Tuesday, August 28, 2012

It Depends

      Here's the thing that would make me crazy.Or should I say here's A thing that would make me crazy? So many opportunities to hop on the crazy train!! But I digress, so here's my story. I was in a yoga training a few years ago with a teacher I greatly admired in so many ways but who would answer a great deal of our questions with a confounding "it depends".  Now, I have been programmed with alot of "whys" and in a family and culture that values knowledge it can be an ego bender to admit " I don't know" and  "it depends" has a whiff of  the same dangerous vulnerability.  Also, like many people I like neat and tidy answers, resolved questions, and concrete certainty. "It depends" was not an answer that left me feeling warm and tingly but rather a little off kilter. At the very least weren't we paying for rock solid answers? Perhaps she not know the answers, I groped in the darkness for certainty to wrap around my shivering ego. Or perhaps she was just trying to make us think for ourselves? There had to be a reason this smart woman kept answering "it depends" Thoughts tumbled like agitated marbles upon hearing "it depends" so many often when I was craving a solid 2+2 =4.

     "It depends" was simply not an acceptable answer to me at the time. But  how quickly times do change! Fast forward to this morning and I am reviewing a lengthy email response  I wrote to a students question when I notice I really could just sum up my answer in two words: "It depends"! The thing is, I wasn't trying some teaching technique in the email,  the answer just really was "it depends". And although answering  "it depends" made the ground shake ever so slighly it was ok to not have a rock solid answer to stand on. I gave the same answer to a yoga student last week asking for definitive permanent alignment directions. Alignment can depend on the postural intention, the personal body structure which subtly changes pretty much continuously, the therapeutic needs, alignment can depend on the moment. So, once again "it depends" was the answer. Sometimes a definitive answer shuts down exploration while "it depends" can fan curiosities flames.

     The thing is, so many times when I have given an "authoritative" and definitive answer to someone about their yoga journey not long after other alternative answers have presented themselves. There are infinite ways to move and live and breath. When we clutch at the certainty and permanence of our beliefs we are stifling our growth. Just when we know we are right is when we often become wrong. So, "it depends", really is the very best answer in so many circumstances.  "It depends", says I am open to evolving circumstances. "it depends" says I may have some information, but I don't have all the information. "It depends" leaves spaciousness for change and growth. Your answer today may not work for you tomorrow. "It depends" allows us to surf the currents of life unencumbered with the certainty of our rightness massaging the ego. Buoyant with curiosity and humility ironically we are made stronger in embracing our vulnerability.

     Recently I choose to take a break in my pursuit of happiness to just be happy. Well, now I am taking a break in my relentless pursuit of answers to be present in the moment to let the answers unfold. To let knowledge whisper to my soul rather than allow certainty to crush the tender flower growing in my heart. The answers presenting themselves as I stop pretending I know all the options. The path to our best self is anchored by curiosity and humbleness. The more you think you know the less you know. The ironies of life bursting open with a sweet richness. Shedding the fear of not knowing and embracing the truth of "it depends" we open to the lessons of the moment. And ironically in perceived weakness there is found enduring strength.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness
2 Cor 12:9

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Secret Location of Inner Peace Revealed!

     I watched as look of disbelief tinged with disgust flickered across a students face. She had paid for a side of wisdom and peace with her yoga and, by God, I as the teacher had better say something profound and fast! I had just shared with the class something I meant from the bottom of my heart, that I wasn't offering them wisdom but rather offering a safe space and silence in which their own inner wisdom could begin to be revealed. Why was it so hard for this yogi to believe she had something wise and eternal inside her, so hard in fact that the mere suggestion made her jaw clench and her eyes narrow? Why are we so fixated on searching for answers from external sources when we all have a deep well inside of us just waiting to be explored. Inner wisdom is not found at the corner of Guru & Stretchy, but rather it is non cryptically described: INNER wisdom is inside. You. Yes, YOU.

     I have been teaching alot lately on the "greatest commandment " found in several of the gospels. It basically states that you can do nothing more important than loving God and loving your neighbor as you love yourself. I see so many, myself included at times, striving to love God and act lovingly towards our neighbors and entirely skipping over the important "love yourself" component. Loving yourself must include accepting that deep in our spirits peace and wisdom already reside.
 In a conversation about the greatest commandment, Jesus saw that one man really understood loving yourself and Jesus replied to him "You are not far from the kingdom of God". So why was this self loving man closer to Gods kingdom than the man standing right next to him? The man standing next to him was still looking for answers externally. To paraphrase Blaise Pascal , "every human has a God shaped hole inside of them". Every human, not just your minister, rabbi, yoga teacher, therapist or favorite country singer, but every human and that includes you. So this "god shaped hole" the seat of the what yogis call Inner Teacher and Christians call Holy Spirit is where we need to go to grow in faith and wisdom. This "God shaped hole" is partially the kingdom of God and opening up to this wisdom is opening to loving ourselves. It is sadly ironic how far and wide we search for our better selves when everything we need is right here right now. It is as if we traveled the globe searching for our shadow which silently trailed the whole time.
    So, why to we wander around so clueless so often? Because we do not allow time and space and silence for our inner wisdom to bloom. But rather we generally look to our minds for answers instead of our spirits. Our minds make wonderful servants but terrible masters and we need to stop letting them lead our lives. Remember your thoughts and emotions are only waves on the surface of the ocean that is you.  But let's not think of this as an "all or nothing" situation. As in I will never find inner peace because I can't go on a silent retreat, or take an hours yoga everyday or live at my church or commune with nature daily. No, stillness is cumulative and carving out a mere 5 minutes a day if done with consistency is enough to begin to reveal the wisdom concealed deep inside you. So perhaps today is the day you stop searching and start sitting. God planted a wonderful treasure inside you, but He planted it deep enough that we must cultivate silence and patience and self love to begin to catch a glimpse of this shiny gem. Somedays we sit and are rewarded with growth and some days we sit and it sucks and we don't like what we see at all. But day by day we sit and one day we realize the brightly shining light is emanating from us.

Be still and know...its a directive not just a sweet quote

Monday, August 6, 2012

Much Ado About Nothing

     This morning I have been thinking about "nothing". Literally, nothing, but not in that Zen "mind like a still lake" kind of nothing, but rather that nothing that Christians sometimes refer to as the "dark night of the soul". The nothing that is the silence of the Divine. The nothing that comes about when your "mountain top" God experiences seem like a dim misty memory. The nothing that comes about when you have not had an "aha" moment or a word from God in what seems like an eternity. Yesterday, I came to Quiet to teach my early evening class and...nothing. Not one student, not one clue from God why, not one hint of direction. Just deafening silence. This has happened  in growing this new business. Thankfully, God has blessed me greatly with a sense of His spirit and I believe myself to be on the path He has for me. However, when I am walking the direction Christ has for me, in the past, I have always felt as if covered with a blanket of holy peace. People would ask me why I thought I knew God's will for my life and I would comfortably refer to the "peace that surpasses understanding" that one may encounter in the Presence of God. But what happens when that peace turns to silence that offers no clues? What about when your prayers seem to drop into a bottomless well with no answer forthcoming?

     I read voraciously and from all different faith traditions, so I cannot properly acknowledge the source of my current comfort,  a quote that states something like  "You are the ocean and your thoughts and emotions are merely waves on the surface." Could it be that all of those "mountain top" encounters with God that swelled my heart in my early spiritual life were merely waves. All of those moments where reverence was so thick it pushed me to my knees, tears of gratitude, sobs of joy: all nothing more than surface waves? Is this nothingness, this silence without end, this vast internal ocean,  is this the Truth? In my early spiritual life God indulged me like a little spoiled child. How many times did God display grand rainbows at the exact moment I needed or orchestrate divine "coincidences" before I would stop looking for His hand of reward and start searching for His heart of eternal vastness? Too many to count! But now, for weeks, I have had no clever statuses to update, no blogs divinely inspired, no yoga practices where the Holy Spirit whispered lovingly into my thirsty soul. Nothing but a silence so thick as to be palpable.

       As God grows my fledgling yoga studio, I have struggled with what to do with the classes where no one comes, the classes of "nothing". I have been gifted time and I intend to honor God with it, but how? Do I practice my own yoga, or is that a diversion? Do I go market and network, or is that desperation? Do I thank God for His perfect plan in an empty class, or does that send some kind of message that I am uninterested in growth?  Do I pray that God fills my classes, or is this repetitive prayer like an annoying ungrateful gnat buzzing the ear of the Divine?  To you, the observer, the lesson in patience may be obvious, the call to rest a no brainer. But to me, the student, I still cast about looking for answers. Thankfully I have a solid 22 years of spiritual pursuit and God has proven that He will never leave and never forsake me. I remember that everything that God does is intended for my good and I sit with nothing. And that nothing feels as if I am adrift on an endless sea of silence, but then I remember what I think and feel are just waves on the surface and I dive down deeper into nothing. Maybe when Peggy Lee sang "Is that all there is?" She was on to something. What if nothing is what there is? What if nothing is enough? What if sitting in the silence and letting it wash over you and not looking for a "sign" is the plan? We are so stimulated now that a blue computer screen or a power outage can feel like a death sentence. But what if nothing is the plan for today? Just to sit on the wire like the trusting sparrow letting nothing be everything. I find comfort sitting in silence with my husband. I don't ask him every few moments to light up the sky in an avowal of love. So perhaps it is time to let God's "nothing" be my everything to sit quietly with the silence knowing God is love and not asking for more. It is a childish faith that needs continual reassurance and petting. Deciding to follow Gods direction was me getting into a boat safely moored. Deciding to follow God when His directions are a mystery shrouded in nothing is like untying that boat and casting off into a vast sea.  But as my eyes slowly adjust to the dim mist I see that nothing truly is everything. And for the moment I sit quietly, completely empty and yet completely full.

"We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust” Rumi writes so beautifully
dare I add... returning to nothingness in a twinkle is our fate. Savoring a moment of nothingness in between is our gift.