You’re unique–shouldn’t your yoga be?

Yoga has a dirty secret: it’s not perfect, it’s not a panacea, and it’s not one-size fits all.

When I began a regular yoga practice over a decade ago, I was amazed at the benefits–my body felt better, my mind clearer, my heart lighter. I wanted to share this practice with EVERYONE. But when I began to try teaching to obliging family and friends, it immediately became clear to me that a few of my favorite poses just weren’t accessible to everyone. Not only that, but I began to feel the niggling sense that something was missing. Luckily, in 2011 I began yoga teacher training with our lead-trainer, Amanda McMaine.

Amanda has spent decades as a dancer, a trained kinesiologist, an Iyengar yogi, a Level III Yoga Nidra teacher, a practitioner of Body-Mind Centering, Alexander Technique, tai chi, and qi gong, a hiker, climber, swimmer and hula-hooper. In my years of study with Amanda and a community of like-minded practitioners, I’ve been able to cultivate the understanding that body and mind are meant to MOVE, and thrive on variability of demand. We can’t practice the same 26 (or 30…or 50) postures every day or week and expect to avoid injury, much less to flourish. While yoga certainly offers some diversity of movement, it doesn’t offer everything – for the body OR the mind.

Our  yoga teacher trainers come from diverse backgrounds, both in life and in yoga. We believe being open to exploring the breadth of styles and knowledge that the yoga tradition has to offer, while learning the kinesiology and safe practice of asana, AND being open to experiencing other modalities, allows us to teach the yoga we want to teach. 

Check out this article from Yoga International on Cross-Training. What are your thoughts?

And enroll today if you’re ready to begin your exploration into all that yoga has to offer, without limiting yourself to that rectangular yoga mat! You’re unique–shouldn’t your yoga be?

Post by Cara Sparkman

Why do we practice?

Most of us come to yoga as a way to help ourselves–to relieve pain, to breathe, to feel the body moving, to still the mind. And it works! Evidence based research is beginning to catch up to what we feel in our bones: that yoga just flat-out works. Studies have shown that yoga does, in fact, relieve pain, that it improves the quality of the breath, that it enhances overall physical health, and that it helps relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. We feel more connected. More bright. More free.

So we go along doing yoga for ourselves, and then one day, we realize that the benefits of our yoga reach into our jobs and our relationships. We feel ourselves getting angry about so-and-so, and we pause. We take a step back. We make a different choice. We share our light.

And finally, one day, we reach the conclusion that when we get on our mat, we’re doing it for the world. The time we spend on that two by six piece of sticky mat creates ripples that reach out into our local, and even global community. We don’t always know how our down dog will affect someone else, but we know somehow it will. So when we begin to feel the dark divisiveness of the 24-hour news-cycle, we step onto our mats, we practice, and we SHINE.

Here at The Essence of Yoga Center, our vision is the ‘higher purpose’ of evolving the consciousness of the planet, one student at a time, starting with ourselves.  We want to set new standards for yoga practice and teacher training that combine modern, evidenced-based, scientific research and reflective methodologies with ancient philosophy, and mindful, spiritual practices. Interested in learning more about our 200 and 300 hour Yoga Immersion and Teacher Training Programs? Contact us!

Yowza!

Our lead trainer, Amanda McMaine, has been hard at work transforming her studio into a supportive environment for our Community of Practice. Check out these gorgeous photos!

Sneak peek!

We’ve been continuing to work hard to refine our offerings for our 200 and 300 hour Yoga Immersion Teacher Training Programs. Whether you’re already enrolled, or still thinking about enrolling, but looking for a bit more information, check out the coursework descriptions for the first weekend of the 200 hour Yoga Immersion Program!

Saturday October 21

9:00am-1:00pm & 3:30-6:00pm

Breath and Posture:  Growing into greater harmony

  • Amanda McMaine, MS, E-RYT 500 YACEP Lead Teacher

Description:  What is optimal posture and how does it affect our future? Learn a safe way to practice yoga through the study of anatomy and kinesiology and refinement of basic postural poses.  Understand how to create optimal alignment and axial extension in the spine to support a sense of balance in the musculoskeletal system and ease in the breath. Learn common postural patterns and therapeutic applications to encourage a sense of safety and fluidity in movement. Breath work will provide a sense of embodiment, body-mind awareness, and freedom from unconscious restrictions.  This class will also introduce sanskrit terminology for postural poses.

2:00pm-3:00pm

Yoga Anatomy:  Postural Skeleton—The Spine

  •  Mark Bisesi, MD, RYT 200

Description:  What is the anatomy of the spine that supports our posture? Learn normal boney structure—joints, ligaments, tendons—and function of the postural skeleton.

Sunday October 22

9:00- 10:30am

Postural Poses & Breath Work: Establishing a personal practice routine

  • Cara Sparkman, RYT 500

Description:  How do we begin a personal practice routine following the principles of alignment-based, therapeutically-oriented asana? Review, discuss and practice asanas and breath work that are the building blocks of better posture in a safe and supportive yoga community of practice.

11:00pm-12:00pm, 1:00pm-2:00pm

Yoga Anatomy:  Postural Muscles—Inner core unit & postural diaphragms 

  •  Mark Bisesi, MD, RYT 200

Description:  What are the postural muscles? Learn about the structure and function of the three postural diaphragms and the inner core unit which stabilize and support our postural poses and breathing. Understand the differences between the intrinsic stabilizer and the extrinsic mobilizer muscles of the core.

2:00-5:00pm

Establishing a Yoga Community of Practice (CoP):  Learning circle rituals & reflective self-inquiry

  • Tanja Bisesi PhD, E-RYT 200, RYT 500, YACEP

Description:  What is a yoga Community of Practice (CoP)?  What are Learning Circles and reflective practices and how can they support personal transformation and growth within community?  Participate in a Learning Circle as we engage in reflective self-inquiry and establish a yoga (CoP) for ongoing personal and community learning and development.

 

(photo courtesy of Mandy Kiley, LMT, RYT 500)

Journeying Together – What is a Community of Practice?

Communities of Practice: a Brief Introduction by Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayners (2015) introduces a concept that has resonated with me since I first encountered it during my graduate studies nearly 20 years ago.  Anyone who has ever practiced yoga in community intuitively understands its power to foster and inspire self-awareness, transformation, and empowered action.  As modern yoga practitioners we know the energizing sensation of a community practice that balances the body, expands the mind, and brings the blissful realization of life’s unity.  This embodied consciousness is our collective purpose, a path of yoga which spiritual seekers have followed for centuries.  And while practicing yoga in community is a relatively recent phenomenon, the Wenger-Trayners’ Community of Practice (CoP) model, borrowed from research on social organizations, challenges us to reflect on how it might further enrich our beloved yoga journey.

The Wenger-Trayers suggest that the primary intention of CoPs is to help “groups of people who share a…passion for something they do, learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.”  They identify three elements that are essential to any CoP.  First, CoPs are made up of groups of people coming together, a community, around a common practice.  Second, CoPs take up a shared practice which includes common goals, dialogue and activity—intentions, words and deeds.  Third, the focus of CoPs is the generation of a knowledge domain, new knowledge in all its forms— information, concepts, understandings, beliefs, identities, insights, skills, and wisdom.  So, what do we have to gain by adopting this teaching-practice model in yoga?

The simple answer to this question is: we unleash the power of this ancient spiritual practice to support practitioners’ needs for embodied connection, through community participation, ownership and innovation.  The CoP model is highly responsive to modern yoga practitioners because it reorients us toward dedication to the practice, rather than to the teacher. At least three features of this model foster this reorientation: it is decentralized, collaborative, and generativeDecentralized means authority and expertise are not concentrated in the teacher or the lineage, but determined by the unique experiences and needs of the community members.  In other words, this models is inherently student (and teacher-as-student) and practice-centered.  CoPs are designed to support the individual yoga path, practice flexibility and innovation, and the yogi’s search to find the teacher within—instead of the mindless allegiance to a single yoga lineage or a teacher’s pre-determined goals.  Because new understandings and practice innovations emerge from student need, knowledge and, therefore, power are distributed among members of the community.  This fact makes CoPs highly resistant to the corrupting influences of ego, lineage-brand attachment, conflict of interest, and self-promotion.  The teacher, as founder of a yoga CoP (i.e, class), is a model for self-inquiry practice and becomes a container—a reservoir that collects and holds knowledge established through community practice over time as new members join and leave the community.  Furthermore, the teacher releases control of and shares responsibility for learning, becoming a resource and guide for dedicated students on the path. Emphasis on the unique journey of each member naturally fosters a safe space for physical exploration, emotional healing, intellectual curiosity, and spiritual expansion.  And because everyone is viewed as an active participant, with unique challenges and talents, each member is encouraged to take ownership of their practice and growth.  In CoPs, individual spiritual seekers, students and teachers alike, come together to support each other on their self-directed paths of self-care, self-discovery and self-empowerment, while simultaneously transforming community knowledge and identity.

CoPs are also collaborative, in the sense that individual growth is dependent on and takes place as a result of participation in a practice community. Community is considered both the means and source of new practices. From this perspective, all knowledge is negotiated through community dialogue and practice, rather than through direct transmission of teacher experience or lineage expertise. Not only does every member take responsibility for their own body-mind-spirit growth, regardless of experience level, but also, the transformation of the community is every bit as important as the individual.  Both teacher and students share ownership over their own learning and the development of the entire CoP.   The primary role of the teacher in CoPs shifts from power-authority expert to community-support builder.  In this context, the teacher watches students mindfully for opportunities—teachable moments—during group practice to offer direction, advice, and encouragement on their unique yoga paths.  In addition to facilitating the practice of self-inquiry, CoP teachers also encourage student-to-student collaborative dialogue that benefits the entire community.

Finally, the CoP model is generative in the sense that it recognizes the fluid nature of knowledge and supports innovation both for individuals and communities, rather than the strict adherence to a fixed lineage or teaching authority. Individual practitioners grows their expertise as the group practices together over time.  And because practitioners, both students and teacher, share as they gain new wisdom, the community practice is not fixed.  It also grows and changes as fresh techniques and insights become part of the community ‘treasure chest.’   Thus, CoPs continually generate new understandings and practices—shaped over time by the diverse needs, voices, and self-inquiry paths of all practitioners—while spurring growth and innovation at every level of the community.  In VK Harber article on the pitfalls of the traditional guru-student yoga model (Yoga International, April, 2016) she poses a critical question for modern yoga practitioners: “how do we reconfigure..[our] relationship toward dedication to the practice, rather than the teacher?”  I believe that embracing the CoP model in yoga, as we have here at The Essence of Yoga Center for Self Inquiry, may be one strong move toward this teaching-practice ideal.

Post by Tanja Bisesi

A Spiritual Map – Interview with guest teacher Matt Branstetter

Last week, I was lucky enough to sit down with Matt Branstetter, our meditation and philosophy teacher. Here are some of his thoughts on yoga, and the peace of the present moment.

CS: Thinking about a teacher you enjoy taking classes with–yoga, or otherwise–what is their teaching like, and how does that inform your personal practice?

Matt: So, my main practice these days is taiji (tai chi), so I study with a master of the chen style of taiji, and I study with him 3 times a week. The thing that draws me to Master Ding is his joy in what he does. He moves with freedom and with joy, and that is infectious. It creates this kind of energy in class, where you’re driven to do that yourself. You’re driven to find that freedom and that joy of movement, without restrictions or inhibitions.

CS: It’s contagious joy.

Matt: Contagious joy, yes! Enthusiasm, and a pursuit of excellence…with joy. Not with stress. Excellence through joy rather than through have to or need to or must, but you have the opportunity to bring out what is best in you, and it is pleasant to do that. So here is one avenue for you to do that. So, I would say that he is a great inspiration to keep going deeper into the practice.

CS: And do you find yourself seeking out that joyfulness in your own practice, or does it arise naturally?

Matt: I find that it’s there. I find that when the body is in its natural state, joy is just kind of the essence of who we are.

CS: Thank goodness! And how does that then translate from your relationship with your teacher as a student, into your practice, and then from there for yourself as a teacher. Where do you find that joy?

Matt: Well, in all of the above. You know, when I have the time, I’m practicing. I love to do it. I love to explore. I love to do the same thing over and over and over again. For some reason I get great satisfaction out of that. And I feel like I’m pursuing something. You know, I’m pursuing a kind of wholeness. And that’s very appealing to me because it seems like if we’re living with less than whole, then it’s not time spent as fully as it could be otherwise. So the pursuit of that wholeness is also the pursuit of something true about life, and something true about living. So in my teaching, that’s it. The idea of the emotional quality and the feeling aspect of learning about qigong and taiji, it’s just so central to what it is. The felt quality of practice is the essence of it. I couldn’t conceive of movement or technique independent of the feeling that gives it life. They really are one. It’s a transmission of that joy of living.

CS: That direct experience.

Matt: That’s right, that direct experience. It’s an invitation not to mimic techniques, but to find yourself.

CS: Your focus and practice is taiji and qigong, but obviously you’re very steeped in the yogic tradition as well. How would you define yoga?

Matt: There are different levels that we can talk about. And I don’t want it to sound like the advanced levels exclude the more beginner’s level because you’re a beginner all the way through. Definitely I think there’s something about finding peace in this body; making a home in this body; finding comfort in this body, which is essential to every level of yoga. Dealing with our own discomfort; dealing with pain… It’s only by inhabiting this body that we really inhabit the present moment. So it’s kind of there, either as a barrier or as a means to being present in our lives.
That being said, I think when we start to make a home in the present moment, there’s a kind of spiritual map that’s there also, and that’s for me the essence of the yoga philosophy. It’s not concepts, it’s not the presentation of a world view, but it’s giving language to a process that happens as we go deeper into the present moment, and as we get more still, as we get more comfortable with being. So yoga would be…the art of being.

CS: Is that something that you found in your initial experience of yoga? That spiritual map?

Matt: For me, and I don’t think this is necessarily the normal pathway for people, but for me, philosophy came first. So I was a student of philosophy, Western philosophy, and then eventually Eastern philosophy. And then it became clear to me that to understand what these people were talking about, you had to be in the same or similar mental state to where they were when they were saying what they were saying. So the idea of meditation, that made sense to me. In order to understand what these philosophers were talking about, you need to meditate. So I found a meditation teacher who also ended up being a martial arts teacher. It was a quest for philosophical truth, for knowledge. And I think for a lot of philosophers, and this was definitely the case for me, it was looking for something stable. Because my early life as a child was unstable, so there was some quest for stability. Does the center hold? Is there something that abides through the changes in life? And the answers from the East were always couched in a mastery of meditation. So the answer was yes, but not one that’s going to be immediately accessible to you. In order to find this abiding place, you’re going to have to strip away various layers, and you’re going to have to make this inward journey. And that seemed fair. It seemed fair that if you were going to find something like that, you would have to make a journey to get there.
So my very first yoga class was after a martial arts training session. One of our students became interested in yoga, and started teaching yoga to the rest of us. It was the deepest relaxation I had ever felt. Ever. I was used to doing things with my body, but to really go in and relax everything, and to let things let go at their own pace. I can remember just driving home in a state of bliss. And relaxation. It was just like OH MAN. This is GREAT. We can just go in and chill ourselves out. And that was it. Ever since it has just become part of my life and part of my practice. And that initial hit, that initial hit of philosophy, the initial hit of insight into what these guys were talking about, and the initial experience of that yoga class, they continue to live. Those initial glimpses continue to live in my practice today and inform and inspire it.

CS: So for most people, we would probably agree they get to yoga through the asana, through the body, and you came at it from the other side of things. Do you find that that is something that sets you apart from other teachers?

Matt: Maybe…I’ve taught philosophy in college, in the classroom, and I realize with these philosophies it’s about a lived experience. That’s what it’s about. And I really have that sense ingrained in my being at this point. I would say my teaching, when it’s effective, is a really open invitation to meet each other at a certain level of being. You know? And then the concepts that we use will make sense, because we’re kind of in the state that the people were when they started saying, “Hey, how can we talk about what we’re experiencing right now? Let’s put some words on this.” And so they put certain words on that, and as we get close to where they were when they had that idea, we can more easily assimilate the words because it’s not some foreign concept to us anymore. It’s a way of getting to the essence of what we’re experiencing in the moment of experience. So satsang is a shared experience of truth, where we are somehow kind of resonating with it together, and I recognize it in you and you recognize it in me. So when it’s explained that way it has very little to do with concepts, and I think the yogic philosophy, in the final analysis, has very little to do with concepts. It has to do with being. With a capital B.

CS: What role does yoga play in your life?

Matt: The practice of asana is still pretty central to what I do. Between movement, mindful movement (which is what I believe the internal martial arts are based on), and the practice of asana, the practice of breathing and the practice of meditation, I would say my practice these days is to try to get a sense of a continuum between all those. Even when you’re sitting in meditation, you’re breathing…most of the time. So the body is moving, the diaphragm is moving, the ribcage is expanding. So there’s always a sense of movement. There’s always a sense of meditative awareness, and there’s always a sense that sensation is never still. There’s something about the way our nervous system is arranged, so that in order for us to feel anything, that nerve has to fire, and fire again, and if it doesn’t fire, we’re not going to feel anything. So the fact that when we feel, it means that things are moving, things are changing, things are shifting, so that is the awareness that I think is common to all those practices. The awareness itself is quiet, still, but everything else is moving, changing, flowing. So being comfortable with that change, relaxing into that change, surrendering to that change, and even learning how to surf that change is how I would define yoga, and say how it’s playing a role in all these different practices right now.

CS: What would you say is the “essence of yoga”?

Matt: I like “peace”. There’s a lot of directions I could go with that question, but I like this idea of shanti. May there be peace in the world, may there be peace in our households, in our surroundings, and may there be peace in our own bodies and minds. I think that’s a very worthy goal. It’s definitely true in our time, but it’s been true of every time. It’s not an easy goal to achieve, but I think it’s a really meaningful one. I think we should continue to inspire ourselves and one another to continue to pursue this goal of peace. Let it go. Let it be, at least for this moment.

CS: What drew you to the practice of taiji, qigong and East/West philosophy?

Matt: When I was studying philosophy as a student, I really started with ancient Greek philosophy. I had been waiting for people to talk like this since I was born! That was my sensation, and I really wasn’t finding people, you know, my mom, my family, they were not using that kind of language. So just the fact that people were asking these fundamental questions. All of a sudden a light went on in me, and I very quickly learned that vocabulary of asking those questions and seeking the answers. It was a great awakening for me, but it was also kind of systematic. You know, I started with the Greeks, and then I got into European philosophy and after stewing in that, and the questions they were concerned with for a while, Eastern philosophy came. In a survey course, you usually get a smattering of traditions, so the Hindu tradition and their philosophy, the Daoist, so ancient Chinese, and Buddhist, and Zen. These all kind of hit me at the same time in this survey course, and they’ve all been constant companions throughout the whole process. And qigong is really just the yoga of China. Just as in India, there’s breathing techniques, there’s physical techniques of the body, there’s philosophical techniques, and they’re all intertwined with one another. In China it’s the exact same scenario, you have all these subtle techniques for the body and the breath, and they inform a certain way of looking at life and a certain way of experiencing life. And fundamental to the practice of yoga in India is the idea of Prana, or life force, and fundamental to the practice of taiji is Qi or life force. That is something that we kind of are always tasting. We’re always feeling that at some level, but I think the moment we really become conscious that, hey, I’m alive. Not because my doctor tells me, or because my fitbit say that I am. I’m alive because I feel alive. Because I feel these life processes happening inside of me, and I am somehow one with those life processes. I think when people get that initial sense of that, you naturally want more of that; you naturally want to explore that deeper; you naturally think, this has something to do, not just with a fleeting experience, but the meaning of what it is to be alive. And so this is the force that’s underneath all of that. This is the force that’s making that happen. And it’s more intimate to us than we are to ourselves. It’s closer to us than our own thoughts.

CS: This question is a little bit off the beaten path, but why do you think it is that the Western world created or imagined such a fragmentation, such a divide between the body and mind, while the East has these systems that are so mind-bogglingly simple and complex at the same time, and that work so beautifully?

Matt: That’s right…well, I think the ancient traditions of the West, you don’t see that quite as much. In the indigenous traditions of the West, you don’t see that as much. It’s a whole process, but I think you hit one of the key factors, and that is the separation between the mind and the body, which is just not the case in the East. It doesn’t tend to be the case in the East, it tends to be that these are obviously part of a single process. So beginning with Descartes and some of those European thinkers and the Enlightenment; and the separation of material pursuits from spiritual pursuits, so the material people kind of have their realm, and the spiritual people kind of have their realm; the process of beginning to see nature as a resource, rather than something that was living and valuable in its own right; the shift from “being” to “having” in all kinds of ways. All of that plays a role, and then science really seeming, in those early stages to create a world that could exist independently of our experience of it. It was solid, it was real, it was out there. So that’s one of the fascinating things about more contemporary science. The belief that the world is solid real and out there has crumbled from every direction that we’ve approached it. It’s crumbled from the neurological perspective, it’s crumbled from the perspective of physics, and this is an ancient concept, the idea of maya. Which is not that the world is a trick, it’s just not ultimately and totally real. I mean, a rainbow is real. We can see it! There it is! We can experience its beautiful colors. But the closer you get to it, the more it seems to recede, and that’s the same thing we could say with biology, chemistry–they’re real, from a certain level, but the closer we get to them, the more powerful our microscopes, the more they seem to dissolve and disappear. And I think that’s the fundamental idea of maya–don’t seek the eternal or the abiding in terms of these material processes, because they’re neither. In fact, they come from and are rooted in a more profound reality that you can’t own, you can’t store up, you can’t have it, like you can have material things, but ultimately, that’s what’s going to be fulfilling to you. That’s what’s going to give you a meaningful human life, and one that aligns you with the way things are.

CS: Is there anything that you would like your future students to know about you? Or about the world? Or about the practice of yoga?

Matt: I would say this is a common thing, because I approach things, in a way, backwards. Because the philosophical way of speaking is so second nature to me, that I feel like that can be intimidating to some students. I guess the primary thing is don’t be intimidated. The kind of knowledge that I’m interested in is really just an invitation for us to be together, which means both–we’re being and we’re together. So both of those have to be there. Because we can be together, but not be being. Or we can be being, but we are either on our own cushion, doing our own thing, or we’re out on a mountaintop somewhere, and this is neither. This kind of philosophy is about being together. And one of the things that humans do when we’re together is we speak to one another. And this is not to say the ancient yogis had the best vocabulary for our day, but they did really go deeply into the questions. So the essence of what they were saying I think will remain the same, but the words that we put it in? I think those have to evolve. Because traditions just get created around particular words. And it’s very easy in that scenario…you can master the whole system, but not know what the hell it was really about, and that’s our goal. Our goal is not to be the master of some ancient vocabulary, our goal is to try to tap into the essence of what they were talking about…why they felt compelled to bring forth these words in the first place. And I think people will find that that it’s very pleasant to feel like you’re sharing with somebody at a deep, fundamental and essential level. And I think that’s what satsang was all about. You know, having people talking and meditating at the same time. We’re being and speaking and interacting at the same time. Somehow when those things become separate from one another, we have the scenario you were just talking about with the Western world. We end up with fragmentation. Ultimately, I don’t want to know anything that you can’t also participate in at the moment I know it. The knowledge I’m interested in is where we meet together…in peace.

CS: In peace–the essence of yoga.

 

Post by Cara Sparkman

What We’re Reading – All About Love, by bell hooks

LOVE…what is it exactly?  Is it an outdated archaic idea, a fundamental force of the universe, or an individual act of will? As bell hooks points out in, All About Love (2000), “most people find it hard to define what they mean when they use the word ‘love,’” although we seem to know intuitively how important it is to our wellbeing—to our very survival.  Human beings generally know love as feeling sensations or relationships, but are these experiences the entirety or even the essence of love… or is there more?  hooks’ discussion of this cherished yet complicated concept challenged me, as a yoga practitioner and teacher trainer, to critically examine how I think about and experience love, and how I might bring more of it into the world.

hooks first invited me to, “imagine how much easier it would be…to learn to love if we began with a shared definition.” She then shared the self-aware definition proposed by Dr. Peck in The Road Less Traveled (1978);  he defines love as “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”  This definition immediately struck me as truly unique, making no direct reference to physical-emotional attraction or sentimental feelings. And, it resonated powerfully with my yogic tendencies, not only as a way to recognize love in its infinite manifestations, but as an act of will for spiritual purposes.  I realized at that point, I had often mistaken the experience of love as a strong, spontaneous state of attraction or “cathexis,” with a dedicated loving practice—in much the same way a momentary bliss sensation during yogic meditation may convince us that we have attained Samadhi. Envisioning love as a verb and a choice—involving conscious will and discernment in the service of spiritual intentions—helped me disentangle the notion of love as simply sensation and an active loving practice.

Defining love as a spiritual practice also opened up greater awareness on how I might bring more of it into the world. From this new perspective, love, like yoga, takes the form of disciplined, intentioned action: a series of conscious acts that take us to higher ground. Abuse, violence, manipulation, neglect, and other acts of, what hooks calls, “lovelessness,” can never be part of a loving practice. And feelings of attraction, which may be present, should never be confused with a dedicated practice of love. I can choose to act lovingly. All human beings can consciously choose to practice love. 

By embracing this definition, the idea and experience of love can be transformed: from a feeling that happens to us, to which we may become mindlessly attached, leading us to act in unloving ways; to a potentially healing and uplifting practice that we choose to take up with deliberate and mindful presence in order to foster our own and other’s spiritual Selves.  Love as a self-conscious, disciplined, spiritual practice:  What could be more nourishing, transforming, and empowering for our lives and our world—or more yogic?

Post by Tanja Bisesi