Category Archives: Virtue of the Week

Authentic Power: Week 6 2015

Power is a loaded term. Perhaps more confusing and misunderstood than any of the other virtues I’ve contemplated thus far. We tend to regard power in terms of having power over something or someone. This sense of personal superiority is distinct from true power. It’s very life force is premised upon needing someone to be inferior so it can express its power over it. This, of course, is the ego’s method of overcompensating for its own sense of inferiority. Truly authentic power knows no comparison. It is not derived from being more than anyone else. It is derived from knowing ourselves at the depth of our being.

I’ve chosen to write about authentic power because it’s something that in all honesty has been somewhat of an internal struggle to fully realize. And I feel compelled to share this because it’s when I’m unabashedly honest that I feel most powerful, most real. It would be easy to write or teach yoga from a false platform of pretend power. I can say something wise or invoke charisma to seem powerful. But I’m not interested in seeming powerful anymore. I’m interested in being powerful. I’m interested in being real.

And in it’s most real sense, power is a virtue I’ve had to discover through necessity. Through feeling powerless. What I’m speaking of is not necessarily powerlessness in my capacity to be productive or to affect change. I’m talking about the conversation we are having with ourselves. The one we are rarely bold enough to reveal to the world. I’m talking about giving more power to what I know as truth, within the very moments of emotional obliteration. It’s easy to feel powerful in the moments where I feel my life flowing. But I’m interested in bolstering my power in those moments I’m triggered emotionally, where my false story re-emerges and I feel panic or anxiety or deep sadness. To claim my truth in those moments- that’s my yoga practice. That is truly powerful.

And here’s what I’ve realized: for so many years when I’ve felt that silent anxiety begin to rush through me and waves of darkness take over, I would believe it was real. I would derive my sense of self from my depleted emotional state. And I would become guarded- even if no one could tell. Concealing our sense of powerlessness is something we can get good at.

But what I’ve come to see is that guardedness never fulfills it’s intended function. Guardedness does not protect- it stifles our growth. The true force that prevents us from being overcome by powerlessness is truth itself. It is standing in the remembrance of who we are beyond our bodies, our possessions, our jobs, our roles, our beliefs and our emotions. It is standing in the remembrance of Self, of being, where power flows naturally not from us but through us. If we dig deep enough to know who we are at a root level, we will come to know the true meaning of authentic power.

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Autonomy: Week 5 2015

I think of autonomy as our individuated sense of self along with the personal responsibility we carry for our emotional states. This is a biggie. On a personal level, learning to reclaim my autonomy has been one of the most liberating practices I’ve encountered. And my sense is that it’s a biggie for many of us. Precisely because we give it up so unconsciously. Once we’ve realized we’ve lost it, we come to see that we’ve been operating in the pain paradigm.

The tricky part is we tend to lose it in the “good times”. Like what we call falling in love. An often unconscious process of trading in our sense of me for a sense of we. For awhile there is the me & you stage but then comes the fully enmeshed “us” stage. And we feel higher than the clouds. At this point, we are trapped because we will cling to not losing that high (premised upon the affection of another) or we will cling to wanting it back once it’s gone (premised upon the loss of affection of another). Been there? I have. And it’s painful as you know. Ultimately we must come to realize that we are not defined by someone else’s love for us and likewise we are not defined by someone else not loving us.

We are responsible for our own happiness. We are responsible for our own lives. Each of us is a brilliant light. It’s up to us to claim it as ours. It need not be validated by anyone else. It’s yours. But you can share it with whomever you wish. And you can honor the light in others. But please, please do not unconsciously make your light dependent upon another’s feelings for you. Yes, the light shares a common source of which we are all a part. But our individuality remains in tact.

Spirituality is not a process of getting rid of our individual self. Rather, it is the process of experiencing your individuality from the expanded basis of an underlying unity. If the embrace of unity squashes our individuality then that’s called co-dependency.

A friend recently told me she exchanged the word relationship for the word relatedness. I love this. May each of is exist in relatedness to eachother so that our autonomy remains in tact. This will not weaken our bonds. Conversely, it will bring to them greater freedom, less fear & attachment, more peace and the possibility for truly authentic love.


Humility: Week 4 2015

Week 4: Humility
When I think about the people I admire & who inspire me, they all tend to share a common virtue: humility. They carry a humble presence with them in their interactions. And while it seems gentle, it doesn’t seem weak. Rather, it seems wise. It puts me at ease and makes me feel welcome in their presence. There is a certain warmth to the spirit of humility that diminishes the ego’s tendency to proclaim any sense of spiritual superiority.

Living in the yogasphere is an interesting place to reside. For the most part it is amply supplied with positivity, love, inquiry & inspiration. But I do sometimes feel that tinge of the spiritual ego. That sense of, “I’m more awake than you.”

My guess is we’ve all encountered this in one form or another. Perhaps we’ve even heard that voice arise within ourselves. That “my path is the real path” voice. And it’s true that your path is the real path. For you. And mine for me.

We are all right where we need to be to learn the lessons we are ready to receive. Knowing this removes the unconscious tendency to feel more than or better than someone else- a thought pattern that ironically could only be produced by the ego. My wish for each of us is that we find grace in our challenges and be humble in our progress. Otherwise we run the risk of simply creating a new, separate self identity- the same underlying ways of being just adorned in a more “spiritual”
attire.

We can dismantle this tendency by cultivating humility so that we may move forward with a humble heart, truly connected in the ground of spirit. Where we are all equal. For there is no hierarchy in humility.


Transparency: Week 3 2015

OK 2015- week one was equanimity. Week two, resiliency. As week three begins, I’ve been consumed by the notion of transparency. This is one of the most beautiful qualities I witness in people.

To me, transparency is raw. It’s courageous and it’s real. It’s that intangible sense of personal character. And it’s also pretty damn rare. So when I sense it, it’s like a breath of fresh, crisp air. It restores my hope in humanity. And it’s not about being perfect. It’s just about being authentic. It’s become so commonplace for us to wear a mask and portray that idealized self image to the world. We do it through social media, carefully crafting our image to the external world. Hoping that if I tell you that this is who I am then you’ll see me that way and in return help me to uphold that image of myself. It’s all flowing backwards.

We can also fall into the trap of wearing our roles. As if they are the basis of who we are. I’ve been attempting my own social experiment for awhile now and it’s been so amazing. The idea is to remove people from their roles. It’s simple. Anyone can do it. Next time you are in a situation where someone is speaking to you from their role (e.g. customer service rep, cashier, secretary, salesman, teacher etc….), instead of playing your role in return, actually speak to the human being that is behind their job title. Actually experience a real human to human interaction. It’s so inspiring. It almost always leaves me infused with positive energy and a deeper sense of connection to my human tribe.

Transparency is sincere, refreshing and honest. But it’s also something else. It’s courageous. It means we have the balls to speak from a place that’s true to where we are in any given moment. It’s the opposite of the mundane, bullshit exchange of, “How are you? Good, how are you?” It’s like we are sleep talking.

Transparency requires us to be present with our internal state and not veil it with a better looking, micro-managed false exterior. This is about getting real with ourselves and being secure enough to get real with eachother. Because the truth is that none of us are perfect. None of us are always happy, always peaceful, always centered. We are human beings. Our lives get messy. We feel deep hurt, sadness, guilt and anger. And that is o.k.!

And I promise you this: If you truly commit yourself to the practice of transparency, you’ll discover perhaps its most magical side effect- it is contagious. It will inspire those around you to remove their mask and speak from a place of truth. And then we will connect at a deeper level with one another and reflect back to eachother something that may not always be a highlight reel, but it will indeed always be real. And that, I believe, is the very basis of a life lived well. A life lived in truth. A life lived powerfully.

To living transparently…..


Resiliency: Week 2 2015

One of the most remarkable qualities we humans possess has to be resiliency. This innate capacity to transform pain into progress & growth. Sometimes I think we are stronger than we give ourselves credit for. We may find ourselves stuck in the muck & mire of difficulty yet in time we do indeed heal & come out on the other side. And when we do we are somehow stronger & more unshakable because of it. To my friends who are doing some spiritual weightlifting right now, know you too are a resilient being. Namaste & peace to you.


Equanimity: Week 1 2015

This week for me will be about uncovering equanimity (upeksha) – the underlying stillness that resides behind the commotion of emotion and the busyness of the mind. Most of the struggle I’ve gone through in my life has arisen from deriving my sense of self from how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking. Perhaps yoga’s greatest gift to me has been providing access to that deeper dimension of Self, behind the emotions and the mind where stillness, peace and true equanimity reside – the capacity to accept things as they are, on their own terms, and be cool with that. When I think about what kind of teacher I want to be, it’s the kind that holds a sacred space for each of us to experience that place within ourselves. The place of equanimity.