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Who are you BEING for others?

When someone shoots an arrow at you, don’t be there.”

My teacher Baron Baptiste reminded me of this Zen proverb last year standing on a beach in Maya Tulum.

We started our conversation (a conversation that helped me reset my bearings and shift my listening) somewhere else, but what was coming up was that I was upset about feeling targeted. Unsafe.  I felt a real pain in realizing that even though I strive to bring joy and openness into people’s lives, I am sometimes met with adversity.  In fact, not everyone likes me.

For a people pleaser like me, someone who always wants to make others happy, this was like a sock in the gut.

Not everyone likes me.

I thought I knew that.  I thought I had come to terms with it.  I guess not.

One thing I hear a lot is surprise that people in the yoga world often treat each other the same way people in the “real” world do.   We can be competitive.  Untrusting.  Maybe even mean.  It really should not surprise anyone—- the yoga world is full of people.  We all make mistakes.

The difference is in how we deal with it.   If a yogi is living their yoga, they will put right wrongs in the moment, and not wait for time to heal all wounds.  (Time does NOT heal wounds.)  A practicing yogi will also realize that if someone wrongs them— it is not ABOUT them.

When someone treats you poorly, it does not speak to who you are, or who you are being.  It speaks to how the person mistreating you is being.  If you haven’t figured it out yet, who we are being for ourselves is who we are being for others.

The late, great Martin Luther King Jr. said, “”Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’”   MLK was a man who lived his life in service.

We all have the ability to serve. Regardless of education, socio-economic status, race or creed.  Our hands are the way to heart, and we crack our hearts wide open through service.

Doing for others is important— we should serve where we can and give where we can.  But what if the real agent of change in the world runs a level deeper?

I want to repose MLK’s question in a manner that Baron has taught me:

Who are you being for others?

In a world of do, do, do, do… what if we start BEING more that we are doing?  What if we start treating ourselves– and others– how we would like to be treated?  What if we grew so sure about our own path that we became unmessable with?  Unflappable in our goals and our service?  What if, the next time someone shot an arrow at us, we weren’t there, because we were too busy living?

 

 

****note:  I wrote this last year, and found it today, on MLK day, and on a day when I almost forgot not to be there.

The first time I read the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, I was struck by the similarity of the sutras and the Beatitudes.  As the nuns taught me growing up, the eight Beatitudes of Jesus provide a way of life that promises salvation, but also provide peace and help us to survive the trials and tribulations we must face here on earth.  Each sutra, or thread, contained a shred of wisdom, that if put into action, could bring the practitioner inner peace and happiness.

These aphorisms, be they Sutras or Beatitudes, offer short snippets of advice on how to live better while on this planet, and how to be in service to others.

 

One of the most striking Sutras to me was always 1.33, often referred to colloquially as the Four Locks and Keys.  This Sutra suggests that there are only four locks in the world (sukha, duhka, punya and apunya) and that if you keep with you the four keys (kindness, compassion, honor and indifference), you will be able to keep a open heart and a calm mind.  To use those four keys, we should cultivate the following attitudes: Kindness to the sukha, those who are fortunate or happy; Compassion for the duhka, unfortunate, or unhappy; honor and delight for punya, the virtuous; andindifference to the apunya, the wicked.

Patanjali suggests that the most used key is the happiness key, because it is very easy to covet someone’s happiness.  It is easy to get eaten up with jealousy or our own duhka when we see someone happy, so it is important to use this key when encountering a happy person.  If we are not happy for someone else’s good fortune, we rob ourselves of happiness.

We should use the compassion key when we encounter unhappiness because if we can help another being, then we should do so.  Offering compassion is what helps keep us peaceful; the person suffering may or may not accept it, but it is the offering that matters.

The third key is in honoring virtue – when we see virtue in others we should honor it and attempt to cultivate it in our own lives.   Refusing to honor virtue leads to duhka, or unhappiness, in our own lives and locks yet more doors.

Last, but not least, is equanimity or indifference to the wicked.           This does not mean we watch evil go untethered, but rather that we do not feed it.  Towards evil, we practice peace.  As Patanjali warns, if you try to advise the wicked, you are wasting your time.  Instead, practice indifference to the wicked and honor the virtuous, and the scales will balance themselves.

Patanjali suggests that if we keep the four keys in our pocket, and we recognize the four locks as they appear in our lives, then we will be presented with calm and inner peace.

Jesus presented a very similar idea in the Sermon on the Mount when he gave Christians the Beatitudes in the Gospel of Saint Matthew.  The Biblical scriptures also suggest using friendliness and compassion to combat not only the ills of the world, but also to keep ourselves pure.  Jesus said:

•      Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

•      Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.

•      Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.

•      Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

•      Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

•      Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.

•      Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

•      Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

As a yogi, the Beatitudes and Sutra 1.33 sum things up nicely.   Practicing compassion, towards myself and towards others, has been one of the most heartfelt and life-changing lessons I have ever learned.   When I treat myself with compassion, I can treat others with compassion.  When I am truly happy for the success and good fortune of others, I can share and celebrate in their happiness.  If I fall into the easy habit of envy or jealousy towards another’s happiness, I actually compromise my own happiness and my own peace.

Again, it is easy to fall into the pattern of unhappiness or dis-ease when faced with unhappiness.  As the saying goes, misery loves company.  That is why, when faced with the unhappiness and misery of others, we should practice compassion and do what we can to help (as jesus would say, give alms) rather that get pulled down into the mire.

It is also easy to become jealous and scornful of Patanjali’s “virtuous,” whom Jesus refers to as the “righteous.”  Instead of treating these people with scorn, they should be treated with reverence.  Not placed on a pedestal, but rather admired for the good deeds, and when possible emulated.  As yogis, to me these means being of service to others when you are inspired by service.

As for the wicked, I think the Bible and the Sutras are in agreement again.  Leave them be, for they have nothing to offer.  Those who persecute or look down on those who live in service should not be regarded at all.

The yogi in me thinks of B.K.S. Iyengar:  “Before we can find peace among nations, we have to find peace within the tiny nation that is ourselves.”  If we apply the teachings of Patanjali here, everything comes full circle.  To the poor in spirit and to those who mourn, we practice compassion.  To those who are meek, we practice friendliness, and kindness.  To those who are righteous and merciful, we practice honor.   To the clean of heart, friendliness.  To the peace makers, honor.  To the persecuted, compassion.

Though they lived thousands of years apart, I feel like Jesus and Patanjali would have been agreed – the key to happiness in the human condition is in how we treat one another.  Of all the sutras, Biblical or spiritual teachings in the world, there is one lesson above all that comes to mind:

Do unto others.

90 Minute Asana Practice (Presence)

Recorded Live at Dancing Dogs Yoga.

This podcast was recorded as part of 40 Days to Personal Revolution and Focuses on Week One, PRESENCE.  Seek the Truth.  Be willing to come apart.

Week Two, Vitality: 30 Minute Asana Practice

Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone.

Commit to Growth.

30 Minute Podcast on Vitality (recorded live at Dancing Dogs Yoga):

A Meditation on Vitality

This week, we take a deep look at the tapes that we play in our heads.  Step outside of your comfort zone, and take a good hard look at how you view yourself.  What can you give up?  What can you lose to win?  Are you ready to commit to growth?

10 Minute Meditation on Vitality.  Recorded live at Dancing Dogs Yoga, Beaufort, SC.

Week One, Presence: 20 Minute Asana Practice

Recorded live at Dancing Dogs Yoga.

This 20 minute asana practice is focused on presence, and on Baron Baptiste’s first two laws of transformation:  Seek the Truth, and Be Willing to Come Apart.  Come to mat with an attitude of YES and be the change!

Recorded live at Dancing Dogs Yoga. Shelley Lowther, RYT-200, is the owner and founder of Dancing Dogs Yoga in Beaufort, South Carolina. She has completed Level I training with Baron Baptise, and is an aspiring BPVY teacher.

A Meditation on Presence

In Week One of 40 Days to Personal Resolution, we focus on presence.  Use this 5 minute meditation to help you get grounded or to begin a meditation practice.

Recorded lie at Dancing Dogs Yoga. Shelley Lowther, RYT-200, is the owner and founder of Dancing Dogs Yoga in Beaufort, South Carolina. She has completed Level I training with Baron Baptise, and is an aspiring BPVY teacher.

Finding True North

Yogis are always seeking equanimity. We find ourselves looking for peace and inner calm that can only found by becoming our true, authentic selves. But how do we find ourselves?

We spend a lot of time and money looking for ourselves, when the truth is we are never really lost. Sometimes we are just looking in the wrong place. We get caught up in the pursuit of success or fortune, or stuck playing a role of care-taker, people-pleaser, victor or victim. We forget that we are, in our own right, strong, powerful and exceptional, and that who we are is so much bigger than what we do.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa said, “The magnetic needle always points to the north, and hence it is that the sailing vessel does not lose her direction.”. By finding our true north, we can keep ourselves on course, away from the rocks, and flow with the river of life.

In our asana practice, my teacher Baron Baptiste instructs that we find true north alignment by getting present to our bodies. We firmly set our feet on the earth, grounding ourselves and our practice, and bring the elements of earth, water, fire, air and space to our practice. We find the earth beneath us by pressing our feet (or hands!) into the earth. We add water though the flow, the easy movement of breath and body, or vinyasa, and by softening the joints. We add fire by engaging the core, and hugging in, from skin to muscle to bone, to radiate out. We add heat, both external and the internal furnace of the breath, to purify our practice and cleanse our bodies, stoking the fire. We add space and air by softening, allowing change to happen.

It is perhaps easier to find our true north on the mat than off of it. Distractions in our daily lives pull us off in the wrong direction, so we look for ways outside of our asana practice to bring us back on course. Perhaps the easiest and most sure fire way to equanimity and balance in your life is to add a meditation practice. Taking time for yourself during the day, even if only for five or ten minutes, can leave you feeling renewed and refreshed, and back in the flow.

Set an intention for yourself to take more time for yourself. By giving yourself time and space, you will give yourself a compass to find your true north, and to stay on course in your life and in your relationships.

Remove the Rocks

In his book 40 Days to Personal Revolution, my teacher Baron Baptiste suggests that to achieve positive change in our lives on the path to happiness, we need to remove the rocks.

We all have walls. We put up these walls and barriers to protect ourselves, but we end up walling ourselves in. We create what we think are safe places, and end up stifling our creativity and growth. We protect ourselves by adding rocks and building the walls higher, and close ourselves off.

Without risk there is no reward. We have to remain open to find love and happiness, even if that means we become more vulnerable to harm. Consider the Zen aphorism: Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

Try to put aside your thoughts and efforts and allow things to just be. Let the universe work on your behalf. Stop being a human doing and be a human being. If you try easy, instead of trying hard, you will be open to receive life’s gifts. If you continue to struggle, to swim against the current, you will not find ease. Go with the flow. Save your strength to swim with the tide, and see where the universe takes you.

Set an intention to remove the rocks. You might start with your yoga practice. Remove any obstacles that keep you from your highest practice.  If you leave your ego in the shoe cubbies, what can you accomplish? If you stop looking outside of your mat, and outside of yourself in your practice, what can you achieve? If you silence the harsh voice of the inner critic, what can you be?

Remove the rocks in your practice, then remove the rocks in your life. What can you let go of in order to break through? In 40 Days, Baron asks, “What thoughts, feelings, worries or past situations am I clinging to that drain me?” Consider this.

Are you in a toxic relationship? A toxic business environment? Are you holding on to anger or something in your past? It is true that our past has helped shape us, but the past does not exist in the present. Let go of past resentments and anger and move into the here and now. “Be now here, or be nowhere,” says Baron, and be here without the heavy baggage of a time that you can not change.

Get out of your own way. Cast aside the barriers that you have created for yourself. You may be able to tear down the walls quickly, and you may need to remove the rocks one by one, but with diligence and determination, you can be the change that you wish to see in the world.

“From birth, we are taught to swim upstream, but in yoga practice the goal is to jump into the river of life.” — Baron Baptiste

Shine

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

What would you change in your life? Would you try something new? Would you start your own business? A non-profit to serve others? Would you change your career?

Some of my friends get a little annoyed at the yogi in me sometimes, striving to point out the positive, looking for a way to find an upbeat spin on a dreary situation. I am optimistic, about the world and about the future, and I have my yoga practice to thank for that shift in vision. Yoga in general, and Baron Baptiste in particular, have taught me that I am powerful, and that I can make my dreams come true. The practice of yoga has helped me remove the bricks, or obstacles, in my life and reach for the stars. By thinking bigger, my whole world is opening up, and the world is amazing.

The yoga community is good about bolstering each other, about holding each other up. If you don’t have a yoga community, find a community, a group of people who tell you that you CAN. If you are surrounded by people who tell you that you can’t – find a new group of people who will not hold you back. A rising tide lifts all ships if we do not tether ourselves to the dock. Loosen up, expand your horizons, and go for it.

Make a list of the things you want in life. Forget the mundane things like a new phone or a new car and think big. Ask yourself: “What do I want to manifest in my life?”

Now ask yourself what is stopping you. What are the limiting beliefs that are keeping you from pursuing your dreams? What blocks are in your way? Are you afraid to succeed or afraid to fail? Are you worried that others may resent you if you do succeed? A wise teacher once told me, “What other people think of you is none of your business.” (Thanks, Mark White!) Forget about what other people think and decide what matters to you.

So ask yourself again: “What do I want?” Write it down. Commit your dreams to the reality of black and white. Tell people what you want. Forget what you are supposed to do, and what other people expect you to do, and find something in your life that you want to do. Don’t rush the process. Expect a few scrapes and stumbles. Maybe even a few falls. But don’t quit. Get back up. Pursue your dreams. Shine. Shine like we are all meant to shine.   Not only can you reach the stars, but you can be a star.

“Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Address

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