I’m not sure how to start this one.  I have been on my spiritual enlightenment quest for a really long time.  Looking here and there.  Finding this and that.  Practicing my yoga on and off the mat.  And I have been guilty of becoming very preachy in my “enlightened positive thinking.”  What I mean by that is when someone is going through a difficult time is giving a “boost” to their “mood” by encouraging (replace this word with overwhelming, reaffirming, reiterating) some sort of “think on the bright side” or “I’m there for you” or “find some gratitude” or “things will get better.”  And while yes, sometimes people need to remember that or do those things, most of the time, what they need is to be listened to.   For a long time, I didn’t get that.  I thought that my “wisdom” should be shared, especially if you were having a tough time with this life. 
Doesn’t it tell us that life doesn’t give you more than you can handle?  The universe is there for you, you just need to connect to it?  If we change the way we think we can change everything?

I do believe all of these things to be true.  Yes, we can change our lives by changing our thoughts and the power of the universe, the creative energy that created each of us is based in love and wisdom.  There have been really terrible times that I have made it through. 

But what I don’t believe anymore is that a person in the middle of a crisis, let’s say, a child who has been molested by a friend, a car accident leaving them with life altering injuries, a long and painful death of someone from a deadly disease, needs me to blow sunshine up their you know what.  They are in the middle of what I believe is FIRE.  Yes, we can call it the fire of transformation, the alchemy of changing one to the other, etc but it is essentially fire.  Oversimplifying is dangerous.  It leaves the person who is in the middle of fire feeling as though their thoughts and feelings are falling on deaf ears. 
And alone. 
Listening is something that I have been working on for a long time. 
When I had my house flood and become unsellable, my Grandmother have a stroke that would lead to the end of her life and “the one” tell me he wanted to end our relationship and quitting my job before I had another one in place in the span of a two week period of time, I was on fire.  And I was on fire because I had been telling myself that the universe would give me everything I wanted and then this happened. 
My experience has only given me the ability to see that what you walk through is fire. 
What I’ve seen sometimes in the yoga community and other spiritual communities is that we still have a tendency to grasp onto those “religious” ideas of blame and guilt:  “Well, they must have been holding some negative thought patterns;  She must have powerful samskaras; The universe must have something else for them in mind; They must be grasping on for so little when the Universe/God has everything to give them.”

People walking through fire need fire extinguishers.  Those are listening ears.  Those are people saying “feel your feelings, call anytime you want to talk, I can’t imagine what that feelings like and I am so sorry but I am here to listen, is there anything I can do for you today to help you out in anyway.”  There’s still going to be on fire, they’re still going to burn, but understanding this comes a long way.  I didn’t need someone telling me of all the mistakes I had made that led me to this point.  I didn’t need to hear that things would get better.  How was my Grandmother dying going to get better?  It was a life experience that was painful.  Yes, she had a good long life, she was loved and loving, but really, she was dying and it was sad and it sucked.  I didn’t need a metaphor for life interjected or a “this too shall pass.”  I did, however, have a lot of people around who also were following the same path who attentively listened, gave affirmative prayer and acknowledged the truth of my feelings and my situation. 

Listen…’s the most important practice that can be done.

The alchemy of yoga

I read this article written by Tim Miller, a well-respected and devoted Ashtanga teacher in Encinitas. 
In the article, he talks about the transformative power of the Ashtanga yoga in terms of asana practice and describes pretty clearly the eight-limbed path or philosophy of the Ashtanga system and how they are intertwined. 


Thoughts on Yoga Philosophy

As I continue my education as a teacher and a student of yoga, I find there are things that I’d like to share.  Different discoveries and insights have given me new ways of thinking about yoga and my own life.

In a recent teacher training, my teacher and fellow students were discussing  the Western focus of yoga being of asana (postures) versus philosophy.  It came down to simply this:  While many practitioners may start off with asana practice, over time, things start to change more on the inside.   Our focus turns inward, subtle changes occur, maybe through diet and what we put in our bodies or how we think about the world and how we treat others.  Even if we come to this as a way of bettering our physical appearance, over time, our lives start to change in ways we couldn’t have expected. 

A lot of experiences are like those from students as documented in the book Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates & Katrina Kenison:

“Yoga was physical for me at first, but it is not that physical now.  I t taught me that I need to continue to work on myself.  I thought it would be too selfish….but with yoga practice new things come up all the time.  I have a new awareness.”

“I have been physical, but also very competitive, all my life.  Yoga was the one area in my life where I didn’t compete.  I’ve settled into being a student. I am willing to learn, but it’s not about getting better, or better than the person next to me.  Now I admire the other students for their dedication.  Yoga has cleared my mind, and my decision making is better.”

“Yoga makes me feel more like taking care of myself, so I am more conscious of what I put into my body, and I am more present, more aware of how things are affecting me.  I feel more committed to taking care of myself.”

As we move into the Holiday Season, I invite you to turn within.  Take time out to do a short practice if you can, or two minutes to just shut the eyes and focus on your breath.  Take some time to look over the past year and see what positive things occurred, what you would like to change, what small things can you do for yourself in the coming year.  Take time to breath and enjoy yourself, even if for one small moment. 

Toe Eyes

I stand on my head
To see you through my toes
I breathe in through my nose
Gravity is my best friend
Keeps me grounded when
I feel like my legs
Are falling from me
I stand on my head
To see you through my toes
This is how we flow
Between asana sequences and glasses of red wine
I write poetry by candlelight
Because it feeds my insides
I stand on my head
To see you through my toes
Twist and unravel
Warrior stances
And moon dances
At being sore the next day
From a class I wasn’t ready to take
I stand on my head
Stare at you with my toes
The feet are a gateway to the soul.

by Hawah © 2010 The Poetry of Yoga and The Everlutionary Trust