It’s a beautiful crisp morning here in the jungle, by the ocean…and I am feeling more settled in some significant ways after 5 days here. Then there are ways that I feel quite unsettled in my mind, particularly while watching the news on my laptop each evening. I told myself that I would take a break from it, but it draws me, the actions of this new president…the frightening possibilities that threaten to separate us from the rest of the world and from each other. And then I remember…
I remember the unchanging presence that underlies this world of change, and I see that others are standing up, speaking out, from an awareness of this presence, whether consciously or not. This presence is the connecting force that draws us together when outer forces threaten to pull us apart, and one could give it many names…Love is the word that comes to mind at this time.
For 25 years I have been teaching a winter retreat in this lovely little village of Puerto Morelos, between the ocean and the jungle. Each year, I come early to prepare, to work out the many details of the workshop and to give myself time to open to the experience of creating space for, and guiding the group through a journey of self-inquiry and exploration in breath-inspired movement. Each year, I spend this time in contemplation of their needs, hopes, dreams, wishes, concerns, and anticipate a wonderful week for them as they decompress from their daily lives and open to all that this generous environment offers. This year, another feeling keeps creeping in…a sense of the anxiety and helplessness that they will be bringing…and my own sense of helplessness in being able to lift them out of that shadow state. And then I remember…
I remember what I have come to understand at a very deep level over my 40 years as a teacher, and continually remind the teacher trainees of to lessen their fears of teaching… the challenges that they face in feeling responsible for the students and their experience. I remind them to trust the practice, and that we as teachers are mere guides and facilitators of these ancient techniques that have been evolving through the years to meet the needs of our modern world. I remind them that our responsibility level is high, yes, but that the responsibility lies in our staying in the practice ourselves, to keep coming back to that unchanging presence that connects us all and reestablishing the balance between our outer and inner worlds in such a way that we can better serve our higher purpose. I remind myself, and them,that awareness is the key, practice is the tool, and Love is the answer. This is the Essence of Yoga.
Now…having remembered, I rest in the  knowledge that our week together will be a reminder for them, the students, of this awareness that the practice of yoga opens us to. And I am flooded with gratitude for the practice, for the opportunity to share the practice, and for life itself.

Postcard From the Jungle

Our director and lead trainer, Amanda McMaine, just arrived in Mexico for her annual week-long yoga retreat. While she’s there, we’re all continuing to work together to refine our plans for the 200 and 300 hour yoga teacher training programs. Amanda sends this message of gratitude…

“I am sitting outside in the jungle , at our little table on the porch where we have our meals. The sounds are of the jungle birds and animals, the breeze through the trees which have magnificent huge foliage, and the ocean breeze in the distance. The papaya is amazing and the Mexican coffee divine…Michael has gone to the open air fruit and veggie market where the local farmers bring in their produce…a weekly shopping expedition. We will buy fresh fish from the dock this afternoon…It is warm and breezy and the air so very fresh. All of this makes the list of challenges about being here rather pale, or at least the scales tip toward bliss much of the time. I will not list the challenges! I am grateful…”

Allow, by Danna Faulds

There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide…
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in –
the wild and the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes.

What We’re Reading – Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg

“Writing as a practice.” When I first read this in the pages of Natalie Goldberg’s classic text, Writing Down the Bones (1986), I could not have imagined how profoundly it would impact my future yoga practice. The book was recommended for ‘perfecting my craft’—writing. As a writer, I searched for advice on creating more beautiful and meaningful written text, communicating effectively with my target audiences, inspiring creativity in my readers but…I hadn’t anticipated the life-transforming gift of this new and deep meditative, self-inquiry practice.

At the time, I was completing a 300 hour yoga teacher training with Amanda McMaine and exploring the physical body—bones, joints, muscles—and their essential role in the body’s form, the felt sense of energetic embodiment, and the safe practice of alignment-oriented, therapeutic asana. With ‘bones’ on my mind, the title captured my imagination. When I opened to the chapter on Writing as Practice, I realized, this was not a typical book on writing technique—I was holding in my hands the key to a whole new way to practice yogic presence, self-exploration and reflection, a practice that has become a powerful tool in my yoga toolbox.

Revisiting this book to prepare for the 200 and 300 hour yoga teacher trainings at The Essence of Yoga Center, I have been (re)inspired by the power of Goldberg’s descriptions of writing as practice. As a longtime, Zen meditation practitioner, she believes “that writing practice is learning to trust your own mind and body,” “to grow patient and nonaggressive,” to “stay present with whatever comes up and to “[e]mbrace your whole life.” This description is, in a nutshell, the essence of my personal yoga practice.

Now, with beginner’s mind, I dive back into this self-aware text, guided in my writing practice by Goldberg’s own words, “sit down right now,” “give [yourself] this moment,” “write whatever’s running through you. Don’t try to control it,” just “keep your hand moving.” Through disciplined yogic writing practice, I am able to “burn through” to what Goldberg calls “first thoughts,” the intersection between heart and mind, where my true Self resides and I find the teacher within.

post by Tanja Bisesi