Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Definition of Separateness

"We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness."
- Thich Nhat Hanh

I always felt separate growing up often strange.  My mother was black and Christian and my father was white and a non-practicing Jew.  I was supposedly a mixture of both of them and but felt like a was part of none of them.  When I was growing up I felt like there was no one like me around.  I know there were, but, even people I should have bonded with like my brother I never felt a connection to.

We experience ourselves our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.
Albert Einstein

I was a competitive swimmer for most of my childhood.  The point of swimming was to win. To stand out. To medal to place.  I was on a team but all of our goals were individual goals.  We were constantly in competition with each other.  I felt no unity or peace with the other members of the team. I often felt like I didn't measure up, I wasn't fast enough.  I didn't have the killer instinct to be a championship swimmer. I was good but never great.  I spent much of my childhood in the water practicing. I see myself swimming mile after mile in the public pool at Pickett Middle School year after year feeling completely isolated. I think I may of missed out on being a child.  I don't really know how not to be scheduled even today. I trace that back to my regimented swim routine.

This life of separateness may be compared to a dream, a phantasm, a bubble, a shadow, a drop of dew, a flash of lightning.
- Gautama Buddha

When I am struggling with depression I feel very a lone, separate, like no one can understand me, as if there is no place for me, I don't matter.  When I am depressed colors feel dull, foods feel tasteless, my body is very heavy.  I have been depressed on and off for most of my life.  I have never been medicated and I am not judging people who are, I am just telling my own story.

I have been dissatisfied with my job for many years.  I am very resentful of how many hours a week I spend working. The film and television industry is so demanding with the average day starting at 12 hours,  I have been working in entertainment since I was 21 years old and like with my childhood spend swimming I also feel like in my adulthood I have missed out on many things. I don't even remember by 30s.  I am trying to be more present in my 40s.  I am trying to be mindful and really pay attention.

I had a really hard time this year between May and October working on an exceptionally hard TV show. When my foot and knee started to hurt again a couple months ago I thought: "why me", "this again", my own suffering felt crushing to me.  When  my knee starts to hurt it is if it is separate from the whole body, screaming for attention "look at me" or "pay attention to me."

Sometimes I believe my body is falling apart because it is rebelling.  It is telling me that I need to move forward and leave the film industry. I have been unhappy in my job as a Set Decorator for many years. If my calling is yoga therapy and I don't follow my calling will my body continue to separate and rebel until I unify myself.

Although meditation is basically personal practice a feel more connected to everything when I meditate.  Yoga changed my life but when I am practicing yoga and meditation together everything changes for the better. Despite this knowledge of the benefits of meditation, I haven't consistently meditated in a long time. When I was in Yoga Nidra teacher training (a few years back) and was practicing Yoga Nidra at least four times I week my mood elevated greatly.  It was interesting because Yoga Nidra I was practicing was alone in my house and I was journaling about my experience but I felt a great universal connection.

The main activities that have brought me joy lately are my Yoga Teaching and my connection to the studio. When I teach I feel like I am of use to the world, of service.   I feel as if I have something to offer. 
"Our highest, most important duty in this world is to help our fellow beings." - Amma

When I teach sometimes I don't even feel like it's me teaching it's like a greater, smarter, more knowledgeable voice is moving through me.  Teaching yoga has truly changed my life.

The aim of my teaching is enlightenment, awakening from the dream state of separateness into the reality of the One. In short, my teaching is focused on realizing what you are. 
- Adyashanti

When people come to me with problems at the Yoga studio - and they often do.  I encourage them to do their practice, meditate, journal.. etc.  Just doing the yoga practice shift things.  I encourage the students to come to the studio and be in a supportive like minded environment.  I offer to work with them one on one Yoga Therapy Sessions in conjunction with coming to the studio group class.  I truly believe in the healing power of the group class.  I know that group classes are new in the history of yoga.  But I believe they are very important in helping us move from separateness to wholeness.  It's important to have a spiritual home and I think the yoga studio can be that place.

When I teach group classes I encourage people to say their name and introduce themselves to their neighbor.  I always mention we are a small studio so the advantage is that you can meet people.  I have especially felt the power of a bonding group in the yoga teacher trainings, artist way, life purpose boot camp and 40 day challenges.  I believe in these groups that have a common goal and meet on a consistent basis people feel supported and united.

Conversely, sometimes in the group classes I have felt like I have lost control of the session or the group with one person taking all the focus.  I especially felt lost with one student who always came late to group and then no matter what we were working on the day shifted the focus to her love life and her hurtful interactions with men. When she came in late to a session, the group lost its focus and unity.

I took spiritual counseling training this fall at Expanding Light to help me understand how to work with people in a spiritual way and manage groups better.  The training really helped me to understand the individual session but I still feel a little lost with the group.  I hope to facilitate groups that work in a positive way on whatever the topic is of the program or workshop.  It's difficult when people, for whatever reason, want to separate themselves and need all the group attention.  I haven't figured all that out yet.  But I believe if I keep practicing and studying I will get better at this.

My dream for my life is one where I am ". . . helping people to see and feel and believe in their wholeness, helping them to tend, befriend, and mend the wounds of disconnectedness and the pain of feeling, isolated, fragmented, and separate, and helping them to discover an underlying fabric of wholeness and connectedness with themselves." (Jon Kabat-Zinn, p. 186, The Full Catastrophe Living)

When I studied with Nischala Devi this spring she explained to us some things about the Dean Ornish program that has made it so successful.  The program was four parts 1) Diet 2) Exercise 3) Yoga and 4) Group Support.  The group support was really important, just as important as every other component.  It's wonderful when like minded people or people with similar goals can lean on each other as much or more than they depend on the teacher.  When one can facilitate building communities that support themselves and you can step away as the teacher I think that is the ultimate accomplishment.  Because it is in community the separateness falls away to wholeness.

I believe feeling so strange as a bi-racial child, swimming year after year and never "making it', battling depression, and having a career that has been so demanding that I don't much care about anymore has made me compassionate.  

“There is perhaps nothing worse than reaching the top of the ladder
and discovering that you’re on the wrong wall.” ― Joseph Campbell

I understand what it means to work very hard and not get what you want.  I understand how it feels to be isolated and alone.  Having a testimony, I believe has been really important to me as a teacher.  I feel like I understand separation.  I have been there.  I don't know all the answers but I understand the questions. I am there for whoever needs me.  I will serve in anyway I can.

"Most people are concerned only with what they can get from the world, but it is what we are able to give to others that determines the quality of our life." - Amma

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