One of my teachers, though he doesn’t know me; never had me in his room even, and yet he is still is responsible for an enormous chunk of that which I now consider to be my greatest skillset and understanding - Tom Meyrs, has said many times that if he opens a school, above the door will be written:
So does the spirit… So too does the mind.
That belief sits at the root of ALL my teaching, my learning, my training, my relationships…
The darkest, shortest day of the year was a great time to be reminded of that:
As I began my normal preparatory shpiel for class the other night
“...When you get your blanket and blocks, you’re going to fold your mat in half so it’s resembles a square and place the blanket on the wood floor in front of you…”
“Awe man… can’t we just do normal shit?!?” escaped the lips of a regular student in a somewhat new class of mine.
No. No we can’t.
I’m interested in, and therefore effective at teaching, actually teaching...
My desire is to get you present to and interested in what’s going on in your body…
And I couldn’t be less turned on than if I were doing something that feels familiar, expected, or standard... What demands does repeating-more-and-more-of-the-same place on our practice?
You see, the thing is: I’ve done my homework. I’ve prepped for my time with you, tried things out, sequenced, tested, adapted shifted things around to - as effectively as possible - get into the body. The path in might be a wandering one that takes us sightseeing, it might be a clearly printed guide somewhere. For sure it’s going to be a fascinating trip.
I haven’t spent all this time and love and energy studying the body, the way it is built and the way it works… the intricacies of its design and function… just to lead you through a mindless regurgitation of what we’ve done and practiced before.
We’re doing something else. We’re learning about ourselves.
We’re here to grow.
I’m here to hold a space where you can do that. I’m not here to help you stay small and disconnected. I’m here to push you to newer heights.
I’m here to, with your help, investment and work - raise the general center of gravity for understanding about ourselves; what we’re made of and how this form: this gross-body-self moves through this physical world. In order to do that, I’m going to ask you for a different level of attention, this holy work we’re undertaking is anything but passive. This process is anything but easy. And this path is anything but well traveled. The trail markers are faint, specific and easily missed. Take your eye off the way for even a moment and it's easy to get lost.
But fuck the path. For even that can obfuscate the journey.
We are in it for the journey, We are in it for the growth.
What kind of journey is one where we travel around the same circle time and time again? What kind of demands does that place on us? And therefore, what kind of response do we generate?
Anyone who has practiced for some time comes to discover that there are ever evolving layers to even (and especially?) the most fundamental of asana, to the most basic meditation and mindfulness techniques. And I do not mean to discount that truth in the least. All the while, the repetition of asana, and sequencing that is itself so familiar in our current landscape easily manifests as what might be described as ‘thoughtless mindfulness.’ Dissociation from the present moment and withdrawal from what social psychologist and professor in the psychology department at Harvard, Ellen Langer calls: Actively Noticing. In a recent interview with Krista Tippett in her show “On Being” Langer describes the rather amorphous word ; ‘Mindfulness”
We, as a whole and as a people walk around more often than not, mindless… I believe that one of, if not the most valuable part of our practice and our yogic path is its ability to enable us toward mindful action.
We do it through mindful movement.
I help create that mindful movement by holding a space that demands attentiveness and attention to details. A room where we can’t skate by on what we’ve know and good enough. And it's through that kind of hard fought noticing, that we begin to effect change.
And this holds up under scrutiny.
In a recent Scientific American article about mindfulness, researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, Adrienne Taren say:
In other words, the more we practice being attentive, the less apt we are to check out, and operate from lower order thinking.
Just as the body responds to the demands we place on it by adapting, so does the brain. The traps respond to sloppy pushing motions by overdeveloping… our brain, sending as much processing power to any task as we require.
So demand more.
And don't expect less…
For the very moment we settle for what we’ve had, and seen, and done before… our soul responds to the demand.