Tag Archives: empowerment

Why?

Why would you doubt your worth?

Why would you pretend to be someone else?

Why would you settle for mediocrity?

Why would you waste this precious time by doing what you’d prefer not to?

Why would you do what everyone else is doing?

Why wouldn’t you ask for help when you need it?

Why wouldn’t you reach for your dreams and wildest ambitions?

Why wouldn’t you assume that it will all work out?

Why wouldn’t you passionately respect yourself?

Why wouldn’t you finally just do it, your way, on your terms?

Open to the Openness

My focus for the past week’s classes has been something I usually incorporate into my classes, but I felt it was so relevant to the process of examining how we live our lives that I decided to not only make it the focus, but to also write about it. My work in waking people up to their true selves and their true missions in this life basically always comes back to what I’ve been discussing with students this past week, so please feel free to consider this to be a fundamental truth, one from which all other aspects of one’s life stems.

Regardless of whether your yoga practice consists of standing up in the morning and stretching after a long night’s sleep, or if you take a 90-minute active group class somewhere, then you might have already clued in to the fact that everything that you do relating to the asanas directly relates to your approach to what you do in all other aspects of your lives. I have always encouraged and instructed students to bring their home practice to a group environment, to take the same liberties they would afford themselves when practicing alone, confident in the knowledge that their practice should fit their bodies, and not the inverse…I remind everyone that they’re not doing it to impress me, nor to impress the people around them. I often remind everyone that what the person is doing directly next to them in class has absolutely no bearing on their own practice, that the essence of Yoga is about looking inwards, and forgetting what their senses are interpreting from external sources. Most importantly, I encourage students to keep moving, even micro-movements in static poses, all in the hope that they’ll wriggle around and find an even more comfortable and stable posture than they’ve been used to, regardless of how long they’ve been practicing and how well they think they know their bodies, the practice, etc… The reasons for my approach are manifold: I am a firm believer that I know nothing. That we know nothing. That we go through our lives with stories about each other, about the world we live in, but mainly about ourselves. We tell ourselves we are this way, we like these things, we see ourselves here, there or elsewhere in the future, that we believe in whatever we think we believe in…however…when given the chance to wriggle around and test the boundaries of who we think we are and what we think we’re capable of, all of a sudden we realize that we are more capable, more aware, more awake, more, more, more than we knew. We are more than we think we are, and in the immortal words of Jean Klein, we need to remain “Open to the openness.” We don’t know everything about anything, and so the more we realize that, the more hesitant we are in defining ourselves, each other, and the world around us because we understand that everything is in a state of transformation, of flux, and we become more of who we are with every passing second. The other reason for my approach is to give people the perspective necessary to really see themselves and the way they live their lives…to examine how we make decisions, and whether those decisions are bringing us closer to where and who we want to be, or if the roots of those choices we have made (and continue to make) stem from any other motivation.

If a student feels empowered enough in my class to take an extra breath when he or she needs it, or if a student feels comfortable enough to wriggle around and make self-adjustments in the understanding that they will find a better practice waiting on the other side of those movements, then the same student will also feel empowered enough to draw outside of the lines in their own lives…to work within whatever parameters exist in whatever realm they find themselves in, i.e. their jobs, relationships, etc…, but to also feel confident that by incorporating their own inquisitiveness and personalities, they will find an even more gratifying space of truth in whatever they’re doing. On the other end of the spectrum, if a student feels paralyzed by fear in their practice, and they take a pose and hold it for dear life while shaking and suffering, counting the breaths until they can come out of it, then that tells them how they deal with challenge, trauma, and essentially any other facets of daily life that don’t immediately sit comfortably with them. The yoga practice tells us everything we need to know, we just need to understand that and be open to the openness of the worlds within and all around us. If a student finds themselves reluctant to explore their options with in the framework of a class, they’ll be reluctant to explore in all other areas of their lives. I’ve said before that if we want to change the way we live, we have to change the way we think, so basically yoga is a system of tools that encourages us to look at our thought processes and challenge them when appropriate…all to give us what we need to make better lives for ourselves. That’s it. That’s why I teach. It’s why I practice. It’s how I live.

So I ask you: what are your patterns? How do you live? Have you ever asked yourself where your motivation comes from when making decisions that will affect your happiness? If not, start now. You’ve always had everything you needed, you just needed to know what questions to ask. So ask them. This is your time, and it’s why you’re here…

Landmarked

It’s 9am Monday morning, and I’ve slept in (as much as one can do with a new puppy) for the first time in four days. My head is still buzzing from my weekend at the Landmark Forum, and when I look back at my post from last week, I have to say that it ended up being everything I thought it would be, but if I thought I really had a grasp on the big picture, I was absolutely wrong. The forum needs to be experienced first-hand to actually see that regardless of what its detractors may say, this organization is helping people…guiding people…re-directing people…and ultimately, opening their eyes. It really is about empowering every single person (regardless of the usual demographic classifications we use to separate ourselves from each other) to become complete and whole, to face their fears, and to show them how those fears and obstacles that have often paralyzed them from living/growing/loving/expanding/sharing/hoping are based in the decisions that their 5-year-old selves made long ago.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I had many moments throughout the weekend where I asked myself “what have I gotten myself into?”, where I questioned if experiencing unpleasantness was necessary in order to learn something, but in actuality, when was being challenged and held accountable for your choices and actions ever comfortable? And our forum leader was strong, matter-of-fact, and hell-bent on getting results for the people who were in attendance. Albeit robotic at times, she was adamant in her mission to have us open our eyes to the areas and aspects of our lives and behaviours that we weren’t aware of – the ones that often are visible to others who then point them out to us, much to our disdain. Her mission was to empower us to create new possibilities in our lives, to step up to the plate in order to touch, move, and inspire others so they could do the same and have it ripple off into the world. The creation of these new possibilities stems from living a life steeped in authenticity, and she was there to encourage us to do so…to open our eyes to the time and energy we waste trying to look good to the world around us when in fact, everyone else is doing the same thing and no one actually sees each other. I greatly admired her ability to not simply shower participants with empathy and affection when they collapsed into tears, opting instead to coach them using tools they could practically apply to examine the real source of their obstacles.

Much of what happens in Landmark comes from its participants, and by the end of the weekend, one feels a definite complicity with these people (spending 39 hours together over 3 days will do that). Participants (whose ages ranged from 15-84) are encouraged to share their personal stories with the group, and the courage that these people have to step up to the front of the room and divulge their personal tales of trauma, fear and loss is jaw-dropping and refreshingly inspiring. It is through this sharing of personal stories that the rest of the group sees their own lives reflected back at them, complete with the stories we have told ourselves which have dictated the choices that direct us to where we find ourselves. Those stories, when we actually stand back and examine them, are all based in the mind of who we were as a child when every new thing that occurred in our lives imprinted itself, and understanding that one concept is massively enlightening to many. Once that is understood, it then becomes clear that to move towards a place where we can create real possibilities in our lives, we have to let go of the patterns and thought processes that have led us to wherever we find ourselves. The results come into being through letting go of all the reasons which have informed our behaviours.

The truisms that Landmark is based on aren’t new to many of us, but to others, seem revelatory…that change is futile and accomplishes nothing, and that personal transformation can only occur through acceptance of what is and why it is. The destructive force that is gossip was addressed, as was the power that language has to change our lives…that the cost of avoiding responsibility is one’s own vitality…that we are in denial as a race of human beings about the fact that we are inauthentic..that our actions are what matters and that opinions and talk are worthless without some sort of doing associated to them. The concepts of success vs. fulfillment (which ironically, I wrote about a few weeks ago), and that other people’s battles are theirs to fight were huge ones for me, but the one that seemed to speak to everyone was that we should see what happens as what happens while letting go our of interpretation of it. A lot of important insight was on offer, and to many in attendance, this was the first time they had ever been encouraged to think about anything other than the usual superficialities of daily life. It was incredible to see these people wake up, and even more satisfying to see myself do the same to many things I had simply agreed to not address in my own behaviours and patterns.

Two things didn’t sit well with me throughout the weekend. One was the incessant , non-stop chatter courtesy of the two translators that flanked the forum leader on either side. One was responsible for translating into French every phrase that came out of the leader’s mouth, and it was like watching a tennis match as sentences came out incrementally in one language, followed by the other. The other translator was present to translate whatever was spoken by participants, often killing the essence of what was being shared by having to interrupt to translate to the room. My personal opinion is that there should be two forums, one for the French-speakers and one for the English, so that the flow of communication could remain unimpeded (which could perhaps turn a 13-hour day sitting in a chair into a 9 or 10 hour day). The other element that almost had me heading for the hills (and had my bullshit meter practically exploding) was the selling/business aspect of the experience. There were several moments throughout the weekend where the forum leader spoke about other seminars and programs offered by Landmark, and as a choice between two seminars was already paid for with the cost of the weekend we were experiencing, registration sheets were handed out to everyone to enroll themselves in. The pressure tactics were subtle, but at no point were we told that registration was optional. We were guided through filling out the form and when I handed mine in blank, I was then approached the following day to discuss which seminar I would register for. I politely declined, but knew that a more vulnerable and less self-assured person would have caved and would have gotten brought further into the organization’s programs. When it came to other programs offered, we were given a choice, but told that we could take a few minutes to sign up after the forum leader described the benefits of the programs, and this was done in full view of everyone else, so the ones who chose not to sign up were exposed to the ones who were full-steam ahead, which I felt put undue pressure on people to sign up for fear of standing out from the crowd. This may have just been how I personally felt about it, but looking around the room, I saw I wasn’t alone. I felt that the business side of it all could have been dealt with through transparency instead of spin. I would have felt more respect for them if we had been told that yes, Landmark is a business, and that their product is worth paying for, but that to maintain the integrity of the business, they wanted to tell us about what was on offer. With that said, giving people the option of signing up with a bit more privacy (during breaks, after the day ended) would have spoken more to me.

To sum up, I found that this past weekend refocused and enlightened me in many ways, all for the better. For many who have already connected to something greater than themselves, what Landmark teaches might sound redundant, but for others, an existence steeped in possibilities lies waiting at the end of their forum. I’m grateful to Lululemon for having given me the opportunity to experience Landmark first-hand, and am the better for it.

The Sum Total

The more work I do in Yoga, the more I realize that my focus is to help people realize their greatest, most expansive & ideal selves…to permit them to dream bigger than they ever thought acceptable, and then to pursue those dreams with unflinching confidence and determination. Whether these dreams embody one’s desire to live free of insecurities, or whether one dreams of being on a stage in front of tens of thousands of people, the road to realizing our greatest hopes is the same. In this era of shameless self-promotion, driven by the irrational hunger for fame (often with nothing to offer in return once the fame is achieved), we are conditioned by society and the media to focus on our selling points…how absolutely fantastic we are…how marketable, how picture-perfect, how dumbed down we can allow ourselves to get in order to be adored and devoured by the masses. It is exactly the flip side to this approach that fascinates me and which I encourage those who hear what I’m saying to pursue…to focus on what makes us different, what is unique to each of us, often tapping into that which remains buried under layers of defense mechanisms and insecurities. The traits and attributes that are specific to us as individuals (and that may have at one time or another been a point of embarrassment and shame) will largely determine how we are remembered, and it is in nurturing these differences that our greatest potential often unfolds.

The book I’m currently reading, Cutting For Stone, tells the tale of Abu Kassem, a merchant who held onto an old, deteriorating pair of slippers until they were falling apart, but when he finally tried to rid himself of them, disaster ensued. “When he tossed them out of his window they landed on the head of a pregnant woman who miscarried, and Abu Kassem was thrown in jail; when he dropped them in the canal, the slippers choked off the main drain and caused flooding, and off Abu Kassem went to jail…”

One bystander who is listening to this story remarks, “Abu Kassem might as well build a special room for his slippers. Why try to lose them? He’ll never escape.” After pondering this comment, the other people gathered for the storytelling realize the truth in the old man’s words. “The slippers in the story mean that everything you see and do and touch, every seed you sow, or don’t sow, becomes part of your destiny…The key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don’t. If you keep saying your slippers aren’t yours, then you’ll die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but our omissions, become our destiny.”

So what are your slippers? And how long have you been trying to lose them? Have you succeeded, or are you still trying?