“I like writing the blog,” I tell my roommate Kaja when she asks if I want to go walk on the beach. “It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something.”
“You’ve accomplished loads today,” she says in her German accent, laughing. “Lots of spiritual growth.” She shuts the door to our room, heading to the beach.
I’m sure that this yoga teacher training, where from 6 AM to 9 PM we are practicing some form of yoga – whether it’s meditation or working with the chickens or postures, or the latest form I’ve discovered – playing with little Laszlo, is producing spiritual growth. But I’m not sure it’s any more valid than spending the day ski patroling or working your desk job or taking care of your children.
We are all growing spiritually, every day, from every experience, as long as we stay open to it. The way we stay stuck is by indulging the vrittis, our addictions, whether they be partying or constant napping or zoning out and watching tv. Doing anything in order to disengage keeps me stuck the patterns I’m trying to escape in the first place!
Yoga, in essence, means union. When I am fully present with an action, whether it’s skiing or watching tv (still not sure about napping), I am in yoga. If I can say to myself, “Wow, here I am doing this (skiing, watching tv, eating, etc.) and this is how I’m feeling, and I am there, then that’s it. It’s totally unachievable much of the time, but if I just bring the awareness back, over and over, it gets easier.
Yesterday was a rough one – Day Seven. We’ve spent the week practicing energy-releasing techniques from morning until night, and the energy is beginning to release. This is good, because stuck energy and emotion within the body causes injury and illness. But after a while, it’s – what’s the word – unpleasant – to be in a group of nine women all releasing pent-up energy 15 hours a day. (A side note – also, you can’t escape discussions about such things as dolphin breast milk and UFO’s.)
Everyone is a little bit on edge at this point, even – especially – Shanti. He oversees a session in which we instruct a targeting breathing practice to help specific cases. We choose Pranayama techniques to alleviate insomnia, asthma, anger and distraction.
Shanti becomes more and more agitated throughout the class, closing his eyes, shifting position and sighing audibly. He breaks in at points with exasperated comments like, “Who’s the teacher here?” and “Create an experience – you didn’t settle them in for the practice and you didn’t take them out again with your instructions.”
We begin to feel anxious and frustrated – more from his tone than his advice, although he keeps repeating, “There’s no animosity here.”
Later I walk on the beach with another teacher, Erika, who reminds me about what Shanti keeps telling us. “If you react to a certain person or situation, it’s not about them. It’s about what you hold within you.” He gave us the example of a friend, an old man who had survived Auschwitz. The man told stories that would make people weep, with a smile on his face. He’d moved through the negative emotions surrounding his past and was at peace with them.
Erika thinks Shanti meant the session as a lesson not to take things personally, to derive meaning from a message no matter how it is delivered. To take the truth from the message and let go of the rest.
I, in my energy-releasing state, cannot say for sure if this is the case. But it is something to aspire to do, especially before going to India, where apparently some teachers beat you with a stick if you don’t do a posture correctly… =)