Ever walked into class and thought something like this:
"Oh man, these people are way more advanced than I am, I'm totally in the wrong place"
"My butt is way bigger than that girl's, I can't possibly do this"
"What is she doing with that alignment? Obviously my training has been better than hers"
"Dang! there's no way I could ever do what that person is doing"
"How on Earth did his hips get so open? mine are like locked in place but they should look like that."
... well, you get the picture.
One of the blessings and challenges of going to public class is that it's a class, with the public. As in, you're not there alone, anyone could walk through the door and set up his or her mat beside yours. Even in leveled classes there's bound to be someone who could only make it at that time slot and so beginners find their way into advanced classes, and advanced students need a break and fill up beginner classes.
Being with other people while you move through your practice truly can be a challenge until you train your mind to leave it alone. While it is delightful to learn from and appreciate those around you, it is quite another to spend the entire time in comparison mode. Comparison never helped anybody along the path.
Truth is, we are born different from each other. We live our lives in different ways, we practice our yoga in our own unique bodies and we must approach group class practice with a humility and patience for our own limitations and achievements in mind. Comparison tears down the cohesiveness of the class, and blocks the ability to focus honestly on your own experience in that moment.
Stopping from comparing is harder said than done. I think for me I spent a lot of time reminding myself to go back into my own practice whenever I was drawn out -- and still I get caught up at times. It undermines my efforts at the asana and present moment awareness. I usually end up feeling crummy instead of better. I also found a little bit of a shift when I started reminding myself that I will feel and be different in every class, just like the students around me. And that there will always be poses that come easily to me, and others that are more challenging -- just like everybody else.
The way I see it, comparing with someone else just sets up a 'Me-Them' mentality rather than remembering 'We're all in this together'. And it sets up or perpetuates Better Than/Worse Than, higher/lower, thinking. None of these are paradigms I personally want to take forward into my family or the greater world.
Instead I hope to forward the idea that we are all unique. Uniqueness is a positive rather than a negative and one that does not make us in anyway inherently more or less important or special. Each of us has something amazing to offer, and something more to learn. If we can start to perpetuate that kind of thinking rather than being in constant comparison mode, I think our world will be a much better place. And yoga in public could become much more enjoyable!
I co-led my first retreat two weekends ago and found it to be a magical experience that I'd love to repeat. (actually, we've already booked the space for the first weekend of November 2013)
We went to SevenOaks Retreat Center in Madison, Va for two days and one night away. One of the many nice sides to SevenOaks is that it is out in the woods, but is only about an hour out of town. It is easily accessible by car and doesn't require a long commute. Included in the retreat fee is the lodging there at SevenOaks and three amazing meals, plus 24/7 snacks, coffee, and tea are available. The lodging at SevenOaks is kind of like very nice camp, with electricity and running water, but we are by no means staying at a spa. Rustic, is a better description. The food on the other hand is way better than camp food. It is all fresh and natural, mostly local. They take into consideration any dietary considerations including gluten free diets, vegetarianism, and allergies. We all enjoyed stuffing our faces! (even my co-leader and I who didn't practice all the yoga!)
For me, it was nice to be at "work" but still feel like I was on a retreat. It was nice to work alongside one of my best friends for more than just the few minutes we get together once in a while. It was easy in that way because we have such rapport together, and neither one of us believes our own hype (as she put it). Neither one of us allows our ego to take over the teaching and so we were quite able to build off of one another as the practices went on.
I was also somewhat challenged in the process. I think mostly because of being pregnant right now. There is just a layer of film over everything. A fog that covers every experience just slightly. I'm there, but not entirely. I think even when I'm not pregnant the film is somewhat there - and that's why I do yoga. But without a strong practice for myself all weekend, I felt like I was interacting with everyone from the other side of fogged glass. Just slightly. We'll see how it goes next year when there isn't a baby in my belly.
On the flip side I was happily surprised by parts of my experience. Our main teaching point was about how Source or Shakti is present in everything and at all times. But it is Grace (the power of revelation) that lets us move from our normal every day lives, into seeing that Oneness. For me, I often access Shakti most clearly in my physical body. And I've definitely seen big differences in myself after yoga classes, or workshop weekends. On Sunday, after teaching on Saturday and eating luscious food and being out under the stars at the bonfire, when I woke up I could see the Shakti sparkling inside my eyes. It was just so amazing to see the teaching working inside of me even though I wasn't in the physical practice. It affirmed what I was teaching, and what I truly believe. (and it happened for my co-leader as well).
There were several magical moments during the teaching, and it was pretty awesome to watch some of the students' transformations from grumpy or stressed into great big love muffins. I definitely will make improvements for the next one. But, if leading a retreat with one of my best friends is my "work", I must be the luckiest lady in the world!
Ok, that might be one of my favorite scenes in a movie, ever. It's just so beautiful, isn't it?
In my little hiatus from the mat, I've been kind of whiny I have to say. None of my normal ways of expressing myself have been available. My kitchen is destroyed - so no cooking, I was sickish - so no yoga or dance, and my craft stuff is buried deep in my basement under all the kitchen stuff - so no sewing. I felt a bit stifled creatively.
And then, I saw my piano. And my piano books from high school. It has been perfect! It's so easy because I don't need anything else, I just sit down at any moment, and my family has been tolerating my missed notes (all 5,000 of them) quite well.
One thing I've loved is that I never played Clair de Lune (the song in the above clip) when I was in high school. It's a totally new number to me. But it is so beautiful and relatively easy. So I've been able to pick it up quickly. It's super satisfying.
One way to work with a piano piece that I'm learning is to separate the hands. So the other afternoon I was working with some of the huge chords in the right hand where the melody is and then decided to switch over to the left.
I thought the left would just be basic set up chords but when I separated it out, I found the melody mirrored quite blatantly in the left. I wouldn't even have to play the right hand and still the beautiful song came through. I was completely surprised and happy at my discovery. And it enhances my playing as now I can try to bring out the melody in both left and right hands when I play them together.
It relates to yoga.... um. I think this is how the One is. Hidden in plain sight. There, in everything, just beneath the surface. When I take a moment to clear the mental clutter I find the One. When I take a moment to clear the emotional clutter I find the One. When I have the time to clear the physical clutter I find the One. Always there, just beneath the surface of awareness.
Maybe one day I'll live in that state of total awareness of Oneness all the time. But until then I do like the delight of remembering time and time again. The happiness of finding not dissonance but beautiful music just under the surface of my reality.