A Tree Says…

IMG_1387“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men,

IMG_1314 like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farm boy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

IMG_2369A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neitherIMG_1357 here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”

― Hermann Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte

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A Year Ago

I started teaching about a year ago. Here is a little reflection on my journey.


Throw a Pity Party

Been learning a ton of not so fun lessons as of late.  Learning the hard way has me feeling a bit beat up, but I definitely feel I am becoming stronger and more capable than I have been for years.  

A lot of shitty stuff went down the last few months.  And I let it get to me.  There’s turning the other cheek and then there’s paying someone to punch you in the face so you can maintain the shiner.  After the first unsolicited blow, I kept going back for more.  Poking at the bruise.  Finding ways to make it all worse.  People pity you more when they can see your pain.  I throw a good pity party.  Sometimes, being the center of attention is all your bruised ego needs.  Invite some friends, complain, cry, hug it out and then let them give you the swift kick in the ass that you deserve.

After a few legit bad things happened I sort of threw in the towel for a little while.  If life was a marathon, I tripped and fell over a log, then sat down where I landed pouting and claiming that I was losing buckets of blood from the tiny scrape on my knee.  I’m not proud of my behavior.  I hope that this is not my reaction to every bump and bruise.  But I do believe the time I took to feel awful, and invite others to commiserate with me, helped to jumpstart some real growth.

During this time, I was able to identify and learn from my mistake.  However, I also really slacked off in my classes.  I was not fully planning flows or studying anything to get inspiration for themes.  (Part of me really wants to go back and erase this confession so that no one I know finds out the truth…) I was working on autopilot and my students were the ones who suffered.

I still received compliments for my classes.  No one yelled at me or stopped coming.  Still, I felt awful.  I was only half there.  I was not connecting with anyone in class and I shut myself down so that no one could possibly connect with me.  I had lost my confidence, but worse, I lost all hope of finding it by giving up.  Instead of trying to demonstrate that I was a good teacher and this was the right path, I opted to believe that because sucky things were happening, I sucked too.

Until one day when I decided to try to clean my room.  I uncovered some old Yoga Journal Magazines and flipped through the flows.  It inspired me to research alignment of Warrior I.  I sat in the middle of a ring of books and training manuals with YouTube videos on cue and really felt that spark once more.  The spark that made me want to share this practice with not only those I know and love, but with complete strangers.

The past few weeks I have been re-exploring poses and creating new flows.  I have been stockpiling intentions for those times of idea drought.  I have been giving classes, not just leading them.  I have been able to truly connect with people, and know that this is what I’m meant to be doing.  At least for now.

So go ahead.  Throw a pity party.  Make it grand.  But don’t stay too long or it will be harder to wake up from the inevitable hangover.

Failure is a Stepping Stone

I recently made a pretty big mistake.  It got me thinking…

How do we come to terms with messing up, without becoming messed up?  How does ‘I did a bad thing’ not turn into ‘I am a bad person’?  How does ‘I made a mistake’ not become ‘I am a screw up’?

Swami Satchidananda, founder of Integral Yoga, says:

If you make mistakes it doesn’t matter.  Make mistakes and learn.  The best teachers are your own mistakes.  you learn even faster by your mistakes…

Every failure is a stepping stone.  Remember, though, that you can’t use the same stone for each step.  Every step should be on a new stone.  That means you should not keep on making the same mistakes.  Learn well from each one…Experience is the best teacher.

Most of us have heard this advice in some version or another since the day people decided we were old enough to take responsibility for our actions.  Learn from your mistakes.

It may be the truest, most cliche advice I’ve ever heard.  It’s also the most tedious.  Taking time to examine your actions and accept that something you did led to a disastrous outcome is not fun.  It flat out sucks.  It’s way easier to lie on the ground, play dead and let your thoughts beat you to a pulp like an angry gang.  Both options hurt, but for some reason self-examination is always way more excruciating than self-flagellation, though much more productive.

So the next time you make a mistake try these steps.

1) Feel it.  Get angry, cry, laugh, rage, insult.  Do whatever it is that you first feel like doing. Write a nasty letter in your journal or punch a pillow.  Let out the emotions in a safe space, keeping it between you and your closests.

2) Take responsibility.  Examine the mistake and own your part in it.  What could you have done differently?  Is there anything you can do to change your situation?  If not, what do you need to do in order to accept your mistake and move on?  Is an apology in order?

3) Learn the lesson.  Often we look back wistfully thinking, “If only I’d known then what I know now.”  But we didn’t.  However, the next time a similar situation occurs, our knowledge will be tested and we can no longer claim we didn’t know any better.  What is the lesson you can learn from this mistake?

4) Practice.  Once you’ve identified the lesson, go back over the actions that led to the mistake and make a game plan for the next time you are faced with this challenge.  What can you do differently?  Are there people you can turn to for help? You can go as far as to write out or discuss with someone else why you may have made the mistake and what can be done to avoid it in the future.

5) Take the test.  The test will come.  You will be faced with circumstances that echo those that led up to the mistake.  If you have done the work and are able to be aware enough to see the situation for what it is, you will pass the test and move on from this mistake.  If not you will repeat it again and again until you’ve become aware enough to end it.

I hope these little tips help.  It helps to work out mistakes with those you love and trust.  Perhaps they will see something you did not.  Give it a go.  And remember:

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Sometimes we have such rigid views of what is possible for us that we stop ourselves from becoming theperson we want to be.

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look what I can do!

I used to say “I have no upper body strength.”  One day during the teacher training I decided this was no longer the story I wanted to tell myself.  So I instead started saying “I’m working on my upper body strength” or “I’m working on getting stronger.”  This did not immediately make me The Hulk.  However, it did change the story that I created.  Once I said I was working on my upper body strength, I did just that.  Instead of not even trying because I didn’t believe it would ever be happen, I let it be a possibility.

The stories we tell ourselves are powerful.  It was completely true that I did not have upper body strength.  It was a fact.  The problem is, as long as I saw the situation that way, I did not give myself permission to change it.  It wasn’t until I came up with a true but positive statement that I could allow myself to progress.

This lesson has been helpful off the mat as well.  Recently I have been working on my issue of envy towards my friends for the great qualities I perceive in them that I would love to have.  The story in my head was “I am a envious person.”  That may be true, but I would rather not be.  I would rather be happy and excited for my friends.  Which I am.  So whenever I feel that little thought of envy, I say to myself “I am happy for my friend.”  And then I examine why it is I might want whatever it is that I’m feeling envious of and frame a sentence around that as well, such as “I am my own person.”

It is not magic.  It sounds outrageous, to just talk yourself into more positivity.  It is outrageous.  It’s outrageous that we tell ourselves such horrible things over and over.  It’s outrageous that instead of creating new stories each and every day, we get stuck in the old ones with seemingly no way out.  It is outrageous we block ourselves from becoming the people we would most like to be.

For me being able to do an arm balance isn’t about impressing my friends (though I do like that little bonus), it is about proving to myself that I have the power to change my outlook and therefore the power to change my life.  It’s not magic, but it is miraculous.

What are you stopping yourself from achieving?  Are the stories in your head helping or hindering the person you would like to become?