Naivete …?

Six or seven years ago i was told by a young, male business associate that I was too “naive” to be in business.  I disagreed vehemently.  At the time, I was pursuing a law degree, preparing to take over my Dad’s business.  The business associate knew my about my dad’s business operations and did not think I was capable of working in that environment.  He was partially right.  In reality, I’m a lover, not a fighter,  and professions in business and law can be notoriously adversarial.  This weekend’s subjects of moderation, letting go, and “Sexual Desire [as] the most powerful force in the universe”, were quite enlightening.   

The talk by Ajahn Amaro was so rich and, yes, Inspiring.  The mantra in my head all week: “The kind of thing you can do for those you love, is to not create them.”  Creating people is a tremendously exhausting habit and I am very much looking forward to practicing “letting go” of this effort.  Thanks to the Sunday night restorative with Tami, I have created a “legs up the wall” group at work.  Twice a day we are laying in an office with our legs up the wall for 5-10 min.  Maaaajor de-stressor.  

After every weekend, I feel like my heart is warmer, stronger, less broken, shining a bit brighter.  I am eternally grateful for having this spiritual journey in my life.  Even on nights where I think “I don’t have time for yoga or homework”, I remember the result of my practice: I’m a bit calmer and lighter.  Why can’t we make this a priority, like brushing our teeth?   “The resolute in yoga surrender results, and gain perfect peace; the irresolute, attached to results, are bound by everything they do.” Bhagavad Gita 5.12

 The friendships we are creating through this Teacher Training are life-long. By embarking on this journey, we are going through a transformation, whether small or large.  “Spiritual friendship is the whole of holy life” Buddha from Ajahn Amaro. I’m so appreciative for the freedom to be vulnerable, ugly, annoying, embarrassed, sad, joyful, fun, calm, and grateful.  It would be a snooze without the personality 😉

So, am I too naive to run with the Business folk?  I think the aggression and greed of Business needs a little letting go, calm and moderation.  And, I still don’t think I’m naive – I just happen to believe that you can have the best of both worlds.  

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Subconscious Intelligence

Thus far, yoga teacher training is causing much emotional upheaval. I knew that I was bottling a lot of emotions, I just had no idea how deep and embedded they were from my consciousness. For many years I have noticed a consistent holding and tension in my upper back and neck area. I was told by massage therapists and energy workers that this was a physical manifestation of a pattern of holding back, not speaking my truth and suppression of my emotions and self. I supposed this would cure itself merely through the passage of time. But the tension remained, the headaches continued and the need for massage and chiropractic work are ever-present.

This week was an emotional low – I felt exhausted all week, unmotivated to go to work, and I even bailed on my Thursday workout (which was momentous). I woke up Thursday with a massive pain in my left upper back and neck, I was exhausted again and feeling downright agitated. I barely made it out the door to work, and when I did I felt like driving 90mph and ramming into everyone. Anger and madness overcame my consciousness. I broke my streak of “good” driving when I tail gated and flipped off some innocent driver. Immediately afterward I started bawling and wanted to apologize and give the man a hug and apologize. As I was uncontrollably sobbing behind the wheel my mind was racing, trying to find a reason for this outburst. Then I realized the date: the anniversary of my dads funeral. Really??!!? That’s what all of this is about?? What the fuck? Then, I remembered the actual funeral: I didn’t shed one tear. I was dried up and had to look presentable for the throngs of attendees paying their respects. I never cried on this day; I was not even aware of the date for the past few years. But this year, I had done some digging, and the digging freed up this stifled emotion. I had to bow down to the power of the mind and its affect on the body.

I read the first 3 chapters of the Bhagavad Gita. Wow. Could it make me feel more human?? I am finding so much solace in this poem, directing me to the wisdom of Krishna, to that of non attachment to desire. But, man, do I desire that inner peace!!

“It is better to do your own duty badly, than to perfectly do another’s; you are safe from harm when you do what you should be doing.” (3.35)

Still digging and still emotional; “I’m out there, Jerry, and LOVING EVERY MINUTE OF IT!” (Kramer in Seinfeld)

The Merger of Ahimsa, Satya & Asteya

I had a Blog Block.  Wasn’t sure of what to write; I didn’t feel inspired.  I used my best writing for a homework assignment, and this week we had to post a non-required homework response to the blog.  I felt tapped out of ideas on this subject of Asteya – “non-stealing”.  Then, today, during our long session of YTT, I was inspired by my peers.  

Going back to Satya (truth), I wrote about how I hate being phony or fake or lying to others.  It’s one of my most uncomfortable states of being.  My pulse quickens, I start to sweat, my voice changes, I have difficulty using my vocabulary.  But there are a few moments in life where I have to be fake, or less than sincere.  These are moments where I have developed a judgment or conclusion about a person and I act in opposition to those judgments or conclusions.  For example, I may disagree with or dislike a person with whom I am forced to interact.  The forced interaction is typically in a social situation, where I am my most gregarious.  I say hello, hug & happily greet everyone in the room.  Then I get to this person, who I have concluded is a “bad person.”  Despite my judgments and conclusions about them, I give this person the same happy hello & a hug.  I am a complete phony.  Satya has been violated.  However, if I were to act as I truly feel (neglect to greet this person) then I am committing a form of violence.  Thereby, violating Ahimsa.  Finally, by creating this discomfort in myself due to my insincerity, I am stealing my own peace of mind.  This scenario is a real struggle for me and I have never had a clear idea of how to handle myself and not walk away feeling down-right shitty.

Today, thanks to my YTT friends, I was able to shine some clarity on this merger of Yama violations.  One suggestion was to treat this person with indifference.  But, in a social setting, indifference can be equally harmful.  However, if I were to shed my conclusions and judgments about this person, and just approach them as another imperfect human being, I would be practicing compassion.  Who am I to conclude that this is a “bad” person?  I may have this feeling about them, but this feeling is clearly causing me more suffering than peace of mind.  If I can just understand that this person is struggling to find his/her own path and treat him/her with the compassion of a person who may be “sick” or in dis-ease, I can find some release from my grasping of this conclusion. This correlates well with the Yoga Sutra (1.12) around non-attachment.  To release the grip on this concept, I will not only free myself from the discomfort of not being honest, but I will enable more truthful interactions and violence on all levels has been eradicated.  Lastly, a yoga friend suggested that I just tell this person how uncomfortable it is to be around them because of the various behaviors exhibited in the past.  This sounds much more simple that it will be in practice….another place for potential discomfort, but ultimate growth.

Again, thank you all for your listening and insight! 

Satya – YOWZA!

3.  Satya. What is “truth” to you? Is it layered? Dependent on…? Changing

First of all, this is a really difficult question.

I typically think of truth as factual information.  However, after reading these articles I am beginning to understand this otherwise esoteric term. Since beginning a yoga practice I have become more aware of self-care. I still remember when a yoga teacher used those words – it was the first time anyone used the term, and it resonated so deeply.  I had been pursuing many forms of self-care to cure me of stress, chronic migraines, acid reflux and my perpetual pursuit of achievements.  Yoga, massage, chiropractic care, and proper diet were happening simultaneously and consistently.  At first I felt ashamed and guilty for indulging in these activities.  But once I heard them referred to as self-care, a light bulb went on. I was doing these things to make me feel better. To make me feel more deeply and precisely the root of my ails.

Satya is definitely dependent on my circumstances. When I approach physical activity these days I approach it with feeling: “what sounds good to me? How am I feeling?” However, when it comes to situations where I fall short of certain personal or societal expectations, I have a harder time with this reflection/pause.  I have a tendency to easily gloss over details where I may have failed. Or leave out certain facts that would color someone’s opinion of me.  When I speak to someone about mu day, I ensure that cover all of the things I accomplished, to show what a productive person I am. I may leave out the detail that I slept in and relaxed for 2 hours before doing anything. Heaven forbid I appear lazy!

Another area where my truth is challenged is at it relates to my profession. For example, I am a licensed non-practicing attorney. My brother asked me the other day, “so now you’re doing a yoga certification…what about your law license? Are you going to use that, ever?”  While a seemingly benign question, I felt judged and compelled to give the “right”/superficial answer. “Well, you know, a law license is just a great thing to have. It gives me the ability to work in many different fields, to help those in need of legal advice and if I want to start a business it will be beneficial”.  He was satisfied with that answer so I moved on. What I was really feeling was, “fuck! I know that I have this license, mountain of student debt and nothing to show for it. I just haven’t figured out what I’m doing yet. Stop asking these questions that make me feel inferior.” There was this little voice of self-judgment and doubt. But I kept it to myself. No need to make others worry about Jeanne’s failures and short-comings.  But it also shows me that I don’t want to recognize certain truths about choices I have made. Not that I regret becoming a lawyer, but I sometimes think I chose it in haste; in an attempt to prove to everyone that I can do it. At the time I made the choice I was in a deep state of self-judgment & insecurity. Thus, satya coming into my life isn’t always comfortable or convenient. It forces me to shine a light on these parts of me that I don’t quite relate with anymore and recognize how violent I have been and can be toward myself.

4 years without touching his face

Today marks 4 years since my Dad succumbed to kidney cancer. Each year during December and January, I seek out methods of escape – excessive socializing, which can include excessive alcohol consumption. I am not a regular drinker, but this time of year I want to forget the memory of death. Once the New Year arrives I tire of the toxicity and I enter this state of quasi-mania – irrational outbursts may happen, misdirected anger, random sobbing. All of which I am told is a form of PTSD. Unfortunately, cancer is so ubiquitous that some of you may relate. Watching a loved one become unrecognizably weak, hallucinating from the pain killers, and confined to a hospice bed, is a memory that will not soon escape the mind.

My dad was a phenomenal athlete. As a kid he was an all-star baseball & basketball player. He was a scratch golfer, going to the NCAA tournament in college, after taking 1st in the State of Minnesota. Growing up, he encouraged health & fitness, wanting his girls to be tom-boys and his son to be as stellar as he once was. He lived vicariously through our activities. As we left the house to continue our own lives he continued hiking, lifting weights, shooting hoops & golfing. So, to be unable to stand, his brain muddled with ridiculously strong pain killers, made me feel so sad for this man who had so much dignity & pride in care-taking. He wanted nothing more than to watch his family grow old; to see the day when he could bounce a grand-baby on his lap; to watch his business flourish to the benefit of his employees and his family. He was not ready to leave this world.

In addition to these physical traits, my Dad was extraordinarily spiritual. He had a very strong affinity for the teachings of Jesus and for the wisdom of the Native Americans. He participated in vision quests and avidly read texts about the Great Spirit, and the importance of nature and our loving interaction with all living beings. His devotion to spirituality undoubtedly influenced me – I have always had a yearning to help people. In his last days, one of the few things he said with clarity, was that we need to help people. He was the most generous, funny, loving person I’ve ever met – and I’m not just saying that because he was my Dad. He connected with people on a level that is rare to find – if you speak with anyone who knew my dad, they all believed he was their best friend.

Dad was also a singer/songwriter and loved poetry. He wrote love songs to my mom when they first started dating. He taught all of his children to sing, harmonize & play instruments. Music is such a huge part of my life & my soul and it is the one place where I can most closely connect with my dad’s spirit.

I am so grateful for my Dad – it’s not often that a child can think of their father as a best friend, mentor & parent. After he died, I felt the simultaneous emotions of utter Sadness & Gratitude. It’s hard to explain, but I would be driving in my car, a song would come on, and suddenly I’m sobbing & smiling – again, the mania 🙂

After this weekend’s discussions and exercises, I cannot put into words how joyful I am to have endeavored into this self-exploration and humble absorption of information. The discussions of Spaciousness are exactly what I need in my life. I desire greatly for the grace of observation during my moments of mania. To share this concept with my mom, sister & brother, so that they may find some peace during their own mania.

Again, thank you all for listening, for being present and for creating a place of open acceptance. It’s more than I could have ever wished for.

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Week 2 Homework Piece

  1. What are Samskaras?  How do I experience them myself?

Samskaras are habitual, unconscious patters of attachment & repulsion.  These patterns or habits are held deep inside of our psyche, which manifest in our physical body as patterns of dis-ease, holding or tension, etc.  For many years I believed that I had chronic acid reflux & that there were certain foods that caused this dis-ease & discomfort.  In fact, I was diagnosed at age 19 with GERD (gastro-esophogeal reflux disease).  I was told that if GERD went untreated it could lead to cancer.  Fearfully, I convinced myself that if I ate poorly (too much grease, fat, alcohol, etc) that I would get “sick”.  I would even say it out loud – “I can’t eat at that restaurant, the food will make me sick”.  I created a pattern of attachment to this concept of “sickness” & repelled all things that would cause me to suffer.  In reality, I was trying to justify not eating certain foods, which fed my obsession over what I was eating, in an attempt to stave off cancer & to stay fit & trim.  After 8 years of daily medication for acid reflux, I decided that I did not need this medication anymore.  I stopped taking it cold turkey, and 2 years later, I have not needed it.  At the time I was “diagnosed” I had a series of obsessive behaviors that created a lot of unnecessary stress.  After practicing yoga for a number of years, I became aware of the power of the mind.  Thus, a mental pattern of thought, created a physical ailment.  The only way to stop the physical ailment was to change the pattern of thought.  It took me a couple of years, but eventually I broke this pattern.  Very little in my diet has changed since I began taking the medication – it was mostly a psychological creation.

There are many other samskaras that I could share, but I’ll leave it at the one 😉

First post

Today begins my first blog of many over the course of this new endeavor, Yoga Teacher Training. I feel like the ground after a long fall season – I’ve been I covered in a pile of thick, wet, dirty leaves and now I will slowly scrape away. Allow the soil to breathe and prepare for the new growth that the spring will inevitably bring.