Sunday, November 21, 2010

Is getting to your roots getting in the way of your yoga?

Many of us find it an interesting & enriching process to study our family tree. We enjoy tracing our roots back as close to the source as we can. We get into our Irish-ness or Italian-ness or other-ness by practicing various traditions, purchasing cultural items or cooking traditional recipes. It helps us to feel more connected to our families, and to others of the same background. How can such a connecting practice limit us in regards to yoga and spiritual progress?
In and of itself, the sense of connectivity derived from studying our geneology isn't detrimental. That is, as long as we are mindful not to allow it to limit us. How would it limit us? If we begin to identify with our blood heritage, we may become too attached to it as a label, a limiting concept of "who we are". This can trap us in all sorts of limited ideas of what we can or can't do, what we are supposed to look like, act like, and so on.
In addition, while helping us to feel more connected to others, it creates a seperation between us and others of different roots. This is the same for all labels we may identify with and falsely take our sense of self from, mistaking them for some sort of permanent and abiding situation. Rich, poor, Jewish, Christian, pagan, male, female, artist, secretary, librarian, gay, straight, vegan, meat-eater, American, French; the more we repeat these labels to ourselves, the more entrenched in concepts we become.
Granted, rarely do people change genders, and we can't change our blood heritage. Yet, most labels can & will change over time as we grow. Spirituality may or may not change, but at least hopefully evolves. Labels can feed the ego by creating a false-sense of conflict, fragmentation and a false-self that is thought of as seperate from others. How do we deal with this in a yogic sense?
It is good to understand & learn about your family heritage, if it interests you. But watch that you don't develop a sense of judgement or seperation from others. Watch that you don't judge traditions as right or wrong, better or lesser.
Also, reflect on other pieces of your experience, such as spiritual lineage. The majority of the world can trace its spiritual heritage to the Middle East or Asia. As you study, keep an open mind & again watch out for any judgements of value.
As we try to trace our roots back to our source we can keep the ego in check by putting it all into a broader perspective. We can look at ourselves as a member of the human family. We can see the oneness in our smiles, tears, pain, and love. We can see that we are mammals, and contemplate our connection to all other mammals. We can look at ourselves as animals, and see our similarities as members of the animal kingdom. We could look at ourselves as earthlings- members of planet Earth, along with the other animals, trees, plants, rocks, and tiny, tiny creatures.
The majority of the world's people believe in one Source of life, one Universal Creative Intelligence. Can we accept that no one type of people has a monopoly on This? Can we believe that we all can connect in our own distinct way? In this way maybe we can enjoy our uniqueness & diversity, and at the same time see ourselves, and all of creation, as part of the same whole?
That is the ultimate goal of yoga. Union, oneness, universal perspective. So, from the yogic perspective, enjoy what you enjoy, but be on the lookout for any practice or concept that fosters the sense of seperateness within you. That false sense of seperation is the root of all craving & suffering.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Natural Yogis

Many people have shared with me over the years ways in which their draw to yoga and meditation was foreshadowed, especially in childhood.
I recall watching cartoons in my own special version of headstand, using the center of the couch, with my feet on the wall. I also had a great shoulderstand/fish variation: legs up the wall, back on the couch cushion and head hanging just over the edge of the cushion. during a few Summers, us kids tried to perfect handstand in the pool. I hear stories of similar "accidental" yoga poses all the time.
Many also have similar stories of meditative awareness arising in odd places, entering into a flow state while working in a fast-food drive thru, for example. Slipping into a meditative flow while cleaning the house or cooking is actually pretty common.
Babies naturally move into mudra-asanas. Young ones move into variations bound angle, tree, bridge, double-leg stretch & of course happy baby. Older babies find upward facing dog, down dog, cross-legged pose, chair and more.
The truth is that yoga, that is to say union with the present moment, is a natural state of being. Yoga is universal. Yoga is what we are, without all of the man-made stress & pretense. Yoga is what nature is in all her perfection.
Poses in yoga practice are ways of directing the flow of energy to bring health to the body, relax the mind and remove obstacles in the way of our natural state of yoga. They naturally feel good, so its not surprizing that children find them the way they do.
Present moment awareness is access to the depth of Life. The more we are present, the more we strengthen our ability to be present. It's no wonder that once we engage in regular yoga practice our mind begins to connect all of the instances where we touched that state of being.
Yoga is our natural state of being. The present moment is our home. We are all born as natural yogis.

Friday, November 12, 2010

And Enlighten yoga + community center is born

After 4 years in Amsterdam as Natural Method Yoga Studio, we are ready to grow. It is beyond just one person's offerings now. I have learned the true power of community, and that one person cannot create community alone.

A group becomes community by joining in striving for common goals and believing in the basic value + goodness of others. Let's join together to create the kind of world that we wish to see- kind, creative cooperative, healthy and happy. Let us model a heathy & compassionate lifestyle for the next generation to follow. It is every individuals responsibility to be the kind of neighbor they want to have, to be the example of what they want to see in others. In this way we slowly create a new world, the kind we had hoped for.

To this end , we have been evolving into a yoga AND community center. Lots of experience, input and inspiration has led to these changes. I believe that this is the start of something bigger and more beautiful than we could've imagined. That is how life unfolds when you don't fight it!

In the last several months we painted the studio. Now, in the next week, our new website, will be launched. We are welcoming a second yoga instructor on board. And we are going to do some beautiful construction: shelves, a bench outside, and some other littler improvements. We will aquire a few more props, and a couple other nice upgrades.

We are also offering some groups/clubs starting in the new year: so far we are forming a La Leche League group, a universal spiritual meditaton group, a meditative drum circle and we plan to hold a potluck once every season for the whole yoga community to come out, share, talk, relate, and inspire each other. This potluck will also be a time for people who are interested in trying yoga to check out the space and ask questions. It will also be a chance for local vegans to meet, and for folks to ask questions about veganism as well. Certainly, one needn't be vegan to attend.

We also aim in the next two years to increase our children's offerings, including some different classes and an Art + Yoga workshop. We also will add some personal exploration based art workshops.

We hope to host more events such as poetry readings and special speakers as well. We want to host more groups/clubs that benefit the community, so if you have an idea, please let me know! That is how strong community is created- speak up & take action to realize the kind of Amsterdam you wish to see!

The next year will see these changes, one after another manifested at our studio. Please support us through your regular attendance of one or two classes weekly. If you'd like to see us realize these canges sooner, please consider donating to our Transformation Fund when you are at the studio. What's most important is your attendance of yoga classes, both for your benefit & the entire community!

I am grateful to be part of this community! I am excited to see how it grows! Namaste!