorgeousness of that marvelous dome of muscle we call the diaphragm.

Want to learn something new today?

Lists, Love and Equilibrium

At last, the dust seems to be settling.  How do I know?  I made a list.  This seems like a silly indicator that equilibrium is coming home to roost.  But I am the self-proclaimed Mother of All List Makers. My last impressive list was created in the middle of January from the Embarcadero Hyatt when, disillusioned by the Yoga Journal Conference, I hid out in my hotel room for the weekend and pretended I was on a writer’s retreat. Before that I had my list of New Year’s Resolutions.  And before that it was Fifty Things to Accomplish in My Fiftieth Year (that one began three years ago – I’m still working on it).

Lists are about control.  They make me feel safe.  If I have my list I know where I am supposed to be.  I know where I am going.  Nothing can hurt me or distract me or pull me from my path.  I have my list.  Here’s my list for today:

Monday 11 April

  • 6:00 Rise: Shower, eat, feed Rose & Bella, walk Rose, meditate, post blog
  • 9:00:  Tom in Sunnyvale; d/o new clothes and stuff at home
  • Leave car at Sarah’s (walk)
  • Credit Union
  • 11:00:  FMG
  • Lunch
  • 1:00:  Avenidas
  • Sarah’s:  Rest, write, walk Rose; flowers for Bobbie & Harkins
  • 7:30:  Yin
  • TO DO:  contact Ann re. workshop; follow through on lost paycheck, poop scoop,  look at Abby’s letters from week 4, check submissions, think about query letter for cadaver workshop, drop off envelopes at CYC

It’s very routine.  Nothing exciting.  And it continues to Sunday, when I leave for San Francisco and my weeklong cadaver intensive with Gil Hedley.  The most exciting moment is when I break from my Wednesday evening tradition (staying at home) in order to leave the house for a home cooked dinner with Bettie, Richard and Dena.

This week’s list reminds me of an incident that happened about eight years ago.  I was going though another difficult time and decided I needed to talk with someone.  At my first meeting with a therapist, I brought The Ultimate List. I was so proud.  It proved I really wasn’t troubled.  It proved I had my act together.  The list was eight pages of 10-point single-spaced Helvetica and covered the next five years of my life.  I can still see the astonishment behind the therapist’s attempt to remain neutral. She looked at me and asked,

“Why do you feel you need a list?”

Wasn’t it obvious?

I didn’t remain in therapy for very long – eight years ago there were too many doors I was unwilling to open and the ability to bore cyberspace with musings on some wacky thing called a ‘blog’ was merely a twinkle in some geek’s eye.

We all experience periods of difficulty (even yoga teachers).  The goal, I suppose, is to remain functional while processing the events in our lives that have knocked us off-center.  Lists keep me functional.

The danger is that they can shut us down.  Put us in a box. Lists can create a life so ordered and precise that there is no room for an open heart.  For love and joy.  For connection.

I want love and connection.  But for now, what I need is the safety of my list.

My yoga practice this week will nurture the equilibrium I’m returning to.  There will be plenty of balance poses – including my favorite, Garudasana – and strong standing sequences.  I feel I need the grounding precision of an alignment-based practice this week.  I also need to comfort my heart, and for that I’ll turn to the organic fluidity of Yin.

When you step on your mat this week, take a moment to check in with your emotional state.  If you’re leaning too far to one side, how can your practice help bring you back to center?