UPSIDE-DOWN AND INSIDE OUT:
THE YEAR THAT WAS
If you never turn a snow globe upside-down, you never get to see the magic. Sure, the miniature winter landscape is cute, but it doesn’t make us ooh and ahh like children watching their first snowfall when we watch those tiny fake flakes drift down. And remember, it’s grownups who invented and continue to produce snow globes. Clearly, we all want to turn things upside-down at least once in a while and see the world with fresh eyes.
The spiritual path (which of course includes yoga!) asks–in fact, requires–us to turn our thinking upside-down.
For whatever reason, this year, I was willing to take that leap–not just in my head but in my actions. I’ll get into the details below, but I made some profound changes in the way I spend my time. Changes that, at the time, but a little less every day, seemed counter-intuitive.
My motive? Felt a bit like my life was on cruise control: things running smoothly but no particular growth or progress, no broadening of horizons, no new challenges tackled (and, thankfully, no major road blocks thrust across my path). Things were standing still. Life was getting quiet. Safe.
Those of you who know me well know that when I get that kind of itch, I usually strike out across the globe or announce some bold new undertaking. This time I took the path less taken. I decided to do less and be still more. To listen rather than speak. To ponder life as more than the state of my career. To put life–my life and the lives of others–before work and other forms of distraction.
This may seem counter-intuitive to a confirmed worker bee, dedicated as I usually am to producing something, but it actually felt like the most intuitive thing I could ever do. Because when we move from within, we tap into a voice that defies all the threadbare “logic” with which we stitch together our daily busy-ness. My heart just said “yes” to applying myself to the quest to become a better human and “no” to the seemingly useful activities that were making that impossible.
Here’s the funny thing, though. The more inward I reach, the more outward I go! For instance, several years ago when the yoga system I was part of fell apart suddenly and dramatically, I spent a few fruitless months slogging along, licking my wounds but not feeling much better. So I granted myself the summer “off” to “play”–to explore things I enjoy that had nothing to do with teaching or practicing yoga. I started reading again. I went to look at art. That led me to volunteering for a local arts organization and an environmental not-for-profit. That in turn led me to resume writing and making art, which led to writing gigs (and eventually my Hip Op book) and commissions for artwork and designs. So I found myself out in the world again, in new ways!
I tend to lump all inward-turning activities under the rubric of “spiritual practices,” because whatever brings us closer to our true selves brings us closer to Spirit. My criteria are any activities that are not motivated by the desire to:
acquire fame or fortune
elicit praise or credit
attract more friends, allies, and co-conspirators in the real and virtual worlds
achieve satisfaction, especially self-satisfaction
produce immediate gratification
achieve any specific goal (any means to any end).
So what’s left? My list includes:
practicing yoga, at home, in solitude (where the real discoveries arise)
walking, anywhere, anytime
showing up for recovery
serving organizations and individuals that foster recovery
giving of my time, services, and resources to causes I value
taking care of my animal body
These activities draw me inward. Some people say it’s like peeling an onion, stripping away layer after layer, as we approach the core. I find uncovering, discovering, or recovering the “self” more elusive and more mercurial. My “self” doesn’t hold still, and it’s certainly not constant in form or content. Rather, the “me” within is malleable, protean, shape-shifting, so I have to stay on my toes to stay current. Where the soul found meaning yesterday is irrelevant; where it will go tomorrow unfathomable. I suppose that’s why most spiritual traditions stress being in the moment–it’s the only place that’s real.
So I’ve been doing a lot of what looks like sitting around, listening and reading and talking and seeking clarity. While the little task master in my head keeps knocking to remind me I should be out in the world achieving things.
But here’s the punch line:
While I was busy being not busy, my career took a few seemingly unprovoked leaps forward. I made a second teaching trip to Australia and confirmed a third for 2018. I was urged to submit a book proposal to Shanghai University Press. And just as the year was closing, I was asked to film a series of 30 yoga teacher training classes/lectures that will be posted all over the Chinese Internet starting January 1. (I also learned, somewhat to my surprise, that due to my frequent teaching tours throughout China over the past 10 years, I am already “very famous” in that vast country.) We all know how the Internet can magnify our exposure and drastically extend our reach, and nowhere as much as in the Land of the Future! So this last project (all sessions filmed in a whirlwind week in Beijing in December) has truly drawn this introvert back out!
While in Beijing, I also had an opportunity to lead a workshop at a lovely new studio opened by one of my longtime students. What a delight to be reunited with some of my Chinese friends and see a new generation of yoga teachers coming into their own!
So, dear readers, I urge you to set aside some precious time in 2018 to tune in to yourself. Each of us has unique talents, desires, and passions that no one else can replicate. Remember, no two snowflakes are alike! Don’t miss out on the chance to live life fully and truly. Allow your spirit to drift down and land softly among us on planet Earth.
YOGA UPDATES, NEAR AND FAR
Back on the home front, my Hamptons students will be sad to hear that KamaDeva/JBYoga has shut its doors December 31. It was a good run, and I’m grateful to Jessica for creating and sustaining our yoga outpost as long as she could.
I’m happy to report, however, that I will still be teaching my Friday and Sunday afternoon classes at Mandala Yoga in Amagansett. I’m also adding a new class:
Silich Core + Strength
79 Newtown Lane (behind the UPS Store)
East Hampton NY 11937
I’m sure that will appeal to those of you who found my 8:15 class a bit too early! I’ll keep you posted of course, about future additions to my public class schedule (and welcome suggestions from any and all about potential venues).
I also continue to work with students individually and in pairs or small groups for private lessons, which is of course the ideal way to establish and grow a yoga practice, as well as to deal with any acute injuries or ongoing conditions. I’m available in New York City weekdays and the Hamptons on weekends. Feel free to reach out, firstname.lastname@example.org
, (917) 975-8009. And remember, it’s not too late to make a gift of yoga to a friend or loved one who could use a boost this year! Single and series sessions available.
SOUTHERN SUNSHINE MINI-RETREAT
Palm Beach FL
Finally, as this already precociously cold winter descends, I urge you all to join me for a midwinter mini-retreat in sunny Palm Beach. A cheap and easy flight from New York City (no passports, visas, or iffy connecting flights required!), Palm Beach offers a delightful mix of beach and bayside water activities, cultural venues showcasing art and music, farmer’s markets, and delectable cuisine. Our host and program guide Erica Velasquez, who also runs the fantastic outdoor Yoga in the Vines program at Wolffer Estate Vineyard in the summer, is spending the winter in West Palm. She has applied her five-star event planning skills to creating a delightful weekend adaptable to all levels of yoga experience and all states of mind and body!
Reserve your spot today–or be left out in the cold! Contact email@example.com
for details. Questions about the yoga portion, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
I wish you all the best of upside-down, inside out for 2018!
*At a loss where to start? Kick up into handstand or download a mindfulness app. Whatever makes your heart sing!