quinta-feira, 5 de novembro de 2009

Photo Shoot This Saturday at CH Noon!

Hey everyone!

We have a photographer coming to take some pics of Hannah's class this weekend. Just wanted to give you a heads up on that.

She is an artist and is taking pictures that she will use for a painting she is doing. If you do not want to be photographed (which is totally cool) we will make sure you are placed so it does not happen.


quarta-feira, 14 de outubro de 2009

Workshop this weekend!

Hey Everyone!

It would be so great to have you at our workshop this weekend. The theme is Growth and Transformation! It is going to rock.


Saturday October 17th $20

terça-feira, 4 de agosto de 2009

What is my message?

Mark here...

Recently at teacher training with John Friend, he asked us to contemplate what our central vision of the world is and, as an extension from this, what our central message as teachers is. I thought this was a great contemplation.

As far as the world goes, I am not so sure, as I would not want to assume that any tiny conceptual understanding I have could adequately explain the world, but I do feel comfortable commenting on human experience.

I see the whole of human experience as a dance of wills. Each of us has a will that is powerful enough to change things, but it never changes things solely according to its desires. When my will exerts its force, it is then met by another (or many other) will(s), and the product of that collision is manifestation.

(It happens that this is an expression of what Gurdjieff called the "Law of Three", or Triamazikamno, in Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson.)

Now what does this 'dance of wills' have to do with anything? What is its practical meaning?

Well it is a useful understanding for me because in it I know my power. In it I free myself from a speciously claimed anonymity, claiming instead my place in creation as a person. In it I know that I do exert influence on the world. For me, it is in recognizing this that I come to know my value. I think it is a rather new phenomenon where humans think they can actually be anonymous. We are never anonymous, we are always in relationship.

Further, I come to know my value is dependent on my interaction with others, for it is through others that I know myself. I can see the dance that we are in together, that my input combines with another's toward a manifestation. Therefore, the moral dimension of life is where my value rests, for I would not know myself in its absence, indeed I would not exist (at least as I do).

(For philosophy nerds like myself, I realize I am making quite a claim here and would love to hear refutations. )

Now it is arguable that my value is present without my conscious recognition of it. But it is in the recognition of it that I know of it, and only things I can know of interest me. It makes little difference to me as to whether it exists independent of my knowing. This is not an argument against our intrinsic value but rather for it. I am just outlining a take on the nature of our intrinsic value. It is an argument for both individualism and collectivism. (Opposites are implicit in one another)

It is in recognizing it that it can then grow and be creatively expressed. Which brings us to one of the coolest teachings of Anusara: That our highest aims as practitioners are CIT and ANANDA.

Now what about SAT? Well, as I understand it, SAT is being itself, which exists independent of us. But CITANANDA? Well here is where we step in... we have the power of recognition (consciousness) and the power of creative expression.

So, what is my central message? It is that we ought to always endeavor to recognize our value by seeing our unique contribution to the world, and equipped with this recognition, affirm this value through skillful action.

By seeing my value in the context of the world itself, in concrete behaviors and roles I play, I automatically connect with something larger than myself while affirming my individuality at the same time. In the yoga room, if I take my thighs back really well and someone else sees that, they might learn how to take their thighs back too. If I am kind to someone on the street, even if I am not feeling kind, they might be kind to someone else. If I choose to question the values of my culture, and skillfully do so, I might be able to make an argument for a new way of seeing things that inspires another. I benefit from these actions by doing a better yoga pose, by having a moment free of my selfishness, by refining my insight into things. But someone else benefits too. This is the dance.

I know that others have done all of those things for me and I have been affected profoundly by them. People who come to mind are my friends and family, my early religious mentors, John Friend, Christina, Charly, the kula, my philosophy teachers at UT, Hannah. They have all helped me shape my understanding, and I theirs. This gives me a profound sense of community and personal empowerment. I see how my life is dependent on theirs and theirs on mine. We affect each other. For me, this understanding is rich with meaning.

This I hope to inspire in my students. I hope my students aspire for excellence not as a fawning or desperate act to gain my approval or to somehow be something they are not, but to be excellent as an affirmation of their own value. That they can be excellent because they are important. Their actions matter and, therefore, it is important to act skillfully, for the quality of an action is as important as the action itself.

You can just get into the form of a pose or you can execute the pose with skill.
When you do a pose there is a relationship between the mind and body, the latter is predisposed to torpor and the former envisions the perfect pose. Somewhere in between there is a balanced expression of skill and acceptance. The collision of these two "wills", the desire for a beautiful form we see with our inner vision, and the tendencies of the body under the influence of physics and the weaker parts of our psychology, creates the final manifestation. Putting myself into a form is certainly an affirmation, but to skillfully align in the pose is a radical affirmation! And it leads to a recognition of my value and therefore truly is "a gateway to the heart".

I pray I can know this more and more fully too. Holding this understanding, all joy becomes possible, for, if I know my value, I am free to play, free to speak or offer an opinion, free to listen to others, knowing our respective values are nested in the relationship itself. I can offer myself to the world, joyfully and freely. This is ANANDA.

Happy Tuesday!

domingo, 5 de abril de 2009

Fun (Full) Weekend

Mark speaking. I had a full weekend! I taught for Hannah on Saturday and then had my backbending workshop at Bodhi. Today I had my morning class at Castle Hill. Everything went really well. Yesterday in Hannah's class I taught on the primary flows as they manifest in the legs. We focused on drawing from the outer edge of the foot to the pelvis and extending from the inner groins through the ball joint of the foot. We did some killer hip and groin openers and ended with Baddha Konasana. I spoke about the idea in Tantric metaphysics of how the world came to be from the Absolute's desire to know itself. The myth goes (roughly) that Shiva, the Absolute, created a mirror that reflected his image. This reflection, Shakti, is the world. I talked about how the geometric notion of a reflection is not an exact replica but that it is a figure with the same attributes as the original, just reversed. Here is a pic to illustrate:

What is interesting about this to me is that the reflection is both the same and different simultaneously. It has all the attributes, but it is the exact opposite image. It is a wonderful way to conceptualize the relationship between the Absolute and Creation. They are in a dynamic relationship of identity and difference, arranged according to the notion of a reflection.

So we drew in the from the outer leg and extended out the inner leg and I related the two actions as reflective of each other. The theme moved from the ideas above to a more practical meditation on integrity in general. Does our inner life reflect the outer life? Does our outer life reflect our inner life? The first is a really important question, at least for me being in the seat of the teacher. It is such a privilege to think about these ideas all the time and try to distill them for presentation in a class, but as I teach more and more the danger of these contemplations being merely intellectual exercises increases. Does my inner life reflect what I am teaching? The truth is that it does not always. But being in the seat of the teacher really calls me to be in integrity...if I listen.

The second question, "does my outer reflect my inner?", also helps to bring into focus the progress I am making in my sadhana. How often do I respond to hard situations resourcefully? How often do I respond with something higher than a mere reaction? Do my outer actions reflect the values I adore on the inside?

So we got to talk about all that AND move toward some awesome Baddha Konasanas. I have really been trying to teach different poses lately and take some of Christina's feedback about training my students to progress in their asana practice. I think it is working. Teaching poses like BK is great for me because I have tight groins and hate that pose. I had to really dig deeper in myself to teach a class oriented to it...I had to deal with my fear that people would hate it (because I might) and really consider the best way to teach the actions that would get people's knees closer to the floor. It is so easy just to teach backbends because I am good at them, they are fun so people generally like them, they often take people to a more exhilarating edge...and I want people to like me... It is so easy to fall into that rather than help my students develop a well rounded practice.

It is particularly difficult when teaching at new studio because new people are coming all the time. I always want to just give the new people a shakti blast so they see how awesome the practice is. But then I feel like I owe it to my regular students to help them progress by teaching them more precise technique. On saturday there were 17 or 18 people there, mony of whom were new students for me, and I taught them Baddha Konasana!!!

What I have found is that it is almost always better to stick with what I have planned. The cool thing about that is that I get to call upon all my resources and ingenuity. When I am teaching a more technical class, I start by giving people unconditional positive regard so they are open to my teaching and slowly start to command more attention and more effort from them. Then I try to show them the wonder of the Universal Principles of Alignment. That is what I did yesterday and it worked pretty well. A couple of tight dudes got their knees 3 or 4 inches further toward the floor in BK doing the midline assist that Darren Rhodes showed us back in August of '08 down in San Marcos. People were pretty excited and amazed that the principles worked! That is a kind of shakti blast too, just more through the intellect.

Anyway, the backbend workshop was great too. Zoe Mantarikas(sp?) was there and Ellen took the morning class and the workshop. I converted a couple of people to backbend fiends I think. That is always exciting!

Today my class was on the idea of Svadharma, or personal duty. I gave Krishna's lesson on how "our own duty done imperfectly is better than doing another's well" from the Bhagavad Gita. With this in mind we did a strong standing pose sequence focusing on maintaining muscle energy while we completed the rest of the actions. The last half of class we spent doing seated forward bends, twists, and pranayama. Drawing into the self, embracing our personal situation and experience as the path to the Ultimate. It was really quiet in there. Contemplative and sweet. I love those kind of classes myself because the interplay of hard work in standing poses to get the energy moving, the rootedness from the forward bends, the suppleness in the spine from the twists, and the quiet that the pranayama produces really makes for a natural entry into meditation and contemplation. It is much easier than just sitting down to meditate.

Anyway....peace out.

domingo, 29 de março de 2009

My grandfather

My grandfather died last night at midnight. I had the opportunity to be with him on wednesday all day. When I came in, he was basically unconscious, breathing laboriously (50 years of smoking Kools), and unresponsive. He had been taken off all liquids and sustenance the night before. When my grandma told him my brothers and I were there, he sat up, his spirit twinkled behind the morphine induced glaze on their surface. He stretched out his hand and I held it.

My brothers were considerably more reserved around him than I. My grandfather noticed it. After five hours or so though, when my brother was standing in front of him and he woke up, saw him, and huffed out his name..."matthew," he said. He stretched his hand out and matt took it. Matt wept. I have not seen my brother cry in 10 years.

All of his children were there. My dad and he had a strained relationship for a long time. But his death and the months leading to it led to their reconciliation. He made a point to tell my dad he loved him. My dad reciprocated. It was so sweet. My dad doesn't cry that much. But he had tears in his eyes at that moment.

We all stood around him, holding vigil without trying. It was so beautiful. My grandfather on the threshold brought us all into a contemplative space. We were worshipping together.

His body was emaciated, which made transparent his gaunt cheeks, his long arms. I get my long arms from him. (Thanks, Granddad...inside joke) He was at least 1/4 american indian, but he was adopted so his birth records were lost. He had very little hair on his body, smooth skin, pronounced brow, angular jaw.

While his body was so thin, his hands were still large. They told the story of a life of manual labor. He was always so strong. He could fix anything. He smelled like aftershave and smoke. A smell that always made me feel at ease. He was a mechanic. His hands always had cracks in them with oil in them that the industrial soap he used missed. His finger nails were always clean and filed though. He made a point to do that. My grandmother, whom he divorced but later had a major reconciliation with, cleaned his finger nails and filed them on Tuesday so they'd be clean when he passed.

We stood around him, holding steady. He asked us if we would be okay; if we'd be careful. At one point he said, "this is really something...all of y'all." He needed to know that we were going to be okay. After a life of devotion to his life as a mechanic, he was ready to soften and let go. Us standing around him made that easier. I think.

I taught my class this morning, dedicated to him silently. I will miss him. I actually did not know him that well. I had not seen him for almost 3 years before wednesday. He lived a lonesome life...he was always withdrawn and left family events early. But he sent me a card every birthday and christmas. They were always, from the time I was little, those cards with something sentimental printed on them in cursive writing with a pastel picture of a landscape or something. I thought they were weird when I was growing up. I came to like them. They began to be of a religious character toward the end. He would write the date at the top and sign "Love, Granddad" at the bottom. Never once did he write a note. I guess he thought the card's message was perfect. I have a sense he spent time picking them out. I can see him doing that.

He would always call people he loved "baby." Again, I thought that was weird when I was young. I came to enjoy it though. He was so sweet in those little ways. A leathery smoking mechanic, but he called me "baby". He'd say "grandaddy loves you, baby" to me.

I sit in a coffee shop, working on homework like I have done in this very seat so many times. I can't help but think about all the other times that I have done this my grandfather was living. I can't help but think of how many days I have lived without thinking of him at all. But he was somewhere. Now he is gone. Death is so permanent. So excruciatingly and exquisitely permanent. What a reality. The most profound, it seems.

quarta-feira, 4 de fevereiro de 2009

The marble is still rolling....


Mark will be teaching for the remaining Sundays this month at the Love Coop on South Lamar, 10:30-12:00pm. Starting February 14th, Hannah will teach her Saturday class at Castle Hill Fitness at 12th and Lamar, 12:30-2 pm.

Starting tomorrow, We will be teaching every Tuesday and Thursday at the Love Coop 6:30-7:45pm. Hannah will teach Tuesdays, Mark will teach Thursdays. We know this is last minute for tomorrow, but we just got the deal hashed out in the last twenty minutes. Your presence would be a blessing!

Tuesdays- Hannah 6:30-7:45
Thursdays- Mark 6:30-7:45
Sundays in February- 10:30-12:00

The fee for Love Coop classes is $10. Cash is preferred.

quinta-feira, 29 de janeiro de 2009

Change, Change, Change

Things have changed for us. We are not teaching at 7th Street anymore. And we don't know if we ever will again.

So everything is up in the air for us at the time. We are working to get our weekly schedule settled again as soon as possible. But for this weekend...

We are teaching at the Love Yoga Coop, the lovely creation of Lauran Janes, on South Lamar.

Class Times:

Hannah Saturday 1/31 12-1:30 pm

Mark Sunday 2/1 10:30 am-12:00 pm

For this week again the classes will be offered on a donation basis. Any amount you can offer will be a blessing.

The Coop is located just south of Bluebonnet Lane on South Lamar in the new complex behind Walgreen's and Maria's Tacos.

The space is in Building 2, Unit 9. It is on the corner of the building that is directly behind Maria's and the little coffee stand. There should be a sign this week!

Come check us out. We are going to rock the house.


Hannah and Mark