It’s been a relatively quiet beginning of 2012 for me. Especially in the last six weeks, I’ve had time for silence. To be with myself.
Yes, I’ve spent plenty of that time online, and on my new obsession, Pinterest (don’t get me going; even now, I’m tempted to click over and do some pinning to my boards). I’ve watched Downton Abbey from the beginning — which I can tell you is an outstanding and honorable way to spend one’s time. I’ve read a lot of books and listened to a lot of music. I even spent a few days nursing a cold.
I’ve done some work, driven my kids around, and played my role on the PTA. But I’ve also enjoyed being alone.
I’m someone who loves being around people and craves connection (if we’re Facebook friends, or friends at all, you know this well). But I’ve also always been able to hang out by myself quite happily. I’m rarely lonely or bored when on my own. Of course, as the mother of small children who are now not quite as small (and so are in school all day), I feel I’ve earned the exquisiteness of alone time. But even before I had them, I liked it. I became a freelancer in 1998 with no qualms whatsoever about my ability to work at home all by myself. I can manage blocks of hours on end and get done what I need to while also appreciating the silence. I know that about myself.
So it seems my center has always been there, even in those recent years when I couldn’t find it, thought I’d lost it, didn’t even remember what it felt like to be in it.
This week my yoga teachers Emma and Julie talked a lot about the “teacher within.” Your inner teacher is sovereign, the one with the most wisdom and knowledge about you. Even if you don’t know it or trust it — even if you’re in denial about it — you are the one who knows yourself best.
The first line of the Anusara invocation, which we sing at the beginning of every practice, is
Om Namah Shivaya Gurave
I offer myself to the Light, the Auspicious One, who is the True Teacher within and without.
We all have teachers, and we all are teachers, my teachers said. But your true teacher is you.
To reap the benefits your inner teacher can offer you, you need to listen to her or him. Which means having a clear connection to yourself. It means being able to sit in that inner silence and hear what you have to say — your thoughts, feelings, fears, defense mechanisms, arguments, justifications. The idea of doing this can be downright frightening. But if you try it, you find that it’s ultimately empowering. It’s really the source of all your power as a human being, to know yourself and be connected with yourself. It’s the only place from which you’ll be able to create genuine bonds with the people around you.
It’s possible — it’s necessary — to really luxuriate in aloneness.
Our Anusara immersion ended yesterday. Sixteen of us came together with our exceptional teacher Emma Magenta for nine weekends over the course of a year. Altogether, it was 108 hours. It was a big, serious committment of time, money and effort, but one we all felt was important and managed to convince our loved ones was important.
We were all there because Anusara struck a chord with each of us, and we wanted to go deeper. It was a lot more than just a class where we took notes, or a workshop to improve our poses. Though we did learn all about the Universal Principles of Alignment that our style of yoga is based upon and did many hours of tough asana, we also studied the Tantric philosophy that makes Anusara unique. We read and discussed the Bhagavad Gita. We practiced pranayama, meditation, and kirtan. And we got to better understand how yoga touches all parts of our lives — physically, mentally, spiritually. If you’ve been a regular reader of my blog, you know that two of the Universal Principles in particular have made a major emotional impression on me: muscular energy, or creating a strong foundation by contracting and pulling in, and organic energy, or extending and shining out.
We created a kula. We went from a group of strangers — or, at most, people who’d seen one another once or twice in class — to a cohesive community, a circle of love, trust, and safety. We established strong bonds of friendship.
When I started going to South Mountain Yoga about three years ago, I knew almost immediately that Anusara was going to be significant for me. I was feeling so battered and lost, completely foundation-less. I walked in there and it felt like a haven. What I got out of it was just what I needed.
It still feels that way, and I’m a completely different person — because of all kinds of work I’ve done since then, but in large part because of my yoga. I’m as strong as I’ve ever been, physically and emotionally. I’m more comfortable in and confident about my body. I’ve found a language to understand the spiritual ideas that I already had.
It’s hard to articulate what Anusara is and why it’s special without sounding like some sort of cult member, so I try not to proselytize when my friends show an interest. I tell them that yoga is like anything else — you find the studio, teacher, and style that work for you. Of course I want them all to come do Anusara with me. But I’d love for them to come to it organically, like I did.
There’s the possibility of teacher training in the fall, and though I’ve never considered myself teacher material, I’m starting to rethink that. Good teachers are passionate about their subject. I don’t think I have the amazing gift that Emma does (that’s her front and center in the picture, in the bright blue jacket). But I’d love to help other people see what I see in Anusara, to get what I’ve gotten out of it. Whether I’m a good prospect for such an important job remains to be seen. But I’d love to learn more. So I’m thinking about it.
But I’m really going to miss having immersion weekend to look forward to. It was always so nice to know one was coming up, that I’d get to spend the weekend talking and thinking about something I love, with people I love, and doing something soothing and healing for myself. This last one was a week after my father’s memorial service, and the timing could not have been better.
One of my classmates put it this way: When we began, it was like we were in the lobby of a museum, and we were there to see an exhibit we were interested in. But it turned out the museum was huge, cavernous in fact, and there was more and more to explore. So now we’re wandering through the infinite museum of Anusara yoga.
The nicest thing about this metaphor is that even if we’re in different rooms or focusing on different exhibits, we can still meet up in the cafe. See you all there.