What I do as a teacher is try to steer students towards the unteachable. The path is woven with teachings, pathways and route markers. The destination is absolutely unteachable. If I, as a light bearer and guide, can, by the grace of what’s holy and sacred, direct students properly, using the most concise and effective language and tools, then I’ve accomplished all that I possibly can. Once the student finds that space of epiphany and realization, the experience is uniquely his or hers, and could never have accurately been predicted or described. We are all seeking our truth, and only once we find ourselves irrevocably immersed in it will we be able to know the unteachable.
My career and my intention has been steeped in directing others to the truth about who we are as human beings, to understand and acknowledge that we are not our bodies, we are not our jobs, we are not our responsibilities, we are not our successes nor are we our failures. All of these things are temporary and transient. What we are is the unchanging energy that animates each and every one of our frames. Without that energy, we are simply dead bodies. This energy existed before we were born and it will outlive our bodies. It is an energy that is untouched by illness or mood, an unchanging observer that perceives the world around itself using the body’s senses.
This understanding of the Self eventfully brings clarity and perspective to students seeking truth and answers in their lives. This perspective and clarity allows us all to stop getting caught up in the ever-changing sea of daily dramas that seems to ricochet us from emotion to emotion, and to start focusing on what really matters: are we loving? Are we compassionate? Are we being loved? Are we free, and are we ensuring that freedom is not selectively doled out to the fortunate, but rather a birthright for all? Are we serving others?
We are in the weeks leading up to a very important provincial election here in Quebec. I’m not going to start preaching or sharing my own political beliefs, because I believe that we are all entitled to our own opinions and don’t want to be that person that polarizes others. I want to bring people together. I don’t care who Quebecers and Montrealers vote for, but I do care that a huge percentage of the population here does not take the time to go vote and exercise a right that others around the world are fighting to the death to have.
It is with the intention of galvanizing people who typically don’t vote because they a) don’t believe their vote will make a difference, or b) can’t be bothered to take the time out of their busy schedules to go to the polling stations, that I am creating one day of classes that I will lead, and I’m calling it Yoga Votes Saturday.
On Saturday, April 5 I will be leading a free yoga class from 9:00-9:50am at Lululemon Greene Avenue, and a paid yoga class at Luna Yoga from 11am-12:30pm. It is my hope that my regular students will bring people they know who are not regular voters to these classes, as well as people who have not yet taken my class. I aim to empower people to find their unique voices through the yoga practice, and it is with this voice that we effect change. I aim to get at least one person to the polling station on Election Day who would not have gone without having heard me speak and teach. It is my aim that we wake up as a society and realize that we have the power to make a difference, to effect real change and to step up in our own lives and start living consciously.
I am asking each and every one of you reading these words to get up off your chair, out of your house and be there at either of my 2 classes on Saturday, April 5 and to help me mobilize fellow Montrealers and Quebecers to stand up, be heard, and, ultimately, be a part of one of the most important elections we will be faced with. It’s not enough to share a Facebook post or Like a status. It’s time to do something real, so let’s do it together.
See you all at:
Lululemon Greene Ave – 1394 Avenue Greene, 9-9:50am
Luna Yoga – 231 Saint-Paul Ouest, Suite 200 – 11am-12:30pm
I am light. I am love. I am energy. I am truth. I am expansiveness. I am knowledge. I am everywhere. I am nowhere. I am the molecules forming the clouds overhead and the sound of the tectonic plates shifting. I am the wind racing through the streets and the sun that reflects off the windshield. I am the gossamer web of a spider and the fly that gets trapped in it. I am the awareness of an infant and the wisdom of an aged mind. I am Jehovah. I am Shiva. I am Jesus. I am Vishnu. I am Allah. I am Brahma. I am Buddha. I am Krishna. I am Adonai. I am Isvara.
And so are you.
One of my favourite memories of being in a yoga class was when I took Cat’s class at Jivamukti London a year ago. Cat was leading a strong, amazingly instructed vinyasa, and in one of the sequences, the guy practicing next to me went fully rogue, taking whatever postures he felt like moving into, completely veering off of the class we were there to take. Cat didn’t let it go unnoticed, as I quickly understood by her “STAY PRESENT” interjection. He quickly came back to the moment and fell into the flow the rest of us were moving through.
As a yoga teacher, I constantly find myself instructing students that veer off of the path that the class is moving along, and, admittedly, as much as I try to address it without interrupting the instruction, I have never had the guts to literally tell someone to follow along and stay with my words. I loved Cat’s certainty, but more than that, I understood where it came from. Some people argue that those who attend classes and then follow their own internal teacher shouldn’t bother coming to class at all, because what’s the point if they’re not an active participant in the process? But, I know that some students have physical limitations and/or injuries that prevent them from taking certain postures, so they adjust what they need to in order to stay in the flow and maintain a certain pace. However…what I also occasionally see is students who have been practicing for a long time, whether with me or with other studios and teachers, who are familiar with the practice and feel like they’re used to the sequences and know where the class is going. I’ve been that student, and still am, on occasion. It is because of this assumed familiarity that we sometimes find ourselves moving through the asanas with reduced presence and attention…and it is in that semi-lethargy that we find ourselves moving into the next anticipated posture without being aware that the teacher hasn’t brought us there – in fact, everyone else has kept following along and they’re moving through entirely different sequences. So we snap back to the present moment and speed-yog through a few postures until we catch up to the class, and with the adrenaline rushing, we make sure we’re fully present for the rest of the class. And that is what it’s all about: presence.
If yoga is union, and we’re aiming to unify the mind, body and the breath, then we’re falling out of a state of yoga when our minds are elsewhere. The same goes when our breath is out of control, as well as when our bodies are taking postures that are not being instructed. To come back to the practice involves coming back into a state of union, and that is what the fundamental aim of the practice is. Our goal as yogis is to come back to that state of unification and alignment as often as possible so that we can have glimpses into the realm of truth, possibility and permanence. It is through those experiences that we become galvanized to pass on the teachings and guidelines to our students so that they can experience those moments of beauty and expanding awareness as well. The ultimate goal? To achieve a state of oneness all the time, in all moments, remembering that what happens on the mat during any yoga practice is a microcosm of what happens in our daily lives, allowing what we learn through our practice to be incorporated into our daily meanderings. To achieve peace. To achieve detachment from the material world, understanding that true happiness lies in our ability to connect…to each other, to the earth and the world around us, and, ultimately, to a higher energy. All through the practice.
So if you have en existing practice, challenge yourselves to observe how you practice. Notice when and why your attention wanders from the breath and the movement, and see if you can gain insight into why it’s happening. More importantly, if you don’t practice yoga, check yourselves throughout your day. If you’re constantly active and busy, take moments out of your hustle and bustle to step back from everything, and notice if you’re fully participating in your own life, or if you’re half-heartedly going through the motions, with some of your attention elsewhere. If you are, do your best to let whatever is in the past stay in the past, and to let go of how you think things will unravel in the future. Be present, and see how it serves you. You might be surprise how it changes your approach to everything, and to the relationships that already exist between you and the people you work with, live with, etc…Try it out…If you don’t find yourselves any the wiser for it, you’re still ahead of the game, because you made the effort to stand back from yourselves and do some digging, some exploration. If the expression “An unexamined life is not worth living” is accurate, then it’s time to infuse our existences with worth. All it takes is the intention and awareness. Try it out, and see for yourselves….
Learn more about YIOM, follow the bloggers participating, and catch up with our twitter feeds at http://theveganasana.com/YIOM.
I’ve officially been in Spain for a full week now, and regardless of having been away on vacation before, regardless of having planned and prepared for this trip for the past 6 months, the experience of really being AWAY is proving to be another of life’s true lessons for me.
Stephane and I started our trip in Barcelona, a city teeming with art, beauty, and a million-and-one things to do…and in 5 days, I think we did about 800,000 of them, as our friends Marc & Vanessa could attest to. They were in Barcelona when we arrived, and we spent a couple of days with them, guided by Stephane and his Lonely Planet-inspired walking tours. After they left Spain, we continued exploring every major neighborhood until I was exhausted, opting on our last full day there for an afternoon siesta while Stephane’s superhuman endurance continued to guide him through the city.
We flew to Granada the following day for two more days of exploring and sight-seeing, not to mention eating…from there we sped to Cordoba by train where we now find ourselves lounging by the pool in 35 degree weather…lounging after a full week of walking and acclimatizing to our new Spanish schedule.
With just under 2 more weeks to go, I can look back at the past week and clearly see how easy it is to lose oneself amidst the distractions of a new environment…how easy it can be to push oneself past one’s limits of endurance, to completely forget to nourish oneself in the rush to see and do everything…and then to find your Self standing to the side, observing everything patiently, but knowingly…until you find both feet once again firmly planted on the ground, and an insanely strong desire to quench the thirst that has been quietly building up. A thirst to be present, to find real union, to come back to your Self, regardless of where you find your physical self and whatever distractions present themselves. To take a minute amidst the whirling of that which is new to take stock of where you are and who you’re with…mental snapshots, if you will.
As we walked through the entrance of the Alhambra in Granada two days ago, Stephane, in his typically “under the radar” fashion, very quietly said to me, “We’re here, and it’s now.” I was once again reminded of who I’m fortunate enough to be spending the rest of my life with. Of the Buddha-like quality that we all possess, but which shines a little bit brighter in some than others. Those five words helped me completely disconnect from my everyday life so I could plant myself even deeper in the exquisite beauty that is Spain.
So with all that in mind, I’ll stop typing, and lift my gaze back up to the rooftops around me, bordered by the mountains of parched land and olive trees. After all, we’re here, and it’s now.