Of late, the Tuesday evening and Saturday yoga classes have lost a committed, robust attendance. To put it plain, they appear to be “failing” One to two attendees remain. The schedule shows plenty of late cancels and a few classes no one signed up for at all. The Monday and Wednesday, Sunday classes are chugging along, with the regulars pretty much making and keeping their commitment to themselves and their community.
Why are the yoga classes languishing while the Practice for Injury and Pain classes are thriving?
I’ve had this conversation with students, and my mentor, even my husband. We postulate many theories:
“The posture is a mirror to help you see something. So, people tend to think of asana as some kind of external thing, but it's not at all.” – Gary Kraftsow in conversation with Georg Feuerstein
“सत् sát : that which really is, entity or existence, essence, the true being or really existent."
To be honest, there is no one agreed upon meaning of yoga. Even if you look up the Sanskrit, or ask a master teacher, go read The Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavatgita, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras or The Hatha Yoga Pradipika; depending upon which text and who translated them, the “What Is Yoga” will be different.
What is the failure? The failure is I have simply smiled and welcomed you to class, asking if you have yoga experience and leave it at that. The failure is I don’t communicate to you as you try out Aspiration Community Yoga that the poses and breathing are methods for your awareness of This-Now. The failure is you come to yoga because you believe it might help, but you don’t come to be aware of This-Now. And you it needs to be convenient, when you aren’t busy.
Where’s the deception? We are vague with each other. When you show up at yoga class saying, “I heard this will help me feel better”, neither of us clarify what doesn’t feel good or your concept of “feel better” entails or the timeline you envision. I do not disclose, “I will design a program for you to experience This-Now and you will ‘feel’ different when you are aware of it.” I don’t even ask if you want that. Because you want your hip or your shoulder to stop hurting and that’s a clear and easy goal, no matter your priorities.
[Martin Buber] was lecturing at Columbia and I raised my hand and said, "There's a word being used here this evening that I don't understand. He said, "What's the word? I said, "God" You don't understand what God means?" he replied. I said, "I don't know what you mean by God.” - Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That, p 60.
And so, as Burmese meditation master Sayadaw U Pandita instructed, “Begin Again”. I want to ask you the awkward, no-short-answer-question, “What do you mean by Yoga?” You may be flustered at my question. Don’t I know what Yoga means? After all, my bio states I was trained within the lineage of a particular yoga school starting in 2002. But I don’t know what YOU mean by yoga. By understanding each other, you may make a more informed choice whether my offering best matches your search.
WHEREAS I did not desire in childhood to be a part of this
I thought if I was diligent, consistent and hardworking enough I would be chosen. I thought if I was loyal and friendly, I would be included. I thought I could make myself worthy to those I esteemed. But I often heard from family and society “Who do you think you are, one of us? You are not, you do not fit in.” They didn’t want me to be a part of, leading me to self-doubt. Doubt, the third in the trifecta of grasping, fear and doubt.
I have known since I can remember I belong here, of this earth, of this forest, of this city. But relationships of family and society have been transactional. The earth, forest and city welcomed and held me without fail, without a price to pay, as I am, however I am.
Siddhartha resisted every temptation Mara could devise. The lord of desire had one final test. He demanded to know who would testify that Siddhartha was worthy of attaining ultimate wisdom. And his demon army rose up to support him. Siddhartha said nothing. He reached down and touched the ground, and the earth shuddered. Mara’s demons fled.
The cataclysmic realization of the past month- a month of loss and grief- was a deep understanding of belonging. I have never been able to earn belonging. Belonging means “to constitute a part of something; (also) to come from, originate in” (Oxford English Dictionary). Waking early one morning, brain again reflecting on the events of recent weeks, I may finally have gained the wisdom, the deep inner knowing that worthiness does not require the currency of proof.
Palmer Joss: Did you love your father?
How did I know? Because I had been wanted- without reservation - by my dogs and my husband. Together, in each of those relations, I had been a part that made a whole. Within that whole I didn’t want to be wanted, didn’t cling to fear or doubt what or who I am. Over the past month I have felt the earth’s gravity claiming me its own. I have reached my hand to the floor of the practice room, touching the Vast One that she will again claim me her own. My husband, across from me as I sobbed, firmly telling me, “You are worthy”. This time, I didn’t ask him to prove it. I didn’t doubt him. I knew he spoke the truth.
You belong somewhere you feel free” – Tom Petty, Wildflowers
The Five Remembrances:
The Five Invitations:
1. Don’t wait.
2. Welcome everything, push away nothing.
3. Bring your whole self to the experience.
4. Find a place of rest in the middle of things.
5. Cultivate ‘don’t know’ mind.
Frank Ostaseski, The Five Invitations; Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully
The teachings are for the purpose of giving us the right understanding. If we don’t understand rightly, then we can’t arrive at peace.
Waiting to return to the veterinary hospital, the only thing on my mind was an intense drive to pour through 17 years of photographs. Annie and her “brother” Max, John’s son, John and myself. All the adventures and non-adventures of daily life. Photographs triggering sensory impressions stored in my tissues of our lives’ story. Grounding my heart to the truth: I had worked hard to be the dog mom Annie deserved.
She became obsessed with eating, hunting for any bone in the bushes on our short walks around the neighborhood. I had been afraid for years she would eat something on a walk that either would poison her or asphyxiate her. In the end she died from eating a bone that became caught between her stomach and duodenum. I did my best to protect her all these years but could not prevent the last couple of days of her life in a kennel at the veterinary ICU.
Absolutely everything in this universe is subject to change. Coming home without Annie there, waking up without Annie there, I feel so much sorrow. It is a un-ignorable reminder the practice is to be intimate with the nature of the universe.
Practice is intimacy; life and death are intimate”