In response to an email from a reader who felt the need to give me critical feedback about my use of personal funds to come to India for healing when I could be offering those personal funds to the programs for which I act as the fundraising coordinator and fiscal sponsor (Breitenbush Hot Springs and DAYA Foundation):
It’s a privilege to be here at Vaidyagrama Healing Village. Given the numbers of people on the planet and the comparatively far fewer people who get to come to places likes this, and the numbers of people who are fortunate to meet Vaidyas, doctors, who hold such ancient, indigenous medicines in such high regard and who make those medicines available to the people who seek them out, I am both very privileged and very fortunate to be here.
Ayurveda is an ancient medicinal tradition focused on the wisdom of life. Ayur means ancient system of life. Veda is wisdom. I’ve come to this Ayurveda healing center to focus on the healing that my Western medical team is not able to fully satisfy.
Cow. Cow. Cow. Another Cow.
This morning I went for my last walk before the “Ghee Days”. Stepping out the door of the healing village, I was halted by the sight of 3 beautiful cows with amazing horns, strolling down the road. They were followed by a cow herder giving them cues as he casually shifted their reigns. I began to step out to cross the dirt street when I realized that a baby cow was running to catch up with the first 3. Untethered but obviously dedicated, this baby cow was earnestly following the hoof prints of the bigger cows.
Though it was a baby cow, I waited. After all, a baby cow could do some damage if it knocked me over. I already have two concussions!
People often go to a retreat or a healing center with a set of symptoms that they identify as “their symptoms”. The things they wish would go away (perhaps so that life could “go back to normal”.)
Yet, those symptoms have underlying causes.
Often much deeper than we imagine.
A retreat or a healing center that is dedicated to the transformation that our lives are capable of (and dedicated to that transformation creating better citizens, a better society, a more connected world), won’t likely allow us to believe that these are just the pesky symptoms of our life which, if we just solved them, we could go back out to the world to be “productive members of society again”.
As the US approaches a holiday weekend, Independence Day, I often feel a personal quandary about this holiday. Since I am in India (receiving necessary therapies for ongoing post-concussion symptoms), my reflections have a different feel to them.
The great Mahatma K Gandhi was instrumental in freeing India from British colonization, which began near to 1608, according to some historians, and ended in 1947. For India to regain its independence from Britain was a profoundly meaningful act. Gandhi’s life was lost in the process, but the freedom he wished for the people of India was won.
I am awake at 2 am IST everyday. Though it’s not intentional, this does give me leisurely time for my yoga practice! Darkness surrounded my personal porch. I’ve enjoyed the early morning darkness in my yoga practice for decades. In the US, my practice time is 5 am. Here, jet lag induces an even earlier practice. I have come to see what the teachings meant about the auspiciousness of the vata window of the night, which begins at 2 am. A long time ago I learned about monks who would awaken to practice at this time. Inspired, yet unwilling, I went on to enjoy my 5 am ritual. I had to work, afterall, I said to myself in protest. I couldn’t show up drowsy for my students!
For the first 3 days, I was the only one awake. It was luscious!
On the 4th morning, the porch across the way from me was lit up and someone was sitting in meditation with a small candle flame like they’d been there for hours. It was only 2:15 am! “Who is intruding on my personal dark morning practice?!”, I asked myself. Followed by intrigue (and annoyance) that anyone else would be awake at this time at all. “How dare they get here before I did!”
Getting into the back of the taxi, my affect was dull and inward. I did not have the energy to be more congenial with the driver, nor the staff person accompanying me. My ears had been blocked since I arrived in India. I felt like I was living on a boat, walking about with an internal swaying sensation that caused me to occasionally brace myself on the nearest post in the outdoor corridor of the beautiful, tranquil and loving Ayurveda Healing Center where I had come … to heal.
Creating Connection in the Online Yoga Classroom
Part of a teacher’s job in any classroom is to create a community of learning. When I did my yoga teacher training, I was very aware that a large part of my learning happened in the daily milieu of being with my training cohort. It wasn’t just about content. I learned from the content, for sure, but I also learned about yoga through the sense of community we created and from our connections. I learned from seeing how my teacher’s responded to other students, how they addressed issues or explored, in real-time, the physical learnings and the questions that arose for other trainees.
The True Meaning of Interdependence:
While I am not naive as to what is meant culturally when we celebrate Independence, I am increasingly unable to let the word slide by in conversation, or in long-commercialized holiday celebrations.
Our fundamental reality is that we are NOT independent. We are intimately entwined to multitudes of forces on which we rely for our most basic existence. Even if we only accept what we see with the obvious eye, we can not deny our dependence on the intelligence of nature, of which we, too, are an expression.
Earthen richness to grow the plant materials on which we depend (whether it’s kale, potatoes for chips, or marijuana for CBD).
Water to hydrate, bathe, or brew coffee.
Fire for the warmth of the sun and the ripening of fruits on the vine.
Air for the precious exchange between us and the plant life on which we depend.
Our bodies, temporary and finite as they are, are described through yoga and Ayurveda as being comprised of these 5 elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether.
The density of muscles and bones;
the fluids the myofacial and organ systems, circulation, hydration of eyes, nose, joints, and more;
the fire that supports our metabolic processes;
the air we breathe;
and the most subtle form, ether, infusing the spaces.
When you or a student or client is struggling with a long-standing, seemingly unchanging, deeply embedded pattern, one that causes harm, neglect, or criticism (with themselves or others), how do you know which course is best: Compassion or Action?
Through the lens of yoga, a stuck pattern is called Tamas (or tamasic). It means that which is stable, inert, inactive, dull. The word for Action is Rajas. That which is mobile or motivated. More likely to catalyze change.
Ideally, yoga recommends making wise use of Tamas and Rajas to create the opportunities for Sattva: that which is lucid, clear, graceful, and loving. Each of us needs just enough Tamas (stability and structure) and just enough Rajas (motivation and courage) to move toward Sattva.
In my last two posts I started our conversation about the Language of Yoga with an exploration of what not to do, and began illustrations and explanations for what we should do instead.
I introduced the first of the essential language skills for teaching yoga: Knowing the Basics of the Poses. I began to illustrate the important differences between active/passive language and direct/indirect language.
Today I’ll continue that exploration by talking about how you can Nourish Your Presence.
(Learn more about our 200hr Yoga Teacher Trainings here.)