I’m A Yoga Teacher And I Still Need Help In Class. [context]
Once you’ve gone through your 200 hour yoga teacher training, your hardcore anatomy, paid your insurance and RYT fees, you sometimes begin to feel like you Should Know Stuff, that you should be in advanced classes, that your ability to demonstrate xyz poses are crucial to your success as a teacher.
The best YTT lesson I ever received was that your RYT certs were a jumping off point. The first long form (Chen Ch’eng) students learn in Matthew‘s kung fu lineage loosely translates to “The Dance of Sincerity.” Learning its ninety or so movements, stances and techniques is a statement of intention. An RYT program is a statement of intent to be a good teacher, which is often best accomplished by being skillfully vulnerable, admitting when you do not have an answer, and accepting help with grace. It’s a journey that will end when–with equal parts effort and ease–life leaves my body.
Thank you Octavia Raheem, and thank you friend Gina Minyard: you remind me from afar.
Often, I hear older people complain that today’s youth and young adults are unwilling to work within established organizations, that they’re forcing donors to choose who they fund by creating new organizations… There’s a young person who’s created a model for cleaning the plastic from our oceans. A fourteen year old Taylor Wilson built a fusion reactor in his garage. Elizabeth Holmes dropped out of college to found a company that has just turned phlebotomy/blood test protocols on its ear.
How many modern org charts would nurture these minds? How many would tell them their ideas were too big, to start smaller, to work in how-it’s-been-done for a few years, and then they could talk about their big idea?
People defaced the state of civil rights hero James Meredith last week. Many people had a whole bunch of valid things to say about it, but it’s often the same old song and dance. Someone inevitably starts sounding like FuckTheSouth.com. I am a blue heart in a red state, and this only pisses us off. Please do not distract us from our work for equality, justice and unity. We have enough detractors on the ground.
There are people here in Mississippi who fight the good fight, some who have lived here since before James Meredith became an Ole Miss student. I have met civil rights activists who endured horrific indignities to their souls at the hands of their government and neighbors. Instead of fleeing, they–with more courage and integrity than I have ever possessed in my life–stayed to fight tooth and nail to nudge Mississippi forward.
Faulkner (or Willie Morris… depending on whose story is best for the occasion) said you had to first understand Mississippi in order to understand the world. I don’t understand it tonight, and sometimes I think I never will. Sometimes, it’s scary to advocate for equality, agency, progress in Mississippi. Sometimes you feel like nothing you ever do will scab over the pain we inflict upon one another. Please don’t pile hate upon hate.
Sacred Flame and Holy Well
Poet’s Word and Hammerfell
I step into the fire with my heart in my hands
Reforged in the Light of the World.
It’s well documented that depression reigns in this time of the year. Not only does the darkness take a physical toll upon our bodies, but our environment is dropping leaves, stripping to the bark. Many of us struggle to get out of bed, feeling our connection to the earth and her rhythms. Others barrel into the busyness of the holidays, the garish blur of tinsel, royal icing and lights a distraction from the current of the year. If you become quiet, you can hear the message so much of Western society tries to ignore.
I know that’s not the tidings of the season you expect to hear, but it is what the season teaches us… that we must learn to navigate fallow periods with dignity; that we must sleep deeply to awaken with glittering intensity; that we must be still to see the knowledge lying in the depths of our being. The peaks and valleys of the year test us: we willfully immerse in Midsummer’s flame, to be quenched and tempered in the darkest days, and brought to bear on the year before us. We are instruments, our whole beings aching to ignite in the glimmer of sunrise on the darkest day. It is the promise of brighter days, new adventures, fresh awareness.
Over the last half of the year, we have built a small, but strong community: in the marrows of the year, let us come together in covenant to honor the dark and together, cup our hands to shield the flickering of hope.
hands in flame
When I lost my mother in 1997, I felt I’d lost the well from whence I’d sprung. More and more, her friends tell me I remind them of her, how they see her face in mine, how my words hold her steel…
It’s enough to give someone a crisis of identity, or at least question nature versus nurture. I am no braggart here: she was extraordinary, and I am very much her daughter. It’s difficult to be the remaining glimmer of her work, to burn bright enough to fill that shadow for some who knew her. I was deeply connected to her when she took her last breath on an appallingly beautiful April Fool’s Day: she slid free, laughing. I think in that final moment, the dying discover something we cannot know. I’m in no hurry, but since I was 24 years old, I’ve wondered what was so &*^@*&*$^@* funny.
Knowing my mother as a person instead of an idealized SuperMom has been an important part of my work. Eudora Welty, Sly Matron Saint of Jackson, warned me to never miss the connotation of a thing because you love it. Over the years, I’ve learned amazing things about my mother. I’ve studied her work like a scholar. In a turn of miraculously nutty events, my cousin married into the family of my Mom’s high school friend. I have so many new stories of a naughty scamp of a woman who would one day become my mother. I am deeply grateful for these chances to see these glimpses of my mother before she joined the Mighty Dead.
Deep calls to Deep, Blood calls to Blood… this time of year speaks to ties forged in DNA, in the family we choose, and in the work that inspires, invigorates and influences our lives. Whose life, whose memory, whose influence wraps around you like a mantle in the darkening of the year? Whose heartbeat do you hear across the veil, echoed in the thrum of your veins?
Photo by Benjamin Random
noun: equilibrium; plural noun: equilibria
1. a state in which opposing forces or influences are balanced.
We are a culture afraid of stillness. We move so quickly, as if our lives should compete with a 24-hour news cycle. Eating on the run, pot-watching, compulsive checks of the time and social media, burning our candles at both ends. We often don’t even enjoy ourselves wholeheartedly, our minds on work, relationships, or stressful forces in our lives that disrupt our equilibrium.
I do not judge. I fall prey to this busyness often. (more…)
I’m a fat yoga teacher. No excuses, no apologies… a real, full-time fatty who teaches yoga. I’ve had people leave because they didn’t think they could learn from me. I’ve also had people stick around and say what I taught was unexpected, and how much they got out of it. I have a lot of tricks and tips from living with a debilitating, progressive autoimmune condition. I do not have another single second to waste hating my body. I am really freaking happy when I get up and my ankles work. Really. I enjoy handstands and backbends, but it’s stuff like being limber enough today to type this message that gives me pause and deep gratitude for my breath, for the times I can touch the floor, for the thousand small miracles that happen in the minutia of my daily life.
I’ve gotten a lot of officious people off the street, in my classes, who feel it’s their right and obligation to come up to me and tell me there are WAYS of getting rid of my weight. What I’d rather be rid of was their projected judgment, sanctimony, and amazed wonder.
In a community that professes fierce love of your body, we still see students and teachers AMAZED that a fat person could be joyously embodied, be present, and have a beautiful practice. We see a lot of value placed on their “success stories,” where they have lost half themselves and become yoga teachers to share their joy. We undertake ridiculous experiments and pat ourselves on the back for the bravery of “career suicide” to “understand fat bodies,” when all you need is to respectfully use your training, curiosity and a sense of human decency. A fat student can tell you through posture that their belly is impeding their forward fold. A manual self adjustment (lifting from pelvic creases upward) could CHANGE THEIR LIVES, and your expectations. Teach that adjustment as an exploration of extreme Uddhiyana Bandha and you’ll teach anyone with a belly how to be a better steward to their practice without singling them out.
Watch your students. If you’re really curious, offer someone who needs a lot of in-class adjustments a free private lesson and allow both of you to teach the other. It will be more priceless than rubies to both of you.
“Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn’t matter. Ours is no caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come.”
This is one of the things I love best about the Unitarian Universalism: that every seeker, every gypsy—everyone is joyously welcome.
We don’t often sing the part about oath-breaking, but they did at 2013′s UU General Assembly. In many pagan traditions, Oath-Breaker is considered one of the worst epithets to be leveled at a practitioner.
Is it better, right, more enlightened to keep an Oath for oath’s sake? I imagine each one of us has a different answer.
I have consciously, conspicuously become an oath-breaker. (more…)
Mykl Roventine via Flickr/Creative Commons
I keep a regular sitting practice. This means that at least once a day, and as often as possible, I sit and surrender fully to the whirlwind that is my life. I don’t try to fight the to-do list, the inevitable tumbleweed of pet fur, the idea that after several years I should somehow be better at this, or any other sort of thought. If you’ve never done this before, allow me to give you a wealth of advice in two sentences.
- Your brain is filled with restless monkeys bent toward mischief.
- The goal of meditation is not to quell the monkey rebellion, but to learn to find peace and quietude anyway.
Last night, I meditated while a tiny dog rooted his head under my hands, playfully nipped mudra, stood on my leg to put his toes and chin upon my heart, and finally, exhausted, sat upon my stacked feet.
Monkey Mind, Meet Tiny Mo, the Dyna-Mo (more…)