Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Manure Happens. Fertilize.

by Gina Caputo, CSOY Founder

A few years ago, a man asked if he could send me a book to read. It was on the Yoga Sutras. I already had at least a dozen translations and found it hard to imagine his would add anything earth shattering to what I already knew of this text. But when someone offers you their art, their creation, how could you say no? Maybe it's the Italian in me but it felt like turning down a home-cooked meal, or a mixed tape (Google it kids). So I said yes, especially because the subtitle was "A Remix of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras with Commentary and Reverie". Matthew Remski had me at the word "remix". What I read was indeed very different from any other translation and it was provocative. Some would say downright controversial. It challenged the long-standing paradigm that frankly, I felt we were supposed to just accept as "ancient", "traditional" and "real". I was intrigued. I started following him on social media and read more and more articles and opinion pieces that often made me go "Hoo, hot damn!" or "Oh no he didn't!". So when I opened the Colorado School of Yoga, he was high on my list of teachers I wanted to invite because I knew he would create an opportunity to explore the widely-accepted paradigm, which I think is a healthy and essential practice for sustainability in our field of study and work. I think a regular poking at what we do is a good way to practice discernment and, frankly, a good way to avoid turning into a yoga Oopma Loompa.

This past weekend Matthew came to CSOY to present WAWADIA, his current research project, short for What Are We Doing In Asana Anyway? It was scintillating, illuminating and provocative, just as expected. He knows full well, though, that he's opening a Can O' Worms and that can feel very disconcerting and destabilizing to some. In many ways it's just easier to do things without asking questions, especially with a sense that 5000 years of history and wisdom are behind what you're doing. However, he is quick to point out that worms make compost too and that what is revealed may actually provide nutrients to your seeds of intention as a modern day yoga teacher and enable you to be of greater service to the practitioner of today. It's not terribly far off from when Richard Freeman says "Yoga will ruin your life." Both of these remind me of one of my favorite (and decidedly unorthodox) teaching metaphors: Yoga is a "shit disturber" and you may actually feel awful before you feel wiser, almost as if you're sitting in your own shit for a bit while you learn from it and it changes (compost heap). In Nature, shit is fertilizer and as it is in the macrocosm, so too is it in the microcosm. Meaning, as it is in Nature, so too it is in you. The exploration and examination and experiencing can turn your "life's manure" into rich, nourishing fertilizer.

When we reflect on our lives, most of our greatest learning experiences came on the tail end of something difficult or painful. I'm not convinced there is some kind of toll lane on the spiritual path that allows you to zip past the slow downs, gridlock and accidents and emerge wiser. Yoga is certainly widely painted as a practice of peace, harmony and tranquility which may be a bypassing of the actual practices involved in someday realizing those cherished qualities. For example, at a retreat recently, Seane Corn said "We have to know tension in order to truly release it". That process of knowing is often accompanied by feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, incredulity and resentment (i.e.: shit). Yoga practice gives us this concentrated and visceral opportunity to explore the tensions within us, not just physical but the many push/pulls we experience internally. Our field of study is ourselves, from our outermost self (ie how we behave in the world and our bodies) to our innermost self (some would call soul or Atman). And within a field that complex, there are so many blind spots to illuminate and that illumination usually comes with a painful price tag.

I firmly believe this practice gives us the opportunity to look at the tapestry of our lives and make connections, sharpen focus and unearth the root causes of our suffering. And because we are all connected, committing to this honest (and often dirty) work will ultimately be of benefit to all. We teach by example, we influence and impact each other ALL THE TIME.

My renewed goal after this weekend with Matthew is to do everything I can to create a safe haven for exploration. To facilitate an opportunity to witness what arises and explore it according to one's own desire, ability and appetite on any given day. And I commit to redoubling my efforts to not turn away from the manure but keep my eyes and heart WIDE OPEN and my soul gardening tools handy.