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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ahimsa

True to my self-avowal, on Tuesday night I made a decision about which yama to focus on and journal about for the next month (well, two weeks).

Ahimsa

The decision came about after work, when I met my man to see a local band. The band was awesome. They sounded even better than the last time we had heard them play. As we finished our drinks, the next band came on stage, and I was ready to politely listen until I finished my rum and ginger ale. Wouldn't you know, the man loved this band. This band of three people- vocalist, bass player, keyboardist- and a drum machine. This vocalist of extreme energy, vocal stylings ranging from a smooth baritone to rough yelling, and interpretive dancing. As I looked at my partner radiating in enjoyment, I thought "He would like these weirdos."

Aha. I could probably use some gentleness in my life. Not that I was using "weirdo" to be derogatory- I really think embracing the weirdness is a good thing, if not always my thing. But that thought was not far from my usual judgmental thoughts. I started with a nice long journal entry today, in hopes of getting down all the various ways I think this exercise will be helpful and challenging to me, and I'll share my thoughts along the way. Every time I think "this will be the hardest part," I come up with a new "hardest part" that will challenge me. Oh, lifelong learning.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Unbridled

One of my pieces of homework for the month is to pick a yama to focus on, then journal about it. The assignment is proving more difficult than I first imagined.

To explain, the yamas are one of the eight branches of Yogic philosophy. Translated as "restraints" or "bridles," the yamas are five principles that guide us to live in harmony with others. They include gentleness (ahimsa), truthfulness (satya), abundance/non-stealing (asteya), moderation (brahmacharya), and simplicity/non-attachment (aparigraha). As with other life principles, they each have layers of meaning. For example, asteya, or non-stealing, doesn't just mean don't shoplift. It also means don't rob others of their experiences or their words. To an impatient spotlight-lover like myself, it's hard not to finish other people's sentences.

The difficulty I'm having is in picking just one to work on. I mean, the month is half over and I've not started journaling about any of these yet. I'm not indecisive, it's just that in the past two weeks, ALL of these have seemed hard to me. Every day seems to bring a new challenge with my latest job transition, meaning that I've often not had the energy to even be nice to others, much less to focus on being particularly harmonious. Incredibly obvious here is that when the yamas are hardest to practice is probably when you need them the most. And indeed, I'm pretty sure that journaling, meditating, or even just focusing on one of these principles on a daily basis would help me get out of my own head and fuel myself with some positive interaction.

I can at least narrow it down to three, and hopefully make a decision from there. My top contenders are:

  • gentleness (which would include having only kind thoughts toward myself when I don't get my homework done, toward other drivers when they don't use turn signals, and toward the bagger at the grocery store who can't keep cold stuff all together)
  • non-stealing (which would include not robbing my partner of his down time, and not being envious of people who have houses and dogs and their shit together in general)
  • simplicity and non-attachment (which would include valuing memories over souvenirs or heirlooms, and remembering that an extra object, no matter its function, will not make me happier. The story of how I struggled with our exercise in aparigraha during the first weekend is yet to come)
By the end of the day, I'll have my first entry written. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Diversity

As my classmates and I settled into the studio on Friday evening, one of the first things I took note of was the diversity in the room- or lack thereof. Immediately noticeable were the wide range of ages and body types gathered together. Also immediately noticeable? All women (or appearing to be so, at least). While I'm on-board with girl-time and hanging with a bunch of smart, cool, women once a month, I'm still a little sad that there were no stereotype-bashing men signed up for class. Yoga has this rap that it's just for white chicks, but you know who yoga is good for? Bodies. All bodies, any body, every body. Other genders have bodies, too.

I did remind myself, as I made a mental survey of the faces ranged before me, that diversity isn't always visible. Every single person in the room brings their own set of experiences to the group, adding richness to our discussions. Making assumptions about people's lives (present or past) damages everyone, and subtracts richness as group members feel marginalized.

Later in the year, we'll be taking field trips as a class to three different religious sites: a Hindu temple, a Buddhist temple, and a Catholic shrine. Our instructor gave us this information and reiterated that yoga is not a religion, and the intention is not to convert anybody from their chosen faith, but to enrich their faith and allow us to feel the energy (that illusive "it") in each of these spiritual places. I'm really excited for these trips. I have very little knowledge or or contact with Hinduism or Buddhism, and I will be intensely curious about their traditions and rituals. The Catholic shrine is a site I've been meaning to visit for the past two years- set on a hill visible from the interstate, this shrine is all glass and exposed wooden beams. Beyond gorgeous, even from afar.

Gandhi has said that "all religions are true," which I firmly believe as well. Practicing yoga or learning about other religious traditions is not about conversion, but about further understanding. A fellow student shared some insight from a recorded talk Gandhi gave in NYC, where he explained that the religion you choose is right for you. Being accepting of other religions doesn't mean we should all be practicing the exact same one. It means there's room for different expressions of similar understandings. That's definitely something I want to keep exploring in my writing. I have a hard time putting to words the breadth of Truth I believe in. As soon as words come into play, humans put their own meanings to them. If I use the word God or Universe or Mother Nature, a reader can come up with three different pictures, the same picture for each, different pictures with the same meaning. . . and on and on. No wonder each human being is on his or her own journey of understanding- our means of communication are too flawed to carry such expression.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Nine Month Goal

This past weekend, I began what seems to be a nine month process, but will likely be a lifelong journey of learning and growing. I started the process to become certified as a yoga instructor. Before the weekend even started, I was excited for where this certification process could take me personally and professionally, but I also had the feeling that I had thus far only understood the very surface of a deep river. Now that the weekend is over, my professional excitement remains, and my personal excitement has doubled.

I've had the blog on hiatus for a while, unsure what I really wanted to share, what thoughts I had that were important enough for a platform on the world wide web. That internal debate on content will continue, I'm sure, especially considering my recent job transition, which yielded a lifestyle transition, and has thrown me back into the self-reflection cycle. With this new endeavor, however, I think working through my thoughts in writing will help me express myself better as a teacher, understand the yogic philosophy better, and if it helps another person in their exploration of yoga- or of life in general- then huzzah for them.

The writers I admire always espouse writing for yourself first, and the audience will come. Well, this born spotlight-grabber has a hard time with that. I think by focusing on writing about my yoga training for the next few months will also train me to write for my own sake first, and for the sake of my life off-line, and let the online chatter happen or not as it will.