The summer officially started for me yesterday. What a beautiful day.
Every year, at about this time, marks the starting of Roxanne Stolk's summer yoga session in the nearby town of Port Colborne. Roxanne is a dear friend and a wonderful teacher who lives in Israel and returns to her roots here in Niagara each year. She is a true yogi and it is always such a pleasure to practice with her. Usually I drive to the next town to partake in yoga sessions if I ever feel the need to do a class. I have yet to find a studio, or a teacher, in the Niagara Region that I am interested in practicing with. (and that's not for lack of trying). That's not to say that there aren't good teachers in this area. There are. I've just found the whole energy/attitude around these here parts a little too focused on competition and a mentality that seems driven by everything but Union. So instead I have been finding solace within the more welcoming vibe I feel in the Burlington and Hamilton studios I'm fond of attending. In my experience I have found there is a definite difference between teachers who have been traditionally trained and those who have not. The actual energy in the room, the air itself, just feels different. Anyone can "get certified" to "be a yoga teacher". But, let's face it, not everyone can really teach yoga. In it's essence, it is truly so much more than the deltoid strength required to glide through a few rounds of Sun Salutations. It requires the courage, and the internal strength, to actually salute and honor the light(sun) in yourself and others.
When you teach as much as I do, it's always such a pleasure, every once in a while, to leave your solo mat at home and go, anonymously, to someone else's class and simply immerse yourself completely in the flow of the group. I love it. And Roxanne Stolk is an absolute blessing when she is here in the summer.
Last evening's class marked the starting of Roxy's 13th annual summer yoga program.
It feels like I wait all year for this. Especially this year as I've taken myself on a mini sabbatical, teaching only a minimal schedule, so as to have the time/energy to focus on my own practice for a while.
Right from the moment I walk through the doors of her make-shift "summer yoga center" I feel as though I am coming home. After a long journey away. That welcoming scent of incense, the creaking of the old rickety steps lined with candles, the lovely breeze blowing in through the huge picture windows. Even the smell of food wafting in from the neighboring restaurants and the sounds of the laughing drunks from the bar next door - there's such an unpretentious, authentic-ness to the whole experience. (Such a difference from the huge, corporate, almost clinical feeling studios I've been to recently. Which, by comparison, feel nothing short of utterly soul-less)
Everyone knows when we arrive for class that there will be no sugar coating here. There's an almost nervous anticipation as people begin to file in. The practice itself is infamously strong. And yet it is also soft at the same time. Beginning with nearly and hour of pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation; that feeling of coming home gets even more palpable.
Roxanne's discourse this first evening was about the Mind. She reminded us how, from a Yogic perspective, the mind is considered the 6th sense. And that the problem with the mind, and it's incessant chatter, is that we believe it. Often not realizing that the mind is really the biggest obstacle to achieving the state of Yoga. We discussed how many of us are continually bantered about by our obsessions, our desperate striving to be right and the onslaught of our continual emotional fluctuations. Like treading water in a storm, this can at times be exhausting. Until we learn that the mind is like a wild horse that needs to be tamed, we will continue to suffer. Roxanne reminded us that everything we experience, absolutely everything, is Karma. Absolutely everything is occurring as a consequence to what we have once thought, done or said. Everything.
As she spoke I felt an electricity in the room that made the hair on my neck stand on end. The reality of this teaching was like a light bulb flicking on in my brain.Involuntary tears streamed down my cheeks as I sat and processed some of the recent stress in my life. Karma means, essentially, consequence. And, once understood, challenges the whole concept of Victim vs. Wrong-Doer. If everything is happening to you as a result of what you have once said, thought or done, there is no victim. There is only consequence. There is no blame. There is only the quiet acceptance of the reality which you, yourself, are creating. Through your own perception.
Challenging as it may be to accept, a few moments of quiet reflection may reveal to you the profound truth of this 5000 yr old teaching. A teaching that invites each one of us to take full and complete responsibility for the state of our lives, our health, our happiness. 100% responsibility. No one is to blame. There is no blame. There is only our choices and how we have decided to create our lives.