Every teacher worth their salt will tell you that they are always a learner. Knowledge is on a continuum: there are many things within us that we know and that we have fully embodied and mastered, these are things we can teach.
There are things that we know cognitively but have yet to become accomplished at, these are things we are learning.
And there are things that we don't even know that we don't know, these are the things we have yet to discover.
Even in our final breaths this process continues: learning how to let go, to love, discovering how to trust on the most existential and primal level.
So what have I been learning lately?
In yoga asana I am working on the technique, strength and making the mental and emotional transformations necessary to do Adho Mukha Vrksasana: handstand.
I am taking a Workshop: Advanced Alignment & Adjustments from the inspiring Eoin Finn in Vancouver this October and I am using this event as a springboard to take my practice to another level by applying his teachings toward a deeper and more fearless practice.
Eoin Finn in Vrksasana
In the yoga of self-inquiry (Jnana Yoga) I am practicing being the observer of my thoughts and actions.
Lately this practice has shown me an aspect of my personality that feels the need to protect and control. This can show up as a background worry that something will go wrong and I want to be prepared for it. It often arises as a feeling that I have to justify my existence to someone else. It can show up in a feeling of emptiness and tension in my body, especially around my belly - a fear of attack from some unnamed and imagined threat?
In observing this the words of an old friend have come to mind:
"How good can you stand it?"
In other words, what is my capacity for positivity, for good, for love, satisfaction, accomplishment, peace? The fearful and contracted parts of my personality will NEVER be the instigators of transformation, because transformation is a direct threat to the ego, and the ego is what gives rise to fear and contraction.
But as I turn my attention to the inner Self, and identify with that, the fear becomes tinder for the fire of yoga, the foundation of the next arm in the spiral of life, and a new expression of consciousness.
The Self could be said to be the ground from which all things arise, the sea of pure consciousness, the essential aspect of existence. It has been described as the eternal "I am". It is the Self we all share.
These two practices - asana and jnana are like the two wings of the bird of yoga practice.
In my asana handstand practice I work on doing what is physically necessary with my breath, hands, ribs, legs, etc. to turn my world upside down.
In my self-inquiry I observe the reactions of my body, mind and emotions and use my will and focus to gently hold the reins of those wild horses and guide them into the Self.
It is clear that asana and self-inquiry are two aspects of one process when I realize that the fear that comes up in handstand is the same one that says it's dangerous for me to take other kinds of risks in life:
It's easier to stay on the sidelines, to play small, to buy into my self-imposed limitations than it is to step into the unknown.
The emotional barriers inside myself are the main ones that keep me from nailing a handstand. I have the strength and the technique. The learning now is to loosen the hold I have on my heart in order to soar, to take the risk of being free. We are mind, body and heart and yoga is a union of these, experienced in the rawness and presence of the moment.
I love teaching yoga because I see this same process in every class. Whether you are working on stilling the mind in child's pose, trying to make down dog a resting pose or spreading your roots in tree, we are all discovering, learning and teaching. This is yoga.
***Join us in Costa Rica this winter! The Gilded Iguana is a boutique hotel with limited space so reserve your place in the sun by making your $250 deposit SOON!***
PS: And remember to have Fun!!!