Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mini-Moments of Teaching: The Stories From Master Teachers I've Loved This Week, And Then Some.

"When the student is ready, the Master appears."
-Buddhist proverb

"When the student is ready, the Teacher disappears."
-Nischala Joy Devi

There have been so many wonderful anecdotes shared by master teachers this weekend that I just wanted to jot them down as a reminder of how powerful storytelling is. Great teachers, we were told, inspire the student to fulfill their greatest potential, not what the teacher wants for them. And, they impart offerings of lessons, yet don't tell the students what to see. 


During Philip Goldberg's presentation on the American Vedas, he showed a clip of Ram Dass being interviewed about how he discovered Indian spirituality and met his guru. At the time, he was still Dr. Richard Alpert, a Harvard psychologist whose life changed when he met Neem Karoli Baba. He recalled being brought by Bhagavan Das to meet the guru, and while Bhagavan immediately lay prostrate to kiss Neem Karoli Baba's feet, he could not fathom doing the same. Ram Dass stood in the corner, hands in his pockets, questioning everything. He told of how the day before, he had looked up at the Indian sky and thought of his mother while looking at the stars, since she had just passed away six months prior. While witnessing Bhagavan's actions, Ram was called over by the guru. Skeptically, he inched closer, until the guru said to him, "Last night, you were thinking of your mother while looking at the stars. She passed away six months ago from a disease of the spleen." Ram was shocked, his left-brain couldn't process how this guru could have known that information. "I felt that there were things about myself, things that I hadn't shared with anyone, things that made me unlovable. And here was this man, who seemingly knew my thoughts and experiences. I realized that he knew all of me and still loved me anyway. That changed me forever." 

That last sentence of Ram Dass's interview made me realize that is all anyone ever wants in life — to be accepted fully and completely, to be loved without question, to not be punished for previous actions or choices. That is the type of love that I would like to practice, because I know that in my relationships now, my ego still often leads the way. 


Nichala Joy Devi spoke of how she and her master were once going to an event, and that they were always encouraged not to walk on the grass, for all of the life and living that happened in the blades of and beneath the soil. One day, there was no avoiding it, they had to walk on the lawn. So, she followed behind her master and noticed something — the blades of grass beneath his footsteps seemed to pop up immediately after he lifted his foot. She looked down beneath her own steps, and the blades of grass would remain squashed beneath her weight. She looked at the footsteps of her fellow disciples and noticed that they too created imprints in the green. So, she asked her master, "How is it that your footsteps are not creating any impact whatsoever, and yet you weight twice as much as I do?" Her master's response, "I imagine that with each step I take, I am stepping on my Mother's bosom." And to Nischala, she felt that the earth was responding to that tender type of love. 

The way that Nischala shared that observation, it made me realize that is how I see so many details of life. I notice the nuances and the itty bitty things that others may glaze over, which I've always attributed to my writer-ly ways. This is one of those times that "thinking too much" actually works to my advantage, since every attribute has a light and shadow side. It is these things, these smallest of actions and moments and observations, that add an array of color to any experience. And for this, I am grateful.


Both Philip and Nischala shared how we are crazy, but we just don't see it, because we're surrounded by other people who are just as crazy as we are in similar ways. We take things for granted, because blessings are just the norm in Western culture.

Nischala was in India and saw someone scraping the bottom of a trash can for food. "I thought, what must it be like to be so desperate that the only choice you have to eat is to scrape the bottom of a trash can?' Let food be a spiritual experience for you each and every day."

Philip shared an audio clip from Yogananda where he was on a train chatting with an American celebrity who obviously viewed him with disdain for all of his beliefs and lifestyle. By the end of it, the American had opened his mind to a greater worldview. And throughout the clip, you could hear the levity in Yogananda's voice, the lightheartedness that Nischala shared all enlightened masters have, because the truth is, we are all joy, and we just forget that we already are the light we are seeking. When we are not acting out of love, it is because we have forgotten who we really are, and we begin to live from our wounds. Tom Kelly once shared a quote I've always loved, "Anger is just love that's forgotten that it's love."


When speaking to Philip Goldberg, as he was signing a copy of his book for me, I asked him how it was to interview the over 300 people he talked to for his book. He said it was his favorite thing to do, that at some point, he had to tell himself to stop and write the manuscript, because it could have gone on forever. 

"That must've been fascinating," I commented. "I've always said that one of my dream jobs would be to be Ira Glass and go around the world interviewing people and weaving together stories and programs." 

Philip responded, "My dream is to be Terry Gross!"

And it was then then I rekindled a broader perspective of the world, of how I could combine the things that I love and all of my talents into doing what I want to do, purely for the sake of wanting to do them. While learning from Tim Miller on yogic philosophies and sutras, I started to piece together elements of my second (or maybe it'll be my first) book on how so many of these ideas have been woven throughout my life and only when I discovered yoga did they begin to take a form I could physically work with, move through, deepen, let go of. 


The lesson I'm learning most by being around and away from these teachers is something completely unexpected. Being sick during this second module of teacher training has been tough. Then, having my neck go out on top of it made it all the worse. My intention was to practice compassion, the way Kwan Yin inspires,  and apparently, a whole lot of opportunity manifested for that to be tested. Marianne Williamson says that when you ask for help from the Divine to move through your crap, you'll be dumped on tenfold to really have a chance to get through the gunk. And, what I learned in therapy, is the only way to move through it is to move through it. Not skip around it, not try to leap over it, not hold back, but to face it full on. And, what I've learned from yoga is to try to do this with grace.

When I got sick when I was little, my mother was not generous in dispensing care. It seemed to be a burden and an inconvenience, and I felt that it was my fault I had gotten ill. When I had the flu and a fever, she still made me have my piano lesson. When I was crying and needed attention, she looked at me in frustration and left me alone. And, when I had chicken pox and wasn't yet fully healed, she dropped me off at school. Marianne says that we heal in the present, and that no matter who did what to us in the past, it's us who's carrying it now. Our adult minds have the tools to work through it, but we like to blame factors in the past rather than rectifying it here and now, so it's no longer a load to carry. In retrospect, I can see why my mother did a lot of what she did, but the burden that I now hold onto is not knowing what to do when I'm ill. I get frustrated at myself that I can't operate at 150%. I get irritated that I can't heal fast enough. And, as was the case recently, I feel like even though I was trying to do things that were designed to help me heal, they only put me in a worse condition, so that I began to blame myself for that, too. (See the parallels with how my mother approached my being sick decades ago?)

"It's amazing to me, how creative your brain is," my beau remarked. "Sometimes, treatments don't work. Sometimes, things get better immediately, sometimes it takes awhile, and sometimes, it gets worse before it gets better. But your brain doesn't see that. It just sees that you went and got a treatment, and then you get hurt afterward, so you did something wrong somehow."

And, to add from Flossie, "Who says that you're not healing? That what's happening to you right now IS healing? Did you feel like you were worthy to get taken care of, or you were only doing something because you felt it was the thing you were supposed to do? It's no wonder you manifested this right now as something you need to work through. Have you thought that maybe your body, mind and spirit are getting rid of old stuff and that's why you're feeling how you do now?"

I felt I was using my voice, asking for what I want while sick, and apparently, I wasn't. I didn't feel like my needs were getting met, and partly, it's because I didn't know what those needs truly were. The other part was that I couldn't be patient enough with having to slow down, to simply do nothing but heal. As I began to start a fight with my beau last night, he asked very clearly, "What is it that you want right now?"

I didn't have an answer at first, but the truth quickly rose to the surface. I just wanted to spend time together, but I had a long to-do list I felt I couldn't finish in the midst of not feeling well. Instead, I focused on all the things that weren't going right and decided to pick a fight, because I was too afraid to say I would like unconditional loads of attention. Flossie was right, I didn't feel like I deserved it. 

"When you were little, you weren't well taken care of, and you were pissed! You had every right to be!" my beau observed. "But you're an adult now, and sometimes, I can see that little girl inside of you acting out, behaving badly, and you don't reign her in. You're the one who's in charge now. You can choose differently."

A couple of days prior, my beau said, "You're so sexy right now." And I responded, "What? I'm coughing and I can't even move. What are you talking about?" 

"Vulnerability is sexy," he responded.

"Sometimes I feel like I'm being vulnerable and you don't think that's sexy!" I immediately retorted, "You just get annoyed!"

"No," he corrected, "sometimes, when you think you're being vulnerable, you're actually being defensive. There's a difference."

While I sometimes feel and wish that my beau were more intuitive and considerate in bringing me thoughtful gifts, the Universe has a perfect order where he is incredibly in tune and offers me gifts of a different kind.

I listened to something Marianne said today in her Enchanted Love workshop, where she likened vulnerability to yoga. 

"In order to be able to fully relax in yoga, you need to first build that firmness and strength of your muscle. Otherwise, you're just being sloppy."

And, in relationships, in order to fully let go without becoming co-dependent, you first need to be firm in trusting yourself and one another. Then, you can relax. Being vulnerable means to fully put your hands up and say, "Hey, this is all of me. Right here, right now. Just like this." No defenses, no pretenses, just Self. 

I'm not fully aware yet of the lessons that I'm learning from being ill this time around. I know I run myself into the ground — pneumonia, strep throat, bronchitis, staph infection, shingles — those are just a few of the diseases I've happened upon because I couldn't slow down or express a need for care in any other way. My previous eating disorder would also fall into this category in a big way. But, I know it's teaching me something. And something that will likely carry on as I step more into the person I have always been meant to be.

Those substantial lessons, they will indeed keep coming around until we learn how to fully reconcile them. Flossie had mentioned that neck injuries tend to relate to not having a broad enough perspective, not being able to look at things with a wide enough lens, and being very rigid with what we choose to see. The more I let go, the more my neck literally starts to ease up, too. That mind-body relationship... it's always so fascinating.

Time for bed. And, as I was walking down the stairs just now, I realized something. I have always wanted to live in a two-story home, ever since I was in elementary school and my father promised we would have one though it never came to fruition. Now, here I am, in a two-story home. And, most incredibly, there's a smell at the top of the stairs that is reminiscent of something in my childhood, where when I start to take that first step, always takes me back a little bit into my past consciousness. Maybe that's why, at the top of the staircase, that's my favorite place in the whole house to meditate. 

Funny how life works. 

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