Knocking on the Door of What Serves

There are many common misconceptions of yoga, one is that yoga is just exercise, another is that just by practicing yoga you are becoming more spiritual. As a yoga teacher I find I spend a bit of time in my classes trying to clear up these misconceptions and more, as well as explain the value of a spiritual practice that uses the physical one as a vehicle. Just to be clear here, from my understanding and background there is no right way or wrong way, only what serves. What serves however, changes, and the practice of yoga is deep enough and spacious enough to make room for all changes in the search for what serves. From the place of yoga as exercise to yoga as spiritual practice and everything in between there is value to be gained. How deep any seeker goes is up to them. With all that being said, there is an essential focus to better oneself by knowing the trappings of ignorance and the value of awareness. In the wake of ignorance is often hurt and suffering, therefore the more one pursues awareness the more one may experience peace and contentment.

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In Spirit Action

I remember when I first heard inspiration broken down into the phrase “in spirit action,” it struck a chord in my heart that reverberated into the marrow of my bones. For myself the feeling of being inspired is to feel a lightning strike of awareness that echo’s beyond the essence of myself and into the unknown, a feeling of magic in action, or as it was so sweetly stated to me the feeling of being “in spirit action.”
In my human desire to create a mold of the life I want, and like some malleable material form myself to fit that mold I find myself rather surprisingly organically winding up where I am. The journey itself feels as I imagine a river feels as it makes its way to the ocean. Sometimes rough waters move fast and create waves of great turbulence, other times the current moves more slowly and the stillness of the waters surface appears as if nothing is moving at all. Even though I hold fast to a mantra that came to me in a blast of inspiration many years ago guiding my life always in perpetual positive progression, I sometimes like the river, find myself stagnant and in an eddy as I try unsuccessfully to move back upstream, afraid and anxious of what lies in the current ahead. I find this is when spirit shows up and with a rumble the lightning strike of inspiration crackles across my inner landscape, turning me back in the direction of the current, to continue downstream into the mystical landscape of the unknown.
Inspiration moves us beyond the veils of what we perceive to be the truth and into more expansive states of knowing. Inspiration comes, sometimes when we are prepared for it holding our pen and our paper, and other times like a shock to our hearts. Inspiration leads us into the crags of our fears and invites us to become stronger more beautiful people while we explore our mortality there. Inspiration whispers to us from our hearts when it is time to let down the walls we have built to protect ourselves from our vulnerability. Inspiration is our invitation to step forward in spirit action, no matter what anxious, doubtful, fearful thoughts may be trying to maintain a stronghold on our experience of life.
Taking a leap of faith is heeding the call of inspiration, and no matter the result on the other side of the leap, spirit is always there to catch us. To uncondition ourselves of the hardened walls we have built to protect our hearts from preconceived ideas of hurt and maintain stories of self-defeat and insecurity, we must learn to listen to the whisper and thunder of spirit when it invites, or demands, us to leap and to soar on its wings.
Living our lives in this kind of freedom, in spirit action, fulfills not only our hearts in every moment of unconditioned love we allow ourselves to give and receive, but also, like a child on a treasure hunt, leads us to the most surprising unexpected and brilliant of places on this mystical journey of life.
May we all become more courageous in heeding the call of spirit, rowing confidently while we laugh all the way downstream, rolling on spirits invitation to action no matter if the mold holds or breaks.
With Love, All Ways, For Giving,
Genevieve

Personal Evolution

Some say, people don’t change. Perhaps they are right. I believe that people do change. Given the right circumstances, support, information, and an ability to surrender the old, change will occur. I don’t claim to know much about science however, … Continue reading

Dancing to the DJ of Perfect Timing

Some days it seems to me that time drifts by so slowly, and yet I find myself rushing to complete tasks, trying to make the most of my productivity as if I am attempting to live out the lyrics of a Righteous Brothers song.  Other days go by so fast it feels as though I blink and the crisp brightness of morning has flashed into the dark of night, leaving me breathless with wonder watching the day go out like a blister in the sun.  

Admittedly, doing nothing, is not an easily found skill in my skill set.  I like a honey bee, buzz around all day picking up, putting down.  Some days there is clear vision behind the movement, a more beautifully choreographed dance of this and that, stuff and things.  Other days, I am a mish-mosh of clamoring about like a heavy footed boot wearing grunge kid in a mosh pit, moving deliberately, without much grace.

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Falling Into Grace

In the last year my life has changed remarkably, surprisingly, and mostly against my will. At the beginning of last July I unfortunately fell down a flight of six stairs. I had never fallen down stairs before and I only imagined how painful it would be. Being a kind of clumsy girl I found it fortunate for me that there aren’t’ a whole bunch of stairs to fall down in Taos as most buildings are one story and the front entryway is even with the earth. Though before last July I had yet to fall down stairs in my life, I wasn’t new to falling. I had more than once slipped on the ice, stumbled over after one to many beverages of the saucy kind, or just being my clumsy self tripped over something outside my range of vision. As a tall person, falling in general, isn’t’ much fun. I lament my height as I watch children fall and bounce right back up without much more than a whimper. Over my many years as an avid snowboarder I became more accustomed to falling. However, when playing in the snow one does their falling in the snow, which has a generosity in it’s reception of a body no matter it’s size. Falling into snow that has freshly fallen is as delightful as falling into bed when you’re exhausted, it’s a welcome surrender. Falling down stairs, not so inviting, and falling down stairs when you have placed your foot where you see the step to be, and you step with the confidence of someone who has managed to stand upright for more than three decades, is a far cry from a welcome surrender. After I tumbled down to the bottom of the flight of stairs, body facing up the direction I had come, in acute and shocking pain, feeling like something beyond the veil of my perception had pushed me I questioned, “How did I miss that step I was so obviously taking?”

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Stand Still Like The Hummingbird, For Ed

Late last month another friend left this Earth. He was a man of many talents, much wisdom, and deep generosity. More than anything he was a man who truly lived his life fully, present in every moment.

Ed Morgan was husband to my dear friend Virginia Morgan, who I spend a great deal of time with at Shree Yoga Taos. Virginia and I began our yoga journey right around the same time nearly a decade ago with our dear teacher Suki. Over these past many years much in all of our lives has changed and we have, through our shared love of the practice, had a shared space of understanding through which we together have journeyed through these many changes in each of our lives. Suki and I joke that Virginia spends more time at Shree than either she or I, and in fact this may be true, as Virginia takes multiple classes a day, multiple days a week. Her devotion to her practice is inspiring in it’s depth and the reflection of its power in her life off the mat as well. Virginia is the spryest and youngest woman over 70 you may ever meet! She and Ed had been married for the last 30 plus years and their love was the kind of love that feels contagious. Being that Virginia loves yoga, over the past many years she has introduced most of her family to it, bringing sisters, children, and grand children to class with her. The one person who never came along to class was Ed. In all reality and truth, I cannot say I know Ed well because I didn’t, I know Virginia. However, I always felt I knew Ed through knowing my husband.

Oswald is also a man of many talents, much wisdom, deep generosity, and fully truly living his own beautiful life. He and I have such a wonderful time together, and though it may not always be easy between us, there is always love. Like Virginia and Ed, Oswald and I do not have the same interests or the same life pursuits. What we really share is our love for each other. Oswald is an outdoorsman, I like to go outside but for rest I prefer to be in a hot bath, or a cozy bed watching TV. Oswald loves to enjoy beer and his idea of a great breakfast is chicken fried steak, I prefer water these days and my ideal breakfast is a smoothie, or salad with an egg on top. Oswald likes to sleep till noon and I like to get up with, or before the sun. I not only like to do yoga, I have made it my lifestyle, and Oswald like Ed, prefers to stay home. Every once in a while though, Oswald does come to class, maybe it’s to humor me. After his last class, he told me he spent three quarters of it trying not to hate me. I shared with him that in my opinion that effort was good yoga, and I didn’t take it to heart. Oswald could care less about my spiritual practices and what makes good yoga on or off the mat. It’s not a conversation we have regularly, and we don’t have to because I know that just because Oswald doesn’t do spiritual like I do, does not mean that he does not do spiritual. I always imagined Ed and Virginia’s relationship to be similar. I imagined Ed saying, “Sure honey you go to yoga, Hell No I don’t want to go, I’m happy here making my art.”

Virginia asked me to share some words at the celebration of her husband Ed’s life over the weekend and being that I did not know him that well I was very honored by this request. Ed was, as I said a man of many talents, and in his last many decades he was an artist who used a dying medium. He engraved his pieces in metal plates and ran those plates through a gigantic press, pressing the art into a three dimensional image onto paper, he then embossed that art with silks and paint. His work was intricate, beautiful, detailed, and inspiring. Over the last couple years Ed became very sick, multiple forms of cancer moved into the domain of his body and eventually took from him the strength to engrave, slowing his art production to a very bear minimum. The last piece he was able to make was a hummingbird. He made many of these hummingbirds, and in his generous spirit gave these pieces to those who were a part of this hard chapter in his life.

Many moons ago, way back at the beginning of my relationship with Virginia, Suki, and Yoga, a book was put into my hands titled, “Stand Still Like The Hummingbird” by Henry Miller. It is a book of essays, which with similarity to yoga, my relationship with Oswald, Suki, Virginia and Ed, the World Cup Cafe, being ejected through a windshield at 15, and more, has made a marked impact on my life. It seemed to me the most valuable words I could share for Ed were from the final essay of the same title, Copyright 1962. I share Henry Millers paraphrased words with you here.

“It was on the jet from New York to San Francisco, at an altitude of thirty to forty thousand feet and never so much as a tremor, that all unwittingly I moved a few centimeters into the future. It was the comfort, the motionless motion, the unaccustomed perspective which doubtless threw me. We [man] were of the airs now, and they were filled with secret vibrations, with rays invisible and of power unimaginable. Yes, though only a few inched from the ground, so to speak, we were already verging on the carrefours of uncharted lanes of force, mysterious, magical force destined to alter not only our concepts of life but our very being. Out of our limitless universe and into the blue–the blue of the poet and dreamer, the blue of the mystics. Perhaps into the “upper partials” of some divine musical space.
We speak so glibly of the speed of light. What reality has if for us, this speed of light? Man’s struggle, ever since he ceased to grovel like the worm, has been to equate imagination with deed.
The universe has no armature, no weight, no substance. No purpose even. Neither is it dream and illusion. It is. The highest thought can neither add to it nor subtract from it. It grows, changes, responds to every need, every demand. It can exist with God or without. It is like a Mind which asks and answers its own questions.
Our needs…What is it that we need”? Certainly the more liberated one feels the less one needs. The sage demonstrates it daily, and the idiot too. Just to breathe, to know that you are alive, isn’t it marvelous?
[Man] has come to perceive that life is everywhere, in all things, at the edges of the universe as well as the center, and that nowhere is it absent, even in death. Why cling to it then with such stubbornness? What can be gained that is not already lost? Surrender! whispers the still small voice. Overboard with the baggage!
Grappling with the problem of speed–or is it the riddle of light?–it becomes more and more evident that there is no such thing as motion, or gravity, or heat, or light. Any more than there are atoms, molecules, protons, electrons. Only gods and devils, birth and death, ignorance and bliss. Nothing out there can possible be more mysterious, more enigmatic, than here within our own breasts. The corporeal is the phantasmal, the shadow realm. Mind is all, and its realm is reality. What is, defies knowing. With regard to the tiniest, the most insignificant morsel of this unsubstantial universe, thought wears itself out.
We are so accustomed to thinking in terms of death. Yet death promises nothing, solves nothing. Life does not begin in some remote, ideal world, some paradisiacal hereafter; it begins and ends here, wherever we are, in whatever circumstances. That is the meaning of life, that is it infinitely variable, inexhaustible, inextinguishable.
There is one comforting truth which is inescapable. Each time we run away from ourselves we are driven home again with greater force. Every effort to break out only pushes us further back into ourselves. It may be possible for man to reach the outer edges of the universe, but the importance of it will lie not in the getting there but in knowing more about ourselves. If we could pick up a stone in the field and truly grasp its nature, its essence, its being, so to speak, we would understand and know and appreciate the whole outer universe. We would not need to fling our bodies around like comets gone wild. Being fully here and of the moment, we would also be there, anywhere, and of all moments.
Thus I mused as we lumbered along at five hundred miles an hour. Tomorrow, a thousand an hour; the day after, five thousand. Multiply it by a zillion…what difference? Are we getting somewhere? Where? Is the body and mind of twentieth-century man geared to cope with all this abstract jazz? Ought we not first learn to fly backward too, or stand still in the air like a hummingbird?
Buddha gave us the eight-fold path. Jesus showed us the perfect life. Lao-Tzu rode off on a water buffalo, having condensed his vast and joyous wisdom into a few imperishable words. What they tried to convey to us, these luminaries, was that there is no need for all these laws of ours, these codes and conventions, these books of learning, these armies and navies, these rockets and spaceships, these thousand and one impedimenta which weigh us down, keep us apart, and bring us sickness and death. We need only to behave as brothers and sisters, follow our heart not our minds, play not work, create and not add invention upon invention.
I could not help thinking what this continent of ours was like before the white man took it over. It seemed to me that silence was a great factor in the world of the Indian, that he made no unnecessary stir, that he took the long way about rather than the short cut. Perhaps his mind was at rest. Certainly he had no need of stock exchanges, iron foundries, sheet and roller mills, Krupp works, laboratories, newspapers, mints, ammunition dumps. He had need of nothing it would seem, which to us is so indispensable. Not that his world was a Paradise. But it was never a senseless world. It had beauty, depth, great interludes of silence, and it vibrated with feeling.
From the clouds all that appeared to be left of this ancient world was the great barren stretch which begins with the Far West. The most beautiful, the most exciting part of the five-hour spectacle. Deserted though it was, an air of peace pervaded it.
For a brief moment I had the impression that I was riding our of it, leaving it all behind, permanently.”

Ed Morgan was a brave man who lived the last year of his life in the honesty of the reality of death. He did not need to practice yoga, or claim a dharma to live a spiritual life. Looking at his art, his home, his family, his circle of friends, anyone can see the attentiveness and mindful awareness he gave to detail. I feel that the passage of Miller’s “Not that his world was a Paradise. But it was never a senseless world. It had beauty, depth great interludes of silence, and it vibrated with feeling.” Paraphrases Ed’s life so very sweetly. His life was a spiritual life, and the presence of that knowing is apparent in the feeling of the vibration he left behind. It was an honor to know, even if very little, such a beautiful human being.

I cannot imagine what it would feel like to lose my beloved, my best friend, as Virginia has. Yet, daily I witness her in this great transition and I am humbled by the power of surrender in her practice. I am inspired as I admire the courage she faces each day with. I continue to learn from her as I appreciate the example of deep spiritual practice she displays for me and all else in our community, on and off the yoga mat.

In witnessing Virginia through this journey of Ed’s I am reminded, to truly love someone for a lifetime is to prepare for the greatest surrender and heartbreak of all, as all we love will change, and each of these mortal bodies will meet their demise.

In this knowing I offer that while we are living, we live true to ourselves no matter the rules and regulations, codes and conventions. We love one another like brother and sister, sharing in generosity and appreciating the gifts of others, as we are each a unique piece the divine’s creation. May we live mindful lives, aware of the details of all we create, thoughts, relationships, and deeds.

May the vibration of an unconditioned heart be each of our spiritual legacy.

With deep admiration of a life well lived,
For Ed.

With love,
Genevieve

The Great Classroom Of Relationship; and Learning To Communicate In It

Relationship is not without complication, challenge, and difficulty, even in the most well attended to and mindful of our interactions. Being in relationship requires communicating, which can lead to misunderstanding, hurt feelings, and sometimes even the end of a relationship all together. As humans we communicate in more ways than just with our words, we use our bodies, our actions, our non-actions, the reputations of our past actions, the way we dress, the work we do, these things and more relate who we are to the world as well as what we intend to do while living, and where we place the value and meaning in our lives. Relationship is the place where who we perceive ourselves to be interacts with the world around us. We have relationship with people, animals, insects, and with inanimate objects like our favorite pair of shoes or our beds. Relationship is taking place when we touch a stone, enjoy the freshness of the air when it rains, and pump gas into our cars. The varying layers of relationship all share the commonality of the way each of us singularly participates in the animate world we live in.

Our participation stems from our perception of who we believe we are and what we believe we are doing here in this world we live in. The beliefs of our experience formulate over the course of our lifetime and the varying relationships we have during it. Beliefs are created in the simplest observations of the people around us as children and the relationship those adults have to their perceived concept of the world, to the complicated study and discernment of heavy and weighted discussions on the cosmology of life and the universe, the presence of a power greater than one’s own, and the unlimited nature of energy in its limited forms of existence in the manifest world.

In Sanskrit there is the word Shraddha which does not translate directly into English. This word roughly refers to the actions we take that are founded in sincerity and faith; the ways in which we relate to the world based on the beliefs we have about the world that rarely, if ever come into question. The practice of yoga asks the student to question their Shraddha, as does life and being in relationship, which all of us are until we lock ourselves into a cave not to be bothered.

Though I give my best effort to being a human of integrity who gives thought to a deed before action, and mindfulness to intention before participation, I have traversed the rough seas of conflict in relationship more times than I can count. It is not uncommon for my sister and I to come into misunderstandings as we rub up against the boundaries of our own beliefs of who we think the other should be and how we perceive ourselves to be in relationship to the other. Currently I am in a dispute with my brother that has us in a stalemate of no communication because the communication we were working with was unsuccessfully efficient enough to clear the misunderstanding and hurt between us. I have no shame in sharing my digressions as well as the truth that I have been known to be aggressive in my desire to be right in these personal conflicts as well as being the stubborn headed contrarian, sometimes even self righteous brat, who generated the misunderstandings to begin with. These truths about my behavior I have learned while in relationship with all of my closest people from my parents to my husband, sister, brother, business partner, and dearest friends who, having been on the receiving end of my sharp and angry tongue, have cumulatively reflected this more clear picture back to me.

Diving ever more deeply into the teachings of yoga and the desire to be a person who lives a life of peace and harmony in all of my relationships, I am required to be honest with myself about who I am, the role I play in these conflicts, (my Shraddha) the beliefs I have that allow the conflicts to persist, what I can surrender to bring more harmony into the relationship experiencing conflict, and most importantly how to do it all with love. In theory this all makes great sense and seems very straight forward however in practice, when the need arises for this quality of beingness, the circumstances surrounding the need are generally immersed in emotions that create heat as they are passionately tied to perceived beliefs of myself upon which my whole world rotates. Learning to communicate in the midst of my passionate emotions without unleashing the sharpness of my tongue which is only a defense mechanism of my ego afraid to let go of a belief that has allowed it to hold up its wall of an illusion of separateness, is one of the most challenging things I have done in this life to date. It truly does not come with ease for me. For this reason, I am impressed and enthralled when I have the opportunity to witness others communicate their perceptions of the circumstances of relationship that did not leave them feeling safe, honored, or respected without becoming defensive, angry, hurtful, and cold.

This week I had the great good fortune to be on the receiving end of a person I am in relationship with clearing the air of their perceived experience of a less than enjoyable experience with me in a way that was beautifully straight forward, without baggage, respectful, honest, clear, and then done. It was a wonderful example of the use of the four pillars of communication which I attempt to skillfully use myself when I need to communicate my perceived experience in relationship with someone who I feel has not treated me in a way that is safe, respectful, or honoring of my beingness.

The four pillars of communication are:
1. Is it true?
2. Is it necessary?
3. Is it timely?
4. Is it kind?

When using language as the means of communication to smooth out any roughness in relationship with other humans that are important to you, it is proposed that you ask yourself these four questions before initiating the conversation. If the subject matter that you wish to speak on is true to you, and it is necessary to speak about to create more harmony in a relationship, and you time the conversation in a way that the receiving participant will not feel ambushed and will be able to listen and hear you, and you then approach your truth with kindness, there is a higher likelihood that the air will be cleared, harmony will return to the relationship, and both parties will feel better for having participated in relationship with such excellent skillfulness in communication.

There are of course exceptions to this wonderful way of resolving conflict. Sometimes the other party is not ready to transition into a resolution of conflict, other times the conflict itself is rooted in deep betrayal that first must be forgiven by the offended party or the words received are merely hollow and carry no weight. In these cases, should the offended party in the relationship find the spaciousness to forgive the trespass and move into a shared space of conflict resolution, then not only are the words that are communicated by the offender attempting to relay a resolution to make room for a new state of being having a great need for honesty, the offended party will generally also look to other means of communication like the offenders current and past actions as well as their body language to validate the truthfulness of what is being offered. At times the digressions between people in relationship can be so painful to one, or the other, or both, that the relationship may perhaps never go back to the freely trusting state it was once in, however with willingness on both sides in congruence with focused attention to personal behaviors and beliefs, the relationship has the potential to evolve into one of even better boundaries, more respect, more love, and true harmony, more so than even seemed possible before.

On either side of a conversation seeking conflict resolution is an individual with their own perceived concept of the conflict and their own ideas of which direction they wish to see the relationship go. In the best of cases, like the incident in which I was confronted last week, the offender, this time being me, listens and responds with honesty and a offering to remedy the relationship, often an apology is the perfect ingredient. Other times the receiving party wishes only to be left alone, in which case patience, and the continuing pursuit of impeccable behavior in all other relationships may be the only remedy available in that moment. In any case, returning to the offering of love for self and the person(s) on the other side of the line of conflict generally generates the best feelings overall.

Having the courage to clear the air of a conflicted relationship in a quality manner can be very hard to do, even though, as it is with most things of value in this life, it is the hard jobs and the challenges that require the most of us that are most satisfying. In the face of adversity and conflict in our relationships with others, and most importantly in relationship with ourselves, may we utilize the tools that were given to us and continue to dare to be brave enough with our communication skills to try to smooth out the rough edges, willing enough with our spacious hearts to surrender the strong hold of our egos, and open enough in our incredible minds to expand into new boundaries of being, which may be better than anything we could have ever imagined.

Being in relationship with this animate and inanimate world is a wild ride, up, down, and every which way between. It is my wish to teach by example, to rise to the occasion and the invitation offered by the classroom of life with patience and loving kindness for myself and others, as I work my way toward owning the title of human being.

I’ll continue to do my best.

In deep gratitude to those who have been patient, forgiving, loving, and beautiful teachers while in relationship with me.

With love, always, in all ways, for giving, in joy,
Genevieve