I’m guessing that statistically we’re more likely to be hit by lightning than we are to stick to our New Year’s resolution, yet the ritual of reviewing and renewing our resolve is so great.
I started a new tradition for my own resolutions. I’m renaming them practices.
We can’t fail at practicing, right? But we can fail at a resolution.
Basically, I’m hoping to increase the odds. But for real, framing a resolution as something we have to do is always a disastrous set up.
Practice is something we can pick up any time without threading it through self-judgement or the limited pinhole dichotomy of accomplished or unaccomplished.
My practice in 2018 is asking questions about things I care about deeply. By asking questions to myself, and others, I hope to open new dialogue and learn.
My first question is: How can I practice community?
There are unlimited articles on how to improve our practice of yoga postures, or asanas.
Why not magnify our focus on community? I’ve seen over the years in my own asana practice that learning is more rich and meaningful when I am actively engaged in community.
Here are 10 ways to practice community support this year:
Oh, we sure know how to give, right? We’re givers. We’re yoga lovers and we’re chasing peace.
We’re the first to call “back middle” instead of “shotgun” just to, you know, be a giver.
I’m wondering why it’s easier to give so freely and yet so hard to receive.
Can we practice humility and recognize that all good teachers and students, ask for help.
2. Listen carefully
Author Tim Ferris developed his interview technique by watching his favourite journalists conduct interviews.
He noticed that all of the best, Oprah included I noticed, waited a seemingly unbearable time after a question was answered.
Three or four full seconds would lapse, and then miraculously a gem seemed to emerge.
After hearing this I tried it and watched it work while teaching philosophy at the teacher trainings, or even in conversations with friends.
When we give the speaker a little more space, the thesis arrives, brainstormed at the source, edited internally.
Wisdom is polished by silence.
New York Times writer and author Anand Giridharadas once said:
“I think what’s happened to us is that we’re not committed to each other as a people, so it’s almost like we are in this kind of situation where any disappointment that we encounter in our fellow citizens is like a reason to break up, and any deviation from deeply fulfilling each other as fellow citizens is like a tragedy.
“And part of commitment as a citizen is embracing other people’s dysfunction, and embracing other people’s incompleteness, because you know you have your own.”
Community isn’t only developed in our yoga families, we cultivate it in our school groups, at the water cooler at work, in relationships — anywhere we want to say “‘F’ you, I’m, out of here” if something doesn’t go our way.
I’d like to practice community support unceasingly, and weed my assumptions about others before they take seed and overpower the growth of the good stuff.
I’m Canadian so I wait for a sorry when I feel a sorry is due. But it is so empowering to claim the processing that we need to do on our own instead of waiting for an external pardon.
It’s so damn liberating I wish I had figured it out earlier, and wish I could remember it more readily.
I’m still a fan of “I’m sorry,” but I’m not going to wait for it for a change in my own mental or emotional well being.
And I will always — and only when it is safe of course — give a second and third chance.
Also, the more I see anger or stubbornness arise in myself or students, friends, or family, the more I see that anger traces a straight line back to hurt, usually, especially when anger is habitual, it’s old hurt.
Remembering unseen wounds from mothers, fathers or whomever sure does make it easier to forgive.
5. Believe in magic
Sometimes we practice yoga in its wholeness. Yoga has eight limbs: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, aamadhi.
Sometimes we practice its parts, like breathing consciously (pranayama), sitting in meditation (dharana) or exploring in postures (asana).
In yoga’s wholeness or in its parts, we bear witness to healing, a feeling of deep union, magnificent positive change, vulnerability and other such magic.
Glimpses of understanding our connection with all things, samadhi, arises as an exhausted single mother walks out of the studio renewed knowing she is not alone.
Cultivating magic means cultivating a don’t-know mind, knowing that mystery abounds and magic is happening around us.
When I’m doubting magic or mystery I’ll schedule myself for a walk in the densest forest I can find, with a quiet mind, and notifications off.
Community, especially in a highly caffeinated, overworked, digital age, requires grounding. Full stop.
As you become popular or successful in any somewhat public way, we become vulnerable to projection.
Projection starts with great love but can darken at the speed of light if the slightest misstep or unintentionally hurtful word is offered directly or in passing; a completely innocent email/Facebook comment can turn into viral vitriol.
We were called out publicly on social media on a very well “liked” post for using the word “Moksha,” a sacred concept and turning it into a “corporate giant business.”
It threw Ted and I for a huge loop. First, for having potentially hurt anyone with our choice of the name “Moksha” (our name before Modo) as it came from a place of deep honouring and respect, and second for being called a corporate giant.
It would be easy to get defensive. Instead we sat quietly and took it all in. We are still taking it in.
We grounded down rather than acting out.
I want to do that more.
In community, something you say will be misinterpreted at some point, and if this misunderstanding happens publicly and/or in the digital realm, it can be incredibly destabilizing if you let it be.
But, if you know who you are, and you are grounded in your ideals, and you are living in truth your roots will hold you.
In the yoga tradition living in truth is called satya.
When was I was growing up learning from my teacher Baba Hari Das I always thought of satya as “telling the truth” or listening for the truth. It is this as well.
But Satya is also living in truth. It is a very grounding practice. Let’s support each other in finding our roots and nourishing them.
Trauma is multifaceted, complex and for the most part invisible.
I tell a story at the Modo Yoga teacher trainings to illustrate that “you never know.”
I share a poignant moment when I was teaching a class and a student seemed to roll his eyes at everything I’d say.
I kept thinking, “Man, why does he hate me so much?” At the end of the class I took a breath, conjured up compassion and asked him if I could give him a hug.
He said yes.
After the hug he said, “Thanks. Right before this class I cremated my mother.”
Yes, he looked bitter and angry. Yes, he wasn’t “nice” at the sign-in. He was so very sad. And his lack of friendliness sure had nothing to do with me.
Making assumptions is so human, so easy, and so dangerous.
There is no better place to source our habitual illusory assumptions than in community.
Knowing that hurt is hidden and appears in unlimited ways seems to help me find compassion.
Every Wednesday for the past six years or so, I’ve met with our Modo International team.
We’re a group of eight 500-hour certified yoga teachers who all wear about 10 hat a week.
Last month, Angela, our communications leader, wisely suggested that we change the colours that represent our personal agenda cells in our team meeting spreadsheet.
I found the change so hard, even though I loved the idea of change.
I was used to my old colour, and for the record it wasn’t even a colour I liked all that much. And yet, after another week, poof, change forgotten.
For some, all change is difficult, and for others change is just plain fun.
Change is hard, and yet it is constant. And in community we get to practice change.
We get to witness change as we practice it in every aspect of the yoga. We see change as the start of every transformation.
9. Take action
If you’re pissed off about something, one great place to take action is here, in community.
If you don’t like something about your work community, this community, the global community, then take action to make it change.
If I don’t like the way people plant trees in most carbon offset communities, then it’s my responsibility to find or create something better.
Any time I hinge into blame I see an opportunity to claim, take a breath, act, and change.
The best news is that we’re all here to support each other. We are only activists if we act, and there are unlimited ways to act.
Unlimited ways to call for justice, speak for peace, and act for the health of the earth.
10. Make the circle bigger
We can always be more inclusive. I attend a bi-weekly women’s circle with my neighbours.
When a mom who was putting her kids to bed at the start time, arrived late last week, the circle just naturally opened.
When I witnessed this a couple nights ago, while thinking about you all, this big sweaty community, and this list letter, I thought, “this is what we get to practice in community: making the circle bigger.”
I recall the first studio that created a gender neutral washroom and change space.
I remember the student that first arrived to a class with a prosthetic foot, or speaking American Sign Language.
Welcome we say as we lean in, adjust, learn and shift to engender access.
Diversity arrives, and we shift left, shift right to make the circle bigger.
I hope to practice into the best year we’ve had as a community. Want to do that together?
Let’s practice community support as a way to remember that there is no change too large when support arrives from all directions in sangha.
Let’s rock 2018 for the earth and those whose voices remain on the margins.
Let’s practice and learn and share support in every community we inhabit and share.
Let’s take it all back onto our mats with love and respect for our bodies, our minds, and our spirits.
— so grateful to share this practice, Jess