Two Teachers

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After graduating from teacher training, two teachers emerged in me. One was fully equipped with yoga knowledge and armed with experience from a home practice. The other was an inadequate fool who had barely touched the surface of yoga.

A year later, these two teachers still reside within me. There are times when I feel like I don’t know shit about yoga! But there are also times when I am able to share what little knowledge I have and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so.

I may not know everything, but I have some experience. By now, I have taught dozens of people and looked at dozens of different bodies in dozens of different yoga poses. I’ve learned a lot about the human body and how yoga can heal it. This has only deepened my love for the practice and the will to share what I love.

The teacher in me who feels confident and prepared is the one that guides a class, adjusts a student, and uses Sanskrit. All the while leaving room to grow, learn, and improve. It’s okay if I don’t know everything. That would be a big, scary burden.

The teacher in me who still feels inadequate is the one that goes to someone else’s class, reads articles on Yoga International, watches Kino MacGregor’s videos, and keeps on hand books by Iyengar and Desikachar. This is the teacher who is really the student, walking around with an empty cup, begging for tea (or vodka, or a fresh green juice, as the case may be) from willing masters.

mefaceCheck out the parable of the empty cup here.

Lighthouse Meditation (Release those Emotions!)

About a year ago, I read the book Discover Your Psychic Type by Sherrie Dillard. It includes a fantastic meditation that I have been practicing to help release unwanted emotions. It takes about 15 minutes and all you need is a comfortable place to sit or lie down. In addition to Sherrie’s beautiful meditation, I included a mantra from Caroline Myss:

I cease being unreasonable about things that no longer matter in the great scheme of things. I am Love. I am compassionate and wise.

Repeat this when you find yourself becoming overwhelmed with emotions. This is not to say you should suppress your emotions! On the contrary, practice this guided meditation and know that you can harness the power of negative emotions like anger and turn it into positive energy.

Sherrie Dillard was kind enough to allow me to share her meditation with you. You can read more about her work and purchase her books here. You can read about Caroline Myss here.

Click here to listen to my recording of the guided meditation on YouTube. Or you can read it here first, then practice it on your own. I find it easier to listen and follow along, so I can focus on my visualizations instead of remembering what comes next. This is a powerful practice. Use it!

Lighthouse Meditation

One way that we remain stuck is by being unreasonable. Mantra for this meditation is “I cease being unreasonable about things that no longer matter in the great scheme of things. I am Love. I am compassionate and wise.”

Don’t hold on to unnecessary emotions like jealousy and anger that don’t matter in the bigger picture of your life.

Sometimes, especially if you’re an emotional intuitive, we can receive others’ emotions and if we don’t learn to discern which emotions are ours, it can cause confusion and becoming overwhelmed. This meditation helps you learn how to accept the emotions that you feel and that you may intuit without being overwhelmed or negatively impacted by them.

  • Close your eyes and take a long, deep breath. Send the energy of your breath to any part of your body that is sore, tense, or tight. Breathe in again, then exhale any stress or tension you find anywhere in your body. Breathe in again and let go of any thoughts, worries, or concerns of the day, or week, exhaling the stress or tension you find anywhere in your body. Breathing and relaxing, going deeper and deeper into relaxation, breathing in, letting go of any emotions that surface, breathing in, letting go, and going deeper and deeper into relaxation. Relaxing, going deeper and deeper into relaxation, releasing any worries or cares of the day—let them go as you breathe out, breathing and letting go any emotions rocking around inside. Let yourself become aware of them and then release them with your breath: easy, calm, relaxed breath, free and easy.
  • Imagine that you are on a beautiful beach on a warm and clear day. Imagine that you are walking along the shore, feeling the sand warming your feet, as you continue along the shore. Breathing in the salt air, you feel even more relaxed. The sun is setting as you walk along the shore and watch the waves rolling in toward you. You hear the sounds of the sea, relaxing and inviting. Now you notice the bright beam of a light spreading across the waves. As the sun sets, the light becomes brighter and stronger. As you continue to walk, you notice a tall lighthouse in the distance; it stands close to shore and you walk toward the lighthouse. As you approach it, you notice its strong structure. It is old, yet made to withstand the weather and sea.
  • You decide to enter the lighthouse. Once inside, you climb the circular stairs… you grasp the railing and step by step, you go higher and higher. You feel safe as you ascend these stairs. You are going higher and higher, and now you come to the top floor of the lighthouse. There is a comfortable chair in the room at the top of the lighthouse. It looks out across the sea. You take a seat and sink into the overstuffed cushions. You watch the light beam from the lighthouse spread out over the sea. A wind has picked up over the ocean, and there seems to be a distant storm making its way to shore, tossing the waves tumultuously over one another. The light from the lighthouse calls out to the turbulent seas.
  • You feel the darkness of the storm coming closer and closer. This storm holds the potency of emotion; there may be fear, frustration, or jealousy within the winds and clouds of the storm. The beam of light invites these feelings closer. It calls out to them and beckons them to come closer. There might be feelings and emotions within you that surface as they are drawn toward the light. The feelings and emotions intensify; you can feel their force and you can feel the sharpness of these feelings. Yet they cannot harm or hurt you.
  • Without resisting, notice how these intense feelings dissolve into the light cast by the lighthouse. The light envelops the emotions. The feelings—such as anger, pain, jealousy, and frustration—all soften as they enter the bright light. The light from the lighthouse becomes stronger and brighter as these feelings merge into it. After these feelings enter the light, they then emerge as clear, vibrant, positive energy. The negativity that these emotions contained is now transformed into translucent, radiant waves.
  • You may feel these feelings as they pass into the light. The light is strong, and it calls out into the storm. Meanness, anger, anxiety, stress—these, too, come close as the light invites them, transforms them into pure energy.
  • You are energized and strengthened as you witness the process of the cleansing light. More emotions may surface. The light absorbs all of the wide range of emotions. You feel clear and calm. Now you notice the waves diminishing as the storm loses its force. Soon the sea is calm and serene as it spreads out before you like clear translucent glass underneath the moon shining in the night sky. It, too, spreads light, serenity, calm, and peace. You feel the silence all around you. You settle into a deep inner peace. It is in this calmness that you ask for guidance, which you can receive with clarity. Sit quietly and ask any questions that you might have. Breathe and receive images, information, and feelings. Just listen and accept whatever it is that you receive.
  • Breathing calmly, take all the time you need. When you are ready, descend the stairway of the lighthouse. You are now back on the warm, sandy beach. You are completely in your body and you can feel movement in your hands and feet. You are feeling better than you have in a long time. Now you are nearly back in the here and now. Count: one… coming back; two… completely in this room; three… open your eyes.

I cease being unreasonable about things that no longer matter in the great scheme of things. I am Love. I am compassionate and wise.

Get Unstuck with (Modified) Malasana

Practicing hip-opening postures can help release unnecessary emotions that we may be holding onto. It also relieves the stress and tension caused by those emotions. Sometimes we may feel as though we’re stuck, like we can’t move forward in our lives, our career, or our yoga practice. We definitely can’t go back either and it can be frustrating! Practicing hip-opening poses shakes things up (like a snow globe!) and can get things moving again, whether we need to move forward emotionally, mentally, or even physically.

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This is a modification of one of my favorite poses ever: Malasana (garland pose). It’s basically a wide-legged squat, which is great for:

grounding (root chakra!)
opening up the inner thighs
aiding in digestion

It also helps stretch the ankles and feet. In full Malasana I and Malasana II, the feet are together which can compromise the knees if the hips are not very flexible. This wide-legged version offers a great alternative for those of us with tight hips.

If you’re ready for the full posture, check out Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar.

To practice this modified version, add this mini sequence to your practice:

  • Uttanasana (standing forward fold)
  • Spread your feet a little wider than hip distance (about a yoga mat’s width)
  • Continue breathing deeply in this wide-legged forward fold
  • Bring the palms together in front of the heart in Anjali mudra
  • Slowly bend the knees and sit back
  • Widen the hips by pressing the elbows into the knees

While in the pose, breathe deeply and think of lifting the chest and sinking the hips. Keep the legs and arms active throughout. If your heels don’t touch the floor, place a blanket under them, with the front half of the feet remaining on the floor.

Want to get even more unstuck? Check out the Lighthouse Meditation!

My deepest fear: A disclaimer

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Once upon a time, there lived a great master who had an apprentice. One day, the master invited his pupil to tea. The master himself poured tea into the student’s empty cup. After the cup was filled, the master continued to pour piping hot tea into the cup and it began to overflow. Tea spilled over into the saucer and onto the table.

“Master, what are you doing? My cup is full.”

“Yes, it is. A cup cannot be filled unless it is empty.”

This is not a new story. It’s not the first time it has been told, nor shall it be the last. It is, however, an important lesson for each of us in just about every aspect of life. Draining oneself of all expectation and presumption allows new ideas to be considered. This is not to say that everything must be accepted without question. On the contrary, an open heart and mind allows for more careful decision and deliberation. It allows for the transmutation of old thoughts and beliefs into a more complete view of life.

I have always loved writing and splattering my guts onto an empty page. However, it has mostly been in the comfort of my own home without exposing my innards for anyone else to see. It’s safer this way, you see. No one to judge or criticize. No one to point out that my thoughts are cliche’ or have already been written in a much more eloquent, profound way. Or worse, no one to tell me that I am flat out wrong.

Because that is my deepest fear: To be wrong. How could I be so daft as to overlook an important fact or not consider another facet of life? How could I not have carefully weighed all the options and formed a thought so unbiased and whole that it would be loved and accepted by everyone that reads it?

The truth is, that my thoughts and opinions will always be biased, depending on my mood, the time of day, where Mars is in the sky at the moment, whether I’ve done my yoga practice yet or not, what the weather is like outside, and if my feet are cold. Not all my thoughts and opinions will be loved and accepted by everyone. Some may even say that I am wrong.

It has taken me 31 years to come to terms with this. Although, I have accepted the possibility of being wrong, here is my remedy for overcoming my deepest fear: The Empty Cup, the cop out. With this disclaimer, I am free to say whatever I please and you have to at least consider it because if you don’t, you’re committing the worst offense imaginable (on this blog) – arriving and reading with a full cup.

Sometimes we are the teacher and sometimes we are the student. Our amount of expertise, experience, and intellect notwithstanding, because even the most learned among us still have lessons to learn. And even the most uneducated, dithering fool has lessons to teach.

If I have something to say, I will say it. It will be authentic, from my heart, and without regard to what anyone else thinks. It may be simple, but profound. It may be complex, but meaningless. But it will be mine.

So here is my empty cup, fresh and clean out of the dishwasher, presented to you. Here I am, ready to learn, ready to fall, and ready to get back up again.

I don’t care if I’m wrong. I don’t care if what I say has already been written. I don’t care if you like it or not. These are my words and I will write them with purpose, with abandon, and without apology.