Compassionate Wisdom Blog



No Photo for THIS Blog, Please!

Yeah, that's because modern photography might be the worst thing that ever happened to the yoga tradition. It has turned yoga into an art form. Not that I am opposed to art. But yoga is a spiritual practice. The external benefits that we see with our ocular nerves are merely side effects of the practice. Looking good is not the goal. Feeling good is not even the goal. Doing a pose 'correctly' is not the point. There are as many 'correct' poses as there are posers. Yes, I intended that double-entendre. The real yoga happens on the inside. The sexiness and the physical exercise have become the hallmarks of yoga in the United States. But if these are the things you seek, you are better off in a gym or a salon.

Real yoga is hard work, and does not guarantee feeling good. "Samtosa," one of the niyamas (personal ethical practices) of classical yoga philosophy, is a quality of acceptance. Sometimes things are not so good. It's a fact of life. Yoga is not a magical panacea for all that ails you. It is, however, a good way to get honest with yourself if you really embrace the essence of yoga. "Satya," the quality of honesty, is one of the yamas, or social ethical practices of classical yoga philosophy.

Indeed, the five Yamas and five Niyamas bear a striking resemblance to the Ten Commandments of the Judaeo-Christian cultural tradition...but that's another blog topic. For now, I invite you to let go of what you think "yoga" should look like on the outside and consider that the real transformation takes place inside the body-mind.

 

Reiki and the Wisdom of the Wizard of Oz

Scarecrow believed he was brainless. Maybe somebody told him that. Maybe not.

What exactly was the transformative power that the wizard conferred upon the Scarecrow or the Lion? Some may see his gesture of handing over a diploma and a medal as making light of formal education or of social ranking. Here's how I see it:  Human beings are social creatures, and as part of that every one of us not only wants, but needs, acknowledgment of who we are in the context of a community. We need to be seen and heard. Darshan. No, the wizard was not just patronizing his subjects, he was acknowledging the truth of who they are. 

The thing is, even though we each have our own inner authority, we are also interdependent, inter-beings (thanks, Thich Nhat Hahn).  No matter how self-confident a person it is, it generally still feels pretty darned good when someone else sees us, 'gets' us, and we know they've really seen us. Namasté is a word that tries to sum up what the wizard was doing when he doled out the goods. That same goodness in you, it's in me, too. And, Peek-a-boo, I see you!  That feeling of connectedness, it's what a meditative practice cultivates, a reminder of our true nature.

In the Reiki tradition, students are offered attunements. Attunements are much like the gifts the wizard offered. They are simply a way for a teacher to acknowledge a student for the healer that she or he truly is, her or his true nature. That simple gesture packs a powerful punch. Attunements can be likened to the journey Dorothy had to take in order to recognize the she had the power to go home all along. She just needed a reminder. The power was not really in the shoes, it was in the wearer.

Yoga, too, is a path of remembering our true nature, our innate power that does not come from sweating through a 90 minute workout, but from acknowledging the preciousness of our own life force (Reiki, Prana). And recognizing that same life force in all beings, past, present and future!

 

Quiet, Please!

In 2012, I learned to embrace the part of me that is a 'textbook' introvert. In Quiet by Susan Cain, I found comfort in knowing that I am not abnormal in my desire for solitude and silence. The book is well-written, and contains lots of support, not only in the form of personal anecdotes, but also in extensive research from psychology to neuroscience. This book not only helped me to understand myself a little better, it also gave me a new understanding of, and thereby compassion for, the whole of humanity, which includes me! 

I highly recommend this book to EVERYONE, whether you identify as introvert or extrovert or some of both (as most of us are, with strong preferences for one end of the spectrum), who wants to get along better with themselves and others. Thank you, Susan Cain!

Yoga IS Meditation

I'm tired of being called a teacher of yoga and meditation. Yoga IS meditation!

It seems that in recent years, yoga has been decoupled from its meditative foundation, which is, of course, antithetical to "yoga."

Yoga means 'union,' so if we treat meditation as something separate, it is no longer yoga. And yet, fitness studios all over the world seem to have been convinced somehow that asana practice equals yoga. True, asana can be practiced meditatively. But how often is that the case, when there is music playing and students are cued to move rapidly from one pose to the next in a so-called flow? "Vinyasa" is not the same as choreography, although sometimes they resemble each other.

Teaching

Simple is not easy. Teaching is neither simple nor easy. Just because a person is an expert in some area does not mean that person is also a good teacher. And just because a person is good at something does not mean that person must pursue it further. Being a teacher of yoga is not necessarily the pinnacle of yoga practice. The ability to master complex asanas does not necessarily translate into being a good teacher.

What makes a good teacher of anything? First of all, one cannot teach what one doesn't know. But it takes more than knowledge. Good teachers must also have integrity and authenticity to mentor others in the discipline. Parker Palmer wrote that
we don't just teach what we know, we also teach who we are. The yoga tradition is a powerful path to discovering the true self. Then why aren't all yogis teachers? If one is true to one's self, then the yogi is already a teacher.