Graduation Ceremony and Feast!

Sundays graduation has finally come after 6 months, countless asanas, meditation, note taking, studying, overwhelm…

After everyone completes the final test, we start to prepare the room for the graduation ceremony. We have invited guests and are expecting 20 plus people! My dear friend Maya is coming to celebrate this day with me, yea!  There are husbands and friends, sons and daughters present to usher in this amazing wave of new yoga teachers into the world.

With Ananda Devikka’ Ma’, Maetreyii Nolan and Gayatri Dawson we come full circle again as we all sit on the floor together. Candles and flowers adorn the room and some of us put on special clothing or jewelry to honor our accomplishments. The smell of Indian spices waft into the room that is now holding nearly 50 people! My mouth waters as it does everytime Shashi cooks for us.

We sing together and give our thanks before we are each presented with a gorgeous “Certified Yoga Teacher” certificate. Some of my classmates have taken on their spiritual name and that is reflected on the certificate. At Gayatri’s feet are glowing necklaces and we each chose one. The Ohm of every Ohm I have Ohm’d reasonates in my body as I chose, yes, an Ohm necklace. I wear it for a week before it finds it’s home hanging in my rear view mirror. I find out later that Gayatri spent the last 2 nights, while we were all cramming for the test, sitting at her stove, dipping paper into beeswax to create a “last minute” treat for each of us. Thank you Gayatri!

I am touched as people share what the training has meant to them, the leap of faith, the challenge, the satisfaction of completing something, the changes they have experienced. And to my delight, the guests are asked to share how this program has changed or affected their lives. One man says how he got great joy in seeing his girlfriend be able to finally become a yoga teacher, something she had talked about for so long, and how he really supports and loves her for following her dream. Lovely

I realize for the first time that I am part of a spiritual community, something I have been *highly* resistant to. My strict Catholic upbringing is the source of much of this. The fears about having to give my power away to a guru or be someone I am not were just that, False Evidence Appearing Real. The tendency, the habit, compulsion or addiction to putting our power in something or someone outside of ourselves seems to infiltrate our very DNA.  But not here.  I have uncovered even more of who I am and given the space to have more compassion than I ever thought possible. To me, this is the essence of yoga, on and off the mat. That same compassion has been given to us and modeled for us by the teachers here at the ashram, and I am forever grateful.

Maya and I sit at the big table to taste the flavors of India. I’m distracted by the number of sweets on several large platters and vow to save room for them. I visit with people, make plans, laugh and feel a little sad, little giddy. The revelations of the last 3 days will be distilled over the coming weeks but not before I head back to the job that pays my bills, but doesn’t feed my soul’s purpose at all. So many of us are at this juncture and each of us have steps to take to move our work out into the world.

I have made several life long friends, even future creative collaborators, as well as a loving kind spiritual community. The parting is temporary, as we have planned a hike together and have other ideas on the table, including a retreat. I’m also called to continue to write about how I will take “yoga” out into the world and hope to inspire and support other people to share their gifts with the world.

To continue reading the next incarnation of my blog, go to: http: ___________.  And thank you for reading! I would love to know who you are, so please leave a comment and introduce yourself!

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Session 6

March 2-4, 2012

I am so excited for this long awaited weekend and wake up easily when my alarm goes off at 5am.  One of the changes I have noticed is that I wake up between 5-6am naturally and either practice asanas or meditate for 15-30 minutes. Make no mistake, I am not a “morning person” and the only person I am interacting with is my cat. I’m not ready to engage with others, even said cat to be honest, and relish this internally quiet time.

This morning after I arrive, I feel energized and sitting meditation is more difficult. One thing I love about meditation is that it keeps me in “student” mode as I never know what I will feel, learn, notice about myself. I’ve had an experience of sublime bliss and the next day severe boredom. In some ways, I hope it will always be that unpredictable and yet I have more awareness of how to be receptive to divine flow in my space.

While in meditation, instead of creating MORE mind jabber, I send myself compassion and notice that I did just drive 45 minutes at speeds up to 65 mph to get here. So I arrive slowly, shedding layers of the corporate work week and all its pressures, personalities, challenges of bringing my best self to a work environment that does not nurture or value integrity, communication, leadership or creative expression of any sort. Just be present here, now is my mantra this morning.

The energy of our final weekend together is palpably different. Some would call it excitement, others anxiety. After having participated in countless groups/workshops/seminars in my lifetime, I know that everyone deals with endings in their own way. Personally, I used to withdraw and sometimes well before the actual final meeting. This time though, I am more present, more involved, more open, MORE than ever before and I feel great to be “here”, at long last. I have thrown enough endings away which somehow has effected the way I welcome in new beginnings. Hindsight is the best, isnt’ it?

And no doubt there is a buzz around new beginnings. And some of my classmates have visually changed since last time I saw them. Shining brighter, showing up bigger, I totally love it!  There are several cameras clicking away this weekend and so grateful for the photo memories to come.

Friday morning and afternoon we discuss the Varnas, the below taken from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varna_%28Hinduism%29

  • the Brahmins: vedic priests.
  • the Kshatriya: kings, governors and soldiers.
  • the Vaishyas: cattle herders, agriculturists and merchants.
  • the Shudras: labourers, artisans and service providers.

And PROUT: Progressive Utilization Theory, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PROUT

My we are blessed to have ancient teachings and alternative value systems with just a click of a hyperlink!

My meditation on Saturday morning with Maetreyii Ma is powerful. I realize I need to ask her for a spiritual name, which I do and all the while my critic or ego, whatever you want to call it, is saying very loudly: You already changed your name once, you can’t do it again. As Bryon Katie would say, I counter “Is that really true” ?  I had not given it much to a spiritual name before meditation. I have been known as Bella for the last 7 years, a name given to me at a time of much outward change. My logical mind rejected the idea of a spiritual name because my humanness didn’t want to go through the process of telling everyone I know and will meet my “new” name. But I know better than to question these very clear messages now, finally. I have exercised my right to make my own decisions plenty of times but that can be a more difficult path, not wrong just not “in the flow” as I call it. So after class, as we prepared the room for our morning asana practice, I caught Maetreyii Ma and asked her for a spiritual name. She graciously agrees.

Saturday the energy of the room is full of anxiety about the test but also excitement as the culmination of our training is within our grasp. After lunch, we enjoy a student led asana class and I announce the blog (this one) to the class. In the blink of an eye I realize how the blog is the foundation for a book that is a long time coming and I am so humbled by the clarity of this. As I am sharing this insight with some of my classmates, Maetreyii Ma came into the room, over to me, put her hands on my knees and said: Mirabai. I smile and ask her what the name means, she said Mirabai was an ancient poet who was so enraptured with love and life that she wrote beautiful poetry, danced in the streets, and poured her love into being the consort/wife of Krishna. I’m blown away, and I table the subject for a more quiet reflective time.  As the weekend progresses, I learn she was a princess in Rajastan and she was known for being a bit of a rebel, disobeying family and society’s view of what was ok and appropriate for women. Everything in my being starts to vibrate, reasonate with Mirabai. Stay tuned!

I’m in awe of how I can feel so confident and then the old “test” anxieties move in, they nab me Saturday afternoon. Bad. Gayatri is taking us through an auditory exercise of pairing english and sanskrit name along with the cue and breathing for each of the 35 poses. It is meant as yet another review but I find myself totally shutting down. Traditional learning via my very poor hearing (I have worn hearing aids the last 2 1/2 years and I am only 40!) historically gets me down, somehow my synapses don’t fire quick enough. The good news is I am having a sleep over with one of my fellow students, Lisa, and we are going to study. “I KNOW this material” I tell myself and give permission to gracefully opt out of participating outwardly and instead, study my index cards.

Here I want to say that I wasn’t always this compassionate with myself or to be honest, others. In the past I might have tried to “stay in the game” and beat myself up by internally feeding me all kinds of criticism and lies about who I am and what I can achieve. Those voices haven’t necessarily gone away entirely but I am aware of them, override them, gently ask them to put that in an email and send it to me to be read I dont know, never? I just don’t fall for it anymore. It’s a commitment but I found I really enjoy feeling good 🙂

Saturday evening I am lucky to study with Lisa (Shanti Deva)  the night before our test. As we go through each card and I say the sanskrit name, the english name, the number of rounds and details about the breath, I am surprised by how much I know! Surprised and relieved to be honest. One thing I have learned first hand is that it is one thing to be able to do the asana or vinyasa and another thing entirely to verbalize cues, how to breathe.  As Shanti quizes me, she talks through the logic on the poses  and I start to put together more of a story about each asana.  For example, bellows pose aka bhastrikasana is one of my favorite vinyasas and I naturally breathe and hold the exhale when my knee or knees are in my chest. If you think about it, it would be uncomfortable to be squeezing your knees into your chest with the breath held in, your belly is too big at that point whereas the exhale empties the stomach of all air. She also teaches me that peacock pose or mayurasana can be remembered as myyourawesoma because you are awesome if you can do this pose. I love it!

Sunday morning we arrive to our final morning meditation together. The word “bittersweet” is said and heard often when reflecting on this last weekend together. We have become a tight bunch of yoga teachers and of course shared personal changes over the last 6 months together. After a light breakfast, we jump right into our final teaching test, one at a time we take the teacher mat. Everyone shines…how can you not with the loving support of 17 other classmates and 3 beloved teachers?

Ohm Bliss Ohm