Saturday, September 11, 2010


I had a wonderful exchange a few days ago with two lovelies after a class, much of which was the motivation for this blog. We were chatting and one of them, so cute, holding her pen like a microphone, leaned in and said, “Obviously, you aren’t in the same place now that you used to be. How did you get where you are now? How did you come to yoga? What keeps you motivated, do you read books or…?” Basically she wanted to know my story.

We chatted—well mostly I chatted with a few strategic questions from my ‘interviewer’—for a good 20 minutes. They were enthralled and I thought to myself, how strange that they are interested in me and my story. But through their reflection I saw that this could be valuable for others, too, and that it is sometimes good to see just what your journey has been. So I'll begin here with what we talked about and a little bit of my story.

What has motivated me, kept me studying and evolving has, honestly, been the desire to get out of pain. In the tantric teaching this is anava mala. The three malas are usually described as cloaks or dust on the mirror of our hearts. But I like to think of the malas not as substances, but as a continuous act of will by the Divine, in this case, to contract herself and become embodied. As a result of this act of will, svatantrya or unlimited freedom becomes maya or illusion. The illusion here is one of differentiation, one of forgetting her essential nature as whole, as One.

When the Goddess cloaks herself in the form of embodiment she limits her capacity to feel perfect, whole and fulfilled. As she has diversified into the many, she forgets where she came from, and so she feels suffering. She feels lack and unworthiness, the very things that ultimately drive her to merge back into the perfection of her essential nature. It is a circle, you see. The One divides into the many and ultimately just want to merge back with the One.

And here is where I came to Anusara yoga. I had taken two different classes, one of them with John Friend, and I still did not ‘get’ it. After the class with John (save that story for another blog) my body got the awakening but my mind didn’t. And in that distilling out of bringing my body-mind to meet the kundalini that was now streaming through me I faced a lot of challenges. Some the beginning of unraveling much emotional baggage from earlier in my life and some just plain physical injury that moved in like a resident guru.

All of this, especially a ruptured disc in my neck, had me at my wits end. I was in massive physical pain, extreme fear—this was my life and my livelihood after all—and facing the possibility of surgery. I felt completely broken. Later during the period of self-imposed rehabilitation I realized that I had been feeling broken for decades and this injury was my body’s way of getting me to pay attention and to heal.

I knew nothing about anava mala, nor the tantric teaching, so all I could think was I must have done something wrong or that something was wrong with me. And this shadow, this cloak of victim, became so heavy that I began seeking to get out from underneath its pain. This was when I finally ‘got’ Anusara yoga. I learned from Desiree Rumbaugh that nothing in me was truly broken. Even if my body was broken, I was not, and my spirit never could be. She was the first person who showed me what it looked like to be vulnerable and strong at the same time. She was the first person who told me nothing at all was wrong with me and who actually believed it about herself too.

Eight months later, after re-learning my body and my yoga practice and NOT having surgery (yay!) I really came into the true practice of yoga. I was beginning to see the reflection of the Divine in my own heart. It was just glimpses at first, but they were there. The window has grown wider with practice and I see my own beauty for the first time now. And when I feel shadowed by the cloak of lack or unworthiness, most of the time I don't believe that I am wrong, at fault or a failure. Even when I default to that old patten of feeling less-than I remember anava mala and I don’t linger there very long.

I remember, the Goddess chose to wake up as me again today. It is no accident; I am no accident. She came forth with not one shard of her freedom, heart, love or power missing. Contraction is just another part of the unfolding and so I don’t need to be so critical of myself when I feel it. I Open to Grace, first principle in Anusara yoga. I just soften and I cry — a lot. And this, to me, is my courage, my reconnection to the whole. I am motivated to reconnect with the One. When I feel Her I know I am supported, loved and safe, and that is my motivation.

1 comment:

  1. Wow Paisley! I am so glad you have a blog! You have so much to share! Plus it makes me still feel connected to you even though I am not there physically to share yoga asana with you!
    Thanks for sharing yourself,