yoga

Being a "Good" Yogi

IMG_1336.jpg

How do you measure the efficacy of your yoga practice? The answer to this question is often only thought of in terms of flexibility and strength but that is not a measure of a yoga practice, it is only a measure of an asana practice. Asana is only one branch of yoga and if that is all you are doing, I hate to break it to you, but you are not doing yoga, you’re just exercising.

 

The modern yoga industry sells this version of yoga idea to make it more “palatable” for the masses, more salable, more commercialized and easier to reap a profit. This is a gross appropriation of an ancient practice for the commercial industrialized world. A “palatable” yoga practice is as far from yoga as yoga can get.

 

Yoga is a spiritual practice. Spirituality like yoga is also marketed to the masses in a “palatable” way, as a thing that makes “life all good”. But calling life all good is just spiritual bypass. Life isn’t always all good. Sure, from the spiritual perspective it’s all divine, but that’s not all good. Sometimes the divine shows up in shitty ass ways. Take the 400 years of white supremacy that makes up the backbone of the democracy we call America; it’s shitty and it’s an invitation to doing great soul-searching work; it’s the divine showing up say look here and do the work here. Spirituality is not about transcendence of the world but deeper involvement in it. Spirituality is the act of recognizing our ego is not in control, something bigger is dealing the cards, and our response to the hand we get dealt is where the work gets done; that is where the human evolves, that is where a better world is created – internal and external. That means acceptance, accountability, commitment, awareness, forgiveness, compassion, and most of all love.

 

That awesome pose you can do doesn’t mean shit in the face of life – ugly, real, honest life; that picture of you in some awesome pose just means you can do some awesome pose. If you use the journey into and out of the pose as a reminder of how to face and dance with life off your mat, it means more. If you can use the pose to remember that life isn’t comfortable and the way you choose to perceive the experience you are having in your mind, a choice that may or may not disturb the resonance of peace and love in your heart, then it means more; to explore the boundaries of your fear and your relationship to courage while there, and to continue - not despite the adversity but in the face of it - then it means more; to explore the nature of your willingness to reckon with self-accountability while rumbling with the self-aggrandized ignorance of your beliefs, it means more. If you’re only striking some awesome pose for that great Instagram shot and more followers, it doesn’t mean shit; and it certainly does not mean you’re some advanced yogi.

 

Sure, I can do some pretty big asana poses but my ability to do those poses is not my measure of the efficacy of my yoga practice. I measure the efficacy of my yoga practice in my capacity to sit in the company of myself when I’m feeling fucked-up, insecure, neurotic, and emotional without asking those things to change, but rather addressing myself there with more compassion, love, accountability, courage, and forgiveness. I measure the efficacy of my yoga practice in my ability to be compassionate towards others who are living human lives; ignorant, self-aggrandized, shut down, and afraid. I measure the efficacy of my yoga practice in my ability to be more like my hero’s, people who have stood or still stand with love and courage in the face of adversity for the sake of the greater good. People who lead and have led the way for the rest of us to follow. The list is long and the majority of them are people of color.

Having flexible joints and muscles doesn’t mean you have a flexible mind; doesn’t mean you can rid yourself of a destructive belief for one that is life enhancing. Having strong joints and muscles doesn’t mean you have strength of character nor the ability to be in the presence of difficult people or experiences without getting taken out by them. Strong and flexible joints and muscles are not measurements of a strong yoga practice, nor a strong spiritual practice, they are only poor imitations. If like me, you are a white yogi and you want to be a “good” yogi in the world today it is time to educate yourself on white supremacy; have difficult conversations about your complicity and privilege with yourself and others; stand for something bigger and more life enhancing than your desire to nail that press handstand and do it in public. Let your conviction and commitment to a cause greater than yourself be a measurement of your yoga practice no matter how many followers or students you gain or lose; no matter how big your poses get; no matter how much anger and grief you have to sit through; let your flexibility of mind, strength of character, and spaciousness of spirit speak for you.

With Love, Allways, In All Ways, For Giving, In Joy,

Genevieve

Ignorance May Be Bliss, But Knowledge Is Power

One of my favorite stories, a story that I find very inspiring, is the story of Socrates and the Oracle at Delphi. Socrates served in the Peloponnesian war between Athens and Sparta. After the war, he devoted his life to the pursuit of truth. His reputation for being a man with a deep love of wisdom spread throughout Athens and beyond. He was told at some point along the way that the Oracle at Delphi had proclaimed him the wisest man in Athens. Socrates, being in constant pursuit of the truth did not believe this to be true outright, and instead he decided to prove the Oralce wrong. Henceforth, Socrates set out on a quest to find anyone who knew what was truly worthwhile in life. For anyone who knew the answer to this riddle was truly wiser than he. Questioning everyone he could find, the quest proved a great challenge indeed. For all that he questioned pretended to know something they did not, and he felt he never got a pleasing or honest answer. Despite his effort to prove the Oracle wrong he decided that the oracle perhaps was right after all. He was the wisest man in Athens because he alone was willing to admit his ignorance and not claim to know something he did not.

Just as much as I enjoy the story of Socrates’ search for a man wiser than he, I am endeared to the note written above the door to the Oracle at Delphi. “Know thyself” and the lesser known second half of the sentence “and nothing in excess.”

Like the story of Socrates, the writing above the door to the Oracle invites one into the never-ending quest for self-empowering gift of knowledge. And what makes knowledge self-empowering?

With knowledge, we become able to make well informed decisions. Wisdom itself is the power of being discerning and making thoughtful decisions. And making a choice in the moment is the only power we ever really have. Therefore, having a broad base of understanding and perspective to choose from we enable ourselves to make the best possible choice for the circumstance, from our most authentic and present self.  This is power. Even more powerful is the ability to acknowledge that we do not know something. In such an acknowledgement, we accept our ignorance and our opportunity to learn. In learning we lift the veils of our ignorance and step more deeply into the power of self-knowledge. This is stepping from ignorance into awareness, this is the great gift of revelation.   

This is one of the many gifts of a yoga practice. Through yoga we are revealed to ourselves over, and over again. To ourselves it is revealed what we know and what we are learning, in our bodies, in our minds, in our breath, in our emotional responses and reactions to the animate world we are living in. The revelation takes place in the friction between our willingness to surrender and our desire to stay attached. Through yoga we get to continue to experience the revelation of that which is true for us at any given moment. And the ultimate truth, that what is true right now, may not be true later, as all things are always changing. Knowledge is power and it is the opposite of ignorance is bliss.

Knowing thyself and nothing in excess allows us to face our ignorance and rather than see it as an impediment, to see it as an invitation. This is beginners mind. This is true flexibility. This is the root of the ability to yoke or bring all facets of our being into balance finding a state of unification in all matters of being, self, and the world. Perhaps it was being in a war that led Socrates on a lifelong pursuit of the truth. Perhaps somewhere on the battlefield he realized it was only an illusion of separation that created a false premise of difference. Perhaps it was there that he realized rather than seeing enemies in that which we do not know, we have an opportunity to see that which we do not know and an invitation to learn something new.

And for the question as to what is truly worthwhile in life. We all get pursue the answer to this mystifying riddle and greatest of quests, with each breath, and each I don’t know.

With Love, Always, in All Ways, For Giving, In Joy,

Genevieve

 

Crystals and Ruts

            Words have power. Words are a form of energetic vibration which modulate other energetic vibrations. This is what makes mantra so powerful. The repetition of a vibration changes the vibration of the one repeating it.

            Many people are now familiar with Masuro Emoto, the Japanese scientist who studied the powerful vibrational relationship between words and water. He photographed water in crystalline forms after it had been in the company of a word for an extended period. The vibration of the word, even without being spoken, was powerful enough to leave a mark on the crystal. His experiments explored a variety of words, higher vibrating ones such as love and caring as well as lower vibrating ones such as hate, and stupid. The higher vibrating words made more beautiful and elaborate crystals, while the crystals of the lower vibrating words were almost always fragmented and incomplete.

            In one of his books he discussed an experiment completed by school children in Japan. In the experiment, the children put into three jars a generous amount of cooked rice. The jars were sealed and left by the door to the home. Each day, as the children would enter and depart from the home they would greet one jar with kind and caring words, another with cruel and hurtful words, and the third with no words at all. Because the rice had been cooked it began a fermenting process in the jars. The jars that were spoken to kindly took the longest to ferment and grow mold. One would expect that the jars which were spoken to with hurtful words would ferment the quickest, however, that is not true. The rice which got no attention at all fermented rapidly, while the rice that was spoken to with cruelty took a week or so longer to rot. Words have power.

            It is valuable to acknowledge from this experiment that when no energy is given to a thing, whether high in vibration or not, that thing loses vibration rapidly. It is also valuable to recognize that words of lower vibration will increase the rate of decay of an energy that is already compromised.

            The mind is fallible, humans are fallible. Take for example the availability heuristic which is a judgment bias. Quite simply it is a mental shortcut that the mind takes to resolve a problem based on the information that is most available to answer that problem. For instance, recall your assumption that the rice spoken to cruelly would be the quickest to ferment in the argument presented above. Based on the information that was presented to you before the results of the experiment it was an easy leap to decide that the vibration of cruelty would be more harmful than the vibration of indifference. However, your assumption was not evidence that cruelty was more harmful than indifference. Rather, it was just your mind using the information most readily available to it to quickly leap to a judgement. To avoid the failings of the availability heuristic we must ask ourselves how reliable is the information we are working with?

            Words not only enhance and deplete energetic vibrations, they also create illusions and delusions. The availability heuristic is a form of delusion. It is the formulation of a belief based on incomplete or false information. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali these kinds on mental delusions are addressed:

Yoga Sutra 1:9

ŚABDAJNĀNĀNUPĀTĪ VASTU ŚŪNYO VIKALPAH.
An image that arises on hearing mere words without any reality [as its basis] is verbal delusion.

            Verbal delusions and judgment biases are valuable for contemplation because, while the creation of the belief or understanding of the situation is merely a delusion it will leave an impression on the mind, much like the water crystals of Masuro Emoto. The practice of yoga is about so much more that moving the body into strange and interesting shapes. Beyond the impressions of comfort and discomfort, like and dislike, is the opportunity to explore the ruts carved out by the delusions and misconceptions of the human experience. Getting to know the trappings of the mind and the minds ability to liberate itself from those trappings is the great gift of yoga. To know the power of the vibration of the words that move through you and to use those words mindfully, like planting seeds, pulling weeds, and watering a garden.

water-crystal-example-2.png