You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

The other day I was listening to a pre-recorded session from The Yoga Teacher Telesummit (which has been life-changing, by the way) with Mark Singleton, author of Yoga Body- Origins Posture Practice  and thinking about the saying “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Actually I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, and my life has pretty much revolved around that idea for the last few years.

My interest in continuing education has really blown up the last several months and I’ve found myself inundated with endless prospects of online learning– telecourses in becoming a better teacher, in becoming a better writer, in making more money. Thanks to the internet, the world has never seemed more like a never-ending hole of knowledge. I’ve only barely begun to scratch the surface in yoga and then when it comes to writing, even after finishing 2 novels, there’s still so much to learn about plot and characterization. It’s exciting but also exhausting. It points to the bigger issue, though—that there’s always more to learn and I don’t know what I don’t know.

Sometimes when practicing yoga and writing fiction, we forget how large the world is outside of our own bodies and minds. Mark spoke about yoga’s history through the ages and across cultures and brought up questions that reminded me the universe is so big, bigger than we can imagine. He also gave tiny glimpses into Huge, Lifetime-Asking Questions like, “what is yoga?” and “Is yoga a religion?” —Which is sort of like asking “what is art?” We can spend our lifetimes studying and never quite figure out those answers.

Then there’s the enormity of information on the inside— the concept of svadhyaya (or self-study) in yoga philosophy. This was made abundantly clear to me this past weekend, when I attended a Brand Thyself workshop with Jessica Boylston-Fagonde. Jess guided us to the core of ourselves, to unearth our unique personal expression so we can take our mission out into the world. Let me tell you, there’s a ton of stuff inside us! She titled her online course “An Archeological Dig To The Heart” for that reason. The digging process can seem endless. After all, the question of who we are is just like the question of what is yoga or what is art. I wonder if the answer is the same.

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The Brilliance of JK Ro Ro

JK Rowling continues to impress me. And not just because of Harry Potter or the flashy new website or even that she’s written a new book for adults. Well, okay, it’s pretty much because of all those things.

But right now it’s mostly because I can’t imagine writing a book knowing that the whole world is waiting with baited breath to read it. Talk about the pressure. But she did it with all the Harry Potter books and now she’s doing it again. Yet I can easily imagine an author collapsing under the strain and never writing another book.

Obviously that’s not how Ro Ro rolls. Just check out her amazing graduation speech, aptly titled The Fringe Benefits of Failure. This is a speech I revisit over and over throughout the year, and is particularly appropriate during graduation season when spring time reminds us to begin again, follow our dreams, and say “f you” to the fear of failure.

The Best Poets: Yoga Teachers

Some of the most beautiful poetry I hear on a daily basis is in yoga class. After attending the Yoga Journal Conference in NYC  this past weekend, I’m reminded why yoga teachers are some of the best spoken word poets out there. Many times I found myself rushing to scribble down a scrap from a sentence dying on their lips as they moved on to the next treasure.

Language is one of the most important tools a yoga teacher has. The best teachers I have use their words to explain, to evoke, to remind me of myself.

Their words allow me to understand important concepts in yoga. Like when Sarah Powers from Insight Yoga explained how insight meditation is meant to be experiential, a direct touching of what is beautiful and indestructible no matter what has happened to us or will happen to us.*

Or when Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman Yee said during a supine twist in an Urban Zen Integrative Restorative Workshop to give the body its weight, to feel the water of the body (we are made up of water, remember that from science class?) pouring out on the earth, to feel sensation in the rivers of the arms pouring out the outlets of the wrists into the fingers.* Swoon…

We know that language is felt physically in the body. Words allow us to imagine. Often in fiction or poetry, we let the words transport us, to take us away. But the point is not to imagine out of ourselves in yoga practice. Colleen mentioned that studies have found mindfulness practice (feeling sensations and leaning into what’s there no matter how uncomfortable) has been found to be more effective at dealing with pain than guided imagery. Which makes sense since the most beautiful words I heard this weekend were simply pointers, poetry directing me back to myself.

Like when Elena Brower said on Friday night to feel the back of the heart and then the space in the bones.* The body itself becomes a manuscript, the Book of Being Human, of living in this physical form. Nothing new to be discovered, just a beautiful poem of cells and breath waiting to be read.

*I’m loosely quoting because I was in a yoga trance most of the time

Taking The Leap and Putting Yourself Out There

So I’ve decided to join the countless others in the pursuit of “building an author platform.” Social Media, here I come!

For me the scariest thing about publishing and teaching has always been the “putting yourself out there” part. Sure, I could practice yoga on my own. I could keep my words hidden in the computer or on scraps of paper or even in the hollows of my mind where beautiful words taste so good. But if I want to publish, if I want to teach and “influence” people (more on that another time), I need to go out and say, hellooo world! No hiding behind corners, no holding back.

Teaching yoga- getting up there everyday and speaking in front of others, saying what I know to be true- is one of the most challenging and rewarding ways to put yourself in front of others. The interaction is immediate and if I stumble, my students notice. The path to publishing is very much less immediate (too much less immediate it can seem sometimes) but just like with teaching and this new blog, it means being open to criticism, to people not liking what I have to offer or say. 

In both cases, I say it, I write it, and it’s in the universe. Can’t take it back.

But the only way to realize any dream is to take the leap and trust what you know to be true despite what others may think.

What leap are you willing to take right now to follow your dreams? Does it require “putting yourself out there” in the public eye?