What I yelled at my son today:
“I am doing good shit! I am writing good shit! You’re the problem!”
Let me set the scene. He’s been taking an online high school geometry course over the summer. Why? Because his brain is a scientific algorithm machine ready to discover the formula for the speed of time. Wait. I think someone discovered that. And it’s really slow. So today, I spent three hours drilling geometry concepts into this boy in a voice straight from the me in the opposite parallel universe where I am not a yoga teacher. Where I am anti-yoga teacher. Where I “lose it,” “snap,” and “shit.” The space I occupy by his computer is pressurized, school starts in a week, when he’ll be taking the math class following this one. And this boy is having none of the brilliant artistic steam shooting from me onto the page, like Right Triangle Mirrored on X-axis, or Creative Congruency. None of my good shit.
This happened after an earlier venture into Parallel Universe Me that morning. I was at a meeting where I co-chair a – get this – committee on finding your purpose. Where people’s hearts are all in the right place (this universe). A contemplative oasis amid a wider community where Parallel Universe Me has often wanted to yell, “You’re the problem!” Hey, it wasn’t until 2010 when the first yoga studio hit this town in the middle of Iowa. Yeah. My studio. My Field of Yoga. (Really, that’s the name.)
So, when a community leader said she agreed with me that doing yoga can help people find their purpose, Parallel Universe Me had to answer.
“NO. General yoga classes can’t magically help people find their purpose. I’m talking about workshops that are about purpose, that have nothing to do with exercise. Yoga can’t guarantee any benefits when it’s just some arbitrary moves and stretches and a bunch of misguided wishful thinking.”
And that was my lead-in to an evening of teaching. Yoga. A snap in the beginning, a snap in the middle, and then the evening upon me like the biggest expose since some Kardashian thing that I really don’t know about because I’m at least that yogic.
I always tell myself on those shitty days, when I really don’t want to teach, when I want a pinch hitter – even a shitty teacher from the School of Misguided Wishful Thinking – I tell myself that these are the days when it comes through. Source. When I am so surrendered that I can’t use my limited and limiting brain, it just ain’t switched on, it’s laid low and vulnerable and… open. And the messages I need to hear come through me disguised as messages for my students. And as was my time-honored ritual on these days, I said, “Yeah, right.”
I slogged to the studio, bee-lined right to the back office, and prepped my hand-outs for my book study on the Bhagavad Gita that I had to teach after my basic yoga class. One thing stuck out from that prepping – one little grain of hope like when you thought you drained the wine bottle but discover half a glass left.
“Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear.”
“Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness…” Hell, I met that criteria. Yeah. It’ll protect me. From something. Excellent. With that I left the back office to face my charge in life. Students. Expecting something. Today.
I found a row of students and no front desk staff. What the? Tonight, really? I spent the 15 minutes before class juggling the roles of teacher, front desk staff, and frantic-texter-to-my-rock-solid-studio-manager. Then, I sat down in front of the class. Of four students. (Yeah, that row that I mentioned before was the only row.)
I looked at them. I told them to sit tall. I started to say stuff.
“Let your mind drop down into your breath, your mind on a level playing field with your body.”
What a fun play-on-words – level playing field… Field of Yoga.
”Not sitting high and lofty atop the body. The breath is the mind’s true home. It’s the only home that exists in the now for the mind. The only place to find what is – now. Not what was, not what will be.”
Something was happening here. But I didn’t really have time for it. But it felt good, I felt good. Better. Amen and om, the me of this universe was right again. So, I taught a damn good class. You’re welcome, four people. You’re welcome.
But it doesn’t stop there, here’s where I get a new momentum. I get a taste of my purpose in action, but more than that, I have to admit that my purpose tonight has been appreciated (by four people). I speed out and leave the next teacher to handle the mess of no front desk staff. As I run out in a flurry of excuses and flailing papers, a favorite smart-ass student yells, “Looking good for teaching Eastern philosophy!”
Dark – wait, no, still LIGHT
I arrive at the locale for the spiritual book study with five minutes to spare. It seems the director of the facility double-booked, and our group has been bumped to the basement. I harrumph down the stairs to find this: a virtual altar set up, replete with 3 candlesticks burning, and a Victorian chair for me to set upon. Or perch. Oh – and some fun rescued couches facing me for the students to occupy. Behind me – a projected video of local nature scenes.
I can get used to this.
I begin the discussion all-business-like by reviewing from our first meeting why we’re here, calling up that teaching approach my own teacher recommends called “compassionate firmness” (Parallel Universe Me has no clue what this is but thinks she does). We had joked at our first meeting about my language on the hand-outs, where I had written “Welcome to the path from ignorance to revelation.” This didn’t exactly hit the “compassionate firmness” mark for anyone, landing more squarely on “assy.” Luckily, I had it covered. I had qualified it on the hand-out with “from darkness to light” or my favorite, “from separation to connection.” And I inserted some smiley faces.
The discussion opens. The first person to speak up is my rock – that studio coordinator I mentioned who, two hours earlier, was at home with a baby figuring out how to respond to the slew of over-punctuated texts from her boss about “system failure!!!” She says this:
“I resonated with the physics take on connectedness, that ‘the world is a continuous field of matter and energy.’ And that we are in it. Part of it. All the time.”
Field of matter and energy… Field of Yoga. Here we were, a dozen of us in this room, studying that field of yoga. Not misguided wishful thinking. We were taking a scientific approach, systematic. I thought of all that stuff Einstein used to say about how stupid we were – not because we couldn’t figure out the formulas he did, but because we couldn’t see what really matters. And it ain’t matter. It ain’t any formula. It ain’t – it ain’t geometry. It ain’t any of these things unless they connect us. Thanks Source someone else speaks up here.
“I don’t like it, but in the two categories of people in this passage – those that believe in themselves and overcome many challenges to be a success, and those that believe they can’t do anything but are gifted, have few challenges, and end up not accomplishing much – I identify more with the latter.”
I tell her she’s right. Hey, I know her. But I also tell her that’s why this path is perfect for her. This path that combines action and compassion to get out of the vicious cycle of being vicious when you don’t succeed at something. [Insert dramatic double-take at self here.]
Next up, a rousing discussion on self-compassion, leading to choice point, or the technique of reassigning neural pathways from the thoughts and habits that don’t serve us to the things that do. I am feeling something so big and connected here. Something bigger than the speed of time. Or even bigger than Einstein’s other thingie, yeah, that thing where he answers the question, how big, really is the speed of light? What are its applications – where is it really relevant in this crazy universe or universes both dark and light?
Another student is moved by this quote by Meister Eckhart:
“Secretly, Nature seeks and hunts and tries to ferret out the track in which God may be found.”
Now I’m like that gasping woman in the movie theater. What I see here, for the first time, is that track like a neural pathway. This path to Source, a literal groove in our minds. We are all in this room, getting this collective connective dump from the universe. I keep writing things down that I say, that she says, that he says, that we say.
A new student speaks up, “So it’s true that we are our thoughts, right?” She was riffing on the talk about reprogramming neural pathways. Changing our thought habits to change our selves. This statement though, as any yogi knows, is not true. We are not our thoughts. My brilliant thoughts were ready to point this out, to make it clear to the rest of my knowledgeable crew that I was indeed on my yogi game. But, I chose a different approach. I took the teaching moment to define who “we” are. Cue compassionate firmness:
“One version of me is my thoughts. The one my mind thinks I am, because it experiences me through a limited perspective, so how could I be anything more? But thoughts come and go, and there’s something that has never gone.” I pause. Then this comes:
“You know you’re not your thoughts because they don’t come from a dependable source.”
I write this down. The thing in me that had wanted to prove my knowledge, jump on the “you are not your thoughts” mantra bandwagon, get credit for my wisdom – that part fell into this non-dependable category. In other words, this time, a dependable Source intervened before I could yell, “I do good shit!”
Another student begins to talk about the path from darkness to light, and not forcing yourself out of the darkness when you’re not feelin’ the light. This student no sooner says the word “light” when the screen projecting nature scenes behind me illuminates with the words “General Electric.” Ah. Source has a sense of humor. We all laughed, marveled, felt all yogish about everything. Source had our attention. So, now what?
Meditation, of course. We close the discussion portion of class with the exact amount of time remaining for the meditation technique I was teaching. We meditate. We convene.
A student I’d worked while she was going through something really difficult comes up to me afterward. She says she has a new take on dark and light, on ignorance and revelation. It is this:
“The path from fear to love.”
Oh, Source. Is this where it all leads?
A big theme for me when I first delved into yoga was strength vs. love. I was always strong, and unattached to “needing” love. This was, as it turns out, not a good thing. But now, another light blinked on, not a message from our sponsors. That quote that carried me into teaching my class earlier that evening. That bit about a bit of spiritual effort… it had a second part. A part about… fear.
“Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear.”
The greatest fear.
What is it? The fear. Of. Being my thoughts. Of being as ugly as the ugliest of them. Of being shit. Of not being enough. Of being rejected, ignored, dismissed. Of being gifted but not accomplishing shit. Of being separate, separating. “I am doing good shit! I am writing good shit! You’re the problem!”
Remember what I said about the messages I need to hear coming through me disguised as messages for my students? Well, sometimes, they come from my students. And sometimes these students are geometry students who do not say anything. It seems the track to Parallel Universe Me could take me somewhere else. From separating to connecting. In my teaching and in my writing. I could really Real things up. Hell, could it be? This. Is. My. Purpose?
This all really happened. No shit.
At home tonight after this shit-to-no-shit day, my son is acting like nothing happened. He’s like that. I can get away with a lot with him. It’s like, even when I darken over him, he knows it won’t last. He knows I’m light. He knows. He knows.
And we don’t have to be Einstein to know.
~Mary McInnis Meyer
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