Monday, July 29, 2013

Doing the Deepest, Fullest, Most Perfect Thing Today

We were coming in to Virabhadrasana II and we all knew what we were doing. After surveying the room at the start of class, he noted that we had all been there several times and said, "You already know how to do this. So instead of fidgeting, I want you to go right into the deepest, fullest, most perfect expression of the pose you can do today."

How often do we know what the right thing is and even how to do it, but choose to fidget instead? Because the deepest, fullest, most perfect expression of the moment is more difficult than fidgeting. Because our best effort has not become ingrained habit yet and the right thing is still a bit uncomfortable in its unfamiliarity. We know what it is, but do the easier thing.

This is not how your life changes. Maybe you're perfectly happy, no change necessary. If not, if you have even the slightest inkling that something is off, consider that this fruit was born of the seeds you planted. Plant new seeds, get new fruit. Make different choices, see different results. If we know better, what are we doing practicing the wrong choice when the right choice lives inside us, ready to be made? Does it require consciousness and discipline to change habits? Yes. Is it awkward and challenging to do something new? It can be. But that's no reason not to try.

Do it right because you know it's the right thing to do. Do it right because you have the strength and smarts to live in integrity. Do it right because the deepest, fullest, most perfect response to life is a rich and vibrant place to live. Do it right and do it right now.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Three Years Later

"Even in the ever-changing flow of life there are moments in which we come to a point of completion. In these moments we are able to perceive the whole picture, the composite of all the small pieces that have occupied our attention for so long. In the finishing, we can either be in despair because we don't want the situation to come to an end, or we can be grateful and accepting of the fact that life is full of endings and new beginnings.

Whatever has been absorbing your time and energy is now coming to an end. In completing it, you will be clearing the space for something new to begin. Use this interval to celebrate both - the end of the old and the coming of the new." -Osho


It was almost three years ago. We made eye contact through the window and I recognized you immediately. Your eyes are the eyes I saw years before in a (possibly) prophetic vision that I'd forgotten about until, my goodness, there they were! I get this feeling in my body before something entirely important and life altering happens, this anxious, excited, anticipatory buzz that ignited within me in that moment. There you are. Where in the world have you been?

You made a big move. I became a gypsy. Almost three years later, I am bemused to find that we are both in the exact same place, but even more so. You are moments away from an even bigger move. I am moments away from the extraction of the major remaining roots that kept this gypsy at all tethered. We are both poised on the edge, preparing to jump into brand new volumes of life...you, once again, into something neatly manifested, me, into the great, wild, wide open wilderness. Of course, no matter how neat the plan, every step we take is a wild one, always living and leaning on grace. But here we are. There you are. Where in the world have you been?

Over the course of my life, so many people have lived strongly in my consciousness for a time only to slip away on some inauspicious night, rarely to be thought of again. Except you. The size of the mental real estate you occupy waxes and wanes, but you remain even as I have tried to replace and forget you. If your eyes are not the eyes I saw years before in that (possibly) prophetic vision, then what are you still doing here? If you are not my beloved, then you must go to make room for the one who is; the real owner of the eyes that will make prophecy from my vision.

As we perch on this ledge of new beginning again, I can't help but feel a closing, an ending, a completion in the story that we began that afternoon in October. I wondered what you might mean to me and it turns out, you have been just as important as I intuited you to be, but perhaps in different ways than I envisioned (but isn't that always the way?). I am forever grateful for what you have brought in to my life and how that helped deliver me to this moment. Part of me wants to believe that you will remain importantly in my life and that the completion afoot is an ending of the way we were with one another and the elevation of our relating. Perhaps perhaps perhaps. This much I know for sure...

We must only take what is freely offered.
Only freely offered love is true.
True love is the only sort of love I want.

Tonight I ask God to cut the ties between us that bind. You are free to live and love as you will, and you always were. If we are beloveds, God will draw us together as He did so perfectly before. I wanted to make you see what I see, I wanted to pry your love from your hands, but no more. All I want is what's written for us, what's right and true, graceful and authentic, aligned and destined. Among other things, the last three years have cultivated within me this commitment to and joyful celebration of Reality.

I joyfully celebrate whatever It Is.
I let myself off this hook.
I love you for everything you were and are and will be,
even as I, perhaps, let you slip away on this inauspicious night.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Jesus is My Guru

Years ago I spent Easter with my boyfriend's family. The day began with a ridiculously fun, all-adult egg hunt, and was rounded out with brunch and Easter service at the new age Christian church that his family attended. The church was housed in a large, almost industrial space in a strip mall, and immediately offended my sense of reverence. My faith was formed in beautiful, old, columned and marble shrines to God where everything was taken quite seriously; Catholicism may be stuffy and archaic, but it sure has produced some impeccable architecture. This church, on the other hand, looked like it could easily be converted into a Best Buy. Surely this is not a place where God dwells, I thought. The service included Christian rock music, the lyrics of which were projected on the wall and an impassioned sermon from a cool young guy in jeans. Naturally, I thought the whole show was bizarre, and my boyfriend and I laughed about it later.

Time passes, as it does. I get really deep in to yoga, which opens my mind and heart back up to the spiritual enrichment possible inside churches. I attend mass with my mom whenever I'm home on a Sunday and sometimes walk over the hill to Saint Peter and Paul in North Beach because it's just so pretty. The better sermons lead me to deeper inquiry and exploration of my relationship with God. I even begin to study the character of Jesus, who is present but not heavily emphasized in Catholicism, and to whom I have never felt particularly connected. Through a wild, winding series of events, I find myself in Los Angeles because God told me there were people I needed to meet and things I needed to learn at this time that would be delivered there. Nine months into my stay here, thanks to the influence of a tremendous new friend, I arrive quite unexpectedly one Sunday evening...

in a new age Christian church housed in a modern former theater with a Christian rock band whose lyrics are projected on the wall and impassioned sermons from a cool young guy in jeans.

And this time I'm not laughing. This time I'm in joyful tears, my heart overflowing, because my whole being has just been flooded with a light like a salve for the wound. Mosaic presents faith, God and, most predominately, Jesus, in a way that is relatable, relevant and easy to apply in order to make you and the world around you better, brighter, truer, more graceful, more loving and more aligned with God's unique plan for your life. The version of me all those Easters ago would be in shock and awe at the spiritual home I've found and how profoundly right and life giving it feels to be there. The message and story of Jesus that the pastors of Mosaic share is changing and healing my heart in ways I have struggled with for years. It reminds me of a piece of ecstatic poetry about Jesus written by Symeon the New Theologian a long time ago that I identify with now:
...-Then
open your heart to Him

and let yourself receive the one
who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
we wake up inside Christ's body

where all our body, all over,
every most hidden part of it,
is realized in joy as Him,
and He makes us, utterly, real,

and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in His light,
we awaken as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

Pastor Erwin told a story I heard recently in which a woman lamented to him that Jesus was a building she was running around but couldn't find the way in. He countered that it was she that was the building and Jesus was running around her, looking for the way in. In all the softening and surrender that I have been working on in my yoga practice, it would seem that what I have invited in is, most surprising to me, a relationship with Jesus Christ. He is with me now to lead me, like the best and truest guru, from darkness to light, from the past into the unimaginably glorious future God is creating for me. And through Jesus, in whom all things are possible, I was finally able to recognize that He was what was missing from my life.

This coming Sunday, I am choosing a life of faith as a conscious adult through the celebration of baptism. I am deeply grateful for this outward recognition of what is already happening within: the covenant made with God as I surrender to a life lived joyfully in service to Him. Through this journey, as I continue to explore this new relationship, I look forward to Jesus growing my love big enough to envelop the whole world and everyone in it.

Big Time Love: it's what Jesus would do, and what I hope to live in every breath and word and action.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

On The Hook/Off The Hook

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." -Galatians 5:1

Freedom is a funny thing. Like oxygen, its intangibility makes it easy to take for granted until it's gone and suddenly you cannot breathe. Although slavery has become passe, there are people in this world who still toil in bondage, forced to work in a mine or factory or brothel against their will. For those of us lucky enough not to live under such circumstances, we might feel as though we are quite free, and relatively speaking, we are. However, all but the most enlightened of us are bound in other ways that limit our choices, creativity, honest expression and vision. Some of these binds are innocuous or necessary, but others are unhelpful at best, deadly destructive at worst. How are you bound? Where do you give away your freedom?

Step 4: Make a searching and fearless inventory

If we are to be free, we must first determine how we are not free. For some people, this is easy. Their shackles have grown to such an obvious size and weight that they cannot deny them. They are stuck on a big hook, they made a big ol' mess while wriggling around, everyone around them has noticed, and their loved ones (and sometimes a judge) hold them accountable for the clean up. With the sudden recognition that they've lost agency in their lives, this is often when people go to rehab, into therapy, into AA (and start smoking), find religion, get in to yoga (and become raw macrobiotic vegans), etc. It's socially unacceptable to make a mess so large, and to do it so publicly. But what about the secret, quiet messes? The smaller, normalized hooks?

Most people aren't hooked on crack, but everyone has a hook or two...or ten. What are yours? In what ways do they limit your life? Can you live with that?

In the spirit of being searching and fearless, I'll go first. I'm hooked on all kinds of things! Sugar/fat/salt. Control. Personal and spiritual exploration. Complication. Shame and guilt. Anger. The list goes on...

All my hooks have to do with the conditioning I've undergone throughout my life that taught me how to be and how things are. With the exception of personal and spiritual exploration, which enables this sort of inquiry, all my hooks hold me back in some way to some degree. They have become like masters to me, but only because I have allowed them to be. I have been a willing slave, closing the lock and swallowing the key to my own freedom.

The time has come to choose new masters. I want to be mastered by and be a slave only to that which is committed to my freedom. Grace. Beauty. Truth. Ease. Surrender. Peace. Goodness. Reality. Deep Love. Yoga. God...to name a few. I will wriggle off the hooks that harm instead of help, and choose to align myself with people, emotions, ideas and experiences that elevate and evolve my consciousness.

There is another part to this. We have identified the ways in which we are bound and chosen new masters that are committed to our freedom. Now, how can we help free others? If our loved ones are on a harmful hook that they haven't identified as such, we can lovingly bring this to their attention. And if we are the hook that someone else hangs on, we can do everything possible to compassionately let them off. "But wait!" you say, "I can't control how other people feel!" No, we can't, but we can become masters committed to freeing anyone bound by false ideas of who we are and what we offer. If they remain on our hook once they know the truth of our feelings and intentions, that is their choice. At least we have tried, and try we must.

With honesty, with courage, with clarity...All beings rise up free.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Between My Maker and I

Suddenly this thought occurred to me: that where he is in his development is none of my business. It is solely between he and his God. I can expend a whole lot of time lamenting the unmet potential I see, but hiding behind the guise of me championing for his highest good is judgement. There is a time, a place and a way to hold people accountable for their greatness that is respectful and uplifting, but the way I am approaching this is neither of those things.

We could consider yoga in the same way. You're on the mat, holding Trikonasana and breathing, a gentle smile on the lips, the eyes gazing softly upwards, past your fingertips... Unless you're checking out the alignment of the people around you, mentally adjusting their posture. It's become like a tic. You can't help but want to see everyone perfectly aligned in the full expression of the pose. You know what's possible now and are practically demanding that everyone meet your ideal vision. Ahem. How unyogic is that?

As we watch and judge others, it it likely that in that very moment someone is doing the same to us. When I fall out of a pose, because I have reached a certain noticeable level of skill, I wonder how those around me are reacting. Hopefully they're so adsorbed in their experience that it goes unnoticed, but in the competitive environments in which I find myself, I'm inclined to think it's more along the lines of, "Thank goodness she's not perfect! I feel better about myself!" or something more judge-y like, "She acts so perfect. Look at her now."

Mentally critiquing the alignment of my fellow students is not making me a better yogi. It does nothing for the refinement of my own postures. That's the thing about comparison: it teaches you what others are capable of, but if you want to find out who you are, you have only to see if you're fulfilling your potential in the best way you know how. This inquiry requires us to stand before ourselves and do the hard, honest work of assessing how happy we are with what we've made of our lives. When the answer is, "Not happy at all," it's easy to avoid the harder follow up question, "What am I going to do to change?" by trying to control or being critical of someone else.

This is the real weakness- not admitting that you have made a mistake, are flawed and attempting to change, but righteously demanding perfection that you yourself cannot even attain. It speaks to a cowardly inability to be honest even with yourself about where you are and what work you have to do. It's a great expenditure of energy for an activity that does nothing to benefit you and will weaken the relationship with the recipient of your harsh assessment.

There are times to offer adjustments to others... When someone is doing something that will likely result in injury. When someone needs that push to go a bit farther or deeper. We offer this encouragement with respect to the fact that their practice belongs to them alone. It's ultimately not any of our business how deep or strong it is. It is called yoga practice, not yoga perfect. Let's let each other off the hook a bit. Perfection is a myth, anyway, and it's way more fun to celebrate the bold attempts rather than criticize the failures.

This is your life, this is your practice. Make it whatever it needs to be to fulfill your destiny. At the end of the day, the choices you make are between you, your God and no one else.