May I Have this Dance?

May I Have this Dance?

Why do we so fervently fear the experience of a broken heart?

The way I see it, we must fear it because of the fear. In and of itself, what’s so horrifying about the process of grief? 

Can the heart, and by heart I mean the symbol of spirit or true self, actually be broken? How can the unlimited and unbound be anything less than perfectly and eternally free? Free of pain, free of breakage of any kind, free of grief.

“Whatever suffers is not part of me,” A Course in Miracles reminds me. 

So I, the human, let the waves of grief come and go, without analyzing, fighting or resisting. I keep dancing despite the limp. I filter the grief through love, rather than through fear, by asking love to show me the real meaning and purpose of grief.

And as I keep dancing with the limp, love shows me that nothing real can ever be broken, lost or separated from itself. It only appears that way, only in the dream, or nightmare, of individual existence that we, hypnotized by fear, value so much.

Fear takes me to hell, while love grounds me in truth. 

So whether I laugh or cry, whether I gracefully glide or stumble with a limp, I ask and keep asking love to have this dance. And the next. And the next. And love always, always, always gently whispers…yes.

To Receive, Give

To Receive, Give

Recently, after teaching a class, I witnessed one of my yogis, a gorgeous woman in her late 20s, come up to one of my long-time students, a graceful and elegant woman in her 60s.

“You’re so beautiful, it’s ridiculous!” said the younger one in a matter of fact but very much from the heart tone. “I just wanted you to know.” The older beauty looked at her sort of stunned at first but quickly her eyes just sparkled with joy and gratitude. They hugged and then I introduced them to each other, as I giggled with happiness, feeling almost euphoric to have been part of this honest and innocent expression of love. This is the main reason I freakin love my non-job!

There is a lot of hugging and warmth and love going on at Rishi Yoga. I wanted to have my own yoga studio not to make money, or to be the princess of yoga in this town, but to create a space where humans can come back to their natural, innate and divine desire to express love and feel loved. This may sound cheesy and naive, especially in this love-deprived, competition-based and fear-ruled (in other words, ass-backwards) world, but I have learned long ago not to go by the ways of the world. I much prefer the ways of the heart, as cheesy and naive as they may seem.

When do we usually give compliments? To those we know well and like? To those we want something from? To the people who are popular and trendy? To those who are not a threat to us because they’re not better looking or smarter or more successful than we are? And how often are the compliments we decide to give honest expressions of how we feel?

We’re conditioned to always calculate what we say and do and carefully gauge the effects of our words and actions against the consequences of those words and actions as they relate to our possible benefit. Or, simply said, we’re taught — whether overtly or in subtle ways — to filter ourselves depending on who we are talking to and what we may need from that person.

I’ve never been very good at playing that game. I’ve been told I wear my heart on my sleeve and I say what’s on my mind as if those things are somehow defects. I remind myself that the world is ass-backwards instead of trying to contort myself to fit the unnatural mold of “how adults should be.”

In my world, a compliment is an honest giving of my heart to another being. It’s a spontaneous and effortless giving for no other reason than the joy of giving itself. A true compliment can never be a giving-to-receive because that sort of giving is not giving at all.

So I will keep telling men that they’re handsome and women that they’re beautiful for the simple reason that this is what I see in them and I want them to see that beauty in themselves. It’s really not that hard to be kind. We all want and need the same thing and that is to feel loved and appreciated and seen for who we are at the deepest level, beyond the mask of the person we think we are and the meat suit we seemingly wear.

The world tells us that this is the season of giving. To me, every day is the season of giving as I have the choice to give freely from my heart, knowing that the miracle of true giving is that I receive exactly what I give.

Upside Down

Upside Down

In one of my yoga classes last week, I guided my students into a headstand. After about 15 minutes into the practice, that is. I guess I broke a whole bunch of yoga rules by doing that (and it wasn’t the first time, I confess). As every yoga teacher knows, we are taught to incorporate inversions at the end of class. I don’t break rules just for the hell of it; I understand that there are reasons behind most dos and don’ts, and I do my best to at least know those reasons, whether I believe in them or not. I teach what I practice, and when I practice, I tend to listen more to how my own body feels, rather than going by some never-to-be-deviated-from script. The latter makes me cringe, actually, because who wrote the script and why should I blindly follow it?

Let me make something clear before the yoga police gets up in arms: The 15 minutes or so leading up to the headstand contained an appropriate warmup, and of course, I gave my students other options to invert (because it’s never about a particular pose, anyway). The intention of the practice that day was to expand, and using the first 15 minutes to come into a pose usually reserved for the last 15 minutes was one of the ways we could notice how stuck we may be in a belief that something should be a certain way. I loved seeing the shock on everyone’s face when I offered the headstand. But because I expected that reaction, I acted like a good parent would act when their toddler fumbles into a harmless fall: no big deal. And I watched my beautiful yogis come into their headstands like it was no big deal at all. I could feel their confidence and power, and what’s even better, I could sense that each one of them had a little breakthrough as they bypassed their minds’ rules for a moment and experienced pure freedom and joy.

After class, the excited chatter was all about how strong everyone felt in their inversion (because they weren’t tired like they would have been at the end of class) and how surprised they were that being on their heads felt easy and just good. And that was exactly the point of the whole practice (which involved a lot more than headstand): expanding our idea of everything, including who we are and what the world is. Within each of us lies this innate aching and yearning for the breakdown of all contraction and limitation, which we ultimately realize was put in place because of a simple and silly mistake we took way too seriously.

When it comes to so many rules we follow in our lives, whether we follow them consciously or not, we tend to stay in the state of contraction and do all we can not to scratch the itch for expansion. And we wonder why living life often seems like pulling teeth. How can we expect to maintain any sort of flow when, out of fear of leaving our familiar cocoon, we continually squash every opportunity to spiritually grow? When a bird hatches from an egg, it cracks open the walls of what until then provided protection and safety. But if the bird decided it wouldn’t crack the shell because it was too scared or it would be too risky to do so, the shell would no longer bring protection; it would bring destruction and would end the bird’s life.

How much of what you perceive is simply unquestioned belief? And most beliefs we cling to like our life depended on them are not even based on truth, but are simply uninvestigated fear reactions.

Like I said earlier, I don’t break rules just for the hell of it, and I certainly don’t break all rules. That would not be empowering but just stupid. We don’t become spiritually or intellectually emancipated by blanket rebellion but by a devoted practice of discernment. We learn to separate the wheat from the chaff not by adopting someone else’s gospel about what constitutes wheat and what constitutes chaff, but by finding out for ourselves. Each one of us has been equipped with the same superpower: intuition, which is simply intelligence that’s much vaster than the puny human intellect. It’s sad how little we use and trust that superpower and instead just believe everything we think, see and hear with our physical senses, or were taught. Haven’t we had enough of the blind leading the blind?

Speaking of this idiom, how many of you yogis knew it came from one of the Upanishads? “Abiding in the midst of ignorance, thinking themselves wise and learned, fools go aimlessly hither and thither, like blind led by the blind.” (Katha Upanishad) And how much of the yoga world is all about following “tradition,” without even asking who decided on whatever supposedly became tradition? Most of the physical yoga practice, the asana practice, developed in the last 100 years or so and is a result of calisthenics, gymnastics and people making stuff up. I make up moves all the time in my practice and my teaching, and to me, that’s what makes yoga an art. As Pablo Picasso said: “Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.”

Please don’t be one of the fools going aimlessly hither and tither, as the Upanishad says. Don’t be what you were never meant to be. Be an artist; make up your own rules, without any aggressive defiance or fanfare. If you don’t know how to do that or what is true for you, go to your superpower, your intuition, and listen to the artist within your heart. Intuition is not something we were taught in school and it’s not something we see promoted in the mainstream, but guess what: even those rules may eventually change.

Return to Innocence

Return to Innocence

Last week during class I “threatened” to make a playlist of boyband songs and create a silly sequence so we can all forget for a moment to be so damn grown up. Because sometimes — and very often these days — grownups don’t display much more maturity than bratty two year olds fighting and screaming and whining over made up problems.

It was supposed to be a joke but I just couldn’t resist pulling it off yesterday. The more serious the world gets, the more seriously will I try to lighten up my own life and hopefully inspire others to do the same. Why? Because, as Albert Camus said: “Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being.” Which means, every time we grownups throw tantrums, it’s actually an unconscious wish to be free of all the opinions, judgments and the harsh right-and-wrongs we impose on ourselves and others, keeping us so far from the essence of being that we have no idea what in the world essence of being even means.

Can you remember how you felt before your good opinions were formed? Before you were so conditioned by the state of mass unconsciousness and fear? If you can’t remember, maybe imagine how it would feel to be so free of all, or at least most, of the judgments you hold about yourself, other people and the world. Oh, I can hear your response already: “But who would I be without all my opinions and judgments?!” You worry you would somehow spontaneously combust, but I promise you that whatever vanishes, will not be you but all the things you mistake yourself to be.

Once freed from the things you are not and never were — all the things that ate up most of your energy day by day — you’ll find yourself back in your natural state of innocence. You’ll suddenly look at the same world with completely new eyes. And that’s what we all are yearning for, whether we realize it or not: to be able to see beauty and goodness and grace when we open our eyes.

To return to innocence doesn’t mean to walk through life brainless or passive or stupidly naive. And it doesn’t mean to act childish either. It simply means toning down our familiar adult attitude of seeing the world as evil and as a problem. How can children (before they get fully conditioned, that is) get so excited and be completely filled with joy over the simplest of things? And how come as adults, we demand that the world be as we need it to be before we can put a smile on our face, giggle, sing and be silly and happy for no reason?

Maybe reaching maturity, or fully growing up, means coming back to our original state of innocence. We’ve been walking and running and elbowing one another on the way to the imaginary finish line, not realizing we’ve been heading in the wrong direction. Rather than accumulating more mind knowledge, let some of that cerebral stuff just go by shifting your awareness from the head to the heart. Innocence lives in the heart.

And what does that have to do with boybands?! Not much. Except boybands are just cute. Not the cool kind of cute, but the innocent kind of cute; that’s the idea, at least. I wonder whether most of us want to throw up when we hear boybands sing because we’d do anything to push away that pre-adult innocence because we’re all grown up and don’t have time for cute and silly things anymore. And how’s that serious adult attitude working for us?

“A man of reason? A disinterested philosopher? I’d rather be a puppy wagging its tail.” Thank you, Marty Rubin; perfectly said.