Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Blog is Moving

Hey! My blog is moving to my website,, which has been my website for a long time but I hadn't updated it in a long time either. It's now up and running although it's encountering some "stuff" as it's going up. So look there for the latest posts beginning with today's post, Integration.

See you there!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Meditation - with Interruptions

I thought I had it made this morning. I was sitting in my old meditation spot (it's a bit more comfortable than my "new" meditation spot) and I was at the end of my meditation feeling pretty satisfied with myself. This morning I managed to hear the running and noise from upstairs and hear the trucks and cars outside and not fixate on how I need to move to a different part of town or a different town or a different country.

I just let the sounds be there and was good with myself and could feel I had just less than a minute to go when my front door went flying open and someone came running into the house. In my neighbourhood it could be anybody running into my house.

But it wasn't, it was my daughter. Thanks to this morning's freezing rain in Ottawa her field trip to the Senate was cancelled and she wanted to wear jeans so she came home to change. She was with friends so the energy was that of a 12 year old multiplied by at least a thousand. So my little meditation vibe came crashing down on me. It's quite alright and was even kind of funny. She was gone almost as fast as she'd come in and my allotted time was up anyhow.

I mean, it's nice when things can be all soft around the edges, but sometimes it's not. Life's kind of like that.

Yesterday on CBC'sTapestry I heard part of a conversation about living a spiritual life in the city (Soul in the City) and the challenges that come with it. I could totally relate to the teacher and if you have the time, I think you might enjoy taking a listen.

Friday, November 19, 2010


One of my Facebook friends posted this video last week and I was moved by it so much that I showed it to the yoga teacher training group last weekend. It speaks for itself so if you want to watch it you'll get the message, which is basically, everybody's dealing with something, so be gentle.

To facilitate movement in life we make assumptions about events and what is good behaviour and what is poor behaviour and then we react accordingly. We do this in larger groups and that becomes our "culture." But the truth is that unless we get in a little closer, we don't know why someone is doing what they're doing. Until we remember this though we often react by doubting ourselves - What did I do to upset that person? Surely I did something or else they'd call me back or keep writing or they wouldn't do that thing that we find out of line. Sometimes it goes the other way and we get mad at people, assuming that they know the impact they're having - why did he do that? Doesn't he know that bothers me? Don't they know that's not okay? And when people's behaviour seems off to us, we get all on our high horses and make judgements so we can be right and our world can make sense.

One of the things that yoga does after time is it takes us to a place of seeing ourselves so closely that we can be surprised and humbled by our own humanity and weaknesses and at the same time, open to our massive capacity for compassion and love for ourselves and all of the people and beings around us.

Sometimes people are responding to what we're doing and it's a great time to check ourselves and notice the impact we're having on the environment we're in. Sometimes people are being rotten and it's best to reduce our interactions with them if we can.

Noticing when we think we're right about someone or recent events or other incidents can clue us in to when we may be making assumptions. That's a good time to ask ourselves what else it could mean and give the people in our lives the benefit of the doubt without rushing to judgement. After that we can take action by responding accordingly.

May All Beings Be Happy :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Beginners are Tough

I warn people during the teacher training that leading to beginners is harder than they think. Leading a beginning yoga class takes some skill and understanding that leading to people already used to a yoga practice takes to a different degree. At first it seems counter-intuitive - beginners can't "do" as much because they have a lot to learn, so it'll be easier. It's not. Trust me.

Let's look at a beginners class...

People coming to a beginning yoga class often have not done yoga before (there are lots of exceptions as I have had the same people coming to my beginning yoga class for years) and so they are coming for a reason. Do they have a physical issue they want to correct? Did someone recommend yoga? Chances are they're coming because there's something wrong and they want to fix it. They've heard about yoga (who hasn't?) and they want to give it a try.

So the teacher is going to need to be familiar with typical issues people come in with - sore backs, being overweight, tight hips, lack of sleep, arthritis, injuries, knee pain - etc. And the teacher has got to be willing to NOT deal with those things. Be aware of them but not treat them. Everybody wants a simple exercise that they can do that will help their back, neck, belly fat, whatever. It does NOT exist and the teacher needs to resist the urge to fix people. We need to be prepared however, to accommodate their situation with alternate moves so they can get themselves into the poses without further injuring themselves.

Then we have to deal with the fact that people in beginners classes have not already been doing yoga in general (see above for exceptions). People who are not already in a habit are going to possibly be harder to "convert" to a new habit than people who are already in a stream of doing that thing. Same is true for getting books read or other habits in place - how many books do you have on your shelves that you started reading but didn't get through? It really takes something powerful to get people to keep coming back to yoga.

If you've got people in your class with pain and they start a yoga class, chances are they are going to start feeling more of their pain at the beginning and this can be an unpleasant process. As people get more aware of their bodies, they get aware of the discomfort they're in and to get over that and be willing to be faced with it weekly or however often the class is, and it's tricky.

Sometimes people are super-motivated to come to class because they've had a huge change in their lives like being diagnosed with cancer or is losing someone close to them and they will do anything to relax and try to line things up because there's a lot at stake. So they're serious, they don't want to mess around and they don't feel they have time to lose. Those guys need to be handled so gently and offered such a big space to relax and be - holding space for people while they're grieving is a tall order. Once you're trained in doing it it's an immense privilege, but along the way, the yoga teacher can come face-to-face with her own inadequacies and unresolved fears and grief, too.

Moving along...

Beginning yoga students tend to do what you tell them to do as best they can and will try to copy the teacher. If you're a new yoga teacher there's a good chance you like yoga, you're "good at" yoga and you've been doing yoga lots longer than your students. If you go up to the front to demonstrate your full version of the pose, your students are going to knock themselves out trying to follow you. It takes something for the teacher to be aware of her full expression of the pose and resist the urge to go there while guiding her students. It's one thing to inspire and motivate them, but the line is so fine as not only will your students possibly hurt themselves copying your form, they'll think they're supposed to look like you, the teacher, and they're not. They're supposed to look just as they are.

I had an experience this summer while I was at Omega where a famous workshop presenter buckled under the pressure of leading to a diverse group. Her workshop basically fell apart and I was called in to help pick up the slack in the yoga teaching area. When I asked her what happened, she said that the group had so many different expectations and were at all different levels and she didn't know what to do with them. "That's my speciality," I told her as I took her group off of her hands and led the last couple of days' yoga classes. At that moment I realized that even though I'm not the fittest, stretchiest, hottest yoga teacher around, the experience I have from being with beginners wherever they are at has translated into a skill that is useful to me everyday when I teach.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New Life

In Ottawa, recycling goes out every other week, so if one week you put out plastic and metal, the next week you put out paper. And although I'd done a bunch of clearing out before last week's garbage, the stacks of paper had been waiting for many days patiently on the back step for me to put them out.

I came home after yoga last night and began the process of putting the garbage out and then I was face to face with my resistance. Even though I had already decided that my old Who songbooks and magazine articles were ready to go, when the time came to actually put that stuff out on the curb I still wanted to hang on. I considered retrieving some of the notes of great ideas I've had that were in the pile.

Fortunately I have some company around this stuff right now and I was able to have a short conversation about the kind of life I want. I am so ready to have things change. Holding on to this old stuff is the old ways trying to survive.

As I get older I get even more sentimental as each item reminds me of another time and place or brings back memories of people I used to know. As sweet as those moments of memory are, I feel loaded down by the storing of the stuff. I feel faster with less stuff. I feel clearer. Healthier even.

Patanjali's yoga sutras talk about reincarnation. I'm not sure what I believe about life after death but I live like it doesn't matter. So the way I use the yoga sutras is to view reincarnation as happening within this very lifetime. Old ways of being dropping as new ways arise. I've experienced it myself. This conscious letting go of old material stuff is in a way walking into a new life with my eyes open, my arms outstretched (when they're not folded against my chest), saying yes.

(And in less lofty terms I'm just cleaning up after myself :) God forbid I get into an accident and you guys have to come and make sense of my stuff and try and figure out what was important to me versus what I just hadn't gotten around to throwing away...)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Letting it Go

I mentioned a post or two back that I'm doing spring cleaning a bit late. I figure I'm doing last year's, make that the spring of 2008's spring cleaning, oh who am I kidding? I've had junk that seemed valuable that I've been holding onto for years so it actually is not surprising that I have mixed feelings about seeing some of that stuff go.

Here's how I like it to happen. I like to identify the things I'm ready to have removed and have a good friend take them away, preferably in their own car to a place I don't know about where I'm not going to see the stuff again. I imagine the objects that I stored in their pristine condition will go to new homes like cats that are delivered to an animal shelter. I mean, they all get adopted, right?

What I don't like to happen is for me to have to put the stuff in my car and drop it off somewhere. That's not my preference. I'll do it, have done it, will do it again, but it's not the best. I'm not sure what I don't like about it but I know it makes me a bit squeamish.

Sometimes in the past, I've had friends put bigger things out on the curb and even though it's not garbage day, due the neighbourhood I'm in, those things invariably get snatched up within an hour or two. I'm always thinking, what if it rains? Then that "thing" I've saved will be ruined. C'mon, could we get over it already?

My friend, who's been helping me with this round of clearing stuff out, has not gone so far as to drive my stuff away, but he has helped me load my car and has put things out on garbage day. And guys, I don't have a big place, it's not like this is tons of stuff, but it's a lot of stuff. He says I should follow the process, be responsible and aware the whole way along, blah blah blah. And I'm like, "couldn't you just take it to that magic place where formerly-important things go?"

So the other day after garbage day when I saw a guy on a bike wrestling with my old ghetto blaster, I just about lost it. First of all, I thought we were taking electronics to the recycling place, which we had done last week already. Then I wondered where that had been stored and if the guy had come to my back porch and taken it before I was ready to give it away. Or did it go on the curb on Tuesday night and he was just getting his hands on it now? "Luc!" I later queried, "where'd you put that ghetto blaster? How come some guy on a bike has it?"

It didn't matter. By that point I was laughing my head off. If I wanted to make sure it went to a good home, I had proof. It was not a pocket-sized unit. He was a small man on a small bike riding past the homeless shelter. He was super-motivated to take that thing away and as I walked past him struggling to balance with it on his bike I knew he couldn't know that we were performing an invisible transaction.

(He's got a red backpack on and the tape player - double deck! - is in his left hand. The top picture I pulled from the internet as I did not take pictures of the unit before it left.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Just Because You Do Yoga, Doesn't Mean You're Better

Sometimes I run across people who think that because somebody does yoga, that they're supposed to be better than other people. Like because they've practised relaxation that they should be more relaxed. Sometimes it's the other way around - people who practise yoga and meditation think that they themselves should be more relaxed and have their problems fade into the background.

Guys, just because you practise yoga, doesn't mean anything. It doesn't mean you'll be nicer or happier or more peaceful or free from illness or disappointment or somehow you'll get out of doing LIFE. Just because you take care of your body doesn't mean you're not going to die. I know it's hard to think that we are the way we are sometimes, but it's how we are. It can change. But sometimes it doesn't.

If we go to yoga practice thinking we're going to change something, like we're going because we're broke and if we could just fix ourselves a little bit then everything would be okay, we are for sure going to face frustration.

If you practise yoga, you may want to be quiet about it. Other people's expectations rise and they figure that you're going to somehow magically rise above worldly issues of jealousy and attachment. Or you can shout it out to the world that you practise and you're okay and so are they, even when things don't work out, because sometimes they don't.

Yoga is a path of inquiry. Sometimes along the way what we find transforms us. And sometimes it doesn't. The practice is to keep going in the face of doubt and dislike of what we find. The practise is to embrace our humanity so we can embrace others' as well. Eventually, there will be some progress. And if you don't see any, you may not be on the path. Keep practising!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Spring Cleaning (late version)

You know, we all have our areas of unconsciousness. We have places where we could do better and our friends if they got close enough, might scratch their heads and be surprised that we do "that." Like they'd expect us to do better. Some of us eat a lot of junk food. Or we swear. Or we stay in jobs that just keep us secure but we really want to be doing something else. Some of us keep projects around that we mean to do. Or we keep weight on we mean to lose one day.

Well over the years I've written about my office and how it's a tight spot for me. I've had smart people come and spend hours helping me get it in shape. And then it goes back to where it was before they helped me out and usually a bit worse. It's like going on a diet and then gaining all the weight back and then some. You know?

So I'm writing now while I "should" be fixing up my office. Someone's coming to stay for a bit in that room. And he's excited to help me move things out of there and to the curb! Being a good friend, he's seen my faults and weaknesses and doesn't give me a hard time about it.

Here's a link to some pictures I took of Luc a few years ago for your amusement.