Apocalypse Chic & Ashtanga-Con • 20 March 2012

Denver airport is so spacious; it always brings me back to this old space in the web. About ten insideowl posts have been written in this airport since December of 2006.

The moving walk here is four lanes wide, and it takes 25 minutes to pass all 92 gates of the United arterials. The pavilion sits out in the middle of nowhere, imitating a mountain range. But being of less robust materials than mountains, it invites tornadoes. There are storm shelters every 100 yards.

Thousands of small birds live on the arterials, syncing their migratory patterns to steel birds’ departures. Right now, it’s just me and them out here at the far end of Concourse B. They’re swooping all over, plucking Cincinnati passergers’ Pizza Hut crumbs out of the carpet.

This whole scenario satisfies me aesthetically. So much the better that my phone is dead and there’s nasty inclement weather at both ends of this journey.

I’m skipping a stone across the backchannels of Mercury retrograde, on flights cancelled both going and coming. After a tornado and a snowstorm, it’s down to a chain of stand-by flights that may or may not get me home in time to invoke Patanjali and friends tomorrow morning at 7. If it does not, I will fast in the face of pizza and ice cream, sleep on the floor next to an east-facing window, and find an abandoned gate to roll out a manduka when the sun comes up over this plain.

The whole situation is aesthetic perfection. This is a genre of experience one could call Apocalypse Chic. It features abandoned industrial spaces, nature winning, technological breakdowns, storm shelters, zen chaos, and gigantic vistas of VERY DRAMATIC CLOUD FORMATIONS. People hired as extras should be reading Cormack McCarthy, Jack London, the Blue Cliff Record, the Mahabharata and Job. (Long O, you know.) Apocalypse Chic favors the meditator’s skillset: a sharp inner calculator, absurdist humor, actual empathy, and equanimity on the level of radical fucking acceptance. (It also helps to have a Swiss Army knife and a book of matches, items I never seem to get past security.)

The plot comes down to concourse nomadism: Nothing to do. Nowhere to go. Nobody to call. But not in a spacey, meta-pointless way, because everyone else here is still in the bustle of getting things done. (I can only watch 10 minutes of Jim Jarmusch before weeping in boredom, but he gets this.)

The people here are vectors more than characters. That’s because they are not really here – their subtle bodies are out in the ether, irritably scrambling to catch up, like the Dean Stockwell character in Quantum Leap. These people are like the birds: swooping through, being beautiful without trying. They keep my peripheral vision awake, and they keep my awareness lodged in time in a way it can’t be in the other places I go to unscramble my mind—Mysore, and formal meditation retreat.

Anyway, since there is nothing to do here in Denver, here’s a little opinionizing for anyone who has read this far down the column. I always hide this blog’s actual content, because it’s better to have readers with an attention span if you’re going to dish.

Having an attention span suggests that you have done the work. And this increases the likelihood you’ll also have a heart.

So. There are two people who went to the Ashtanga Confluence in San Diego after spending the practice season in Mysore. I’m one of them.

Some (myself included) have asked how AshtangaCon compares to a couple of months in Mysore. Ooof. This could be a divisive question. Comparison questions tend to direct the mind to fault-finding. They sometimes cue a mentality of competition and scarcity.

But in general, my job now (since I work for Yoga) is to take my natural skepticism and turn it on itself, examining the ways that the mind tries to divide up the world. There’s a little bit of a game on here, of catching my ego in its efforts to draw invidious distinctions and tack down new dualities. Why not just hold polarizing stuff in a playful space?

Backing up…. reframing. So, what lucky person gets to spend a season in Mysore and also attend this big gathering of the silverbacks? How great is that?

Well I’ll tell you. It was really nice. Being obsessed with the modern history of ashtanga yoga, I wouldn’t have missed it; and I found much intrigue and delight in the weekend. Early on, my mind did this thing where it mapped four of the teachers on to apostles. I’m sure I’m not the only one to see a Luke—a physician whose intellect can travel anywhere and whose objectivity benefits the group; Mary Magdelene—esoteric, unsung, devoted; Peter—passionate, rock-like, full of love for the guru; and Paul—a charismatic late-comer who spreads the word like none other. Each one of these four is best experienced in his or her natural habitat: go to them; spend the time; study in their rooms.

Sorry, Teachers. Accept a gig at the Confluence, and a lot of minds are going to turn you in to a symbol. That was the idea.

The younger of the teachers doesn’t fit this model, though. Eddie doesn’t have the generational gravitas of the others; and he’s also the one who I felt got especially drawn out by (instead of glossed over by) this event. He has the energy of a connector, across places and generations that might not otherwise communicate so well. To say much more than this would be disrespectful, because this is a guy with a well developed sense of good taste. Sometimes It’s just tacky to get praised in public.

But one thing. The guy listens. Everything in his teaching begins with listening—the way students (even hundreds at a time) are received in a space, the way spirit and memory are summoned, the way students are primed to receive teachings. No surprise: his fascination with SKPJ began with noticing that the guru saw each individual clearly, and wondering how he did that. Personally, this experience of listening to a listener was a little bit revolutionary. I want to listen much more deeply, and to do this as a practice so that my ear develops.

Now some tougher stuff. When I told people in Mysore that I got to attend AshtangaCon, only a handful had heard of it. Of the 600-odd practitioners I brushed past during December, January and February, most are way outside the AshtangaCon orbit. So I told them about it. Every single person I told expressed excitement and envy—how inspiring to meet all these teachers in the tradition. And you’ll see a lot of old friends. What a great time. To put it lightly, this was not the attitude of many people in San Diego when I mentioned I’d just spent the winter in Mysore with Sharath.

So… in Mysore, people imagine their counterparts across the ocean and express delight, curiosity, inspiration and respect. In San Diego, the vibe toward Mysore is very different.

I don’t care what anybody does, and I’m sensitive to the hundreds of friends in Mysore who already feel like there are too many people in the ashtanga scene. But I wanted to write something to anyone who has picked up on this little pocket of negativity toward Mysore and the KPJAYI, because the party in Mysore is just going to get bigger, and you might be tired of playing the maverick.

Doesn’t really work to be the rebel in a whole subculture of outsiders, you know?

Anyway, here is what I want to say. There is no reciprocal distrust. The people who study in Mysore just assume you’re cool. The practice there is quite deep; and as long as you keep your driste (on many levels) it’s about YOGA in the fullest sense.

Anyone who says otherwise might be trying to limit your practice. That was my experience for seven years. Do whatever you want, but for godsakes don’t miss the good stuff out of misplaced skepticism, fear, or for the sake of other peoples’ battles.

When it comes to major life decisions, feel in for the pull factors, you know?. A choice based on passion and curiosity serves you so much better than one based on dislike, distrust, disgust. Get interested in what’s good, not just what's obvious.

That said, there is one very good reason for a career ashtangi to stay the hell out of Mysore. It’s because for the first few months there, you will be a zero.

That’s legit. You earned your social standing, and your poses. Your stats and standings represent years of hard work and buckets of sweat. They are a part of you. Really, they are. I’m not being sarcastic; I’m being sociological.

All I can say is that being a zero is lighter than air. It’s great. Imagine just meeting people on your own two feet, with the actual heart and shakti that you carry all by yourself. Without their having any idea of you. So that you can perceive them so much more clearly.

When I was first learning to teach, I asked Dominic, “What do you do when people treat you like a service person?” It was Santa Monica, after all. At the time, he was in the process of systematically climbing down off the pedestal I’d carved for him. Funny how he keeps popping back up there now, but anyway, I was sure anyone treating him like the help must be delusional. He turned himself in to my idea of a service person and said plainly, “Maybe they need to treat you like a service person.”

I'm still getting that one into my system.

Being a zero is a hell of a skill. People who can do it turn into a big 0-shaped ciphers, flying around effortlessly on their two giant ears.

Being a zero is also linked to a few of those siddhis at the end of the fourth pada. Poof.

41 Comments

  • D
    Posted 20 March 2012 at 8:27 pm | #

    The first part of this post is the most beautiful meditation on flight delays I’ve ever read. Bookmarked.

    I saw your tweet about the proverbial elephant in the room at AYC and wondered what you were referring to. I think I have a better idea now, after recent articles and this. Safe travels.

  • LIAshtangini
    Posted 20 March 2012 at 8:42 pm | #

    🙂

  • David Shapiro
    Posted 21 March 2012 at 12:34 am | #

    Or consider a more contemporary symbolic quartet:
    Richard = John
    Tim = Paul
    Nancy = George
    David = Ringo

  • Karen
    Posted 21 March 2012 at 2:08 am | #

    I’ve been meaning to ask you about this. Thanks. xo

  • Posted 21 March 2012 at 2:12 am | #

    Or a Wim Wenders movie with the sound off.

  • Posted 21 March 2012 at 3:11 pm | #

    Inner landscape, outer landscape. Do you know how well you describe place and placelessness? Wow-wow. The context of yoga. You make flight delays sound like sattvic elixir. So when Delta says, “Inclement weather; hence, your plane is late”— and the inclement weather seems to be a private affair hounding their planes around the skies, I’m going to come back to this post in my mind’s exit ramps. Thank you.

  • Posted 21 March 2012 at 3:57 pm | #

    Hi everyone. Great to see you here. You’re all cracking me up, too.

    Some really heartfelt emails have come in about this post. They either express confusion (i.e., I thought I was imagining this! Thanks for letting me know the weird energy is not just in my head), or disappointment (i.e., I love my teacher, but it’s awkward and disappointing when I feel his insecurity or malice come up. I hope he reads this post.) There were three of the latter, regarding three different teachers, none of whom I know personally. So yes, the vibe is real.

    Dosa Diaries and I were talking about how when people get really political about ashtanga practice, sometimes that is just coming out of love. (I’d add that there is another kind of politics that comes from ignorance – this is more common among the junior authorized teacher set and usually dissipates within the first few years of teaching due to exposure to awesome students.) In any case, the politics I’m talking about here do come from love. Love of the guru. Love of the past.

    After a two-hour talk on memories of Guruji, I asked the panel of five teachers Confluence to comment on the future of ashtanga. Eddie took my rambling, open-ended question and correctly rephrased it to say what I really wanted to ask: “Stop thinking about the past. Where is this practice going now?” At the time, I felt the responses were wishy-washy and a kind of public denial of the huge, ecstatic-disciplined social movement that Sharath is creating. But then I read the kind of beautiful summary of the teachers’ responses to my question here and realized that maybe I wasn’t listening well enough to them the first time around.

    After my question that day came a very critical one to Tim, opening the floor for him to criticize the new crop of immature authorized teachers. The energy of this question was so intense, and it radiated out to our whole corner of the room. He did not take the bait, and instead totally pacified the energy it had stirred up. Very graceful move. I was relieved by this, especially considering he’s the one who invented certification/authorization. When older students get angry about the large numbers and the immaturity of the newbie authorized teachers, the main complaint is that the 1980s-era definition of authorization/certification has changed. It’s simply not that special anymore. Oh well. There are more students now too. That’s the work of the young teachers. Good for them.

    Would I go to another Confluence? On the East Coast, yes – probably worth the effort and expense. On the West Coast, no. Save your energy for one-on-one time with a senior teacher, or–if you’re ready for something more challenging–for India.

  • Posted 22 March 2012 at 5:01 pm | #

    I didn’t realize you were the one that asked that question! I felt naive when the Vanity Fair article came out, like, “ah, it makes more sense now…” I was unaware of the politics in the community, but I also got a similar vibe in CA.

  • Michelle
    Posted 23 March 2012 at 3:59 am | #

    I love your writing – very lyrical.

    In some ways, I felt like a zero at the Confluence. I went alone, saw a few friends, made a few more, and had some sweet, albeit brief, personal experiences with the teachers in the Mysore practices, some great, profound moments listening to them speak during the panels. I had a fabulous time. I imagine Mysore would evoke a similar response in me. (What’s not to like about being with folks who also like to practice and talk all day about Ashtanga, wherever it happens?)

    You are right, it’s fear – fear of being judged as less “legitimate” if you have not studied there – that causes this little pocket of negativity around Mysore. Still, you should understand, some of that fear is well-founded: I have seen eyes drop away, or looks of barely hidden disdain, have felt the hesitation to connect, and observed frozen smiles, when I say “No, I’ve never been to Mysore.”

    It doesn’t really matter to these folks that I have been putting in the time and sweat diligently, ardently, consistently for 15 years.

    Is someone who has made the time and effort – and had the good fortune – to go to Mysore a more legitimate Ashtanga practitioner than someone who’s responsibilities prevented them from going?

    Is a trip to Mysore a litmus test for “dedication to the practice”?

    (Is someone less Catholic if they never go to Rome to meet the Pope and get his blessing? Even more vexing, this question – has the Pope passed on? We touched upon this at the Confluence, and the only teacher to say they were returning to Mysore anytime soon was Eddie.)

    Meanwhile, I’m curious – what exactly is the “ecstatic-disciplined social movement that Sharath is creating” – that you write about?

  • dosadiaries
    Posted 23 March 2012 at 11:44 am | #

    Yes.

  • Michelle
    Posted 23 March 2012 at 3:51 pm | #

    Thanks, DosaDiaries, for the lesson, and your honesty. It made me feel feel like I was still in high school, hoping to be part of the cool clique.

  • Posted 23 March 2012 at 6:25 pm | #

    Did I miss something? In any case, Michelle, DD is one teacher in our generation who excites me a lot. Again, it’s a bit tacky to get praised too much in public, so I’ll show her the respect of vastly understating my regard, excitement and inspiration about what she is doing. Strong teaching and big spirit are there!

    More discussion of this here and in Boodiba’s previous post.

    MB, wish we’d have met! I felt like I was verbalizing the question that was being asked by the whole room.

    More in a bit. Gotta teach again…

  • Michelle
    Posted 23 March 2012 at 7:33 pm | #

    I don’t know, maybe I missed something, too. I asked for comments on this question – “Is a trip to Mysore a litmus test for “dedication to the practice”?”

    DD’s answer of, simply, “Yes” was either meant honestly or in jest. I don’t know her or her personality to be able to determine what her intent was. I figured she was being brutally honest, which resulted in my reply.

    If I offended you DD, I apologize.

  • Posted 23 March 2012 at 7:58 pm | #

    Um, I think we all missed something. We’re all on a rock floating through space. It doesn’t matter if you go to Mysore.

    If you feel ambivalent, then go. You’ll have an intense, unique experience; and the inner conflict will be resolved. But don’t go to sort of prove that Mysore is lame. The place is full of people there to get authorized or to party, so you will find plenty to judge if you want to. If you go for you, you’ll not regret it. If you don’t want to go, that’s also cool. Don’t torture yourself or let anybody else torture you either.

    I would submit that Mysore is a litmus test for the dedication of a Mysore teacher. It’s silly to make excuses about that. As one senior teacher said to me last year, I keep coming back because otherwise teaching doesn’t work. I have to to stay in touch with this place.

    That’s irrational. And it’s the case.

  • Michelle
    Posted 23 March 2012 at 8:27 pm | #

    Oh, no, I am not ambivalent about going. I know without a doubt I’ll go there, someday soon. I’m deferring the gratification.

    Life hasn’t brought me there yet, but it will. I’m patient.

    I’ll leave things with a little Seussian levity:

    I would not go to party.
    I would not go to find things lame.
    I would go because I must go.
    Anywhere else is just not the same.

  • jason
    Posted 23 March 2012 at 10:07 pm | #

    Angela,

    This is interesting post; I hope I might offer a slightly alternative narrative, one that I received during my time at the Confluence — I talked to many people who were considering journeys to Mysore.

    Guruji has passed and the conversation has changed. I realize this as I also talked to several big-C and big-A Certified and Authorized teachers who will not return there, as the quality of the teaching of Yoga that they receive has diminished significantly.

    That said, it became clear to me at least that, while Mysore remains a heart-destination for avid Ashtangis, it is no longer Mecca.

    I think too it’s a bit disingenuous of you to paint a picture of Ashtangis in Mysore as blissfully open-minded and not entreat the strand, however thin, of Mysore snobbery — the idea that one is not a ‘serious’ Ashtangi unless and until one has traveled to Mysore.

    I note this tendency present at any lunch or breakfast in Mysore as people trip over themselves to make sure you’re made aware that, a) this is not their first trip, and b) that they’re practicing led intermediate.

    Finally, perhaps the Vanity Fair article put the situation in Southern California in a bit more context, but the context it could not capture was the sheer duration.

    Following the death of one of the most important and beloved figures in Tim’s life, for almost 2 years the actions of Sharath, Sonia, and the Jois Center — the handling of the opening of the Encinitas Shala, the Australian teacher/Jois Center kerfluffle, the disappearing documentary footage, the aborted NYC Jois shala and subsequent letter, the abandoned LA shala, Sharath’s name change, Manju’s bypass in the will, the registration of the Jois name, the high-end clothing line) were not — rightfully or otherwise — received in the most positive light.

    I feel that only after the place opened has he been able to move on and let go of whatever he needed to let go.

    regards,
    jason

  • jason
    Posted 23 March 2012 at 10:12 pm | #

    Angela,

    Also, thank you for sharing your thoughts, especially from such a unique perspective.

    There has been some wonderful conversation resulting from and around the Confluence, and it seems that these are the questions that need to be asked of the community at this time.

    best,
    jason

  • Posted 23 March 2012 at 10:27 pm | #

    Jason,

    Let me recount the recent history of (0v0)‘s blog experience of you.

    In fall 2010, I responded to a post in which you, a Mysore teacher, were encouraging your students to get better bodies and to eat animals to do so. I noted that a vegetarian diet has enabled me to practice advanced series for six years without a break, and that if it made me want to eat flesh, I’d stop. Because I’m using yoga to attempt to evolve forward, towards increased energy efficiency. Not backwards, toward cavewoman meat-dependence.

    The reply was, and I quote, “Tits or GTFO.”

    So I complied. Here. I linked the response in your comment thread, but you did not publish my comment.

    Then about a year ago, in an equally game spirit with sincere expression of respect, I responded to a post in which you implied that what practice was all about was all about being with your own negativity. I thought you’d been reading a little too much Trungpa and Chodron (that’s what I read – as a student of Shinzen, I am doing a variant of Vajrayana practice every day). So I noted the ways that Patanajali yoga just isn’t that complex, and you were actually re-interpreting it according to your own convenience.

    You did not publish that comment either.

    Convenient.

  • Posted 23 March 2012 at 10:35 pm | #

    And by the fucking way,

    Do not use my blog to air some other teacher’s particular gossip and grievances. Especially not as if that little garbage collection is something we are all responsible for knowing about and taking in to account.

    Nobody ask, “what documentary footage?”

    “What abandoned LA shala?”

    That’s a set up, guys.

    I know the stupid insider gossip. I have been there for some of it. It exists in all quarters. Practice makes it go away. Fast. There are no SIDES. There is just PRACTICE.

    I took some pretty elaborate care not to be a person to pass on that kind of garbage (and there is a lot of it in every quarter) in the community.

    What’s real is whatever emotions and thoughts that daily practitioners are experiencing now. What’s real is daily practitioners and our relationship with practice, with our teachers, and with each other. Not the inside-inside-insiders’ strings of grievances. Those strings are so much longer, Jason, than you seem to know. Don’t go down that rabbit hole. It gets narrower and darker and dumber the longer you follow it.

  • Posted 24 March 2012 at 10:24 pm | #

    Just took Ka off the shelf to lend to a student, and found this written on a slip of paper inside. It’s from the Sutta Nipata, #143, “To Gain the State of Peace.” Here’s their trick, quoting now (maybe I changed the gender of the original version when I copied this down years ago):

    Let her be able, upright, straight
    Easy to speak to, gentle, not proud,
    Contented, too, supported easily.
    With few tasks, and living very lightly,
    Her faculties serene, prudent, modest
    Unswayed by the emotions of clans…

    And let her think: In safety and in bliss
    May creatures all be of a blissful heart.
    Whatever breathing beings there may be…
    those seen or unseen,
    dwelling far or near,
    existing or yet seeking to exist,
    May creatures all be of a blissful heart.

  • Catherine
    Posted 25 March 2012 at 12:54 am | #

    I have no idea what you all are talking about. I don’t even know what a career ashtangi is, or what the confluence is, or what any of the gossip looks like—just the practice here, over a decade, not much “progress.”

  • Posted 25 March 2012 at 2:41 pm | #
  • Posted 25 March 2012 at 3:56 pm | #

    Develop a mind of equilibrium.
    You will always get praise and blame
    but let neither affect the poise of the mind.
    Follow calmness which is the absence of pride.

    More Sutta Nipata

    Many thanks to the muses at the Denver airport terminal.

  • Posted 25 March 2012 at 9:55 pm | #

    Good stuff, right? Thanks, you two.

    Metta practice doesn’t mean we have to say “it’s all good” when someone tries to assert authority that nobody (i.e. none of us) gave him. Nobody has to take Jason’s garbage away from this thread – just let it lie.

    Metta also doesn’t mean that “it’s all good” when someone acts superior to others. When engaging with someone who wants you to feel like a non-friend, an inferior, an outsider, etc., having an open heart can be grounding. Empowering, even.

    For years, Jason has treated me and many people I know with withering superiority. This continued even after my open, playful, happy submission to him as a student in his class, and after further gestures of friendliness on my part. Ok, buddy. Some day, you will probably get authorized. But before that happens, Sharath will probably open your heart with skillful teaching. You’re up for it. And so is he.

    Sharath is amazing at doing this with people who come to him just to get authorized. He can see it when someone has a lot of dislike for others, or reactivity to his method, or when they are trying to impress him with their asana practices. He talks about these general patterns openly. The guy can cut through ego-cords in a way that makes practitioners much more useful to others and to themselves. It’s beautiful. A person may come to get the papers; yet they are likely to depart humbled and a little bit more open-hearted.

    Some do slip through; and they do lord their authorizations over others, as if any of this shit mattered in big picture. I don’t think this will happen to you, Jason. You are too intense not to recognize and accept a worthy challenge. I can’t offer a worthy challenge – I am all out of bluster and hard edges – but Sharath sure can. That’s why I’m his student.

    Good luck, man.

    Catherine… nice! But don’t discount the cybershala and rest of the community for being human. We’re _so_ human! But ashtanga isn’t meant for cave yogis. At all. Community is hard, but it’s part of the practice.

  • Posted 25 March 2012 at 10:02 pm | #

    My Dad would say that Paul of Tarsus has a lot to answer for! 🙂

    Polarities and being a zero. That’s just the best damn math. I really like it when someone makes me feel less alone by finishing my thoughts, ya know. Being of service. A being of service. My ego is not even wincing at that anymore, what’s happening to us? What is this softening around the meaning of meaning?

    It’s so heartening also, when you swear. The sacred and profane polarity I need to hold onto for a while longer! 🙂

  • Posted 25 March 2012 at 10:23 pm | #

    Fuck, yes, Gregor.

    Paul does have a lot to answer for. Particularly this yoga book that I still have never read, that Guruji did not like, and that confuses lots of students who later are annoyed they got distracted by it. But he couldn’t care less about that old book himself! He doesn’t see it as an extension of himself, but just something he was obligated to write. I can understand how he felt that.

    And you know the thing about Paul… he is so charismatic and sun-shiny! David’s big spirit cuts through everything, and he’s the most spiritually realized teacher I’ve met in his generation. Wow. Since you made it this far down the thread, I’ll admit it: his contact with the big ZERO has a full on gravitational pull to it. His aura is blinding yellow-white and enormous. Same as that guy on the road to Damascus.

  • Tara Stein
    Posted 26 March 2012 at 12:24 am | #

    Hi Angela,
    I don’t think we’ve ever met, but I did just want to say that I am sorry you have a negative opinion or have had negative experiences with Jason. I feel it is really hard to represent yourself online in a blog or have an online persona and that many times it will not come across the same to all people. But I do know that Jason does not have any ill will towards you or any other person in our Ashtanga community. I am sorry if his online persona has been offensive to you in any way. He is a really nice guy – honest.
    Sincerely,
    Tara Stein – aka the wife 🙂

  • Posted 26 March 2012 at 1:06 am | #

    AJ, are we talking about our mutual David? I mentioned to him, if it’s him, the other day that he looked much smaller with his clothes on, it was a fun moment at the Rolfing studio that day. hehe

  • Posted 26 March 2012 at 1:23 pm | #

    Ohhh, THAT David. Sheesh

  • Posted 26 March 2012 at 2:35 pm | #

    Yes, Swenson! Though our mutual David is pretty bright himself. The thing about being a Mysore teacher is that your work life is spent running around a room in which everyone else is sitting, squatting or arm-balancing. After standing postures, you’re by far the tallest person in the room. Does taking one’s clothes off also make one taller?

    Tara, it is super great of you to say hello and to comment.Thank you. You’re right that we have not met, though Jason did have a lady-friend at practice several years ago in Los Angeles with Rolf. If that was you, you were both very, very reserved at the time, though I did attempt to say hello and welcome you since were we in my then-home studio.

    I try to make myself sort of invisible or wall-flowery in person. This is getting more difficult, and more pointless. But at the time, I would have been a shy, nerdy, friendly, smiley, long-haired, Scotch-Irish, late-20s woman starting advanced. If you’re actually interested in meeting me, ok. Let me know. I usually go to Casey’s when I’m in Portland once or twice a year, though honestly recent experiences with Jason have made me want to avoid Portland ashtanga community when I’m in town. I’ll get over myself on that one.

    In any case, I’m so happy that you two are happy together.

  • Tara Stein
    Posted 26 March 2012 at 3:14 pm | #

    Angela,

    I remember doing a class with Rolf in LA, but only remember that he made us do full vinyasa during a led second class. Butt kicking to say the least! He is amazing though 🙂

    Portland is an awesome city and has a great Ashtanga community with a lot of wonderful yogis and I hope that you are not turned off of it by your opinion of Jason. There are 3 Mysore programs here now so plenty to choose from. I practice at home during the week but also make it to Casey’s on Sundays occasionally so perhaps we will run into each other.

    I won’t take up more space on your blog for this, but I did feel a responsibility to speak up for Jason on this since he hasn’t read your comments about him (I asked him not to) and therefore he won’t respond. I felt like he was not fully represented by your comments and I realize that you have a lot of anger and resentment built up towards him and I am truly sorry that he has made you feel that way. I just keep feeling like there has been a misunderstanding somewhere. You guys appear to have very different opinions and views on things but I hope that is not the reason for the frustration you have with him. I know that my writing this will not have much affect on your views of him right now, but I hope that sometime in the future we will be able to meet in the wide world of Ashtanga and have a discourse about it in person and not over the internet.

    Have a great week and looking forward to meeting sometime.

    Tara

  • Posted 26 March 2012 at 4:04 pm | #

    Nice. Tara, I’m honestly very happy to encounter you. Please introduce yourself if you recognize me. I would appreciate that honestly, and hope that your feeling of “we” can include me in some way.

    He should read the comments, Tara. I already deleted anything that was personally insulting – those are the only comments I will ever delete, and I almost always do delete them. Otherwise, we all benefit from feedback from the world, and just stay in the same samskaras to the degree we shut it out.

    The guy has been awful to people so many times over the years – either by outright withering disrespect, or with back-handed distancing techniques. My first encounter with the withering disrespect was on the EZ Board, but from there on, whenever I saw him being an asshole (including “Tits or GTFO,” which was angry as hell but just delighted me), I got energy from it. I enjoy sharp minds and strong opinions, and anyone who has the courage to talk straight on the internet. Spirits that are more fire than fear give life to this practice! On balance, it’s good.

    But trashing my teacher to me takes the assholery to a special place. It is quite another thing than playing with fire on the internet. Amazingly, this trashing comes from a place of false superiority, and of not even knowing of the person (Sharath) and the world (Mysore since SKPJ’s death) he’s trying to condescend to.

    Transmitting this practice well means you do not trash someone’s teachers, the same way you don’t date your students. That’s a boundary all people in the tradition learn from our teaching mentors. When it got crossed, for the first time I showed my owl teeth. This is a healthy event, not a shameful one. It’s not an indication of festering negativity; it’s an overt act to get someone’s attention and finally make him reflect. It’s ok to feel anger, as I did. And at times, it’s ok to express anger. The intentions remain loving and community-minded.

    It would be really weird to refuse that. Teachers grow from receiving feedback wherever we can get it.

    This is why I give myself up to every teacher I can find. I want and need to continue to grow in my teaching practice. I would not presume to ask students to trust me if I lost the ability to give myself up to everyone who is carrying this tradition.

  • Posted 26 March 2012 at 4:55 pm | #

    COMMENT DELETION POLICY:

    I delete any comment that constitutes an escalating, personal attack on another person in the same or an adjacent thread.

    The first time this happened was when Zee turned the hose on Cody Pomeray in late summer, 2007. The next was maybe late 2008, when Meniscus Merangue took a swipe at Liz. I’ve deleted a total of 5-8 comments since 2006. The need to do so is really rare. And I dislike censorship very much.

    I do not delete comments that attack (0v0), Angela, or some other facet of my personal identity. However, I made one exception to this in early 2010: instead of deleting the relevant comment, I deleted the entire post. It was a good post. The reason I don’t delete personal insults is that blogging gets boring when authors curate or edit the comments to make themselves look intelligent or nice. I am not shaping the content of threads in order to make myself come off to readers in a particular way.

    Blogging is dangerous. We can just face the fear of having one’s “self” compromised. No big thing. The only reason I delete comments at all is when community – a more fragile unity – gets strongly compromised.

  • Posted 27 March 2012 at 2:59 pm | #

    Blogging is becoming a bit more like MMA, you can go all out but you can’t throw them into the audience.

    Well then, naked David, big subtle body, clothed David we are equally subtle which cancels that out and defaults to gross. My gross is bigger than his gross. And gross is where the humour is! But…

    What chakra is humour in?? Please tell me its when the all line up, please! 🙂

  • Posted 28 March 2012 at 1:46 am | #

    Maybe humor is like eroticism… there are laughs (like turn-ons) at every chakra, but fewer people groove on it the higher up you go.

    Testing… who finds this funny?

    You are my preferred Integral comic, Gregor, but the Bad Advaita at 2:20 is pretty good.

  • Posted 28 March 2012 at 12:59 pm | #

    That makes complete sense, but now I can’t get the turn-on out of my awareness. well unless I take a deep breath. 🙂

    Why, thank you, I am embarking on co-authoring a book with an anthropologist, I think its about gender, and my job is to make it funny. I may use so many models that hierarchy of development(s) becomes more like the historic descriptions of meaning (and conditioning) as opposed to the possibilities. Bring chaos to the order and order to the chaos with a punchline. Stu is a funny guy, though he rarely tells a straight forward gag, so it’s difficult to spread his gospel, but then he does it so well himself. I love how he always has fun…

  • Rachel
    Posted 4 April 2012 at 10:09 pm | #

    Obviously, if you had spent enough time with Flannery Grimm you would be one of those cool people who knew that in 1972 Edgar Prufrock published that paper and then somebody burned his house down. That’s why Gulliver Swift doesn’t go to conferences anymore.

    Damn, Angela. I thought you left academia for yoga. What happened 😛

  • Scott
    Posted 5 April 2012 at 5:00 pm | #

    Hi Owl. Wow this post sure generated some passion 
    Just to give my perspective on things, whatever that might be worth.
    I’ve had the privilige to study quite a bit with one of those excellent Confluence teachers. This is someone i highly respect and have learned tremendously from (i still have so much to learn). If someone was to ask me “who is your teacher?”, i’d answer with this person’s name. He or she (haha) is the real deal IMHO. But saying all this, i can say with certainty that there is definitely negativity towards mysore coming from this teacher and from community around them. I don’t know all the details and i’m not going to speculate, but from what i do know much of it has arisen from people coming back injured after going to Mysore. Why they got injured is another story. Maybe they were caught in their ego and pushing which is not what the practice is about. Or maybe they were pushed beyond their edge by one the teachers in mysore. Again, i really don’t know and i’m not going to speculate.
    Anyway, this was the backdrop i was dealing with before I made my first trip to Mysore this year. I was even told very strongly by someone in the community surrounding this teacher (another person i highly respect) to not go to Mysore because i will get injuried. Needless to say, I had very low expectations before going. Yet…I had a very good experience. I think Sharath is an excellent teacher.
    I’m not sure what the moral of this story is…i won’t speculate on that either 
    scott

  • catygray
    Posted 6 April 2012 at 11:07 pm | #

    Wall flower?

  • Posted 11 April 2012 at 7:02 pm | #

    Whatever, Carlos.

    Rachel, I know. I like words. Lots of words.

    Scott, I am refraining from speculation as well. 🙂 But two notes:

    1. We don’t really understand what it would be like to be somebody’s “Satguru” and then have that person come back from India with a somewhat unskillful message of “Now that I’ve taken my own study journey/s, I feel differently about our scene here at home. I’d like to saw an inch of the pedestal I made for you, and also I’d like to ask you to share it with a few others.”

    But when people really take to India (or whatever self-study project), usually what’s happened is that they’ve taken more responsibility for their own practice. On any kind of practice trip (these are just pilgrimmages – it’s not a new thing), you get to do all this personal work, you meet all kinds of amazing teachers. The “inner teacher” actually comes out a little bit, and she expects as much humility from her outer teachers as she discovers in herself, underneath the Ego-“teacher”.

    The Ego-“teacher”, which is legion (especially on the internet, and in recently made-up asana yogas) is driven by unconscious negative emotion. She has something to protect at all costs. The Ego-“teacher” is aggressive (angry), or self-protective (fearful,) or complacent (depressed). That is why she doesn’t accept outer teachers, or always maintains a feeling of more or less subtle superiority to them.

    The inner teacher is humble, and really receptive, and has an ability to see teachers/ teaching everywhere. After someone get in touch with that Conductor and gets on the Swadhyaya train (and it’s a hard train to find, especially if the Satguru at home won’t let you see the map!), the relationship with the original Satguru, and all gurus, changes. The relationship grows up. The student naively expects the Satguru to be unattached to the old power dynamics.

    This happens sometimes when ashtangis come back from India, and maybe some Satgurus actually don’t like it. Instead of being totally beyond it, maybe having students de-value and dis-empower them is, well, kind of painful.

    If so, this is actually something for the rest of us to be ironically compassionate about. Funny, but think about it.

    You can write off the idea of being compassionate to the powerful because it’s bad politics. But actually understanding that they are not like the rest of us is pretty interesting.

    Someone in a guru role very likely has a sense of self and entitlement that is much larger than normal people. Ken Wilber speaks hilariously about how the most enlightened people of our era also have the biggest, most outrageous ego-personalities and senses of self. These people may have a highly clarified and huge consciousness, and be highly enlightened. But according to Wilber and friends, their Ego-personalities, when they arise, are simply enormous. Super-human.

    What these exceptional, empowered people experience when beloved students become independent… we just don’t have any way to understand what that’s like inside of them. For some, it might really suck. Maybe they experience pain more intensely than the rest of us. I don’t know.

    2. I feel disappointed and sad when the senior teachers I so look up to (I look up to ALL of them, quite excitedly) show their insecurities and willingness to use their huge opinion-making power to pass on not their knowledge but their lack of knowlege.

    Why talk bad about something you have not experienced? That’s for young, self-protective grasshoppers. The feeling I have about this is sort of a lip out, shoulders sagging, and a “Come on, guys. I need you to be bigger.”

  • Nina
    Posted 24 November 2014 at 8:37 pm | #

    This is one of my favorite posts I’ve read so far! (slowly poking through the archives). You are a total master of literary allusions (slash, illusions) Thanks for a fruitful study break!
    Nina

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