Well, it’s been awhile — many changes.

I left Chichester and made my way back to Thunder Bay. I’m now teaching 7 classes/week at the Bodymind Centre: ‘gentle’ classes during the week, and Forrest on Saturdays. At first it was a challenge to teach gentle classes, because my training was very vigorous, but that challenge has opened up into something really wonderful. I love my students, and I feel like I am doing good work that really reaches people. I feel a sense of care and tenderness moving in me as I teach.

Being in Thunder Bay is a different kind of challenge. I feel restless for my next step. My future is uncertain. I genuinely do not have a plan. I am presented with the challenges of sharing space with my family and finding my place in a community of peers I have been estranged from for many years. I’ve had strange encounters with high school enemies. I find myself talking in class about the beneficial practice of being with yourself wherever you are: keeping your awareness on the place that you are feeling the sensation. This period of my life feels like that: the discomfort of a stuck spot, a place of holding that resists movement. I haven’t made head or tails of it yet, I have been unable to formulate clear goals. Wise beings I know say perhaps now is not the time for decision making; wait for readiness. Now is the time to be with myself. And in theory I have always been excited about the idea of having no plan, of having that kind of freedom: but of course the things we wish for always come with lessons we didn’t expect. I don’t have the resources to drive a psychedelic bus across America; this period of free time is not taking place at an ashram in New Mexico, or on a solitary cafe hopping literary journey, or an art studio. It’s in my parent’s house in Thunder Bay, and the practice is being where I am because I haven’t found a next step that feels right yet.

I’ve been doing work on my second chakra– it has associations with creativity, sexuality, control. Health issues such as low back pain and achy SI cysts, which I get, are manifestations of imbalance in the second chakra. It’s been talking to me about relationships and power. They say that the people who come into your life are all reflections of you. When there’s a consistent pattern of behavior in the types of people who come into your life, when that consistent pattern of behavior is injurous or offensive or upsetting to you, they say that it’s a reflection of part of yourself. When I saw the healer Nicole Clark in Chichester (in the midst of huge relationship turmoil), she said to me, “Only you can break the pattern [in your relationshps]” It was one of those statements that echos in the brain over and over again, she hit some nail on the head and I heard something I needed to hear. Investigating my second chakra, my relationships, my power dynamics over the past months, I’ve noticed that my fear of commitment, unwillingness to be vulnerable, and attachment to a misguided idea of emotional control and power collides me with people who are infuriatingly flaky, who give wildly mixed signals, and whose same grasping of notions of control (over selves or relationships) leaves me feeling disempowered.

While I act out an exaggerated, hyper-casual “I don’t care” in my relationships, I’m punched in the gut with “neither do they”.

This is a problem because the “I don’t care” was a lie. I can care deeply, generously, variously, unconventionally, unconditionally, specifically, but not caring is not really my style. I care about everything. I care about people I’ve known forever and people I just met. I care about my students. I care about political issues and social injustices. I care about food. I care about health. I care about community. I care so much about the people who want to date me that I’m afraid to date them if I want to date them in case I start caring about them more; if I don’t want to date them then I fear the emotional ripples of the letdown. (I label that control issues: wanting to pre-package and classify the relationship before it is allowed to develop its own organic characteristics)

So this year I am through with being too cool for love. Because it isn’t being cool, it’s being afraid. I’m not cool, I’m hopelessly sincere and emotion runs deep and strong in me. And this year, for me, is about power instead of fear. That means letting go of intellectual frameworks of control: understanding that our relationships to one another are profoundly uncontrollable, unpredictible and WILD; having the bravery to let the emotional deeps run freely and carry me along into uncertainty and sure peril.

Today I’m thinking about trust: self-trust, trust of the intuition.

I was having a bit of a rocky morning this morning, and found myself in the midst of one of my comfort rituals for coping with rocky mornings, which is to prepare an elaborate two or three course breakfast, usually French in style, with tea, and sit somewhere beautiful — this sometimes means that part of making breakfast is cleaning and organizing my space — to be still, each richly, and usually then do some reading and writing. It’s a good ritual because a lot of the time the crisis I’m having at 11am is because I slept in and haven’t gotten around to eating yet, not because the crisis is necessarily so large. And I believe in nourishment as medicine. Today I made an omlet with thyme and kale salt, zuchinni, yellow squash, leeks, collard greens, and hard raw local goat cheese. I also made a little parfait of sheep yogurt with fresh figs, walnuts, cardamom, flax, a little drizzle of honey, and just for extra pizzaz, a crumbling of 85% cacao chocolate. I made a pot (it is absolutely necessary, for me, that tea come in a pot) of decaf earl grey tea (caffeine and my rocky mornings don’t go together at all) to dress up with silky grass-fed milk and a little more honey.

 I sat on my balcony and looked at the mountain, and ate my omlet and then my yogurt and then drank my pot of tea. I started writing. I didn’t use to realize it, but something I’m blessed with is an intense love of colour. I pay a lot of detailed attention to it, and I get a lot out of it. Last year I was going on about the colour of the sky to my friend Sue, who owns Unity Yoga in Vancouver, when she pointed out that not everybody sees colours the way I do– I guess meaning that she didn’t see or wasn’t interested in the six shades of blue, or whatever I was going on about. Oh. I’ve noticed that since I’ve been here in Chichester, whenever I enter the forest the colours reach out to me more and more than ever, and I walk through the woods shaking my head and beaming and rubbing my eyes, joyous and invigorated. Blessed. My mother mentioned to me this morning that she heard a good way for combatting feelings of depression was to count your blessings: and here I was, counting them. Gratitude is a wonderful power.

Anyway, I was amazed by the colours and the details of the mountain. All the leaves are gone now, but I’m finding myself more struck by the bare trees than I was by their fall flames. I’ll talk about that more another time. Altogether the mountain gave a kind of deep smoky purple impression. The trees themselves were little streaks of dove grey and the shadowy spaces between them a kind of deep ash. The tips of the branches, the cloud of twigs at the tops, almost seemed to give of f a magenta-red glow, though the leaves were gone. The thickly clouded sky seemed like slight washes of pink and blue were drifting across one another, making barely purple, in a sort of irridescent way.

I picked up a copy of The Artist’s Way, a big famous book for unlocking stuck creativity that I’d never looked into before, the other day and immediately didn’t seem to have time for it, but have been practicing the first instructions: to write every day– but without worrying about what you’re writing, letting the gunk come out so you can get to the good stuff. It’s supposed to unlock your creativity. Today when I sat down to write I started obsessing about how beautiful the mountain is, and in truth, thinking about how if I painted it, I would paint it large and simple, and did I have a brush small enough to outline all those spindly trees, and I’d like to paint it on a huge piece of watercolour paper, and I want to paint it in oils. Look at that: a plan for a painting.

Another thing that happened as I was writing was that my mood shifted completely. I felt fully present in my moment with the mountain. I felt myself in the chair on the balcony, loving where I was and what I was doing. I recognized that sitting on a balcony, writing, with tea and a good meal, in the woods, in the fresh cool air, is more or less the stuff of dreams for me, and here I was doing it. Eventually, without me really noticing it, I felt right. I felt what my friend Sue would call “in the Cosmic Flow” and what I think Ana Forrest would call “connected to Spirit”. I felt wise. I had let go of the angers and anxieties and stuck feelings of the morning, and entered a kind of peace, an equanimity, stillness. Part of that peace involved ruminating on the way writing feels for me and has always felt: right. While I’ve run up and down wanting to be a scholar, a yoga teacher, an ESL teacher, an artist, a counselor, a social worker, a publisher, a geneticist, a jewelry maker, a visual artist, a barista, a cafe owner, a wandering saddhu, a person who sells sage by the side of the road, a priest, a bookseller, and all manner of god knows what, clenching and uncleanching around all of these identities, drawing them to me and rejecting them, I’ve never questioned or rejected writing. It’s always been. Now that I’m embracing it differently that I used to as a practice, as a kind of meditation — as Natalie Goldburg, author of Writing Down the Bone, would call it (she writes in place of sitting as part of her Zen meditation practice, under the advice of her teacher) — I am noticing the way it evens out my vibration, that I feel anxious if I haven’t written the gunk out in the morning, that I want to keep writing and writing and that I find deeper stillness and wisdom as I write. Writing today unstuck my rocky feelings and sense of antagonism, flowed them out of me onto the page, and lead me to a place of gratitude, peace, and the kind of cosmic feeling of understanding that can sometimes come over a person in the cosmic flow or connected to spirit. Not exactly “understanding” of the present swirlings of the cosmos, but a feeling that things sort of make sense.  

I haven’t forgotten about trust.  The cold, although pleasant, was getting a little too cold, and I decided to come in. The moment I stepped in the door, a writer friend of mine sent me a message online– I heard the little boop of the messaging service. Turns out she’d been having a rocky few days herself, some of the most especially rocky ones in recent memory. I thought to myself of the timing, that she should come to me with feelings simliar to my pre-ritual feelings, just at the closing point of my ritual. So I told her about my day, that I made a meal and did some writing and that writing through my rocky morning was just the medicine I needed, that I mentioned it to her not to rub in her face that I had been feeling bad and was feeling good, but because it just seemed such a coincidence that she would message me at this very moment, that maybe the timing was because she needed to write. Turns out her partner had suggested she might need to write through things, too, just last night. I’m not sure if she did or not, but it seems to me that if you get the same advice from two unrelated people over two days, it might just be the right advice.

Later today I was listening to an audio book by Caroline Myss called Anatomy of the Spirit; it’s part of my reading for my certification. She wrote her thesis during her study of theology on schitzophrenia and mysticism. She was talking about madness, how it seems somehow essential to our path to power, said that “I have never known anybody who has not or will not go through madness on their way to being healthy or whole”. That resonated for me, and I had an impulse to post it on my facebook page. Minutes later one of my facebook friends said that it was just exactly what she needed to hear today.

These are small and subtle examples, but what’s common to them is that I had two small impulses today to share information that was coming to me, or experiences I’d had, and in both cases I shared without thinking about it twice. The first time I was echoing sentiments that had been expressed by someone else in the person’s life, the second time the thing I shared resonated with someone just right. I could have just as easily kept my thoughts to myself both times, some self-censoring impulse could have said “it’s going to sound like you’re rubbing it in” to my friend or laziness could have kept me from going into facebook, and nothing really would have happened, but the two people who might have heard the things they needed to hear today wouldn’t have. These were experiences of trusting my intuition. Not big, screaming, “don’t cross the street” moments before a car crash kind of intuitions, but little ones that are easy to ignore, a little voice you might barely register before you censor it.

How was it that two experiences, as they were happening to me, were relevant to the experiences of two of my friends a moment later? Imagine if every experience you had wasn’t just for you, was for someone else’s benefit, too– maybe even wasn’t for you at all, but for the benefit of another? What if every time you had an impulse to speak, it was because someone needed to hear what you had to say? What if you could trust that all those bare wisps of intuition– ask that stranger if they’re feeling okay, tell your professor that you appreciate them today, approach your colleague with a story about your brother, not knowing why– were healing intuitions, were directing you to share your experiences with the other people you had them for. I’m having this sort of amazing idea, this idea that we are all living for one another. It makes the world seem like a big web of interlocking and overlapping lives, where we all heal one another with our stories, where are lives are lived for the benefit of the people around us, where the people around us are living their lives for our benefit. That’s not exactly an original idea, but it’s a pretty nice one.

I’m choosing to keep that trust close to my heart this week, to teach, trusting that what wants to come out of me will come out, to act on my intuitions, to listen for the tiny whispery ones, to speak before the inner censor has a chance to clamp down, to imagine that whatever my experience is today, one day it will turn out to be for somebody’s greater good– maybe even mine, or yours, or both. I invite you to try it with me.

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I’ve been thinking about voice, and my voice. Truth be told, I have a lot of anxiety about blogging. I like privacy. I feel suspicious about social networking and concerned about internet anonymity. I feel strongly about having privacy in my life– but I also feel strongly about writing. Indeed, after what I just now calcluated to be over a decade of usually daily practice, I may even be so bold as to call myself a writer: one who writes. So I’m a private person with a lot to say. What to do?

“Voice” can sometimes be a problematic thing for me in many aspects of my life. I find myself wishing to be heard. I catch myself keeping silent when I feel called to speak. I sometimes fail to ask for things I need. I have a great and perhaps excessive respect for words– words are powerful, and sometimes they feel too powerful to use. I recognize that a lifestyle choice that favours privacy is only one part of my blog anxiety; the other part is tied in with my voice hangups: What if I change my mind about what I have to say? If I take ownersip of my words, I may be judged by them.

Something I love about yoga is that everyone is always a teacher and a student. I like that my teachers are always in the process of their own practice. I like that becoming a yoga teacher isn’t like getting a PhD. It’s not that hard to do. You don’t have to have the most advanced practice and you don’t need eight years experience. You kind of just have to be willing to do the whole training, from wherever you are in your practice. Then you teach from where you are, too. Your title doesn’t change: you go from yogi to still a yogi– seeker. Students teach their teachers how to teach them, and more. People in classes learn from one another as much as from the person on the teacher’s mat. Yoga communities have the potential to be egalitarian places of sharing. Everyone brings whatever they know to the table and it benefits the group. Although there are ‘master teachers,’ I like that most studios are full of teachers of all levels of experience, just sharing what they learn in the day to day from their practice. The teachers I respect most have been those who are honest about their vulnerabilities and uncertainties, their in-processness, who own up to being human beings. If I’m going to be a teacher, that’s the kind of teacher I want to be. I don’t think it’s beneficial to affect perfection or completion or total-togetherness as a teacher: nobody is perfect or complete or totally together, it implies a false promise of attainability. I think we need to learn to honour our humanness more, not strive for fabricated ideals.

In my uncertainty about voice, one thing I consistently find myself returning to is the practice of truth speaking. Just speaking the truth. Sounds simple, is simple, is revolutionary. When I was considering coming up to Chichester to apprentice, I was in the middle of a crossroads and confused as hell. I got an email asking if I was interested, and after humming and hawing and not knowing what to say, I just gave up and spilled this whole great story about where I was in life and what the heck was going on. It worked out. Without dancing around all of the uncertanties and roadblocks between me and here, real communication could happen, and here I came.

So here I am again, speaking the truth because there’s nothing else I can think of to do with this voice o’ mine. Blogging freaks me out and I’m doing it anyway. I’m searching for a blance, where I speak the truth in a way that doesn’t make me feel over-exposed, where I share what I have learned in a way that feels authentic and not affected. Just another little yog’ doin’ her practice over here.

I’ve been working a lot on backbends lately, and I want to talk about how they have been improving my life. I think it’s important to talk about how revolutionary and concrete the practical benefits of a yoga practice– the benefits of specific poses, even– can be.

I’m a very creative person, and I tend to keep up a writing and visual art practice as well as a yoga practice. I have had a few projects in mind for while I’ve been here– a poetry project and a sketchbook for The Sketchbook Project— but I’ve been feeling very stuck with my creativity. I can’t seem to find things to write, and I can’t seem to find things to draw. I haven’t been seeing the world in the way that I usually do: in a way that means lines of poetry fall out of the things I see and into my mind, and with a kind of fascination that makes me want to explore the things I see by reproducing them on paper.

These issues seem like third eye issues (visionary sight, seeing the world in an inspired or penetrating way), and root issues (the creative center, the place that creation comes from); they seem like issues that could be targeted with hip work and headstands. But I do a lot of hip work and inversions already: backbends have been the medicine. After a few backbending classes I did with Megan the other day, I felt inspired again. After class, in savasanna,as I drifted dreamily and integrated the energy of the practice, colours and shapes swirled behind my closed eyes. As I was falling asleep that night, the insides of my eyelids became a screen for images of shifting leaves. These kinds of closed-eye visuals are a sign to me that my third eye is feeling healthier and more open.I’m still feeling blocked in ways, but what was a dam is now a brook: there is flow where there wasn’t flow, and I intend to work more backbends to open it up wider and wider.

The lesson here, or the lesson I would like to concentrate on, is a lesson of interconnectedness: if energy is blocked anywhere in the body, it affects all of the energy centers. I don’t mean to sound doom-and-gloom about it– “Oh no! If my WHOLE BODY isn’t totally balanced then I’m not going to be able to do ANYTHING!” That’s not what I mean.– what I mean is that it’s possible to find healing in unexpected places. If your hip work isn’t juicing up your creative energy, then all is not lost: maybe there’s just another part of the body that needs the energy right now, and opening that part up will let the energy travel to the area where you think you’re stuck.

Backbends are also helping me with something that has a more expected association with the heart: relationship issues. Something happened in a relationship recently that’s left me feeling like my heart was a piece of old gum stuck to my ribs: so, not open. What I want to do is spend the afternoon in child’s pose: turned inward with all my shields up. Feeling closed in the heart is a hard place to work, because it’s one of those inertia things where you want to stay closed, close more, instead of opening up, even though opening is healing. I’ve been feeling stuck in anger and not very willing to work through it: I’d rather stay angry, and concentrate on the things that are making me angry, instead of allowing myself to let go of them. I’ve been taking a workshop with Nicole Clark that’s focussed on healing through touch, and let me tell you it has been inconvenient and difficult to attempt that kind of work while still trying to keep closed.

Luckily for me, Nicole busted out the backbends this morning. And I found them excruciating, I might add: my body was feeling very committed to sulking in resistance. But in this case backbending did some important things for me. By the end of class my heart felt like a pale little moon, ringed with leaves, glowing softly, instead of a piece of gum. One thing backbending did was bring nourishing energy to my stuck spot; instead of starving my little heart of energy because I was feeling sad and angry, I was able to send it some of the love and attention it was needing, and so it felt better. I could comfort myself, instead of only relying on the comfort of others– that’s empowering. I was able to move some of the stuck energy: shedding some tears, letting my feelings come out intead of keeping them in lockdown. With more openness, I was able to distance myself from the objects of my anger a little bit: they weren’t right front and center anymore, they were off to the side a little bit– still there, but I had the option of thinking about other things, too, and with more perspective. With  more openness, I was also able to connect to the caring I feel about the person I’m having conflict with. If you’re feeling upset by someone you care about, it’s easy to concentrate on the negative feelings instead of the fact that the relationship is valuable to you (if it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be feeling so upset!). I’m finding it much easier to be willing to work through this heart closing, when I am connected to a reason to do the work: the person I care about.

I feel like my biggest obstacle has been finding the willpower to work through my feelings. The heart persistently wants to close. It’s feeling pretty sulky. But tackling the body first through strategic yoga practice (or happily coincidential yoga practice… or maybe even practice that the universe, always up to its old tricks and perfect-timings, sent my way) offers a way into the emotions. I want to stay stuck and closed, but here I am in my sixth backbend of the day, and energy is pumping in: I can’t help but feel a little less angry here, willing to look for solutions instead of dwell on the problems.

Here’s something big: backbends and heart openers don’t just open up the heart, they also open up their close sister, the throat– the energetic center of communication. They connect with core: the sense of self, the will. And tonight I have been finding that communicating truthfully, with kindness, with bravery, while connected to the knowledge that I care about the person I’m in conflict with, while connected to my feelings but not totally ruled and overpowered by them, has done wonders for starting to heal the hurt feelings I’m feeling. It’s been surprising.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: backbends are powerful medicine. Here’s just a few ways they’re rocking my world right now. Try some out when you’re feeling stuck in the heart, and try some out when you’re feeling stuck somewhere else, just try some– see how you feel. It might be revolutionary.

I’ll keep this quick because I am working on moderating my internet use! I have been thinking a lot about Megan’s recent blog post over at Lalita Healing Collective. She’s taking a break from complaining (she’s on a no-complaining diet). It’s been really successful for her. She wants us all to try it. In addition to steps she took to make sure she was supported during her “diet”, including making agreements with herself about keeping up her personal practice, this is what she did:

When I wanted to complain, I said to myself, I cannot afford this anymore. I can no longer afford the energy spillage.  Then shift focus to something else like the creek or the golden leaves or the fact that I have a nicer car than the person going 10 miles under the speed limit in front of me with no way for me to pass.

My first two reactions were:

1. How do I know if it’s complaining? What if it’s just telling the truth about something that sucks? What’s the difference between recognizing that something is having a particular effect on me, and working through it, and just complaining about it? What if I have to make decisions about whether to remove the thing that’s getting me down from my life? I have to think about it then, don’t I? I have to recognize how it’s making me feel, don’t I?

I think I was being evasive, because the other reaction, once I was being honest with myself, was:

2. No. I don’t want to stop complaining.

Now what a strange reaction! Why would I be attached to wanting to complain? I think first of all because it struck a nerve: maybe I have been complaining a lot lately. I went into resistance, not liking the accusation, not wanting to admit I was doing it. Someone I dated once, during an unhappy part of the relationship as it was heading towards its conclusion, labelled me a “complainer” in a hurtful way that stuck, and so I’ve carried around fear and defensiveness about being a “complainer” for awhile too (I notice). Of course, my identity is not reducible to “a complainer” — nobody’s identity is reducible to one quality like that, which is why I disapprove of using labels when talking to people, just as an aside– but I have had some complaints recently. That my online obligations are distracting me from my nature time, for one. I know for certain that the way I’ve been thinking about it has been a HUGE energy suck– and low energy is going to keep me from meeting my goals as much as the realities of my obligations.

Upon reflection, what that particular complaint amounts to is that I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself to have a certain kind of experience, and when my lived experience doesn’t measure up to my expectation I’ve been blocking out the reality with the fantasy: “Here I am on the computer when I could be on a hike!” What I’ve been inscribing into my brain has been: “This computer is ruining my life and making everything suck, I’m going to leave here and it will be like I didn’t come here at all”. Hogwash!

After letting Megan’s post settle for a day, and with a good backbending class and some especially uplifting teaching experiences behind me, I’m out of resistance. I wanted to share some of the great things that I’ve been achieving and experiencing here even though I own a computer: things that are in line with the fantasy, things that prove it isn’t keeping me from learning a different way of being through living in the country.

1. I no longer use a cell phone (no service!) and I’ve adjusted to it. I feel like I’ll be happily able to transition into staying cell phone-free when I pick up after I’ve left here. That’s been a goal of mine for a long time.

2. I’m reconnecting with my sources of food by going to farm markets much more often than I was able to find the time to before I came here. I’m eating mostly locally, I’m eating no processed foods, and I’m using my oven like never before. I have a better sense of what’s in season when, which is a type of knowledge I’ve been trying to cultivate for a long time. I eat out almost never, which was getting to be a habit of mine in the city, even though I love to cook. I used to fry a lot, and I’m happy to be baking more. I’m also making more soups. I am wasting less food because I’m not eating out while the food in my fridge wilts and goes bad, and because I have time to do things like roast the seeds of the squash I just baked instead of throwing them away. I’ve learned new recipes because of dietary changes I’ve made, and I’m making my own condiments now: the first try at Vietnamese chilli oil was a little burnt, but I’m excited about next time! I have strong food politics, and I am happy to be walking more of the talk.

3. I have had time to make other environmentally friendly decisions. Although I need to use a car here, and do, which is less environmentally friendly that my prior days of biking everywhere, I’ve gotten into other good habits. I plan my grocery trips– they’re not done on the fly when i happen to be in the neighbourhood– so I have always been able to prepare ahead and reuse my grocery bags for every trip so far. I have become much more meticulous with my recycling: EVERYTHING gets sorted. And I have collected enough glass bottles to carry my water in that I have enough that even if I misplace them everywhere am (almost) never left in the lurch and needing to buy a plastic water bottle to get my hydtration on.

4. I’m learning about wild plants. I got to take a workshop with Susan Weed, a witch lady, and I connected with the weed Mugwort. I’ve had time to keep my eyes peeled and am noticing it here and there. I’ve had time to harvest it and form a relationship with it, drying it and making some smudge sticks, harvesting flowers for a tincture, noticing when it’s in bloom, learning to recognize what young plants and old plants look like. It’s helping me to open my eyes to other wild plants, noticing their differences and similarities, even if I don’t know what they are yet.

5. I am FINALLY using a planner effectively. I am often too scattered to keep track of it, and it gets cast to the wayside after a few weeks of use. I rely on my planner to keep track of my schedule and now my private healing sessions, and I’ve developed a good habit with it.

So there: proof that I am having an enriching and slowed-down country experience here, just like I wanted, if not in every detail the full realization of my fantasy (nothing ever is). Deciding to stop complaining about the part of my time here that I wasn’t liking let me open my eyes to the fact that I wasn’t far off the mark at all.

Teaching yoga is teaching me to be more accountable than I think I’ve ever been. I am becoming accountable for all of my reactions. I am reaching a place where there are no excuses. That doesn’t mean being hard on myself,  or holding myself up to unrealistic expectations: it just means being accountable. And by excuses I really mean excuses. It sometimes feels scary and frustrating and a lot of work to stop using excuses, but it also means taking control of my life and living in a genuine way, a way that is more honest. It means not being controlled by my tendencies.

This is what I mean: say I’m having a bad day, I don’t feel up to teaching, and I find myself teaching an unusually long opening sequence. You might say that teaching a long opening sequence is perfectly fine– and it is. But if I’m only teaching a long opening sequence because I’m procrastinating the more energetic and complex teaching that comes later, that′s acting out. I am learning to be aware and honest about what is going on for me. And then I can change my behavoir. “Oh come on,” you say, “you′re having a bad day, give yourself a break”– and that seems to be the key with accountability: being aware and honest about your behaviours and reactions without being critical and unkind to yourself. But it is not unkind to myself be honest about the why I am behaving the way I am, if I do it in a way that is observational without being judgmental. It’s also not an unkindness to change my behavoir — it’s liberation. If I know I′m just feeling lazy, or grumpy, or unenthusiastic, then “I can′t” is an excuse. If  I really truly can′t, then I know. When I set the space in the morning morning I pledge to love my students, and I pledge to teach the class that is the best for them, because that’s why I’m there in the first place: to give them a good class (not to teach a class where I think about myself a lot and ignore my students: why bother– they are the only reason I′m up there). I want to be accountable to my own pledges, and the pledges I have made to others. If I catch myself in the middle of a story about how I can′t, I change the story. And if I can′t change it, I have something to ponder over later. I know that I won′t be perfect, and that I will act out, and I have to be okay with that too– but that doesn′t mean giving up on accountability.

This kind of thing comes up ten times a class. It’s very subtle. It’s about attitude. It’s energetic. If I become frustrated because the class isn’t going the way I want it to, and I let that frustration come into my teaching, and I start speaking in a frustrated way, and I start treating people differently because of my frustration, the whole vibe of the room shifts. It makes me see how important it is to be accountable. My moods affect the moods of my students. If I teach frustration yoga, my students leave feeling frustrated. That’s not what I set my intention to do, that’s not what I’ve led them to believe they’re going to be getting from the class. I’m not being accountable to my intentions or the understanding that I have with my students about what this class is going to be. Maybe I have every right to be frustrated– but I know the difference between feeling frustrated and taking it out on another person, even if I am, again, in a situation where it is totally understandable for me to react or act out. That′s what′s challenging: letting go of all of those tiny exuses, all of those “Well I have every right to”s and those “Well it′s perfectly understandable that”s. The thing is that I can get away with being frustrated and unenthusiastic, people will say (usually), “She′s just having a bad day”. But I don′t want to live in a way that means me “getting away with” a lot of stuff. I am basically reaching a deeper and more subtle understanding of my behavoirs, the opportunity to feel like I′m living boldly and honestly and not teaching.

As I′m finding in general with teaching, the lessons I learn on the teacher′s mat extend into every part of my life. One thing I′m trying to be accountable about right now is my internet use and the way it affects me: I am on this machine too much, and it′s interfering with the kind of experience I intended to have here– mostly teaching, meditating, walking around in the woods, and painting: going inwards. Instead I spend as much time online as I did when I lived in the city, and I feel like I′m missing out. Since I know that my behavoir is making me unhappy, it wouldn′t be accountable to let that behavoir continue, so some major changes are happening. I have decided to shut down my personal facebook, because I find the facebook environment toxic for me: it encourages all the timewasting I hate to do, and triggers bad behavoir for me. I will keep a facebook to promote my yoga stuff to all of you who don′t find it such a destructive environment (you can add Wild Being for that). I am thinking hard about how I signed up for an online course and to do computer work for a professor while I was here, why I did it. Yesterday I was seriously considering dropping out of my course and asking the professor to find someone else to do the job she wants me to do, so I could hike and teach and meditate and paint. But it′s true that I like working for the professor, that the work she has given me is good experience, and that while I am hating the online course, it is helping me to pursue another path I′m interested in, too. And today when Megan sent me an email asking me to do some minor admin work if I could– checking and responding to EMAILS of course– I was confronted with the fact that this apprenticeship wasn′t just about traipsing around the woods in the first place. It′s a place to learn how to do the work I′m doing, and that happens to include making posters, promoting online, and checking emails.

So the lesson I might need to learn after all might be moderation. Maybe instead of dicthing all of my online obligations in a grande-geste, as I am wont to do– throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as they say (morbidly)– I need to say that my computer time will take place in the times that I have planned it to, and not exceed them. That′s WAY HARDER than just being through with it altogether, but it might be the lesson. I′m still not sure. I′m troubled, in fact. You will hear me speak more of this, I′m sure. I want a lot of my life. I want to do a lot. I want to write and do art and heal and study and travel and publish, and always be learning. Maybe it would be better for me to learn how to do it in a healthy way than to learn not to— although I think another lesson is to make sure my actions are in line with my goals (next retreat into the woods the online course is not coming with me). Maybe I need to realize more deeply that the trees and mountains and hikes are still here to appreciate when I′m busy– and how how to take time to appreciate them even though I have things to do. But sometimes big gestures of sacrifice are imporant too. And I′m still deleting my facebook.

I have been in Chichester, New York, for one month. Here’s the catchup: I ditched town dramatically in the middle of writing a thesis this March and took one hell of a yoga teacher training with one and only Ana Forrest. After a few months of seriously nervous teaching (I also graduated successfully), I got the opportunity to skip town again, move to the country/another country, and do a lot more of it. I’m now living in an apartment closer to a log cabin than not, with a creek in my backyard leading into the most fairy woods I’ve ever been in. I’m here apprenticing at Chichester Yoga under Megan Leigh, teaching (almost) full-time, and learning hands-on healing.

The hardest day was the first, when nobody actually showed up. I went into this experience confident that teaching yoga was the thing that terrified me most. When I found out the day before that I would be teaching two classes instead of one, I had issues. I had an insane nightmare about having to teach for Ana Forrest while she did sun salutation dance with most of the class next door to the band Mogwai, who were playing a surprise set. I didn’t do any teaching, but I consoled a number of students who were wailing uncontrollably that I was going to teach the class instead of her. The next day I cried from the second I woke up to the moment the first person showed up to the class before mine, about what the hell I was doing here, doing something I obviously hated. I quaked in my boots until nobody showed up and I was relieved, then, thank god, nobody showed up again, and it was time to start working on being terrified about the next day. That night was meditation class and discussion, lead by Peter. I have never been more sure what I needed was twenty minutes of meditation. During discussion, he talked about teachers and I talked about teaching anxieties. Then he produced a miraculous three-word sentence that resonated so exactly with everything I was feeling and needing to learn it was like the words materialized out of the air and rested, suspended there in a drop of water, before me: love your students. Something like, “when I taught, if I could come to class with love for my students, it was always a good class. If I came to class frustrated and angry with them, it never failed that we had a bad class.” Of course. “Love your students” became my  touchstone.

I had a dream that Ana Forrest, wearing my dress, remarked to me how much wearing tights conveyed authority to people, then smudged with some cedar I had with me, thinking it was hers. The next day, setting the space, I lit a candle and said, “I pledge to love my students.” I wasn’t nervous. I make the same pledge before every single class. I haven’t been nervous since — not like I was. I rested confident in the steadiness and strength of my intention. If my teaching was an expression of love, it would be a gift whether I made mistakes or not. And the products of genuinely loving a person — really seeing, accepting, and caring about them — seriously help a teacher to see and act on what a student needs in class: a recipe for good teaching. Love is bigger and more powerful than nervousness or perfectionism or momentary frustration or conflict: it is a strong, serene source of energy to lean into. It holds me up. It is active. It does what is right. It does what is kind. I let it in and it does the work for me. Anticipating months of struggling with fear, I had no idea it would dissolve so easily. Love your students. That was my first lesson.

If you come to my class, I pledge to teach you with love.