The Funky Blues of the Soul
For much of my journey, I have been encouraged to open up and share my experience. I can be shy, and I’m known to be the type that keeps a lot inside. After 15 years of very dedicated yoga practice, and deep self work, I am willing to accept that my story has power. I continue to learn and grow as a life-long student, and humbly sit at the feet of my teachers even as a teacher myself. It is my intention to share more about who I am and where I have come from, in order to create more effective ways of communication with both the public and my students. In the next few months I will build upon this blog, sharing and re-defining my mission statement by inviting you along for the ride. This takes a level of vulnerability that I am still practicing and surrendering to. I have had a difficult time communicating and connecting with my students through the years, although teaching is all about communication. What I am about to write may be at the heart of it…
Most fellow yogis, colleagues, and even some of my mentors talk about their yoga journey much differently than I remember mine. Most will say that it started as a physical endeavor. This is a normal progression; to start physically and deepen over time. First and foremost, in the West, yoga has taken root in the health benefits of the physical practice. There seem to be fewer students interested in the spiritual aspects of yoga and many want to avoid it altogether. My path has been very different and this has proven challenging, inside of my job as a teacher, because we teach best from experience. Our personal yoga practice is the basis for our teachings. The truth is, from the beginning of my journey with yoga, I was always consciously seeking God. Spirituality was my first motive for practicing yoga and the practice took me where I wanted to be. I wanted to know the answers to deeply burning questions about the Universe and I wanted to realize my own Soul. I always felt this fire inside of me and knew, deep down, that there was a greater purpose for my life. I must say...though I still experience this feeling, I am not 100% clear what it all means or what to do, but the answers are revealed to me in small glimpses along the way.
I recently came across some old childhood journals. I used to write letters to God when I was nine years old. I have kept this practice of disciplined journaling throughout my life. Even then, as a young child, I had a strong drive to feel Divine presence in my life. I would say I have always been a natural born Mystic. No one ever had to tell me about God or explain it to me. I always just felt it for myself...a feeling that there is more to this world...and a desire to experience it fully! Direct experience is at the core of spirituality and mysticism. To me, part of the beauty is that it is a mystery. Impatience wants it revealed. I am always bumping up against the impatience to know and the desire to rush the journey, but the mystery is a part of it. Everything is revealed when the time is right. Divine Timing is very important and always knows best. I ask that I am granted more patience, stillness, and understanding all the time.
The point is that my experience as a yoga teacher has been...interesting, difficult, and maybe even unusual. Most students go from outside in. I went from inside out. What I realized when I started teaching is that I was not relating to my students where they were at. Most students that come to yoga are not seeking God, at least not on a conscious level. As far as the asanas (postures) are concerned, I had an innate kinesthetic understanding of how to move my body; I was just not as good at explaining it. I have, however, worked VERY hard at shifting this. It has been the "digging in the ground" kind of hard work that can fulfill and exhaust you all at once. Coming to understand my students, to meet them where they are, deepening my understanding of the human anatomy, and how to help students with different body types, has become my full time job. I would say I have gained a lot of skill and experience in the last 15 years. It has been hard won. I had to ground my Spirit in my body again, feel and experience limitations, learn to verbalize things that are natural to me, and help people with specific injuries access poses that they may have seen as impossible.
At this point I have become very skilled in helping students heal physical ailments through the practices of yoga. My knowledge of the body is based on real experience both in my own body and in the bodies of those I have taught. Many of my students have found the power and potential of Mysore classes, as a great way to have me trouble shoot pain in their bodies. It may be a subtle nuance in their movement that needs to shift and, miraculously, health and freedom are achieved
No matter how we start, or what level we are working on, all humans feel pain. I think we can all agree that most humans are looking for a way to resolve pain. It may start with physical pain in the body, but I can guarantee that it does not end there. It is my intention to show my students a connection to the deeper layers of healing and transformation. There is so much more behind the known, tangible, physical layers of ourselves. My true love as a teacher is to help aid the Quest for Internal Freedom....through its many ebbs and flows. It is here that the funky artistry, my heart yearns to express, can be realized. This Quest can be arduous, that is for sure. It also offers moments of pure bliss and ecstasy. It is my belief that the Quest itself is why we are here, on planet Earth, breathing and experiencing existence. There are so many fulfillments available to us, if we wake up to it. Life’s journey is always pushing us towards deeper experiences and understandings of ourselves. Along the way, healing must happen...in order to patch up our wounds so that we may experience our wholeness once again. There is an Art; an Art to healing, and each one of us must find our own way to express that art.
Everyone's process is different. For me, it has not always been rainbows and sunshine. It has required some grit! I have willingly delved into some dark places in mySelf, to uncover more Light. This is where the real juice lives. If I were a singer, I would be a Blues Singer...for I love those deep dark places...there is a delicious feeling and understanding there, if you can accept it. Deep, deep Soul…
I am a yogini and I am also a funky, bluesy, artist. I am a healer of my own wounds and, through this process, I am becoming a better guide for others. I have known deep pain. My pain came young and perhaps this explains my strong drive. I knew I wanted out of pain, but that meant going INTO it, acknowledging, accepting, and forgiving it. Rumi says, "The wound is the place where the Light enters". Oh yeah! Let it feel good...let it remind you that you are human. Revel in the perfect imperfection of the human Spirit and find acceptance. Life is beautiful in all its colors, yearnings, and lessons...and acceptance of this is where healing happens.
In The Yoga Matrix, Senior Ashtanga Yoga Teacher, Richard Freeman, says, “Yoga begins the moment you get real with yourself.” Yes! Keep it Real (this is the new tag line)! The difference or the crossing over that happens as we “wake up” is from a false sense of happiness based on the many illusions we have created to maintain this sense of peace to “real as it actually is reality.” Yoga is a process of destruction; to deconstruct these illusions so we can see clearly. As I said earlier, real reality is not always pretty, but it will lead us to a real and unshakable experience of happiness. Is ignorance really bliss? The Yoga Sutras say that ignorance is the root cause of all mental suffering. Enlightenment means coming to terms with ALL of it as it really is. I am not saying it is easy, but sometimes the pain just gets too great and the price of staying asleep is too high. This is why there are many “blessings” in disguise. Difficult times in life are sometimes the greatest moments because so much human growth is happening.
To each his own: Everyone has their own way of dealing with their pain and healing. I have learned that healing is a very personal process. I choose to make it Art. We are a unique Spirit, unto ourselves, and none of us are exactly the same. Make your own Art-FULL existence! Find relief in a healthy and expressive way. Accept yourself for who you really are. No one ever expected you to be perfect; except maybe you.
Dive into the well of your own Spirit. Uncover the deep caverns of your Soul. Don't be afraid to go there... and sing and paint and make your own way. Your wellness is at stake.
The scientific practice of yoga continues to clarify this connection to the Great Spirit, to ourselves, to our own Souls. Do your practice, reach in deep, and SING! Embrace the pain and the pleasure, the light and the dark...but make sure, whatever you do, you go to that place within…inside…to the center of your being…inside your own Soul…and find your home there.
As always, your loving guide and friend...
Michelle Dorer Owner, Director, Teacher – Ashtanga Yoga Outer Banks, NC