Monday, October 14, 2013
One woman showed up with hip pain. The most obvious difference between her stance and the other women in the class? She stood with her feet really close together. Not functional, in space or in life. Talk about women being trained to undermine their own success, aliveness and sense of place in the world. Conscious or not, we women have taken in the subtle message to keep our legs together. Especially women who have grown up in the fifties and sixties.
But what other toxic messages have we imbibed from visual media alone? Looking at this photograph, I hear whispers that it's more feminine, that we are here to be pretty, not powerful, that we if we comply, then we get to take advantage of the commandment to manipulate: the only power women are allowed. Why? Because its a form of shadow power, it's not real. Real power emanates from a sense of connection to one's inherent right to be in the world. You would not be here if you were not completely unique, a part of all that is, even as the waves are an intrinsic part of the ocean. You are here to express your unique gift, not to manipulate men into desiring you or your 'services' whatever your skills might be.
So, back to the hip pain thing. Her idea, this lovely woman who showed up for the class, was that she was always trying to do her best, to do the right thing. In this case, she had learned the right thing, or so sh thought, in yoga. She had learned to stand with her feet together in a yoga pose and assumed the famous American axiom that 'more is better' must be true. In some cases it is, in some cases it's not. Sorry, there are no absolutes in life. Be easier if there were, but until that time, you'd do better to trust your own sense of what feels right. Yoga is an amazing practice for opening the heart - in that realm it's powerful like no other. Yoga is great for strength and stamina, but it's not meant to be practiced with the rigidity of a boot camp. It's not about standing at attention, it's about standing with awareness. If you stand in a Pilates stance all the time, the same thing holds true: you will exhaust yourself and be more stressed. There is a time and place to practice and neither of these excellent exercise methods are meant to teach you a way to stand all the time.
In fact, any fixed idea about how to be that we impose on ourselves is an external construct. Free yourself of the imposition of conceptual ideas about how to stand and I can pretty much guarantee that most of your hip pain will go away. Make it your practice to listen to your body, not the ideas others have taught you, for they are meant to help you, not direct your life for you so that you don't have to.
With respect, I no longer believe it helpful to tell people what they want to hear, but rather, I stand for the truth. And that's just the truth as I see it. You have your own. Live it.
Monday, April 15, 2013
Wednesday, April 03, 2013
Writer Natalie Goldberg tells a story about how she first met the local Zen Master and found him less than impressive. At some point afterwards she went to a wedding in Hawaii where he was also in attendance. Then, a few weeks later, she went back to the Zen Center to find him wearing a vibrant pink Hawaiian orchid from that very same reception. When she commented in surprise, he said, "Yes. When you take care of something, it lives a long time."
Even so with ourselves. We are conditioned to ignore this small detail that can prolong both life and joy. Taking time, taking time out, none of these are encouraged. Instead, as a society, we are admonished to strive. As children we are prompted to succeed. As young adults we are shoved out the door and told to sink or swim.
This is all such a given we hardly even notice it.
Conditioned to strive, to succeed, to get it done, we have to actually give ourselves permission to take care of ourselves, to nurture ourselves or to do what brings us joy! This leaves a vague sense of stress, of feeling depleted, of being unappreciated. Yet, the choice is ours. We can choose to buy into this subliminal social conditioning to produce, or we can enjoy the process of our lives. In a complicated world, it's a simple choice really. To take time out to savor being in a body, to take care of our bodies, to enjoy being embodied?
Awareness Through Movement Provides a clear path to enjoyment on the physical plane. The fact that it also helps maintain smooth functionality in the body at the same time is icing! Its just that 'when you take care of something, it lasts a long time!'