13 February 2011

dropping the curtain

original art Karin Bartimole

"When you are truly genuine, there will invariably be people who do not accept you. And in that case, you must be your own badass self, without apology." (Katie Goodman)

"Yoga is not for people who are interested in staying the same." (David Life)

My decision to stop writing this blog came to me in India. I returned from India just last Thursday and my final blog post brewed in the back of my mind ever since the last Tara Stiles "rebel" story in the New York Times came out. Here I was in India and people emailed me telling me that I was quoted in the New York Times. I appreciated their attention (I think), but my first thoughts were Holy Shiva, I can't get away from the bullshit that is now part of modern yoga (yes, bullshit, and if you don't like that word, get over it) even though I am thousands of miles away. I thought it must be a slow news day for the New York Times when the writer had to dig up a story that yoga bloggers wrote about last summer.

Does the phrase "been there, done that" have any meaning?

But actually my decision to stop writing has been almost 6 months in the making ever since an article was written about me by the current yoga editor of elephant journal that seemingly pitted me against Tara Stiles, my yoga vs. her yoga.


While the writer thought the story complimentary, I felt blindsided and betrayed. He did not feel it necessary to ask my permission or even to ask my opinion before he wrote about me. While he apologized to me months later for writing the story, it did not matter at that point. Intention is everything and you can't unring a bell. To me his story brought to light what this modern yoga scene has become: us v. them. The rightous v. the unrightous. The purists v. the modernists. Old v. young. Thick v. skinny. The Lulus v. The WalMarts.


Back in the day when I got into yoga (and no, not the prehistoric days although it sure as hell feels like it sometimes), yoga was just yoga. No one gave a shit what you wore or how your yoga was labeled.

As one reader wrote on my Facebook wall, "on the psychological/spiritual side, perception is reality, which is different for everyone...the non-dualism of advaita wisdom does not map to North American uber-dualism."

I got over his offense almost as soon as it happened, but it set the wheels in motion to euthanize this blog.

I have always written about what my real yoga is. I really don't know how often I can repeat this before people understand it: I don't care what your yoga is, I know what mine is, but one thing that I know is that if something isn't changing for you off the mat or off the cushion, then it's not yoga. That's Yoga Sutras 101.

No bullshit, basic shit. Like compost for your garden, yoga is the compost for the garden of your mind/body/spirit.

And no apologies to those who hate the phrase "real yoga." I'm tired of that judgment, too. It dawned on me the other day that even in the yoga world, political correctness abounds. Certain things are not supposed to be said for fear of offending. Anyone who criticizes or questions the yoga status quo is called a "hater" or "judgmental" in the yoga blogosphere.


As a reminder after that last expletive, I heard Jack Kornfield say that anyone who thinks those on the spiritual path are not allowed to become angry or upset anymore, well, those people have a kindergarten view of spirituality. I bow to Jack Kornfield.

Yes, I am sensitive about the topic of "real yoga." Over the five years of writing this blog I've caught flak about being outspoken and that has made me misunderstood at best and unpopular at worst. I've been described as being passionate in my defense of yoga in the face of commercialism, exploitation, and misunderstanding. If the body cult of modern Americanized yoga is right, then I'd rather be wrong.

So I am moving on. I am not this body, I am not my thoughts, and I am certainly not this blog. When I started writing there weren't that many yoga blogs, I guess I was one of the first ones that people noticed. Now, just like there are hundreds of yoga teaching programs, there are hundreds of yoga blogs. I don't need to write anymore because it's all already being said on a daily basis. And actually, what is being said has already been said over and over again, there is nothing new under the sun -- I learned that at a supposed "meditation retreat" in India.

So I am moving inward. I feel a closing in instead of expansion, but not a contraction in a negative way. There is a Kabbalistic concept called Tzimtzum which means Divine Contraction. The thinking is that if God is infinite, he would have to draw in and so make a void into which creation can come. According to Wikipedia, " a term used in the kabbalistic teaching of Isaac Luria, explaining his concept that God began the process of creation by "contracting" his infinite light in order to allow for a "conceptual space" in which a finite and seemingly independent world could exist. This contraction, forming an "empty space" in which creation could begin, is known as the Tzimtzum."

I have had more than a few experiences in India that some call "shakti blasts" and they are impossible to explain unless you have felt them. But they have always changed me. Change brings out either the best or the worst out in a person. I feel that my experiences have brought out the best in me although others may not agree. But as the jyotish told me, those others should never be my concern. Standing in my own truth is my only power.

So I am contracting in order to allow a new creation. I have been told by more than a few spiritual adepts and most recently by the jyotish in India that I am destined for great things, things I will not write about because they would be misread as being egotisical and indeed, impossible. But I know my path as surely as I know my own name. Changes have already begun by my signing up for a training in teaching yoga to trauma survivors. I am also applying for a Masters in Transpersonal Psychology program. The next time I return to India it will not be as a student.

My past has marked me and it made me a beautiful palimpsest. I jumped into the Ganges on a most auspicious day and washed myself clean so that I can be used again. You either dance with life or burn and become bitter. There isn't any other choice. Change is inevitable and unavoidable. It’s just life.

And real yoga is always about life.