Gratitude

I should be sleeping right now, given that I have to be up by 5 a.m. to make the 6 a.m. pranayama circle with Tim Miller and his students. But I’m full of so much good energy that I can’t settle down to sleep just yet.

Tomorrow we head into the last five days of this Ashtanga teacher training program — and I am already sad to think about it coming to an end. The past week has been tremendous. Tim, who has been practicing Ashtanga for more than 32 years, brings a real-deal brand of wisdom — a wisdom born of experience — along with an encyclopedic breadth of knowledge, absolute devotion to the Ashtanga yoga system, and a deep well of compassion for his students. It is inspiring to just be in the same room with him. To be taking his teacher training — all I can think about is the concept of gratitude.

Gratitude for all my yoga teachers whose guidance have ultimately led me to this point. Gratitude for Tim Miller. Gratitude for my friends and family members who have always encouraged me to keep moving forward on this yogic path. Even gratitude for all the stressful jobs I’ve had over the years — jobs that drained me so much that I had to go in search of some sort of antidote, some sort of a release from it.

Last week during an afternoon discussion, Tim said that gratitude primes the pump for grace. I love that concept but haven’t had time yet to think more about it. Maybe I’ll address the concept of grace in another blog post.

On a related note, if I were back home in Michigan, I would have taught my 7 p.m. Ashtanga class tonight. I realized around 6:30 that I really missed my students, and I wanted to be there to see their smiles and hear their laughter and see where they’ve improved and what might be challenging them most this week. So there’s also gratitude for students, who give me even more reason to seek out the great yogic masters of our time and learn from them.

It seems that everywhere I turn, I see something else to express gratitude for — and of course, I’m grateful for that!

So, where do you think the experience of gratitude leads us?

I'm always grateful when I make it into adho mukha vrksasana

Baseball’s most yogic figure (hint: it’s not Bud Selig)

During my drive to Chicago tonight (for a Tim Miller second series workshop at Yogaview — woo-hoo!), I was getting all upset again over the perfect game that was stolen from Armando Galarraga. True Detroit Tigers fan will wonder, “you mean you stopped getting upset since last night?” Well, not really. But work was such madness today that I didn’t have time to think about Jim Joyce’s tragic call. And  then after work, I took a much-needed Ashtanga class with Misty, and didn’t think about baseball then.

But on this drive, the rage started stirring again. I realized that Galarraga has to be the most yogic figure in baseball. He has to be. Who else could have had a perfect game stolen from him and then merely smiled and prepped his next pitch?

First, the game: for Galarraga to have pitched the perfect game (and he did, no matter what the official baseball records say), he needed to still his mind (yoga is defined as the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind) and to maintain dharana — single-pointed focus — which is one of the eight limbs of yoga.

How he handled the blown call blew me away. A true Zen master.

Unbelievable that a man could have that much acceptance and detachment from the outcome of the situation. Simply unbelievable.

Santa Monica-based yoga instructor (and former ashtangi) Bryan Kest says that calmness is a muscle. I love that concept. I tend to be a very reactive person. Something happens, I immediately assume the worst — or at least I am running down five other scenarios that will play out because of this event. But in the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali tells us that pain that has not yet come is avoidable. In other words, not overreact.

I am getting less reactive over time, but only because of my near-daily yoga practice and the powerfully calming effects of a colleague of mine (a man who has had more of an influence on me than he will ever know). This colleague fought in the Vietnam War, and that gives him, as you can imagine, a different perspective on life. All the stuff we fret over and sweat — does it really matter?

What does really matter?

Well, in the same position, could I have reacted the way Galaragga did? “Hell no!” would be my immediate response. But there I am, reacting again. If you had asked me this question even two years ago, I would have said no way — my character is so different than his, and I could never display that kind of mettle in that situation (not to mention I’ve never played catch once in my life).

But now that I am trying to live my life along a yogic path, I won’t say never. I still say it’s 99.9 percent unlikely that I would not be breathing fire in that situation. But I do see how it’s possible — how yoga refines our character, enhancing the qualities we want more of and whittling down the qualities we want less of. The process is often a long one — and it’s not linear. Two steps forward, three steps back. But the important thing is that progress is happening, and each time we meet with resistance or challenge, we have the opportunity to be less reactive and more yogic than we were last time.

So Armando: whether or not you practice yoga, thank you for showing us the yogic way.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, on the other hand — here’s the man who could have righted a wrong. But I’m not going to go there — because that would not be yogic.

Looking for something that isn’t here

So here I am, writing my first post for this new blog. I think it’s rather fitting for the theme of this website that the default WordPress post I wrote over said:

Not Found.

Sorry, but you are looking for something that isn’t here.

I’ve spent a lot of time, especially lately, thinking about what I have and haven’t found through my yoga practice. (I’ve put some of those thoughts into the about me section.) I’m not sure the list of what I have found through my yoga practice ends — like the Energizer Bunny, it just keeps going and going.

When you first come to the mat, you are so cognizant of how much self-healing there is to do, and how much potential yoga has to help you in that healing process. The longer you practice, the more cognizant you are that you want to share this others. You start sharing first by just being a more balanced person, perhaps someone who is less reactive to challenging people or situations. Then you start to wonder if the way to share your passion is to teach yoga, so that others can find their own way.

Then, if you are me, you wonder if you should start a blog to share resources. I’m always trying to connect resources to the right people — an e-mail here, a verbal fyi there (for example, ashtangis, did you know that Tim Miller – who I describe as being a Jedi master in yoga garb — will be in Chicago this weekend at YogaView? Last I checked, there is still room).

Through this site, all I really want to do is share (probably mostly about Ashtanga, simply because that is my true love when it comes to yoga, and what I’m focused on right now). It might be logistical, like a reminder to Hilltop Yoga students about when the studio will be closed (the evenings of Father’s Day and July Fourth are the next two evening closures this summer). It might be a recommendation (I’m currently enjoying Gregor Maehle’s new book in the intermediate series). Or it might be questions, thoughts or a story. And it would be very cool if the sharing goes both ways — let me know about your latest insight or recommendation.

urdvha