Friday, September 24, 2010

Egoism is Limiting the Possibilites, but Yoga is Living Like Anything is Possible

Yoga Sutra 2.6
"Egoism is the identification of the seer with the instrumental power of seeing."
-translation by B.K.S. Iyengar my few readers may have noticed that I took a break from ponderings on the Yoga Sutra lately. I paused in reading the sutras to read this book by Chogyam Trungpa along with a great group of fellow Ashtangis, bloggers, and others. You can read more of our discussion here.

It's interesting to me that it was at this particular sutra that I paused because the book that I was reading during the break is essentially a book about this sutra...

I like both Mr. Iyengar's and Chogyam Trungpa's broad definition of ego. It's easy to think of ego as pride, but that seems too simplistic to me. The broader yogic and Buddhist definition of ego makes sense to me. The Yoga Sutra seems to be saying that anytime I identify myself as being "something" in particular, that is ego. Having now examined my practice with the background of Chogyam Trungpa's definition of ego, I feel like this practice is a genuine one. I feel like the practice is a genuine path (even if I wander off the path from time to time) because I see the practice constantly nudging me out of the ego traps that I fall into. Every time I start to define myself in practice as one thing, as "bendy" for example or as "not strong enough", the practice changes and the definitions are no longer true...if they were ever true...

I'm starting to realize that as soon as I define myself as something, I limit myself to that and all the other possibilities become unavailable. If I rein in the ego and resist the urge to define myself, then I have a world of possibilities in front of me.

Chogyam Trungpa has some wise words to say about this:
"We really know when we are fooling ourselves, but we try to play deaf and dumb to our own self-deception."
-from 'Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism' by Chogyam Trungpa

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thoughts on The Practice of Learning to Teach the final post from my week of practice with my Mysore teacher...

I usually spend some time watching David teach when I attend Mysore practice weeks with him. He usually teaches at least 2 classes a day when teaches the "Mysore weeks" and I generally practice at one of the sessions and watch the other. He has always been very supportive of this. Watching my teacher teach is one of the ways that I learn to be a better teacher myself. I am in awe every time I watch a group of students grow in their practice over the course of 5 days with David as their guide.

It is a particularly special week when I hand David the reins and turn my own students and studio over to him. His ability to see what is going on in a students physical and mental practice always amazes me!

Watching David teach always reminds me of how much I have to learn as a teacher. Here are a few things that I was reminded of during the week:

1. Teaching is a practice and it is a lifelong practice just like asana practice.

2. There are no short cuts to being a good teacher. I will only continue to grow as a teacher, by teaching, acknowledging my mistakes and learning from them. Time, patience and practice are the only way.

3. What I teach comes out of what I practice.

4. I need a teacher to guide my teaching practice just as I need a teacher to guide my asana practice.

5. A sense of humor is absolutely required for teaching this practice :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thoughts on Practice with David Keil

David (my Mysore teacher) says it's his job not to believe the stories we tell ourselves.

It's a good thing too because I've collected lots of stories over the years about why I will never do x, y, or z pose. Most of the stories are just excuses for me not to try. I've stopped giving David my excuses because by now I know what will happen. He never disagrees with my stories, just listens, smiles and says "Ok, let's just try this then." We set up some part of a pose and then sooner or later I'm doing it without realizing it.

Now, I've stopped telling myself the stories a least for those 5 days that I'm practicing with David. I know enough to know that anything is possible even if I can't see how it will happen. Slowly, I'm starting to carry this lesson off the mat and into the rest of my life.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Thoughts on Choosing a Teacher it's been total radio silence on the blog for a couple weeks. The daily schedule ramped up with all kinds of busyness as I got things ready to host my Mysore teacher for a week. I followed up on the Mysore practice week with a few days of vacation in the pacific northwest and then returned and promptly caught a cold. Finally, things are settling back into their places and I'm finding time to get some thoughts out into the blogosphere from an awesome week of practice with my teacher. why have a teacher anyway? Does anyone really need a teacher?

I can't answer those questions for anyone else, but I definitely need a teacher. For me personally, there are two layers of practice that I'm most aware of. (I suspect there are more layers that I'm unaware of.) I am most aware of the layer of physical practice and the layer of mental practice. I have stayed with my current teacher because he has been able to guide me through both.

Here are a few reasons I still practice with the same teacher that I've been practicing with for the past 6 years or so.

1. He won't take me anywhere that I'm not willing to go. He will do his best to encourage and explain new poses, transitions, or deeper expressions of poses, but if I really don't think I should do something at any particular moment, he never forces it.

2. He is continually asking me to see the practice in new ways, so it never gets too comfortable or routine.

3. He's been able to convince me that the impossible is really possible.

4. He's not in a hurry. He's patiently watched my practice evolve over years and has never once suggested that I wasn't moving along fast enough.

5. I trust him, personally and professionally. This trust both comes out of and enables all the qualities I've described above.

As a teacher myself I only hope I can someday guide my students towards the same sense of vision and patience in practice that my teacher has helped me find in mine.