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Reflection

from a seeker who inspires further seeking

Posts in On the Mat—Into Life
Brave Space

Last week I listened to an On Being conversation with Jennifer Bailey and Lennon Flowers—millennials who created The People’s Supper, which uses the proverbial dinner table to build connection across “identities and ideological differences” (inspired by the 2016 election). This bridge-building initiative “was founded on the theory of change that relationships move at the speed of trust, and social change moves at the speed of relationships.” 

The wheels started churning in my head when Jennifer and Lennon offered an invitation not to create safe space but, rather, brave space. I sensed the potential application to yoga could transform:

  • my relationship with my responsibility as a yoga teacher;

  • how we gather together around the farm table; and

  • my commitment to what needs healing—within and without.

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Communion at the Edge

In Pico Iyer’s interview he talks about the notion of “right absorption” and how it is, as Krista Tippett explains, “a discipline and maybe even a necessity for all of us in whatever kind of life we lead.” Pico goes on to share his love of the word “absorption” and thinks it could even be his definition of happiness. On the yogic path, there is a soaking and absorption that we cultivate known as samapatti (according to Patanjali). It it through samapatti that we both lose our constructed self and find our true self—we recognize that our outer lives are only as beautiful as our inner lives, as our capacity to connect to our true self.

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Returning

The ability to return, while also beginning again, is a promise many of us hold onto, perhaps without even realizing—perhaps most basically because our subtler rhythms cycle and spiral in ways that encourage both memory and transmutation. The process of returning requires the same vulnerability that supports us to take in what is (seemingly) outside of us on each breath. But what happens when we cannot let the external world in? What if we are no longer willing to try again? What if our breath tide and heart beat have become pedantic?

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Eclipsed to Change

It is inevitable that at some point within this practice, along this path, we will get stuck. Sometimes stillness is stuck-ness in disguise (our forced attempts to ironically not force). Other times, this stuck-ness is the paralysis of doubt (samsaya) or fear. Either way, we become unable to act so we set up a lawn chair at the crossroads of our being. How do we loosen the grip of fear, make a decision, get up, and take a step out of limbo?

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In the Light

Courage is what love looks like when tested by the simple everyday necessities of being alive.
—David Whyte


Backbends are the simple everyday necessities that show us the union of courage and love in action. In many ways, backbends are made more complicated than they really are—if part of your daily diet, sequenced appropriately, and supported to meet you where you are at, they prove their necessity through how alive you feel.

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The Flow of Now

There is a force but it blooms when we allow, learn how to receive. It suffers when we push, insist, demand. When we will our way instead of recognizing its inherent being—perhaps that is truly our most beautiful inheritance. A boundless reserve that we cannot ever really know. It is inconceivable to our minds, offers sanctuary and refuge to our hearts. More and more I am not as interested in enlightenment itself but in the happenings before it—how we can till the soil.

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A Pair of Wings

The mother in all of us is constantly supporting us to cultivate balance as we grow (how appropriate that this Mother’s Day is aligned with the first quarter moon). Perhaps the greatest nurturing comes from being able to recognize what’s disturbing or unhealthy and then cultivate the antidote. The whole process is one of wakefulness. Paksa (as in pratipaksa-bhavanam) means wing—what is most potent about this pairing of opposites is the realization that we must use both wings in order to leave the nest and fly.

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My Practice of Love

The older I get, the less of an optimist I am. Instead, I am committed to dwelling in the real. And the more I study the Buddha’s teaching, I realize he agreed that it’s okay not to be an optimist! His teachings remind us to be present—that’s it. Just be present. Our attempts at optimism will wear us out. So can we show up? Make big shadows? Find a greater capacity to love this world first, without a guarantee?

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The Great Leap

Hanumanasana is a journey of unpacking—physical, emotional, and psychological barriers arise in abundance (and are all too often perceived as limitations instead of invitations to sense and feel). Within what follows you’ll find pieces from my investigation of Hanumasana’s dharma, with the hope that they’ll support your practice. One of the main reasons I am fascinated with sequencing is it allows our practice to be in service to our approach—the entirety of the practice actually becomes the language of the pose. I find there’s this beautiful absorption throughout the process that rather seamlessly reveals the pose in time—not as its own entity but as part of the whole.

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Here

“Who and how are we to be with one another?” This question from Pádraig Ó Tuama’s poem, The Northern of Ireland, gets at the heart of what I’ve been feeling into and questioning—where are the places of contact, of connection, where we can ask for help in understanding something, especially the sticky topics that are pulling on our heartstrings? Where can we ask for help in listening to how we are received by others?

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Loops

The entirety of the practice is essentially one contained within Savasana—the corpse pose which is really the pose of wakefulness. The pose of clear tape—all the dust of past melodies falls off, allowing for total absorption. This is why the Prajna Yoga practice bookends the practice with Savasana and the SATYA practice, in particular, returns to Savasana again and again. The SATYA movements are essentially loops (mini vinyasas) that explore a sense of absorption, dare I say rebirth. They are simple—one refrain.

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The Art of Conversation

What’s most beautiful to me about all these layers of communication is the recognition that we are all in living bodies and thus the greatest conversation I can have is one that recognizes your internal alignment—your intelligence and ability to connect with yourself. That is most potent for me—to see you as an individual able to reconnect within; to see me as an individual able to reconnect within. To trust your heart as your lantern; to trust my heart as my lantern.

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Positive and Negative Space

If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.
—Thich Nhat Hanh

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Anchored Ascension

Oftentimes there’s a sense of hierarchy imposed on the chakra system, with ascending to the Sahasrara chakra as the goal. But perhaps we can learn something from the lotus plant and our anatomy—the roots in the mud, akin to Svadhisthana chakra (the abode of the self), are critical to the stalk’s ascension and the flower’s bloom. And the flower’s ability to bloom, again and again, is tethered to its connection “below”. The crown bows to the sacred.

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My Walden Pond

When I first found out Thoreau’s Walden Pond was just a stone’s throw away from his family home, I was a bit perplexed. At first I was rather judgmental that he hadn’t dared venture further. And then I turned the mirror—my lantern of awareness—around, asked myself what distance had to do with the profundity of his experience?

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Make Contact

It is of vital importance to make contact with wherever we’re at now—to have the conversation that needs to be had within and without. But how do we set aside time and space for these conversations to bloom? Have we lost the immediacy of now in setting aside time and space? How do we recognize the knocks and tugs for our attention?

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The Lotus Heart

Perhaps what the Anahata chakra and hrdayaravinde are offering is the reminder that the heart has no boundaries and, like Shiva, can remain pure through our involvement in the world (Shakti). While the lotus remains untouched by the mud, it is firmly rooted in it and nourished because of it. The natural force of the heart is to commune between the unseen and seen—the roots and the blossom, the muddy waters and the air above, our samskaras and the greater cycle of samsara. This allows for an all-inclusive totality—a space that offers union through separation and difference.

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Felt Sense

This sense of giving is showing up all over my personal practice and teaching recently—how can I allow for a subtle shift that furthers my opening? How can I adjust my structure slightly so the fluidity and subtlety of the pose bloom? Twisting actions, in particular, offer the opportunity to turn potential stress (often concentrated in the sacro-lumbar and sacra-iliac regions) into holistic connection.

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