The Beauty in the Same
I remember once watching Baba Hari Das, then a long time teacher of mine, quietly build a rock wall. I was sitting far away so he didn’t see me. It was early morning and he was alone. Watching an 80 year old slowly lift massive rock after rock and patiently find the right fit for each particular stone was deeply impactful for me.
Babaji, as we called him, took a vow of silence in his 20s and chooses this as his yogic path even today into his 90s. Aside from practicing purna mauna, full silence, he has a deep pranayama practice and teaches through his translations of the classical Sanskrit texts, read worldwide. His teachings inspired his students in myriad ways – a group founded the Mount Madonna Centre in California, an orphanage in India (link) and the Salt Spring Island Centre. He inspired me to share yoga not as a side dish to academics and activism, but as a teacher, a studio owner, and now full time yogini.
On our Studio Owner community page, an owner shared a comment from a disgruntled new student who was shocked and frustrated at how all the teachers offered ‘the SAME THING!’ The content of the comment was something anyone that practices any form of japa (repetition) hears – whether it be in Moksha Modo or any other tradition that shares the tradition of going deep through repetition (Ashtanga, Bikram, Sivananda, Meditation, Mindfulness etc.). It’s common to hear – don’t you get tired of saying the SAME mantra? of watching your breath? of doing the same postures?! So, it wasn’t the content of the comment that struck me but the tone – one of utter frustration leaning into angry accusation. The underlying message was that she wasn’t getting what she paid for if the classes had the same postures every time.
All yoga teachers, and many yoga students know that yoga is dedicated work that builds an ability to find stillness. In our community our shared vision is to offer peace, and in offering peace we bring an opportunity for everyone to communicate and create from their own true nature. It is no small feat to bring this to one person, so bringing this to an entire community is a valiant goal, no joke to be sure!
Yoga is barreling at warp speed from its place in history as a spiritual practice toward an ‘industry’ or a ‘commodity’ and explaining peace is increasingly challenging. 15 years ago, or even as recent as 5 years ago, the repetition question was one of true inquiry. Today our nervous systems are so ramped up for ‘NEW!NEW!NEW!’ (new post, new ‘like’, new sound, new posture new! new!) that a practice containing repetition in some ways is becoming a very necessary challenge. Where else in this fast-paced world do we get to practice and gain skills to deal with a life where deep intimacy is born of the banal, the every day, and the repetitive dreaded ‘same.’ This ‘same’ appears to us every day in our jobs, in life with our partners, friends, parents, and our children. Finding freshness and Sukha (‘sweetness’ or the opposite of ‘suffering) in the ‘same’ gives us a key to unlocking limitless joy and rich learning.
I am grateful for the Facebook post and to this brave student for voicing that thought, because although the tone is rare, it may be an interesting mindfulness bell to foster more dialogue with teachers and students around reiterating why we offer a practice that confronts our desire for constant change.
The Annual General Meeting of studio owners is around the corner. Each year we choose a theme to guide our Co-Creating, Learning, and the fun we have at this community gathering of hearts and minds. This year our theme is inspired by the book Start with the Why. Behind the ‘what’ of the series that we offer, sits the ‘why.’ Bringing every Moksha Modo student to their fullest potential, and ourselves as well, is at the core of our vision. Arriving at this essential core means facing the challenge of finding newness in same. It is a challenge worth working for even if it is slow process, moving one rock at a time. The continuation of this effort creates a community, fosters a commitment to curiosity and brings about lasting peace which like an ancient stone wall, endures the storm of this beautiful, flawed, ever-changing and inspiring world.
I salute the lasting change you bring to your communities during Grow Your Yoga. Thank you to every single Grow Your Yoga participant, and those that are supporting partners, friends, and family to take the challenge and link practice to action. By taking part and supporting this practice you are all building your own rock walls, and being the rock for so many in so many ways.
I hope I get to meet you along the way for a good old yoga hug.
Photo courtesy of Dan Noon