Cross Pollination

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David Montgomery, a geomorphologist (a geologist that specializes in the study of changing topography over time), was recently in conversation with Krista Tippett for her radio show, On Being. Among many insightful thoughts, David shared his interest in promoting cross pollination between science and religion.  His recent book specifically works towards bridging what he has often experienced as a rather contentious relationship between the two.

My teacher, Michael Stone, recently co-led a retreat working on bringing together Judaism and Buddhism study and practices. Not in an attempt to Frankenstein the practices together, but to engage in dialogue.

“Religion is a long conversation going on for thousands of year about what’s important, by people struggling with figuring out what’s important, and how to open up to what’s important with each other.”

The ability to open up that conversation between religions allows us to see our particular perspective’s blind spots. I believe that if we’re very honest we would agree, without loss of faith or love, our own particular religion is not perfect.

We would similarly, without loss of faith or love, duly agree we are not perfect. This idea of cross-pollination is just what we need more of in our practice.  Reading yoga books alone only gets us so far. Meditation and introspection alone only get us so far.  Practicing asana without feedback or guidance only gets us so far.

When I engage in conversation with my fellow explorers, their conversations come back to me over the weeks to come – snippets and threads that inspire me, move me pass blocks, or just point out blind spots I had no inkling to even look for.

1) Thank you to my fellow explorers – you have impacted who I am more than you know.  Be grateful to your own – let them know.Yarn and knitting needles_1

2) Be willing to cross-pollinate.  Engage in conversation with other yogis – but also with Buddhist, Christians, Atheists, Scientists, Artists, Lovers, Poets, Athletes – anyone who has a passion and exploratory spirit is ready with insights to share, even if they don’t know it.  Ram Dass was giving a lecture and noticed an old lady in the front row. He knew there was no way she way there to hear about all the drugs and alternate realities and yoga practices and gurus and such. And yet everytime he went a step deeper, he looked over to see the lady nodding – totally on board and getting it. At the end they spoke, and she said how he was so right on. He asked what her practice was. She told him it was knitting.

3) Join us for Yoga Between the Lines and Satsang: Meditation & Dharma Discussion for some cross pollinating in Brooklyn!

Yoga Between the Lines starts a new book: The Only Dance There Is by Ram Dass in May

Satsang meets this Thursday: 7:30pm at Mala Yoga – $15

 

 

Imagination & Belief – Why Practice in Community? ~ 5

Deep in practice with a group of amazing friends, my own reasons for starting community practice with Satsangs came up.  There are many. One is a podcast of Michael Stone’s (no surprises there).  Before he begins the talk, he says that part of their community is experiencing a difficult time at the hospital, and that there is a card being passed around for people to write in and sign.  The card will later be brought to the hospital on behalf of the community. Then he began his talk.

But I wasn’t paying attention. I was imagining the couple at the hospital and the deep turmoil and pain they must be in.  I imagined the moment when they receive this gift, read the words of a group of people they have intimately connected with on a weekly basis in a completely unique way – not coworkers, not family, not friends per-se, or even really fellow hobbyists.  A group of people who work together in compassion, support each other’s efforts, call each other out on their stuff, share a passion for being as whole-heartedly present and real as possible.  I imagined how uplifted, if even for a moment, they would be.

Then I imagined how that would transpire at any of the yoga studios I taught at. I imagined how I would even know that something like that was going on with one of the students. I imagined how many times this very opportunity has been lost – for our yoga community to be there in a real way for each other’s lives.

Yoga-community1And I imagined what we could do differently. Monthly Satsangs at Mala yoga are a part of that.  There is still more. I believe it is possible for our yoga communities – all over the world – to step into deeper connection and relationship . I believe we all – not just teachers, although I believe teachers need to lead the charge – can evolve our yoga studios into yoga communities where we know much more than each other’s last names, number of children, and current events. Where we meet at more than partner exercises, workshops, yearly parties, and putting our shoes on. I believe in the nourishing, challenging, and uplifting effects of community – and our ability to make it happen.

“If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Why Practice in Community? ~ 4

Relationship – to each other, to animals, to patches of sunlight, to snow, to trees, to our desk and the computer atop it, to parents, to coffee makers, to practice, to everything there is – relationships comprise the foundation of our lives.  To cultivate relationships is to cultivate our lives. To deepen relationships is to recognize our capacity to deepen our understanding of ourselves. 

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I have come to understand how you truly cannot describe anything without talking about relationship – almost entirely through the teachings of Michael Stone and the investigations of my own life he has encouraged. Then I attended David Life’s yearly class in New York City on January 3rd.  And in that way the universe has – the teaching was once again brought to the fore front. Or as Davidji said:

“Yoga is the perfection of relationship”

Entering a new session of Satsang (Thursday nights have been scheduled all the way through July!) – I was excited by the message. It also made me think – what are the qualities of relationship, exactly, that we’re working on? A list to get started with:

~ Listening to where someone is coming from as the heart of conversation
~ Giving your attention whole-heartedly
~ Nonharming honesty
~ Responding instead of reacting
~ Silence
~ Residing in Namaste – seeing a person beyond their “stuff” – allowing yourself to be seen
~ Creating a space where there is no good/bad
~ Being aware of the perceptions and conditioning you are automatically putting on the situation
~ Empathy instead of sympathy
~ Dedication to mutually beneficial relationships

None of these, I think, are new for us.  We work with these lessons from our yoga practice all the time – or try to, and fail, and try again, and fall, and try again, and gain a bit of ground, etc.  The unique aspect of Satsang, is that you’re trying this WITH another yogi. Almost all the time we bring our practices into our lives with nonyogis.  While not exclusive to yogis, the following are benefits to practicing in relationship with yogis:

1)    Accountability: Similar to meditation, sitting with a group inspires your posture, how long you stay sitting, and even the stillness within. Practicing relationship with yogis inspires us to stick with the work, to say the difficult thing, to not chicken out trying a new way of listening that is completely counter to the way we’ve been conditioned to over the years, or waiting until “next time”, or however else we let our habits slide when not held accountable to anyone other than ourselves.

2)    Mirrors: Yogis make excellent mirrors of each other –  Right in the moment, we can see how another yogi responds to the same situation. It’s inspiring, and it’s a great encouragement. One of the recent teachings I received was from watching the way another yogi looked me in the eyes whole-heartedly when I offered her a hot cup of water to warm her cold hands.  I saw how I was able to be in the moment enough to respond to her need, but when it came time for me to socially accept her deep thanks, i reverted to my introverted deflection and scurried away.

3)    Sharing: Other yogis are WITH you – they get how important this work is. They’re interested and intrigued by what you’ve been working on or thinking about. They want to know more about that meditation technique you learned, or that article you read, or what happened when you tried this with your coworker.

“It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is.” – Hermann Hesse

Whether it’s in one of the monthly Satsangs at Mala, or with your own group of yogis, or non-affiliated practitioners – take the time this year to make relationship your practice.