Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Expansion Contraction

 One of the most basic laws of the Universe is the law of polarity. The law of polarity says that "everything can be separated into two wholly opposite parts, and that each of those still contains the potentiality of the other." And that both are only different expressions of the same thing. That same thing being energy, the Divine, God, however you frame it it is source energy. And everything is made from source energy, particles of stars. The expression of this energy is boundless, and infinite. 
We cannot have day without night, left without right, expansion without contraction or an inhale without an exhale. There is no beginning or end of either, it is cyclical and continuous. We live in a world of duality, a world of positive and negatives, polarizing forces. Nature works this way. Even the way that trees grow. If not for polarizing energy and magnetics, how would the tree draw sap from its roots in spring, and pull nutrients from its limbs in fall?   

We see this in yoga, in the simple expression of a sun salutation. Extension (arms reach up), flexion (forward fold), extension (up dog), flexion (downward dog). In fact, it is this very vinyasa sequence, surya namaskar, that the ancient yogis aimed to connect with the natural rhythms and cycles of nature that they witnessed in their daily experience. The rhythm of day flowing to night, new moon to full moon, and on a much bigger scale the movement of the cosmos. One vinyasa cycle within the other, synchronized. The practice of surya namaskar synched with breath was (and still is) a way to become acutely aware of and tuned into the embodiment of the innate rhythm of the universe.  In this practice, there is potential to experience balance between the two opposites. In fact, this sequence that is practiced by millions today all over the world, is rooted - if not birthed from - tantra yoga. In its essence tantra yoga is the weaving of life; the weaving of our inner and outer experiences as one in the same;  and is conscious embodied experiences that connect us with the divine or God. This post is not an attempt to define tantra yoga, but tantra yoga exemplifies a way to navigate the ebbs and flow - the contractions and expansions - of life as an inevitable rhythm. 

Cosmically, and therefore collectively, we are in a huge contraction phase. We can see this in the alignment of the planets, specifically Saturn conjunct Pluto, and we don't have to look far to see it in nearly all aspects and systems of our life right now. It is no coincidence. Historically speaking the planetary alignments similar to the current chart coincided with major historical events, that as one cosmologist, Richard Tarnas in his book Cosmos and Pysche, says represents a contractive period. Where conflict and violence dominate not just in one locale, but across the globe. Saturn governs authority, solidity, security, tradition, status quo, order and system. Pluto governs the dark shadow and represents transformation. He also says in this book, that periods of contraction are almost always followed by alignments that have repeatedly been creative and innovative. Expansive! 

In this seemingly world of duality, we need to remember that one cannot be separate from the other. Polarizing forces coexist. Just like when day turns to night, the same sun continues to shine on Earth. From the sun's perspective, nothing has changed. So, ultimately reality is non-dual. Duality is a matter of perspective. 

Yoga teaches us that we are always under the influence of the gunas, or the qualities of nature, which includes the opposing, or complimentary, forces of tatvas (inertia) and rajas (action).  We will find ourselves operating from one of those forces at any given moment. The practice can direct us towards sattva, harmony between the extreme fluctuations of tattvas and rajas. This is the space in between. 

The space in between can be mirrored in the heart center, or heart chakra. In fact it is central to our lower and upper halves and energy centers, it is central to left (masculine) and right (feminine) sides of our body, it is central in how we connect emphatically with one another, it is central to compassion. It is central to our electromagnetic field that has immense capacity to expand and hold within it both ends of the spectrum and all the possibilities that have yet to be known. Our heart beat is like the undying steady pulse of the universe. 

Duality is familiar to us. Perhaps, we even find comfort in identifying with one side or other. But what if we identified less with what we know and explore the other side, or multiple sides, without identifying with it or denying it?  This is similar to what the yogis refer to as "riding the waves of the gunas".  

As we can see with the innate rhythms of nature and the planets, it is all cycles within cycles. One continuation from one extreme to the other. Synching to this rhythm is presence, is yoga, is freedom. Pure presence can be expansive for the mind as it is detached from either/or thinking. Pure presence is tapping into the field of potentiality. Here we are more open to receive new ideas, solutions or new ways of thinking and being that are beyond our current familiar dualistic experience. 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Sage Closes

On Tuesday I heard the news that Sage, my beloved yoga studio, was closing permanently. When I read the message from Marisa, tears immediately came. It was a shock to me and to everyone. It's as if a wild fire came through and has burned the house down.

Fire is unforgiving and consumes everything in its path. Fire also provides the heat and energy that change and transformation requires. Fire can be equally beautiful as it provides the light so that we can see in the dark. It is cleansing and purifying - because what is left in its path is fertile ground.

The "house" of Sage has been home to so many. It has been a refuge. A refuge is considered a place of safety, a place of shelter and protection from external stressors, be it environmental, societal, cultural or economical. A place of refuge offers a unique opportunity to have all the basic needs taken care of, providing the freedom to explore the interior space of the Self, the spiritual heart, without the normal distractions of life. In the space of refuge we can operate less from our ego and more from the heart. Without a doubt, Sage has been a true refuge. 

A physical space dedicated to spiritual practices certainly nurtures refuge in an immediate way. It makes it easier to access the heart when coming from work, from being with the kids all day, from the street and traffic, from confrontation with daily life. When I walk into the studio at Sage, I exhale, I let go of everything else outside of me. I am grounded. I feel protected. I am free.

Sage has been a hub of the great wheel of yoga in our community for nearly a decade. I recall sitting with Marisa, Heather Earl, Kendra Womack and Mark Ickes discussing and envisioning a yoga studio and center in Boise. There was nothing like it in Boise at that time. All of us at that table felt the void and the ripe potential for it. Our shared passion for yoga was bursting, and we wanted to create something for the community to represent the diversity of yoga and to provide a safe and welcoming space for yoga. Marisa and Heather took a leap of faith and made it happen. Sage was born. Since, it has grown into a mature banyan tree where new roots drip from it's branches.

Sage is a good representation of the yoga tree of life. Roots as deep and as wide as the limbs above. Diverse expansive branches that express the different pathways that all lead to the same place - self- realization, awakening, consciousness, bliss. Marisa has welcomed all branches, all walks of life, and she has provided a space for teachers to be who they are. To teach authentically. In so doing, students feel welcome to be who they are. This is yoga. A dissolution of the perceived boundaries that reinforce separation. The openness and freedom that Marisa innately planted as a virtue at Sage yields to the unseen mysterious unfolding and continuous evolution of yoga. We are the evolution of yoga. We are not simple observers of yoga, its history, its practices, its philosophy and its future as a separate thing that we "do".  We are yoga. Because yoga is personal, as it is universal. Yoga is the observer and observed influenced by one another; and is the weaving, the thread and the tapestry. Marisa, the teachers, the students of Sage have demonstrated this beautifully.  With Marisa's arms spread wide, holding the container, Sage organically ran itself because of each teacher, student, check-in staff, therapists came with integrity, dedication and selfless service to some higher good that we all aspire for.

Yoga calls on us in many ways. An advanced practitioner of yoga is acutely aware of her surroundings, is present to what is (whether it is pain or pleasure, difficulty or ease), while holding the pose - seated meditation, warrior, savasana or holding the metaphorical pose of life - while still being able to take a deep breath; and continues to sharpen her sword of discernment that severs truth from untruth. A leader is unafraid to honor truth, has courage to face adversity head on, to pivot to unpredictable change and forge a new path. When the house is on fire, a courageous brave leader runs into the house and does what she can to put the fire out. Sometimes the fire is too wild and big, and it takes the courage of million hearts to standby and witness the blaze, to let go and surrender to that which is beyond human capacity to control.

I believe Marisa has shown this to us in her teachings, her establishment of the space, and creating the opportunities for us all to practice together - classes, workshops, trainings, YogaFort to name a few. And she has done it with such grace and admiration.

The closing of Sage is another great unfortunate loss that we are experiencing as a result of the pandemic. I am sure we will see more in the second half of this year and into 2021. It is heartbreaking and devastating to say the least. It is beyond any control. Like Marisa said, it is impossible to keep a business afloat while being closed. As a small business owner, I too have been struggling for the last three months - opening, closing, opening with 50% less capacity - and managing the stress and anxiety that comes with not knowing when it will end, as debt accrues.

There are many "houses" on fire right now. No one and no system is exempt from this crisis, including yoga. All of us, all systems that we have been operating under are either being dismantled, dissolved, uprooted or exposed.  We need to remember that we are all doing the best we can each day as we navigate through the flames and the falling structures. We need to remember the sacred ash that fire leaves in its wake is a rich medium for new life to emerge. Then it will be time to plant the dormant seeds into the ash and compost of 2020. But we have to be patient and wait for the massive amounts of shit to be further broken down into soil. This is the great letting go of everything.

If we are the lucky ones who have the time to practice, we keep up with the practice - wherever we can - so that we can stay mentally and emotionally afloat. That sense of refuge we felt at Sage, we can cultivate in our own little spaces, in our homes, with our family, children, partners, friends, and even more so in our hearts. I will carry forward the many gifts I received from Sage and from Marisa to be transmuted into whatever or wherever yoga takes me, while asking, what wants to be regenerated and birthed from this experience?

Words cannot express how much gratitude I have for Marisa and the Sage community. Thank you to every student who came, whom I had the privilege to share that beautiful space with. I am who I am today because of all you.