Monday, September 13, 2010

Heart vs. Mind: Staying Inspired

I teach 12-15 yoga classes a week, including private lessons and public classes, plus at least one workshop a month. By any standard in this industry, this is full time. To remain dedicated and inspired in anything you engage in full time takes commitment, consciousness, vulnerability and integrity. Doesn’t matter if it is parenting, marriage, skydiving or beekeeping, it is very easy to get bored or uninspired and let the business of what you do become mundane.

I am frequently asked how I come up with inspiration for my teaching and how I keep it from being routine. In Anusara yoga I am not just teaching poses, I am teaching philosophy and life-affirming, inspirational and spiritual lessons that go well beyond the mat. I weave these thematic lessons into postural alignment that makes the heart of the teaching tangible on a fundamental level. We feel it in our bones (which we happen to be moving in our practice), it resonates in our souls and some sort of spine-tingling, hair-raising deeper connecting occurs. We don’t understand it but we sure revel in the delight of how we feel as a result.

“Where does this stuff come from?” I am frequently asked. “How do you decide what to teach?” Truth is, it is not coming from me, but through me. Sure I am observing the students and feeling their energy and, yes, I am personalizing the information to make it more understandable. But mostly I am tuning in to a higher frequency and getting the hell out of the way!

You could say that I am listening more with my heart than with my mind. Mind will want to tell me all sorts of lies. You aren’t good enough, no one else has ever had that experience, no one wants to hear this, you don’t really know what you are talking about, don’t trust yourself, it says to me. In reality, I need my mind to weave these themes into a class, oh yeah, and to navigate the world of form, like remembering when I teach, where I live and what my name is.

Ego, mind, or shell, in this line of thinking, is my uniqueness, my expression of source and my ability to interact with the world around me. I am not trying to denounce or cut off this part of myself. The problem is when I identify with it, its divisive thoughts, my feelings or my experiences and believe them to be who I am. When I forget my connection to my heart and live only in mind, then, Houston, we have a problem. 

To avoid this dilemma, I return to the unwavering essence of being that exists beneath the mind, beneath the level of form. When I connect through my heart to my essence or source I tap into a whole other dimension of myself and to the higher vibrations that begin to move through me, not from me.

How do I know essence from ego, heart versus mind? When it is mind-driven I feel confused, distrusting, alone, without answers and defensive. When it is heart-driven I am certain, clear, connected (even when I am by myself) and at peace. That’s not to say that I don’t feel a lot of emotion, because I do. In fact, I often feel more emotion when I step into the cave of my heart. But then I am not identifying with or as the emotion so I am not thrown about or trapped in them; I can simply witness and allow them to flow through me.

Let’s also remember we are beings gifted with free will and choice. Every moment we make choice after choice. And it is really as simple as knowing that each choice takes you closer to or further away from your own heart, your own integrity. So I make conscious choices that align with and reveal my essence. I cultivate situations, relationships and experiences that encourage her revelation and choose not to emphasize those that don’t. My practices become about seeking the authentic Presence inside myself and that the more I do things I love that are in integrity with my essence, the more connected I am. I practice differentiating between mind and heart, between changing form and unwavering essence and I move through the world from this authenticity as best I can.

I am not this way only in class when I teach and another way in the rest of my life. To step into the classroom and teach is just a continuation of that on-going conversation. Therefore it becomes easy to pull themes together and easy to be inspired because I am always practicing it, always living it. This is the real me and this is the conversation I am having every day, no different in my career than with the checker at the grocery store.

So, the question then is; Are you being authentic? Are you connecting with your heart and letting spirit flow through you? Are you letting yourself do what you love and what keeps you connected and inspired?

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