Friday, November 4, 2016

Discovering your Way

There is no fetter like illusion, no force greater than Yoga, no friend greater than knowledge, and no enemy fiercer than ego.  v.4 Gheranda Samhita

There is a path we all want to live in our existence, walk and breath, one that has been written upon the very halls of destiny.  Perhaps, it dwells deep within the marrow, far set into the furthest recesses of our minds, hard to tell from whence it comes.  But…it is there.  Even the most skeptical of persons must admit that each and every one of us carries propensities towards a particular nature that tends to far exceed nurture.  

The ancients, they knew of such things.  This identity behind the personalities of culture and creed were called a variety of things.  Soul, daemon, genius, atma, Self, the list goes on yet the mystery remains the same.  There is something within that transcends and intends beyond the masks of our temporal lives that drives us to be who we are meant to be.  If one is truthful and reflects upon the path of life from birth to now, one must agree.  

Finding this path, one’s way or dharma is the goal and beginning of life.  To realize what is the task of bliss for each every person is the focus of all great legends and epic tales.  

Why am I here? What is my purpose? What is the meaning of my life? 

All questions, reflections from the magnetic draw of serendipity.  

We all feel it, the pull to be what we are meant to be. Indeed, we are drawn to the unique identity that is our role in this cosmic play we call life.  To find our place is a magnanimous fortune.  It is not easy, even though who we are is always there but it is covered by powerful magical illusion that bewitches our minds and leads us astray.  The life we live, the generations we are born into, the cultures that surround us, all these and more cloud our inner vision and place us in an existence that limits us from seeing our true nature.  Fate, karma, bad luck, these are all the same, remnants of what was before coming into the now.  Accepting this and seeing that there is something larger and more profound than these identities is the shaft of light in the darkness that reveals true knowledge.   

Knowledge begins the journey to liberation.  We see through darkness, out the cave of limitations and realize that a life beyond our imagination exists, one of true satisfaction and fulfillment.  This is the road we are meant to travel.  

If this were enough, so many would be happy and full of infinite joy.  But, most have this beatific sight then ignore it or fall into despair because what was seen seems beyond any reach of present circumstances?  Too many distractions, obstacles surround it.  Honestly, even for those who see and strive after it, what was seen as the path is confused and clouded by perceptions of our mind so the goal becomes even further out of our hands.  This is the realm of the ego and it's skewed take on what are meant to be binds us to ultimate disappointment.  

Here resides a force capable of leading us to the life we are meant to have.  It is a way that has taken many forms and shapes though the ages.  The moment we look at the vision of our lives see it and say yes to it, the cosmic wheels begin to churn and place before us the practice that will lead us into the life we are meant to live.  It will be different for every person.  

I call it Yoga! Name it whatever you want.  Go deep into it and you will discover the way to liberations and fulfillment.  

This is the plug that when connected to what we seek will illuminate our way.  Through following a course of yoga whatever it might be for one, however it manifests itself and then through a determined practice we will be led to the way we were meant to walk.  

May you find your Yoga!!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Finding Meditation

First, without bragging let me just describe my life.  I teach five to eight yoga classes and week then add four to five indoor cycle sessions on top of that, fill in to sub in both disciplines, have private sessions with clients as well as oversee several instructors as their direct supervisor.  Oh, and, of course, there are all those extra projects that come along and fill my days.  This is all interesting but the days get filled and time slips away. Basically, my life is busy.  Granted I work in a really uplifting profession but even when one does what one loves things can be intense and exhausting especially when too much ends up on my mat or on the spin cycle.

What to do? 

I could just do more in an attempt to take care of things.  Work differently, find a better schedule, delegate, try and take time off, plan a vacation (that’s real work) and so on…but all this becomes more stuff to do in the end.  

I know in those moments it becomes apparent that it’s time to meditate.  The ultimate act of some non-doing!  That's right, not more doing, but more nothing just to be and be still without worrying about results or what it will get me.   When I meditate, I allow myself to exhale in a whole state of being sort of way then let the world dance by in all its seeming importance until at some point the chatter, urgency and importance of it all drops away allowing a quiet to emerge.  There in that place beyond the ripples of life the truth exists and what really matters rises to the surface and reveals itself.  

There from that place of quiet contemplation I see the relative nature of my acts.  Even when I am attending to great matters and taking care things that must be completed if I am to live a life without complication, still these too become secondary to what I find in meditation. 

This is the real path anyway. It’s not the action, the teaching, all the doing rather this is the arrow that points to the reality of a deeper experience.  Sitting, resting, and all the manifestations of meditation become the real goal of work, yoga and any other act.  

Strangely enough when I grant myself these moments, I receive what is needed to move forward. Sure things may still seem stressful and the day can be filled with obstacles and struggles but when I touch that inner serenity there possibility emerges beyond the immediate occurrences.  This creates a ground from which to move onward.   From this, things evolve, tasks get completed, the necessary finds its completion and the fringe falls away.

Most of all though, it’s not the result of the mediation that matters, this would make it another task to complete if this is the case.  It’s simply to go to where I am truly who I am, the place without masks, definitions and identities and to rest in that.  This is the realm of true Knowledge, the knowing that matters.  Just that!  

As an ancient text declares in all it’s directness.  

By Constant Meditation (comparable to the rubbing of the fire-wood) is kindled the flame of Knowledge, which completely burns up the fuel of ignorance.  V42 Atmabhodha

May we all unplug in our days and find this.  

Enjoy the Ride!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Pre-Ride Stillness

What does that mean?  Maybe you have been doing too much yoga?  Loud music in the cycle room effecting thought patterns?

Yeah I know it's just a piece on being an indoor cycling instructor which probably in itself isn't the most profound of things.  But, hey, why not take things that seem silly and fun then use them to express the most profound of depths?

For real! A Stillness precedes every indoor cycling ride, and I suggest that same pause rests before any intentional undertaking.  Ask any professional instructor or really any successful person and they will know or at least have an idea about what I am streaming about.  This moment of brevity that exists before one engages in the task ahead has an opportunity to be one of absolute confidence and awe.  In it rests the raw essence of the class  before it happens. It is the potential, the execution and ultimate meaning behind the ride.  To achieve something great as a teacher or in any endeavor  one must access this place and rest in it even if only for a moment.  Here, where everything stands still, exists the confidence to move forward with an inner resilience that is absolutely unchecked by the fear of failure.  Regardless of what is to be, here is the place to touch and move from.

To access this sanctuary one needs to quiet the mind. Meditation, movement, focused breathing, thinking of one you love, a ritual of life, whatever, these all provide a means to touch the pre-ride stillness.

You know what that is.  Ultimately, you have to find your way into the stillness.  Every person has a different way to go there.  Explore and find it then bring out the extraordinary in whatever you are going to do.

Most of all...

Enjoy the Ride

Monday, September 19, 2016

Three Things Indoor Cycling Taught Me About Yoga

Let me begin by stating that I consider myself first and foremost a yoga teacher.  Although, I have taught a wide variety of group fitness classes and whole world of subjects as a former school teacher I still come back to being a yoga instructor in my heart.  Having said that, let me just acknowledge how crazy I am about indoor cycling.

Currently, I have one of the most amazing jobs one could ever have, teaching both yoga and indoor cycling as a full time instructor at Anchorage Yoga and Cycle.   At first, this combination of instruction may seem odd, probably completely disharmonious especially if you have a very strict view of indoor cycling or yoga and what an instructor should look like for these two disciplines.  If you have some much option you may as well stop reading because you won't agree with what is written.  If you are receptive then read on.

The two in actuality greatly compliment and enrich the other.  Rather than go into the wide interchange between the two, let me share from my own experience three things cycling has taught me about yoga.

1. Yoga is more than a really groovy fitness class.  When I first started taking yoga I more or less saw yoga as a pretty cool and hip way to get into shape.  I dug the music, the vibe and the alternative lifestyle that sometimes came with it.  Honestly, I brought some of this perspective with me when I first started teaching yoga.  Over time, this has tempered as I started discovering and digging into many of the higher aspects of the practice but still there was a serious fitness component that had stuck with me.

One of the befits of teaching other practices along side yoga like indoor cycling for example is that I get to step way off the mat and look back at it from another perspective.  Then, I view things that maybe I  hadn't when so deeply involved.  Looking back to yoga from the shores of indoor cycling let me see that the world of yoga is a vast peaked landscape where the focus on the physical is just a light scratch on the surface.  Yes, the sweat, the effort and physical are a strong part of it but behind all that is a terrain of depth and dimension that offers more than physical health but a way to live and celebrate life. Teaching all sorts of wild musically driven cycle classes from my Blue Carbon Schwinn  presented the perch in which to view yoga in a new a fresh way.  Gratitude abounds.

2. Another thing that becomes clear while riding and teaching is that Yoga lives off the mat and everywhere especially in places one doesn't expect to find it.  ok, let's be honest. It's easy to do yoga in a studio or center where everybody is practicing asana and then exchanging ideas about alternative lifestyles all the while as a harmonium plays on the sound system behind.'s when one leaves this scenario and wanders off into other settings does it become more real.

Imagine the sound pumping light board dancing environment of an indoor cycle studio.  Instructors yelling out motivational phrase as the latest bass beats thump in the background while people scream in response and you have where I work most of may days at the cycle house.  It is a high frequency environment.  You will find all sorts of fitness types there who aren't really interested in hearing about yoga.  Sure, some go but even these are looking for a different experience when they step into Anchorage Cycle.

This is the place where yoga matters.  In a place like this, can one celebrate a  healthy body, discover mindfulness, live ethically and discover that behind is the joy of cosmic bliss?  Yes!!!  Just like a yoga studio the underlying questions of how to live and what's it all about are the same but in a radically different context.  Yoga belongs here in this ever so real environment more than anywhere else.  I get to lace classes with yoga energy, share ideas that come right out of Patanjali, the Bhagavad Gita, or the Upanishads with fellow instructors and clients (although in more world terminology) and attempt to embody yoga values in my day to day affairs. This is where yoga lives and it's everywhere.

3. Be Open! The most important message of all.  Wisdom comes in all sorts of places and in all sorts of ways.  Sometimes it comes on the mat with Sanskrit emblazoned on the wall but other times it comes from a bunch of howling, high fiving cycling instructors who are chanting Kanya West lyrics.  Still, it comes and when we are open to see everything and I mean everything as some sort a tantric yoga oracle of knowing then  we will get what we need.

Thanks Indoor Cycling for teaching just a little bit more about the yoga I love!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sweet Dharma

The Bhagavad Gita constantly inspires and illuminates my path of yoga.  I often return to its pages and contemplate its relevance. 

But…it wasn’t always so. 

The first time I read though the entire Gita beyond the inspiring passagesI had always discouraged me.   The outline of how to live and walk upon the yoga path seemed heavy, a burden like so many other sets of rules and regulations, all unattainable on my own actions, especially the goal of releasing the fruit of all actions.  

How was one to do this on one’s own?  I didn’t believe it possible. 

I had missed an important element in reading and contemplating the Gita, the sweet truth of Dharma.  The Dharma is the yes behind the Gita.  As Arjuna stands upon the field of battle, he is challenged to affirm his path and move forward knowing that there is a greater truth at play.  He had to accept his Dharma and walk upon it.  This is not a path of going against one’s nature but actually choosing to be in one’s deepest desire and most natural course of existence.  The Dharma is the bliss that makes us smile, the thing that we long to do with our lives.  

I see Dharma as the path we are meant to walk.  This is the bliss that many wise sages speak of, the thing we agree to do and one that is our unique journey to wander.  Prior to discovering Dharma the teachings of yoga and the goal to be free of expectation is a heavy yoke with constant inner tension and strife which probably will bleed into the external story of one’s life.  

Even if one travels the path of yoga and attempts wander through its manifold ways but holds on to a limited view of dharma as obligation then one is bound for disappointment and hardship  Karma, Jnana, Raja and Bhakti all lead to despair without the inner path of Dharma.  How can one act in service to another when one is trying to generate the power for himself?  How can one study wisdom and gain knowledge, then believe in the truth of reality without the joy of doing what one loves, the dharma?  How can one meditate and find the still Self below the surface the waters without the sweet nectar of dharma?  Again how to devote oneself to love and the highest power without the objective experience that all is happening as it should?  

Dharma is that nectar, the amrita.  

When I think about my own path, I knew the truths of life, I had studied them, sought the stillness of the void and laid in prostration before the gods, but I was miserable.  I kept doing what I knew, wondering if I would have success, peace of mind or some sense of happiness.  I started practicing yoga because I wondered if it might help, even that took some time.  I tried different kinds and found nothing but had this draw.  

Finally, I set foot within a particular style of yoga practice that fit my path, my dharma, the thing that sings within me. Through this practice, I find peace and joy with naturalness   I can serve and feel great inward truth when saying, “how can I serve” when before I felt resentment and having to work.  I can study knowledge of how the cosmos really works without an inner discontent, then practice mediation and stillness without all the turbulence of the mind and most of all I find great devotion in the world because it has become beautiful and full of possibilities now that I accept and devote myself to this path.  

The Dharma of Cycle

Beginnings, always the hardest part of writing anything.

Ok, let's start with me just introducing without any bold bragging  that I am a yoga teacher at a thriving yoga studio at the end of the world in Anchorage Alaska.  I love this place immensely and the community surrounding it. This is my path, career and I believe what I was meant to do; let’s say my dharma.  Disclaimer! I can’t say that I am the best at asana or probably don’t seem very yoga if you met me but this is a magic life for sure.  When I was fortunate to start working as one of the studio’s yoga instructors I began to write an affirmation every morning, “I earn my way as a yoga teacher and with everything that comes with it.”  That was some years years ago.  

This journey into working at this studio is the theme of this streaming consciousness attempt at a paper, more precisely the dharma and how it rolls out before me. 

Fast forward to the immediate…  

One year ago my yoga studio opened a second venture, an indoor cycle center and put together a team of top notch instructors.  Since I taught spin and group fitness classes on the side already in local gyms it seemed natural for me to want to be part of the team.  I went through the process and became not only one of the cycle teachers (which we call Motivators) in addition to my yoga instructing but in the end the lead cycle instructors with many duties that support the studio’s operation.  So, here I am a yoga instructor (that being my first love) still teaching asana then everyday going from this realm to the cycle studio where I wear a different hat for the same mission.   

At first, it seemed like a contrary activity and sort of  conflict of interests since it seems very different on the surface.  But on a deeper and more insightful level it is the same path and a furthering of my understandings of yoga as one might traditionally understand and its connection to the larger word.  Since we are owned by a yoga studio we joke and say that we are yoga on a bike. In fact, we dangle a mula from the center handle bar mast of the instructor bike on stage in front of the cycle room. But in all honesty, the yoga theme is kept a little covert since most people who come to a cycle are looking for a different external experience than those seeking the mat. This goes for the instructors as well.  They too don’t want to hear about the yoga symbolism or philosophy behind what they teach very much, instead they are seeking something that is the same but in a far different colored package.  

So, here comes my intention in full throttle-I do earn my way as a yoga professional in my life but the interesting thing is that more than two thirds  of my day is involved with indoor cycle.  Yet, if I go deeper past the surface, it is just a vibrant extension of my path as a yoga teacher and the intention “to earn my way as a  yoga teacher with everything that come's with it” has come true, especially when I think about the practice yoga beyond asana.  Dharma continues to unfold as it will before me!