The Path To Bodhichitta

You start where you are, the practice will meet you there.

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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Monday, November 26, 2007

My Old Friend

PDN uttered a beautiful phrase today.

We were all in pada hasthasana, trying to serenely focus on our breath and alignment instead of our screaming hamstrings. PDN weaved between our folded bodies, calling out instructions. Then, as he instructed us to move deeper into the pose, he said;

"Be mindful of your alignment. Don't let your ego bring your stomach closer to your knees by moving all your weight to your heels."

I don't know if those words struck the other students the way they did me, but those words glued themselves in my mind until I sat down at my laptop.

The ego. My ever present invisible partner in my practice. Sometimes it sits at the sidelines and chuckles at my valiant efforts, other times it forces me beyond my physical capabilities. But most of the time, it gets a good telling off and is sent out of the room so I can practice in peace.

When PDN addressed my old friend, I smiled inwardly. And for the rest of the class, that old friend stood outside, its nose pressed against the glass, watching as I practiced yoga my way.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Life & Death

A fat gust of wind just sped through my life, whipping a whole month from beneath my nose, without me even realising it. Christmas - my favourite time of the year - is doing a merry jig around the corner and the new year will soon be rolling out of bed for its Welcome Back party. It's startling how fast this year as gone by, but at the same time, it's a good sign. You know what they say about time flying when one's having fun!

Anyway, the whirlwind that bear hugged me this past month brought about both death and rebirth. The death is a choice, the rebirth a surprise. So even as I gratefully reach out for the latter, I am already mourning the former.

Lately, attending PDN's class has been like waiting for your favourite dessert. But to understand why that is such a big deal, I have to rewind to the period between returning from the ashram and a few months back. After the ashram, I threw myself into teaching. Three classes a week, painstakingly labouring over each sequence days before each one. Devouring as many articles I could on asanas and gobbling up every new tidbit that fell from another teacher's lips. Once I developed my own style, I relaxed and enjoyed teaching even more. But one thing suffered from this progression - my personal practice. While I ceased attending PDN's classes, I managed to slip infrequent bouts of home practice. Like an anorexic, I subsisted on this measly diet for a while before things started splitting at the seams.

My teaching hit a plateau, I began losing inspiration and found myself dragging my feet to class. Shocked and ashamed at this sudden change, I tried valiantly to pull myself together, convincing myself that it was just a phase I was going through. About the same time, I hesitantly returned to PDN's classes. It was hard in the beginning. Like starting all over again. Then, like suddenly recognising a long lost lover, I remembered again. All the reasons why I had reached this stage in my yoga journey. And then, with a sinking heart, I admitted what I really wanted to do. I wanted to be a student again. I didn't want to be a teacher...for a while. The joy I felt from standing in front of a class was nothing compared to joy I felt from being part of one.

The rebirth of my love for learning collided with the death of my love for teaching. Well, perhaps death is too strong a word. I'm certain I will return to teaching in near future but for now, the only fair thing to do (for both my students and I) is for me to take a little break. To continue teaching right now would be like trying to cook a six course meal over a lit match. They are hungry and I can't feed them with enough to satiate that appetite.

I'm sad, yes. But I'm also relieved that I no longer have to face the guilt that accompanies the reluctance to teach each week. I'm taking a little detour in my journey but I know I will return to the path soon and with more goodies in my backpack!