I spent two weeks on the west coast this summer, in Seattle at a Teen Talking Circles facilitators training and then 10 days of silent retreat at the Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation program that I am a part of at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, just outside of San Francisco. During those two weeks, I had some profound healing, and one of the biggest insights coming out of my time was a sense of self-compassion.
Some of what I released in my time away was my compulsive drive for self-improvement. After the retreat, I continue to hold deep intentions for living each moment, and I even have goals for the future, but what changed was that I now have a visceral sense that I am complete. As the Buddha said, “Each and every being, perfect and whole, just as they are, lacking nothing.” It seems to me that the only thing that most of us are lacking is the knowledge that we aren’t lacking anything!
So what does all of that have to do with our yoga practice? Well, for one thing, we can look into how we approach our practice. When we sit down on our yoga mat, at home or in a group class, how do we feel and what thoughts arise? Are we using yoga to try to improve our bodies or our minds? Are we starting off with a sense that we’re not ok how we are, and that we need to change something (or everything)? How does all that grasping for self-improvement feel? I have found myself, less often now than before my retreat, feeling anxious (“How do I compare to others?”), sad and frustrated (“Why can’t I be better?”), and fatigued due to constantly trying to be something different than I was.
One of my teachers in California, Anne Cushman, asked us this: Can our yoga practice be a refuge from the stress of our lives? Can we use our practice to care for ourselves, balance our energies, and meet our own needs? While thinking about these questions, I had the vision of a baby learning to walk. We encourage the baby because we are so excited to help them learn something new and liberating. We assume that they will fall down, and we even celebrate when they do fall. Have you ever seen a parent reprimand their baby, learning to walk, “What!? You fell again! What an idiot. You’ll never get this!” And yet, if you’re like me, you may have reprimanded yourself on the yoga mat in just this way.
Yoga is a journey, just like learning to walk, that leads us into more and more freedom. And we are just as precious and just as tender as a little baby. When we practice yoga without awareness of our preciousness, we keep ourselves trapped in our small self and unable to reach the freedom we long to enjoy. As Jack Kornfield, Buddhist teacher and author says, “Self-acceptance is at least half of our spiritual path.” What would your life be like if you held yourself with the same self-delight in which you would hold a little baby?
As I leave you to ponder these questions, I am delighted to share with you some of the delicious fruits of our summer efforts that we will be sharing with you in the fall:
First, we have two guest teachers coming to Circle Yoga during the month of October:
Anne Cushman, writer, contributing editor to both Yoga Journal and Tricycle, yoga and mindfulness meditation teacher, director of the Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation program at Spirit Rock, and author of the new novel, Enlightenment for Idiots will be teaching two workshops on October 12. Read more about Anne at www.enlightenmentforidiots.com. See below for workshop details or register here.
Sage Rountree, athlete, writer, editor of Endurance Magazine, triathlon coach, and yoga teacher focused on working with competitive and amateur athletes, author of The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga: An Integrated Approach to Strength, Flexibility, and Focus will be teaching a workshop onOctober 18. Read more about Sage at www.sagerountree.com. See below for workshop detail or register here.
I recommend that you register early if you wish to attend these workshops with our guest teachers, as we are not able to take more than 20 students in any one session.
In addition, I am totally and completely thrilled to announce that Kate Miller, my Anusara teacher of many years, is returning to the area, and will be teaching two classes at Circle Yoga on Monday nights: Yoga Level 1 at 6:15-7:30pm, and Yoga Level 2 at 7:45-9:00pm. She is a wonderfully skilled teacher, who combines clear alignment, challenging asanas, and an open and loving heart. I highly recommend that you try her classes. Read more about Kate at www.redmoonyoga.com.
Lastly, we have something new and different happening at the studio this fall. Both Kate Miller and I have been trained in the Teen Talking Circle Project (visit www.teentalkingcircles.org for more info), and we will be starting the first Girl’s Teen Talking Circle in the Washington DC area. The Teen Talking Circle provides high school aged girls with a weekly talking circle in which they can tell the truth about their lives, look at the issues they’re living with, and practice the speaking and listening skills it takes to maintain healthy, sustainable relationships with self and others. Weekly Talking Circles provide many different benefits for teens, including a place to tell the truth without fear of judgment, to experience that they are not alone, to honor who they are and where they are in life, to connect with people they can trust, to practice self-acceptance, and so much more.
We can accept up to 10 girls into the circle. There are two opportunities for teens and their parents to learn more about participating in a talking circle and meet Kate and myself. These two open meetings are free, and no commitment is required to attend. They will be held Monday, September 8, and Monday, September 22, both 4:30-6 pm. You can attend one or both of these meetings. After we have established a group of girls, we will meet every Monday, starting September 29, for 10 weeks, and at that point the group will be closed to newcomers. The fee is $150 for 10 weeks, and a sliding scale is available to any families who need it. Feel free to call the studio and talk to me if you have specific questions about the group.
So may we all enjoy the remaining weeks of summer in whatever way nourishes our bodies, minds, and hearts, with all the tenderness and self-delight we are able to offer ourselves in this moment.