Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tall Tales and Personal Fables

There is a story I sometimes tell myself. It goes like this:

"I was born into a loving family at a time in the world when I could have been anything. I was supposed to be a doctor. For many years I followed the 'right' path and got all the way through the first semester of organic chemistry, when I synthesized green caffeine, decided that I was an abject failure, and gave up on my dreams. Now I teach yoga and am the embarrassment of my family."

Sometimes I tell the story this way:

"I come from a family of healers. I am very fortunate to live and breathe today. Most days I'm lucky enough to make someone laugh. Sometimes I also make them cry. Mostly I help them realize something they had forgotten about themselves. More often they help me remember something I've forgotten about myself."

I think that I might be a good yoga teacher because I've spent a lot of time being really mad at myself. And unnamed political parties and their leaders, various extremists who have strong opinions about my lady-parts, and unknown spam artists who have vulgar suggestions about parts I don't even have. I'm intimately familiar with exactly how imperfect I am. Many voices have shared their explicit commentary about the way that I drive, flirt, sleep, spell 'theatre,' and am crippled by most hours of the morning.

It took me many years to realize that most of these voices were inside my head. My Greek Chorus morosely narrates the most mundane of my daily activities. For a long time I tried to shut them out. I would point the other way "Oh look, cream puffs!" and sneak into my yoga class all put-together and self-righteous. All the shiny stuff without the bitter old baggage.

And those classes sucked.

When bad things happened in my day and I couldn't out-smart the Chorus, I taught a much better class.

After teaching many, many squeaky-clean and polished classes, I realized that students don't come to see the Disney version of me (in fact, they don't come to see me at all). But that they are not served by smiley ceramic mask. They are there because they have their own baggage, strewn haphazardly about their mats, dripping down their chins and ankles. I think they feel safer knowing my demons dance around me in every class.

Sometimes when we dance in the presence of our demons, one slips out the back door.

The melody of the old story fades away and we can hear the faintest notion of a new song. Closer to the truth. Close enough that the lead can say it out loud instead of waiting for the chorus to explain.

Perhaps because their mouths are full of cream puffs.

The power of pure consciousness settles in its own pure nature. ~ The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 4.34