Supporting New Writers and Promoting Established Voices

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I’ve found myself meeting more and more people who either write about yoga or whose work is influenced by yoga. Whether it is the principle of being present and mindful in your process or actually referring to in their fiction or nonfiction, these writers are such inspirations to me. Today I have posted a link to an article written by a friend and colleague Lila MacLellan for Quartz. This wonderful piece of journalism highlights how  yoga is so much more than what so many of us consider it to be. It can heal and provide a future for those who have been damaged and who have damaged others. The planting of new, positive seeds can actually work to regrow the spirit and end cycles of violence.

The Colombian Government Is Turning Former Death Squad Members into Yoga Teachers
http://qz.com/361611/the-colombian-government-is-turning-former-death-squad-members-into-yoga-teachers/

Please do reach out to Lila via her Twitter account posted at the end of the article if you have any questions or ideas.

What Causes Laziness?

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Maybe asking “What is laziness?” might be more appropriate for this post. I’m not discussing the lackadaisical feeling that comes with a nice spring day or even a general feeling of lethargy after illness or when faced with unwanted tasks to complete. I am concentrating on the kind of laziness that prevents someone from bothering to do their best and, in its manifestation, shows a lack respect for the people affected by this inaction or indifference.

For my courses, I have a strict attendance policy that includes limitations on how late a student can arrive. After the 10-minute cut off, the late arrival is recorded and, at three instances, these become the equivalent of one absence.  At four absences, the final grade drops one letter. At five, the course is failed. Why? Because structure is important for learning–especially in a community. It’s also about respect as well as goals and outcomes. So, if a student shows up late regularly, they disrupt my lecture or a fellow student’s commentary/presentation, and it is inevitable that the chronic absentees will ask repeatedly for updates. In both cases, the students’ work calculably suffers from their lack of engagement.

Yes, I do also have a policy on unnecessary phone or computer use: After three instances the student is marked absent and each time after that they are marked absent (see above for attendance policy). If I am putting effort out for their benefit, this laziness tells me that my efforts are wasted and also disregarded.

This is an issue in some yoga classes as well. Some students do not respect the time the teacher is taking for us and will look at cell phones, answer them, or generally start talking about things unrelated to the class. Really, it’s not like they have time to be bored. This lack of consideration for the overall goals of the class and the group as a whole is of concern.

This is where the issue of laziness comes in. Courtesy and compassion take effort. Effort at paying attention. Effort at considering life outside of your own. Effort at acknowledging that the person in charge is there because they are an expert and want to teach these skills to those who took the seat or mat space that someone else might have had access to.

I think that the absence of respect and consideration come from a lack of inspiration or a lack of vision as to what the moment’s teaching and can lead to. How ready are people to reach out of a comfort zone and face being unsure in the next steps of a process? This inability to think beyond the moment or to create a sense of connection between subject matter or colleagues and classmates should not be an insurmountable condition.

I think that laziness in the face of learning comes from a disconnect from a sense of goals. A lack of instant gratification and a dearth of foresight. In other words, this type of laziness is not a benign state of procrastination, nor is it necessarily a passing state of being. Without a connection to a long-term goal (with flexibility in outcomes), there is no spirit in one’s effort and the laziness that brings about indifference could become a chronic condition.

No amount of regulation and rules will help. the only thing left to those of us affected is to create structure and adhere to our standards. Compassion and patience do come in to play, but the recipient has to be ready to make proper use of these. I try to be that guide but, sometimes, I must remove the lazy person from my class or move away from the classmate. It’s the uncomfortable effort I must put out if I am going to learn and progress.

The Solid Tree and the Rattling Doors

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One day this past winter, as I sat on my mat trying to settle in and bring my focus inside both the room and my practice, I was pulled away by an almost ghostly rattling at the front of the room. The vibrations emanated from large wooden double doors and their glass panels. The wind would not agree to stay outside and rushed all the man-made barriers trying to ambush a weak spot in the meeting of the panes or turn the knobs with icy gusts. The members of my yoga class understandably had the inclination to comment on the brusqueness of the day, but I noticed something else. The large tree just beyond these doors alone on the winter-scoured sidewalk of Main St. stood impossibly solid and motionless. Even its thick branches were unmoved by the violence of the wind. It was only the racket and the severity of the day that earned merit from the group, but I was in awe of this brown/grey sentinel.

How I wanted to be that tree. In the protected inside of the building I felt vulnerable and threatened by the assault on the doors. I still thought the shaking was an invisible hand of a lost spirit insisting that the living let it in to rest or thwart our peace until it could find its own. I wanted to be able to remain still and unmoved when the world buffets my resolve or when my body fails me in health or my practice. Each shake of the door pulled my gaze and awareness back to the tree.

I fell in love with it as if it were a guardian set to hold all invaders until I was done and ready to face the outside world. It was there with me, for me. No siege could shake its resolve. That I could balance in my own tree pose in the stillness of the room as well as this wondrous wood resisted the wind. From its roots to its height, there was strength. I longed for that base, a foundation that would run deep and wide enough to secure me. I thought about its goal, to grow and to thrive. I have set myself so many more goals and they did not all build on each other. They did not have the same seeds nor the same urgency. How does one grow upward when pulled sideways and enduring bouts of drought and flood? This tree’s surety of purpose and ability to hold strong came from its adherence to its goal. Perhaps if I were to narrow my own idea of destiny I would not bend in the wind so much or fear the spirit so violently urging the door open.

In retrospect, I must ask: Is it that the tree was so still and immovable that impressed me or was it that I am not? Did I not see its vulnerability in that moment and let it magnify my doubts? Perhaps the tree’s resistance will be its undoing and a fracturing beyond repair will insinuate itself to the core and transform my diligent protector into shards of splinters. So far, though, so good. The tree stood tall and the wind did not relent, I completed my practice, and the day continued on.

As of today, a brisk and beautiful spring day, the tree still stands. There are no splinters yet. It is still valiant and strong. I am still bent into the wind but on my feet. We will see who lasts the longest. I do hope, though, that we both endure many more years and changes together.