Free Talk on the Science of Willpower

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I will be giving an engaging FREE talk on The Science of Willpower:  How to stick with your highest aspirations through the holidays and beyond! at Vitamin Cottage / Natural Grocers (100 W South Boulder Road, Lafayette, CO 80026) on Tuesday, December 5th from 6:00-7:30pm!

If you’ve ever wondered why making New Year’s Resolutions is so easy and keeping them is so difficult, you’re not alone.  In this interactive seminar, we will look at willpower from the perspectives of both modern neuroscience and ancient Vedic wisdom.  The lecture will be interspersed with experiential exercises to help the material to come alive, and questions and comments will be entertained.

Jen Peters holds a BA from Columbia University and an MA from Princeton specializing in Neuroscience, and she is currently completing her 2nd MA in Mindfulness-based Transpersonal Counseling at Naropa University.  Jen is the Affordable Counseling Intern at Community Holistic Health Center in Lafayette, where she works with individuals, couples and groups.  She is also a yoga teacher at Ashtanga Yoga Denver and the founder of Jungle Physician LLC, offering interdisciplinary writings, teachings, coaching and counseling in the Denver-Boulder area as well as internationally. After becoming seriously ill from biotoxin exposure several years ago, Jen began to investigate every holistic healing modality she could, and draws on her experience to empower others on their own individual journeys with skill, knowledge and compassion.  She implements Eastern and Western approaches and blends the creative and analytic to build a safe and effective space in which to explore what is possible.

https://www.naturalgrocers.com/nutrition-and-health/events/events-calendar/the-science-of-willpower/

WOMEN’S SEXUALITY GROUP: registration is now open!

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Women's Process Group

Thank you for your interest in this exciting group to be offered 4 consecutive Wednesday evenings from 5:30-7:00pm at Community Holistic Health Center (409 S Public Rd, Lafayette, CO 80026).  The dates for the group will be: November 29, December 6, 13, 20.  Preference will be given to participants who can commit to attending at least 3 of the 4 classes.  This course is offered on a donation basis, so please consider your current financial situation and the usual cost of such workshops and give what you can.  100% of donations go to the non-profit Community Holistic Health Center, where we will be meeting. 

This group welcomes women looking to explore how sexuality can enrich all aspects of life.  We will bolster ourselves with education that is sorely lacking in our cultural milieu and engage in approachable mindfulness exercises to help us tune in to what we most want and need whatever our age, health status, or living situation may be.  We will hold a safe and confidential space where it is ok to be vulnerable, inquire, experiment, and share when you are ready (but not one second before)!

I (Jen Peters, MA, registered psychotherapist, counseling intern at CHHC, yogini and former neuroscientist) have found tremendous healing and inspiration in releasing the limited identities and baggage I inherited from a long line of ancestors and acquired through culture, religion and various impactful experiences throughout my lifetime. I am constantly reinventing myself into a more congruous and authentic process that reflects my current values, understanding and aspirations.  

As women, our nervous systems (and souls) are exceptionally sensitive to attitudes and behaviors directed at our bodies.  By studying the science behind this and supporting each other, we can learn to move forward boldly, consciously and unapologetically turned on!  When we are in touch with our core essence, we are able to bring our brightest, clearest and most fiercely compassionate selves forward into a world that badly needs us.

Our group will be limited to 10 participants, so if you would like to take part, please register soon by going to my contact page.   In the comments section, jot down a couple of ideas about what you hope to gain from this group, and if you’d like, feel free to briefly share any hopes or fears that come up for you around this.  I will let you know about the status of your registration within 48 hours.  Looking forward to this!  🙂  Please share this opportunity with other women who may be interested.

Registration Open for GRIEF, LOSS & TRANSITIONS Group

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Mondays 5_30-7_00pmNov. 27th - Dec. 18thInvestment_ by DonationLimited to 10 peopleRegistration at junglephysician.com

Thank you for your interest in this supportive group to be offered 4 consecutive Monday evenings from 5:30-7:00pm at Community Holistic Health Center (409 S Public Rd, Lafayette, CO 80026).  The dates for the group will be:  November 27, December 4, 11, 18.  Preference will be given to participants who can commit to attending at least 3 of the 4 meetings.  This course is offered on a donation basis, so please consider your current financial situation and the usual cost of such workshops and give what you can.  100% of donations go to the non-profit Community Holistic Health Center, where we will be meeting. 

This group is intended for anybody who would like support with grief, loss or transition. Whether you have lost a loved one or face difficulties, uncertainty, change, injury or illness in your own life, you are welcome to join us in being yourself and allowing your feelings, whatever they may be, to arise and be met with compassion.

So often those around us do their best to be comforting and helpful, but fail to be with us in the ways we truly need.  At other times, we may feel totally alone in our suffering.  Perhaps most draining is when we end up trying to take care of those around us without giving ourselves or receiving from others the deep care and love that we all need.  So often, society prescribes how we “should” feel in certain situations (and for how long), but that doesn’t match our own experience at all.  Or maybe we are grieving something others simply cannot fathom, yet it touches us to the core.  In this group, we will create a safe and confidential space where you are asked to come as you are, cry or laugh, share your story or listen, and allow yourself to be held and nurtured by community.

I (Jen Peters, MA, registered psychotherapist and counseling intern at CHHC) am drawn to lead this group having dealt with a chronic illness caused by biotoxin exposure for the past several years that profoundly changed my lifestyle, financial situation, abilities, hopes and dreams.  The constant pressure I felt to carry on as if nothing had changed nearly destroyed me many times over, and most of all I longed to be with others who understood that some situations are not simply waiting to be fixed or going away any time soon.  Some experiences are deeply painful and confusing and those of us who are able to recognize that and stay with the discomfort can move through them at our own pace and eventually gain great insight.  With support, we can access different planes of profound healing.  We do not need to struggle through this process by ourselves.

This is a group for those of us facing the frightening but also somehow inspiring reality that we are not going to live forever and looking to make the most of the days we have left.

Our group will be limited to 10 participants, so if you are interested, please register soon by going to my contact page.   In the comments section, please write a couple of sentences about why you are interested in this group, and if you’d like, feel free to briefly share any hopes or fears that come up for you around this.  I will let you know about the status of your registration within about 48 hours!  Looking forward to meeting you soon…  Please share this with others you feel might benefit as well.

Registration Open for MINDFULNESS + PURPOSE Course

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Thank you for your interest in this exciting group to be offered 6 consecutive Wednesday evenings from 5:30-7:00pm at Community Holistic Health Center (409 S Public Rd, Lafayette, CO 80026).  The dates for the course will be:  October 11, 18, 25 and November 1, 8, 15.  Preference will be given to participants who can commit to attending at least 5 of the 6 classes.  This course is offered on a donation basis, so please consider your current financial situation and the usual cost of such workshops and give as generously as you can to the non-profit Community Holistic Health Center, where we will be meeting. 

This will be a small and intimate group intended for those of us who have begun to get a sense that a new way of being in the world is possible, one that stems from compassion and interconnectedness, one that allows us to make our unique and tremendously important contributions to life.  This is not a career seminar, though sculpting our purpose and delving into what truly inspires us may indeed influence our work as well.

We will engage in a variety of approachable mindfulness exercises to get in touch with our core essence and also a number of experiential exercises designed by Rod Stryker, Bill Burnett, Dave Evans and others to gain access to what motivates us and what specific and special gifts we have to offer.  We will have frequent check-ins in the larger group as well as partner work, which will allow community to support us in unraveling obstacles and becoming accustomed to new ways of thinking and being.

Above all, we will be upholding a safe space where it is ok to experiment, try on new selves and attitudes, be vulnerable, and not feel any pressure to do anything right or well!  This is all about exploring with others who care and are willing to do the same thing.  Nobody will be pressured to share anything before they are ready, but together we will begin to face the fear that invariably shows up around the unfamiliar and unknowable.

I (Jen Peters, MA, registered psychotherapist and counseling intern at CHHC) am drawn to lead this group because I am constantly in the process of reinventing myself and updating my actions as new insights and necessities arise.  I feel an urgency in the atmosphere today from others who are trying to do the same.  I have always felt a bit alone in this venture.  So many people seem to be born to do a certain job, follow the American dream and live happily ever after, or at least, they thoroughly invest in appearing to do so.  For me and many of my closest colleagues and friends, it seems to be a bit more complicated…!

In my first four decades I have seriously pursued music, literature, neuroscience, yoga, meditation and psychotherapy, and I have been shaped by international travel, chronic illness, inspiring beings, and the increasingly difficult circumstances all Earthlings are facing at the moment.  It is not easy to find the common thread and crystallize a purpose that gives momentum to our most heartfelt aspirations, but consideration of this topic has been one of the most meaningful and practical activities I have found, and I would love to be there for others looking to do the same in their own ways.

Our group will be limited to 8 participants, so if you are interested, please register soon by going to my contact page and giving the following information:  1. your full name and 2. a couple of sentences about why you are interested in this group, and if you’d like, feel free to briefly share any hopes or fears that come up for you around this.  I will let you know about the status of your registration within about 48 hours!  Looking forward to this!  🙂

Moving “authentically” in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga

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“An authentic movement is in and of the Self at the moment it is done.  Nothing is in it that is not inevitable, simple.  When it is authentic, I can almost tell you what is coming next.  When I see somebody move authentically, it is so real that it is undiluted by any pretense or any appearance or images.  Often, it can be the movement of just one hand turning over, or it can be the whole body.  To get to this authenticity sacrifice is involved.  At first it is a discovery of all of the tricks, needs and demands that separate you from what would be genuine in yourself.  Then after you have discovered what this trick is and what it prevents, it must be sacrificed, as must each subsequent one as it is discovered.  The reality of impulse and movement come from such a different place in oneself that when it is experienced, the person comes to know when it is there and when it isn’t, and then she can stop cheating.  What I call ‘cheating’ would be the personal arrangement of movement on many levels…”  Mary Starks Whitehouse in Authentic Movement: Essays by Mary Starks Whitehouse, Janet Adler and Joan Chodorow

MSW is speaking about a therapeutic form in which a client is witnessed as he or she begins to move in whatever manner feels right at that moment, a conscious exploration of sensations and impulses.  The form is thus intended to be completely free and unfabricated, at times highly idiosyncratic and steeped in layers of emotion.  Much more would need to be said to do this kind of practice justice, but what I would like to address here is how much we need this kind of attitude even within a seemingly prescribed movement sequence such as Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.

The polarity often discussed in Authentic Movement is that of moving and being moved.  Any of us who have tried yoga have worked on the moving part, the purposeful arrangement of the body and use of various techniques and theories.  Only the most elite masters seem to have grasped the being moved part, which is evident when you see them practice, though many of us have no doubt had at least some moments where we become possessed in this way.  Like Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, you are not the Doer.  However, most of us on some level feel we are and we look like we are when we get down on the mat…  No, it is not about looks in the end, however, we can also feel that something is missing when we are not completely attuned to the deepest aspects of our being.

Many Ashtangis will jump to say, “Yes, that is why we have always said Iyengar yoga (focused on alignment) sucks,” but this is not at all what I mean (I love it).  The body actually wants to move in an organic way, yet unless we sense into every split-second of the movement, we lose this flow and replace it with top-down or automated dictatorship.  You cannot really have one side without the other, also talked about in the 2-fold yoga path described by Patanjali as abhyasa-vairagya.  If we do not get the body in the vicinity of brilliant alignment where natural impulses can actually function, they are unable to work efficiently for us, (and these inner impulses seem to involve a great deal more than simply squeezing the anus, which is all the glory internal form is given in some circles…)  Likewise, deity visualizations and anatomical/kinesiological understanding can help our body to start to move in the ways that will feel most liberating.  We may try to understand what it means to allow the pelvic floor or “mula bandha” organize the pose, or let the breath do the work, but in order for this to happen, we need to listen so deeply and carefully (and continuously), setting the stage and sending the invitations, and finally allowing those impulses to direct us or perform for us when they actually show up.

For me, and I think for most of us, this involves relinquishing a great deal of cognitive control.  So many of us are in lock-down, totally wedded to a form we have imagined or seen in a book or another practitioner.  My teacher always jokes that it’s like he’s teaching in a morgue!  Our minds have gotten the body so stuck that the breath and life are choked right out of us.  We are not likely to look for the authentic movement going into poses or staying in poses, where so much magic can take place.  There are infinite numbers of transformations possible for however long we are in a pose.  This might simply involve micro movements and fine tuning, finding more dignity within a contortion, or at times becoming more contorted in order to feel certain other polarities.  Sometimes it might be stillness, which reveals its opposite and background.  It’s a dance, though it might not look like any kind of dance we have ever seen, nor will it ever happen in the same way again.  Just as we are all composed of waves and spirals, so too the body enjoys moving, which is strangely alien to the ego, who wants us to have a solid identity and just stick the pose “right” and move on to the next victory without feeling into the vast and groundless reality that there is no end to any pose, nor to us for that matter.

In asana, as in life, we follow the prescription, do the forms as obedient little students, and miss out on the real juice.  If we managed to tune in for even a few moments, we would start to feel the emotional and archetypal energy in our bodies and simultaneously feel the immense relief and freedom of total embodiment.  My teacher always says that if we could pay attention for even 2 seconds, we would fall into the central channel (Sushumna Nadi) and experience great insight.  It is humbling to truly inquire into whether we have ever managed to pay close attention for any amount of time at all in our practices.

If the central channel opens, it is said that core sensations are unleashed at an intensity our distraction usually keeps at bay.  Our protective ego structure would rather keep us out of this experience of the Self.  It would rather keep us in our reductive stories and limited beliefs and behaviors, which are safer and far less gratifying.  However, somehow we know we are missing something.  We naturally seek out intense experiences that will allow us to get a taste for this true absorption, anything short of which leaves us feeling like phony shells of our true potential.

Later in the same chapter, MSW speaks about simply becoming more aware of our tendencies, constrictions and ways of posturing ourselves, how we sit, shake hands, etc.  All of this will be reflected in our asana practice.  We move as the mass of habits we have become over the years, in most cases far more inhibited than when we came into this world as children.  As soon as we start to truly tune in to whatever we are doing, we will start to feel something asking us to adjust, or leading our attention to some aspect that was previously being kept out of our awareness.  In fact we might be shocked to find that we have been slouching in an incredibly uncomfortable position for hours!  Many of us torture ourselves throughout our practice as well, zoned out to the sensations until they become intolerably excruciating.

Of course, so many spiritual paths converge on the view that future suffering can and should be avoided.  Looking into our being and discovering needless restrictions, rules, layers of conditioning, shame, guilt, whatever else keeps us feeling stuck, allows us moments of relief when we can let go of some of the needless tensions, involuntary recoiling and brainy rigidity that make certain we have to keep striving and struggling rather than just being and actually letting so many things take care of themselves, as they truly will when we are alert enough to get out of the way.  At the same time, when we notice we are suffering and no easy solution appears, we do not take the attitude of whitewashing over it without listening.  We hold it as we would a baby who has begun to cry and needs our tenderness.  We start to discover who we really are, far more capable and vulnerable than we may ever have realized.

I find it extremely helpful personally to do Authentic Movement practices with their apparent lack of form.  They have helped me to begin to see how even within form, there is so much openness and freedom.  (The Heart Sutra comes to mind…)  In addition, allowing the body to go where it wants without censorship quickly throws up in one’s face all kinds of repressed shadow material.  Suddenly I might find myself acting out some kind of sequence that feels highly willful, primitive, seductive, furious or whatever else I might hide from polite society.  Repression will show up in yoga and inhibit everything from the breath to range of motion and might even cause pain and illness.

Making friends with those aspects of myself that nobody else is befriending allows for an experience of unconditional love that we rarely find in our daily life (and it is particularly powerful, not to mention healing, if there is a witness in Authentic Movement or a teacher in yoga who has explored her own depths and who is comfortable with the irreducibility of the self and awesome complexity of the universes, to be there with you as you explore in this intimate way).  The practice has helped me to start to crack my own heart open and have some self-compassion for all of the components that seem to make up “me” at any given time, and to give them what they need when I can and be with them when I can’t.  Slowly I start to see that being with myself this way helps me to be with others.

Shankaracharya has said that true yogis serve (rather than “do”) mula bandha.  On some level, in an Authentic Movement practice or and authentic Ashtanga practice, we are always asking how we can best serve our bodies and other aspects of our being.  In that way, we are continuously confronted with whatever we might have overlooked, be it physical, emotional, or on some other plane.  Ultimately we can see limitless freedom even within the boundaries of a certain yoga pose or transition, and in acknowledging this mystery, we are naturally drawn to look closely again and again and feel into each crevice of our being, allowing very profound feelings and sensations to emerge and meet our warm and kind acceptance.  This is how the practice is becoming increasingly meaningful for me.  It requires a very different attitude than I was used to, so much sensitivity and love, but it’s rewarding immediately, even in the earliest phases of implementation.

Practicing in this way we cannot avoid our humanity, aloneness and interconnectedness.  Sometimes what we feel is not at all pleasant, and sometimes it is pure bliss.  At any rate, it’s prana, and when we feel this pulsation, life becomes more lively.

Meditation & Gathering for Peace

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Hi Friends, I’d like to invite you to an intentional peace & community gathering tomorrow morning, Sunday November 13th, at 11:15am (after Mysore practice 9-11am) at Ashtanga Yoga Denver. We will learn and practice metta meditation (loving kindness) and chant a mala of lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu‘s (roughly translated as “may all beings be happy/free”). Afterwards we will have time to discuss our hopes, fears and plans for action, perhaps opting to head out into the neighborhood for coffee or lunch together. Looking forward to seeing you there and embracing our obligation to change the course of history for the better. Families welcome!  Bring your friends and your favorite cushion to sit on.  The event is free, however, I’m thinking it would be nice to choose an organization such as the ACLU in case anybody feels moved to donate.

Ashtanga 3rd & 4th Series Video

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Hi friends, hope you enjoy this video of my shoot with Liana Romulo assisted by Regina Cannon at Ashtanga Yoga Denver. These two series have a very special place in my heart as they have been very healing for me. One often sees this kind of practice implicated in injury and I’d like to share a different kind of experience. I learned 3rd & 4th during the past three years while recovering from a chronic inflammatory condition brought about by excessive and prolonged biotoxin exposure that began several years before. Although I have had to employ every means available to get well, including prescription medications and every ancient and new-age remedy I could get my hands on, this practice has been at the root of my desire to heal and has supported me on that journey, which continues to this day. 

I’m grateful to have practiced these series in an atmosphere of non-judgmental respect for the body as well as my true nature. Whereas I see many naive teachers placing undue emphasis on striving, perfection and athleticism, I was extremely lucky to learn from Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor, who helped me to focus on internal forms and gradually let go of some of the driven attitudes that had propelled me up to that point.  When I practice, I have warm memories of them being there for me, and that has made it easier for me to do the same for myself.  It is nearly impossible to move forward without accepting where we are first…  We had so many occasions to joke about the awkwardness of some of these poses, and at times, when all I could do was lay over a bolster and cry or sleep, I felt a tremendous dose of compassion from them that made me certain that I needed to pull through and begin to develop that sacred presence for the sake of others.

I feel fortunate that I have always done a variety of styles of yoga and had creative teachers who have encouraged me to find optimal alignment, organic movement and the right outlook, all of which are indispensible for a safe and enjoyable practice that can last a lifetime. There are plenty of sources of injury in life, so we do not need asana to fulfill that role! Of course there will be the inevitable tweaks and soreness, and we’ll get banged up from going about our daily business and have to deal with it on the mat (I have had tons of pain due to inflammation from diet and disease that required extensive modifications of my practice), but pathological pain from cranking ourselves aggressively in yoga feels different, and I hope all practitioners will hone their intuition and that teachers will respect that. We have the potential to discover so much of value about ourselves and others through this practice. May we continue to explore what matters most and act on it!

Exciting new classes begin 9/4!

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I’m thrilled to be offering a weekly mini-workshop followed by satsang as well as 2 new Mysore classes!  I’ve been looking forward to sharing in this kind of teaching format for years and feel so grateful for the opportunity.  Please see Group Classes for schedules.  See you there — Ashtanga Yoga Denver  🙂  Class descriptions:

Ashtanga Smorgasbord is a detail- and fun-oriented mini-workshop with a unique focus every week featuring postures with relevant variations drawn from the traditional series for exploration and adventure.  Each well-rounded session will delve into breath, bandha, alignment and attitude that together open the door to an asana practice that increasingly encompasses all 8 limbs of the Ashtanga system.  Ancient yoga scriptures assert that when we keep our attention in the core of the body mixing technique and counter-technique “to taste,” we unleash nothing short of a flood of nectar, so come on an empty stomach, ready for feasting!  This is a perfect way to reinvigorate and intensify your existing Mysore or other vinyasa practice while tailoring it intelligently and compassionately to your body and life circumstances.  Some experience recommended.

Satsang is a gathering intended to foster a sense of community and provide space for inquiry into contemplative practices, their contexts and their integration into our everyday lives.  We will begin each session with some silence followed by chanting, kirtan and/or instruction and discussion based on pertinent texts and topics brought up by the group.  Practice takes us into realms where interdisciplinary study can be enriching, venturing anywhere from Neuroscience to Psychotherapy to the Arts.  Keeping good company is said to be one of the most powerful means to deepen spiritual practice.  By sharing our enthusiasm as well as our challenges, we will build skills and discover support to access our most authentic Self and bring that realization into the world.  All are welcome, free of charge.

Mysore combines the very best aspects of private instruction (individualized attention and customization of the practice to meet your needs and goals), group classes (energy and inspiration gained from practicing in the companionship of others), and home practice (focused attention and personal accountability for your own path).  Students go at their own pace under the supervision of the instructor, arriving when they wish and finishing by the end time listed.  Six series entice us with unending challenges glimmering on the horizon while real life intervenes with plenty of opportunities to let go and learn to work with the inevitable obstacles and beautiful realities of embodiment.  No experience necessary.

When a Teacher isn’t Right for Us

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Buddha garden at Upaya Zen Center. Photo by Jen

“It’s a simple answer, truly. If a teacher’s behavior causes you more conflict than you’re capable of practicing with, it’s better to leave. It’s better to leave. There has to be a fit between a teacher’s behavior and your capacity to handle and negotiate that behavior while still seeing it as a transformative tool.” Georg Feuerstein in The Guru Question: The Perils and Rewards of Choosing a Spiritual Teacher by Mariana Caplan

This is a very important point.  So often we are told that we should cultivate equanimity in yoga, and it can seem as if sticking it out in a bad situation is heroic or character-building.  We may believe the situation will improve with our devotion or that our karma bank will be filled up by our efforts.  We may badly want to remain a part of a certain spiritual community.  We may have a hundred good things to say about the teacher and only a few bad ones.  It all depends how aversive the situation becomes and whether we have the internal and external support to take something positive from the circumstances.

In my own opinion based on a few previous experiences of mine and stories shared by other students and teachers, this attitude that we should take whatever comes as a teaching can be quite dangerous.  Ultimately, yes.  However, while we are practicing we are especially vulnerable, or at least, we should be.  We have the incredibly precious opportunity to become intimate with the breath and to open up the core of the body and nervous system, bringing up our conditioning, memories, and sometimes very powerful sensations, feelings and emotions.  If we are constantly tensing in a state of hyper-vigilance due to negativity or some other kind of instability in the relationship with the teacher or others in the room, we can easily exacerbate patterns of fear and reactivity.  Sometimes this is just not worth it…  The practice is supposed to be liberating!

There are dozens of tales of people making monumental strides on the path with very controversial or even apparently unethical teachers.  These people must somehow have been thoroughly convinced of their path and the teacher’s importance in their lives.  Personally, I would have to admit that studying with an incompatible teacher and benefitting from it is more of an advanced practice than I am capable of at this point on my journey.  For incompatibilities to arise, it is not at all necessary that the teacher be a psychopathic demon.  In fact, the teacher may be very well-intentioned, knowledgeable, and adored by throngs of students, or even greatly loved and admired by you.  If you, however, feel there is a mis-match that is severely interfering with your practice, please do not suppress or disregard your intuition.  It’s your life and practice!

The recent talk of trauma-informed yoga is a nice start (see also a previous post about relational healing), but no teaching environment is safe for the student unless the student can, at least to some extent, trust the teacher.  This does not mean blindly doing everything the teacher says, nor is this simply a cognitive decision.  You may convince yourself that everything is just fine (and outwardly there may be no danger at all), but if you feel strongly otherwise on another level to the point of being distracted and distressed, it’s time to consider other options.

Both the teacher and student are involved in this process of trusting.  More important than the teacher’s technical prowess, I would say, is his or her ability to be open and honest, putting ego and desire to use the student for personal gain as far aside as possible, listening and observing with care, taking feedback from the student seriously and not invalidating his or her experience.  The student is the one inhabiting the body, and pain (mental, spiritual or physical) should not be dismissed as lightly as it often is.  It can come up for many reasons, and we must work with students to discover its nature and what if anything can be done about it and first and foremost, how we can best be with things as they are.  A little presence (without trying to manipulate the situation or turning yoga into a self-improvement farce) goes a long way!  As teachers, we need to be a great deal more humble and recognize the great variety of personality types and backgrounds that come through the shala door, while still doing our best to point out students’ inevitable blind spots and encouraging them to live up to their highest potentials even when they lose faith in themselves or endure trying times.

As students, we should also remain open and refrain from shunning those experiences in relationship with the teacher that are truly transformative, even if embarrassing or difficult.  We will eventually come up against our edges with any teacher, and we can learn to discern when the experience transgresses boundaries that we need to respect in ourselves.  If a teacher repeatedly grates on a weakness that you are not yet able to deal with or wears you down in ways you cannot recover from, making you feel less capable or worthwhile in your life in a way that feels wrong, consider taking a break and practicing at home or elsewhere.  Indeed some of our old patterns need to be broken down, but this too requires great vulnerability, and should be done with somebody we do feel has our back in whatever ways we feel are essential.

It is too much to ask of the great majority of us to face all situations as if they are Brahman, or whatever those people say who pretend to live in the Absolute realm.  Most of us need to accept that we inhabit the relative world.  We need to embrace our humanity and recognize and accept our limitations while allowing the practice to work on us on an often unseen level.  Greater communication between students and teachers could also help greatly!  It is a relationship like any other where both parties need to keep waking up to stay with the reality of the moment.

 

Personality & Enlightenment

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“That the personality of enlightened beings and advanced mystics remains largely intact is obvious when one examines biographies and autobiographies of adepts, past and present. Each one manifests specific psychological qualities, as determined by his or her genetics and life history… What these awakened beings have in common is that they no longer identify with the personality complex, however it may be configured, but live out of the identity of the Self. Enlightenment, then, consists in the transcendence of the ego-habit, but enlightenment does not obliterate the personality. [This] raises the crucial question of whether enlightenment also leaves untouched traits that in the unenlightened individual might be called neurotic. I believe this is so… The traditional spiritual paths are by and large grounded in the vertical ideal of liberation from the conditioning of the body-mind… This may explain why so many mystics and adepts are highly eccentric and authoritarian and appear socially to have weakly integrated personalities. Unlike transcendence, integration occurs in the horizontal plane… Having discovered the Divine in the depths of his or her own soul, the adept must then find the Divine in all life.” — Georg Feuerstein in Paths Beyond Ego: The Transpersonal Vision