Category Archives: Guru Singh

Built to Last

SustainabilityI’m baaaaaack! I know it’s been a while, dear readers, and I appreciate hearing from you how much you have missed the Yoga Bits newsletter! I missed you, too! Read more…

 

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Perfectly Imperfect

Sunrise

Sadhana sunrise over Pasadena, Calif.

I’ve been doing this kundalini yoga thing a while now — about 10 years.

As a result of my studies, I’ve finished a bunch of 40-day sadhanas, a few 90 and 120, and I even have a lifetime sadhana that Guru Singh, my teacher and mentor, gave me about four years ago. (Sadhana, you may remember, means “daily spiritual practice.”) I impress the hell out of myself with these things. Seriously, it’s no easy feat committing to this practice at this level.

But let me declare at the top of my lungs (via newsletter, blog, Facebook and town square) that I screw it up, fail, suck at it, whine about it and generally do a crappy job very often.

There. Cat is out of the bag. I have blown it again and again. I get back up and fall flat on my face — and get back up again. And fall. But my most recent example of “sadhana failure” turned into a profound insight about the nature of my perception.

I’m in the homestretch of a 40-day Aquarian sadhana, which is a group yoga and meditation practice done between 4 and 7 a.m. each day.  In the second week of that commitment, I made the decision to practice at home one morning. I was feeling pretty lousy, really depleted from all the running around the city at 4 a.m. to join others on yoga mats in what I used to refer to as “closing time” but I now call the amrit vela. So given my fatigue I thought it might be wise to adjust things — a sensible and compassionate choice I would have recommended to any of my students.

Yet the entire morning afterward, I heard an obnoxious voice nagging away: that didn’t count, you’re a faker, a liar, a cheat, just forget it, you blew it, you bailed on your 40-day. I posted those thoughts as a status update on Facebook — confessing about my “sub-standard” showing that morning and my feelings of disappointment in myself and finishing off with a rather anemic (and, yes, defensive) “But it still counts!”  Then an amazing thing happened.

I received comment after comment from friends, fellow yogis and students embracing my choice and telling me not to be so critical. Of course it counts, they wrote. Whatever I perceived lacking in my sadhana that morning, the bottom line was that I showed up for my commitment.  My perception of it was just that: an opinion, and an unforgiving one at that.

The unanimous urging of these people to be more accepting made me realize how harshly I was treating myself.  I really had not been aware that I was being so judgmental — my clever, determined Inner Commentator had me believing I was simply making an honest assessment of my practice.

It has taken a lot of work —  a lot of sadhana —  to come to a place where I can give myself any kind of credit instead of punishing myself when I’m not perfect. It will take a lot more effort to develop and maintain the compassionate consciousness I felt after getting that validation from others. I know that my vicious internal critic is not going to shut up and go away permanently. But with awareness I can choose to believe something else about myself, something more complex and realistic and loving.

There is a phrase that applies here called “perfectly imperfect.”  That’s me. Thank God. I am a perfectly imperfect student, teacher, yogi and human being. I’m doing the best I can each day and it is enough. It is more than enough. When I am able to experience that self-acceptance — that my so-called mistakes, limits and failures are a beautiful and rich part of being human — I’m able to feel compassion and kindness toward the humanness of other beings, too.

What a relief.

Gone, Baby, Gone

emptyroomLast week I threw out a “mix tape” from the 1990s. It was a gift from an ex-boyfriend.

I had that tape for almost 20 years and moved it across the country and into countless residences. But last week I trashed it by answering a simple question: does seeing this item make me smile?

The answer was no.

I actually got the question from decluttering expert Brooks Palmer’s blog, which provides helpful guidance for making such decisions.

Armed with this question, I was ready to render a verdict regarding the mix tape. I found it interesting — lots of great, semi-obscure songs on there from back in the day — but it was not inspiring or worth taking up anymore of my time or space… READ MORE

Pay Attention

firebreathing1If you’re reading Yoga Bits today it means you survived Black Friday and the kick-off of the Season of Insanity, so let’s just consider that the week’s miracle.

Things seem to get quite sticky this time of year. There are people I have met who really do enjoy the holidays but I would have to say that, sadly, they are the minority. The holidays for many people are consistently an emotional minefield and the 2012 season is no exception.

The good news is that within the sea of chaotic pressure swirling in and around you, you have a life preserver that is always available to you — always (if it’s not, it means you are physically dead). This omnipresent tool is your breath…Read more

Falling with Grace

Elephant falling downIt’s been a week of wipe-outs and fumbles. What’s up (or down) with that? Read this week’s Yoga Bits to find out.

Yoga Bits — To Be or Not To Be

Laurence Olivier as HamletWhat’s with our culture’s romantic notions of adversity? In this week’s Yoga Bits, I say anguish is overrated (notwithstanding tragic Shakespearean masterpieces, that is).

Pain happens…but what I truly love makes me stronger.

Yoga Bits — Words of Wisdom

Cat and ButterflyWhy tamper with perfection? Instead of messing with the masters, in this week’s Yoga Bits I decided to let them speak for themselves.

Yoga Bits — Mirror, Mirror

Looking Glass“Instead of looking at someone and saying, ‘Who are you?’ look at them and say, ‘Who am I?'” — Guru Singh

This week’s Yoga Bits offers some food for thought about how my reactions to others reflect on me, not them.

Yoga Bits — We Don’t Need Another Hero

Every once in a while, life throws us a curve ball of such intense proportions that it knocks the wind out of us. What then? Is there value in simply giving up? Find out in this week’s Yoga Bits.

Yogaspeak: A Foreign Language

I just had a chat with someone who recently started using a yoga DVD. Knowing I am a yoga teacher and because a DVD doesn’t talk back, he asked me a few questions about some yoga basics. We talked about hamstrings (they’re usually tight), headstands (I don’t recommend them) and frequency of practice (I like to say, “One hour of yoga is better than zero hours of yoga”). Everything was going along nicely and then it happened. I turned on the Yogaspeak.

May the Long Time Sun shine upon youI started to explain the benefits of a pose using terms like “energy,” “chakras” and “third eye point.” What I was saying made perfect sense to me. To him, not so much. How do I know?

He got that look. It’s a look that elegantly blends fear of and concern for me into one marvelous facial expression. It’s a look that says, “Please stop talking. I don’t want to have this conversation.”

First, I would like to say publicly: I apologize. I did not mean to freak you out.

Second, I will take this opportunity to remind myself to only engage in Yogaspeak with my teachers and colleagues. It doesn’t frighten them. They talk the same way.

But “civilians” don’t necessarily want to hear me wax eloquent on the ten bodies, the blue ethers or the unstructured data field. It seems to leave them with the feeling that they thought I was normal (I’m not) and that they thought they knew me (they do).

During my first Kundalini yoga teacher training at Yoga West Los Angeles, Guru Singh cautioned us about this phenomenon. He looked out at our eager, shining faces and said, “You’re here because…you’re weird.”  We laughed (at least I did) because it’s true. He then suggested we be selective when sharing about the magical transformation we would experience and the esoteric teachings we would learn. Good advice.

 It’s not a bad thing to be weird — we’re all unique in some way —  but as a teacher, I’m only as good as my ability to communicate the teachings. Since most people try yoga because they simply want to feel better, I’m always working to find language that is accessible to anyone. I want to allow people to feel more comfortable, not less, with yoga.

So next time your eyes glaze over while I’m talking about all this wacky stuff, don’t worry. I won’t be offended. In fact, you’re doing me a favor. You’re making me a better teacher.

Sat Nam