If you're interested in the details (and beware! This is LONG):
I didn't really have much idea what to expect in taking this course, but even if I'd tried, I could not have imagined what I was really being offered. It was so much more than "just" yoga. Well, no - it was ALL yoga. But what I mean is that it was so much more than just the physical aspects of the practice of yoga. I guess I'd been thinking she was going to run us through loads of Vinyasa (flow; and yes, she did that); I hadn't thought much, though, about what else we'd be doing. I was vaguely aware that we were going to do something with Chakras (which interested me a lot, as lately I'd been feeling myself drawn towards studying them, but hadn't gotten very far with it yet).
The focus of the weekend became clear, though, within the first few minutes of Friday night's session, when Seane asked us to come closer to her so she could talk to us for a few minutes. She spent the next hour or so telling us about where she is right now in her practice, and what she'd come to us hoping to teach: yoga as a path to mysticism. What an interesting "coincidence," I thought (hah!), considering that earlier in the day, I'd read through my first of the Rosicrucian lessons, which was also all about mysticism. And there have been a few other "nudges" as well. As I said earlier in the week in another entry, I've known for years that mysticism is the way I prefer to approach spirituality. Well, apparently at this time in my life, the Divine wants me to be actively pursuing a mystical path. Hey, I don't need to be hit over the head too many times before I catch on. ;)
So, she spoke about mysticism and how her practice has evolved through what she calls the Three Realms of Consciousness, starting from a place which was based mostly in the physical practice of yoga, to where she is now, using her practice as a meditation, and also as a way of praying for peace. I'll write more about that later, when we get to that "realm." On Friday night, we focused on what she calls the "first" realm of consciousness - the Mental/Physical Realm. It was all about getting into our bodies, getting our bodies into proper alignment in the asanas so that, in the later sessions, we wouldn't have to focus on this and we could focus on other things instead. She took us through several poses, really tweaking the way we held our bodies. Most of the weekend we spent working with an "extended version" of Surya Namaskar (the Sun Salutation, a well-known vinyasa in which you do a series of poses, moving smoothly from one to the next). I call it the extended version because she added a few additional poses here and there to the basic sequence. She also stressed the importance of breathing - the idea with vinyasa is that for each movement, you take one breath. For example, from a standing position, you inhale and reach up to the ceiling; on the exhale you fold forward putting your hands to the floor. On the inhale you look up, on the exhale you jump your feet back to the top of a push-up and lower yourself down. Etc. The idea here is that by focusing on the breath, you turn your practice from just something you do with your body into a form of meditation. She also reminded us to breath deeply, all the way into the bottom of our lungs, instead of just breathing in and out of the chest. I'm used to breathing into my lower abdomen, as it's something I do while singing, but it was good to be reminded to do it in this different circumstance, as well. She put us through about an hour of vinyasa (the yang part of our practice), and then an hour of stretching and twists (the yin part of our practice).
Oh - time for a little personal story here: As I mentioned briefly in my Happiness Manifesto that night, I went to this session with the beginnings of a migraine. I'd hoped that doing the yoga would make it go away, which isn't quite what happened. What did happen was very interesting to me, though, and certainly more beneficial in the long run. The headache did worsen during the evening, although never to a level that I couldn't handle. It hurt when I changed positions (for example, while I was going from a standing position to folded over touching the floor - my head would pound right about the place that my head passed my heart on the way down). But I was always able to keep going through the pain. The interesting part was watching my mind.
Okay, I think I should back up just a bit and give some "history" here. I fall into "victim" very easily when it comes to headaches, especially the migraines I get every month. I feel so helpless and out of control - especially when they don't respond to pain medication. I often feel very sorry for myself, and sometimes feel as though I'm being "punished" by the Divine for something - why else would I get this pain in my head EVERY SINGLE MONTH? I also suspect that these feelings do nothing at all to soothe my sore head, and probably constrict blood vessels further, making it just that much worse. There's a lot of worrying and fear, too, which don't help anything either. From the time when I feel the first stirrings of a headache (sometimes before that, actually - there have been times I've worried for days in advance that I might get a headache on a particular day, for example when I sang the solo in the Galindo piece last year). Even though I'm in no actual, physical pain, I create tons of mental suffering for myself with dread and fear and all that victim crap. Fast-forward to Friday morning, when my daily horoscope warned of an unpleasant situation. (I do want to add that I subscribe to my horoscope mostly just for "fun." I don't really have a lot of confidence that a message sent out to one-twelfth of the population is going to be really accurate for me every day, but once in a while they are spot on). Then, when I read the message I get every weekday from The DailyOm, I had to stop and think, since that message was titled "Why Me?" and was all about falling into "victim" when bad things happen. (The DailyOM, btw, are daily messages with inspirational wisdom). So, I thought, "UH OH," and wondered just what it was that might happen. Well, when I got the headache that afternoon, that seemed like the likeliest candidate (since nothing else "bad" had happened), so I decided that I was going to try and remember what the DailyOm had said, and instead of falling into "victim" I would sit it out and not do my usual mental thing.
When the headache started, I reminded myself that I wasn't yet in any significant pain, and so I didn't need to create suffering for myself by worrying when it was going to start REALLY hurting. So far so good. Then, when it did start to hurt, I just kept focused on my breathing, and on the yoga, and refused to let my mind get all wound up. I reminded myself that I wasn't a victim; I wasn't being "punished." I just had a headache, most likely caused by hormones in my body, and that it didn't have to "mean" anything more than that. Now, I don't know if the Prana I built up doing yoga helped keep the headache from getting very severe, or if my mental attitude helped, or if maybe this wouldn't have become a severe headache in the first place . . . but in any case, the headache never reached the point where I could no longer cope with the yoga. The pain was steady, but not unbearable, and I didn't have any of the other symptoms I often get (sensitivity to light and noise, for example). Even more importantly, I got to have a very interesting experience of watching my mind and at the same time nudging it in the direction I wanted it to go, instead of letting it run rampant, bringing the headache raging with it. Which is why I was actually thankful for this headache, very sincerely. It was a wonderful teacher. I was a bit concerned that I might have more trouble with headaches throughout the weekend (as is often the case), but that never happened. I've got more to say about the headaches, actually, but I'm not quite at that point in the story yet.
So, on Friday we had a very good workout, vinyasa and focusing on breathing. On Saturday, the topic was the Emotional/Energetic realm, and we approached this by way of the Chakras (energy centers in the body, each corresponding to certain parts of the body and emotional aspects of the personality). The focus on Saturday, therefore, was to access the Chakras through asana, since each pose will stimulate one or more Chakras, depending on the parts of the body that are used. A backbend, for example, where the chest and throat are exposed, will open up (you guessed it) the Heart and Throat Chakras. Inverted postures (headstands, etc.) stimulate the Crown and Third-Eye Chakras in the head. Starting with the Root Chakra, Seane took us upward through our body during the two sessions (about four hours of yoga). As we held poses, she explained to us the function/correspondences of each Chakra, and also the ways that both blockages and excess energy can manifest in our lives - in both physical and emotional ways. For example, I have very tight hamstrings, which would indicate some issues with my Root Chakra (perhaps unhealed wounds from things to do with my family in childhood, or perhaps the way I feel about my own culture). And here's where I come back to the subject of my headaches. After hearing what Seane had to say about this, I've come to the conclusion that the headaches are due, at least in part, to issues with my 6th Chakra, and possibly also my 7th. These Chakras deal with Divine wisdom and intuition, and I think my intuition is not all that happy with me. It wants to be expressed, and for some reason, I'm not listening or trusting it. (I had confirmation of this a few days later; but that's for a separate entry). Blocked energy = headaches, and probably my sinus problems, as well. The cool and synergistic thing about all this is that, once again, here I find myself in a yoga workshop which leads me to think about my intuition while, just the previous morning I'd been studying intuition via the Rosicrucian materials. As with the pull towards mysticism, I've no doubt that I'm being guided (I'll repress my urge to say "dragged along" :D) by Spirit, and it's really lovely how so many things are all fitting together for me. So yeah, to make six hours of workshop fit into a couple of paragraphs, I'll sum up by saying that we were given a LOT of information about how the Chakras can help us determine what areas of our lives (and bodies) are out of whack; and vice-versa. Maybe especially vice-versa.
Sunday, the third day of the workshop, was the most invigorating, the most spiritually uplifting. Also definitely the most physically challenging. We did two solid hours of yoga, including one of vinyasa, and I SWEAT. I don't think I've ever sweat like this before. Ever. Certainly not during yoga, and not during any other activity, either that I can recall. I had beads of sweat dripping from my body, something that just does not usually happen to me. It takes a lot to get me to even perspire mildly, but yow. Not on Sunday. (I wasn't the only one - we were a sweaty bunch that day, that's for sure). So, it was a physically challenging and detoxifying workout for me . . . but even so, the physical aspect of the yoga was not at all the focus of the day. On Sunday, Seane spoke about the Psychic/Symbolic realm, describing the way that she now uses her yoga practice as prayer. Basically, she takes the Prana that she raises while doing yoga (which is something that happens naturally whenever we do yoga), and she directs it out into the world to work for peace and healing. By focusing on the breath (as we did on Friday night), she turns her practice into a form of meditation, as well, and staying mindful of the breath helps her keep her energy focused, rather than letting it get scattered the way it can if she were to let her mind wander. (I've noticed in my own life that yoga is one of the few times during my day when I'm most likely to be mindful, and not have my thoughts running around all over the place. More so during yoga than during my meditation practice, which is when I'm meant to be honing that skill, and yet, my mind runs around like a chicken with its head cut off. On speed). :D So, I really enjoyed the perspective she brought to us, showing us how we could do this with our practice, as well, and without really making any changes other than a very small mental shift. Also, by doing yoga and then directing the Prana outward, we would still be getting all the physical/spiritual/emotional/mental benefits that we got before, but we could also act as a force for positive change in the world. Seane spoke of there being people all over the world doing yoga in this way (and using other wholistic practices, as well), and that people like us are coming together in groups much like we did this weekend, and that we are actively helping to shift the consciousness of the planet away from fear and hatred, to a consciousness of love and truth.
Of course, she said loads more about this - we spent large chunks of our time sitting around and listening, or in dialogue, with her. So many times I found myself nodding my head and thinking, "Yes, YES!" She believes (as do I) that we have the ability (and the responsibility) to heal the planet by transforming our own lives, one at a time, and by "holding the light" for others to do the same. The idea behind this is that our world reflects our thoughts, collectively. And when the majority of the people in the world are thinking thoughts full of hate or fear, and making decisions based on those emotions, that's the reality that is manifest in our world. But as more and more of us work to shift this in ourselves - to release ourselves from fear and instead operate from a space of love and forgiveness (to ourselves and others), we really can change the things that are happening in the world. This is something I've believed for a long time, and Seane put it into words quite eloquently (surely much better than I've just done). She also spoke of how, for years, she was reluctant to talk about this, or to do this work in public, for fear that others would think she was crazy, or "out there" or deluded or naive or stupid. Oh yeah. I understand that fear intimately, and it's kept me silent many, many times about things that I believe strongly, even though I know I'm none of those things I listed above. So, I'm sure you can appreciate that writing and posting this entry is a challenge for me, for fear of what some might think and say. But Seane also made it clear that it's fear like this that holds us back, and that keeps our entire world in its current state of crisis. So, if she can get up in front of people across the world and speak her truth, well, I'm going to take a stand on speaking mine, as well. (Honouring my 5th Chakra). ;)
And this is my truth: that people, "ordinary" individual people, really can make profound changes by simply becoming aware of the ways in which we are living in harmful emotions (fear, shame, hatred, anger, greed, etc.), and making the decision to let go of those things, and instead live in love and truth. And yeah, it's a lot easier said than done, especially when I find out that the government has voted to drill for oil in the arctic wildlife refuge, or I get on the 680 freeway in the morning and get cut off by some dude yammering away on his cell phone, or I read about how many more people died this week in Iraq, or my son makes me so angry that I lose my temper and yell at him. It's so easy to fall into anger and fear and hatred - both directed outward, and directed inward at myself. But it is possible to challenge these emotions, and last weekend's workshop really helped me make a shift in that direction. This week, I have felt calmer, more at peace, more willing to forgive. I know I'll get angry about things in the future, and lose my temper, and feel victimized, and think horrible thoughts about others. But right now, I'm challenging those emotions in myself when they come up, and I'm also committed to continuing to challenge them into the future. And I believe this work is the most important work that we can do. Healing the resentments we carry against others (and against ourselves), and acknowledging that whatever challenges we face, we co-created them in order to learn and grow. That is my truth, and it was very comforting to hear it being taught over the weekend, to watch it spread and grow throughout my small community, and into the larger community, and out into the world.
I very much hope to have the chance to study with Seane again. She's a wonderful, inspirational teacher, and I got so much more out of my weekend than I would have ever believed possible. I offer a huge amount of gratitude to her. And to anyone who managed to make it all the way through this entry! :)
~ Namaste ~