A few weeks ago, on August 20, I read the news that BKS Iyengar, the renowned Indian yoga teacher and founder of the Iyengar Yoga tradition, had died at age 95. Immediately I was brought back to the many memories I have as a result of his teachings. My first California yoga teachers were trained in the Iyengar tradition. In their classes I was exposed for the first time to silent meditation and chanting. I remember as a student just managing to tolerate these first few minutes of ritual as I waited for "the real yoga class" to begin. What could these Sanskrit sounds possibly have to do with my physical strength, flexibility, and fitness, which is why I did yoga (or so I thought)?
As soon as I read the news, I went to my bookshelf and pulled off my well-worn copy of Iyengar's book, Light on Life. Nearly every page is marked and notated, evidence of the way I used to read as if every book were homework that I would have to write a paper on someday.
The pages that the book fell open to were about extension and expansion in yoga poses. How when we reach and stretch, we often only think about the point to which we are trying to reach, but we forget about where we are reaching from. And as I pondered this, I realized that no matter how far we are trying to stretch, we are always reaching from where we are now. From the center of our being.
How often do we check in with how we are as we are doing something?
With the completeness of our focus on the outward gaze, how skilled are we at really seeing the inner place we are always reaching from? Do we know this place? Do we know how it feels? Do we really know it as it is NOW, or do we know it as a memory, a snapshot of some previous moment in time, or some interpretation created by our judging mind? Do we only see what we think other people are seeing - some image of how we're supposed to look?
Developing clear inner vision, and the capacity to really see where we are reaching from, is the core practice of being present. In the years since I started yoga practice, I have been exposed to many more forms that give the body, mind, and soul the opportunity to be together in harmony - improvisational music, whole body listening, Breema bodywork, to name a few. When this harmony is happening, we have the opportunity to see the world within our true selves. When we practice seeing into our true selves, we begin to know more and more where we are reaching from in any moment, even as we continue to reach toward something else.
Each day since Iyengar's death, I have read a few pages of the book again. I am grateful for the life he lived that enabled him to write those words on the page. And I feel gratitude for the life I am living that enables me to understand the meaning of those words beyond the page.
Where are you reaching FROM? And how can you practice seeing your true self with inward-looking eyes?
Join me in the Energy Gardeners' Club for some practice with the support of nature, sound, art, and a circle of safety and encouragement. Starting next Tuesday, September 9th in Half Moon Bay.
Maybe it was the flyer announcing my talk at Stanford Medical School in a few weeks (finally making it feel real...and making me feel proud of the creative thinking I've been doing on this subject).
Maybe it was seeing the pile of STUFF in my house, moved out of the Cradle of Manifestation, prompting me to revisit what's really taking up the space in my drawers and closets.
Maybe it was the invitation to have dinner this Friday with a couple of doctors who have transitioned out of medicine themselves (making me feel one step closer to finding My People).
Maybe it was finally telling the truth out loud to myself and to a compassionate witness about what I feel in my heart (and experiencing the expansion that came with it).
Maybe it was all of the above.
Whatever it was, I finally know what I need to do, even though I have no idea how it's going to play out or if anyone will even care. But I know enough to trust this particular feeling of knowing. It's not a rational linear mind kind of knowing. It's a whole body energy clearing kind of knowing.
- My physician burnout and wellness resources page - I'll be adding to this, but it's a great place to start if you're curious about the problem, the stories of real physicians, and what people are doing about it. Visit the resource page here>>
- All new Name Your Price coaching - I'm most giddy and excited about this brand new experiment, launching next week. I just want to get more coaching love out there. I remember when I had no idea what coaching was, and didn't believe it could do anything for me, until I actually experienced it myself. So I want to pass on that gift to you! For two hours a week, I'll be offering my services on a first-come, first-served basis, and you get to name your own price. Perfect for those of you who are curious about coaching and open to it, but just not ready to make the commitment to one of my other individual coaching options right now. Learn more about it here>>
- The Whole Person Retreat for Women - Saturday April 9th at Stillheart Institute in Woodside, CA. I'm guest facilitating music improvisation and sound healing as part of an enriching day with the wonderful women Eliska Meyers and Johanna Beyer. Find out more details here>>
That's all for now. After some good time and space appreciating the openness, it's nice to witness the arrival of what's next. Hope to see and hear from you soon!
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As 2010 came to a close, I realized that over the past year, I have had the opportunity to become part of three brand new communities (without even changing my physical address). As I embarked on life coach training, certification in music and sound healing, and improvisation as a violinist in the local “open mic” scene, I was welcomed into three totally new worlds for me.
As I crisscrossed the Bay Area and the internet interacting with these distinct groups, it occurred to me that no single place brought together people with such wide-ranging interests. What fun it would be if someone could create a space and purpose for gathering that would allow the expression and sharing of all these creative souls! I realized that I could be that person!
I was inspired to create the Essential Self Extravaganza. The name refers to a central concept of Martha Beck's life coaching approach, which guides us to find and follow the voice of our essential self, versus the social self we so readily construct as an identity to show the world and "fit in" with the rules of our families, religions, cultures, professional group, or demographic.
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I had had enough of the typical "holiday party", where the focus is on the display of our social selves. The typical conversations starting with the question, "So, what do you do?" or "Where are you from?" were familiar to me, yet no longer of interest. Instead of complaining or lamenting about these kinds of parties, I decided (in the empowerment I am growing into) to host my own gathering - the kind of party I would want to attend myself.
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That set my imagination free, and, as is always the case when I open up to trust my own creativity, it flowed effortlessly. I immediately formed a picture in my mind of how the day would be presented, who I would invite, and what I would say in the invitation. I sent out personal invitations (no e-vite or Facebook event for this one). I hand-selected the people I wanted to include. I expressed myself from MY essential self.
And what unfolded on December 17, 2010, was perfect in the way that the universe is always divinely perfect and complete.
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The gift of video is the ability to capture some of the magic that happened and share bits of it with you here. When you have some time, grab a cup of tea and enjoy these amazing offerings from the generosity of the spirit.
Soulful Songstress Aletha McGee offers an impromptu song during a break:
Artist and Vocalist Jovani McArdle creates a song for me, inspired by a hand-painted card I chose from her collection:
Writer and Actress Sarah Lau performs a scene from her one-woman show, "Remedial Girl":
Cellist and Designer Chi Chen performs an original composition based on J.S. Bach's canonic cello suites:
Performance artist Deborah Eliezer creates the character Fifi, who offers a song and dance:
Randy Bales and I lead the room in a participatory version of The Beatles' "Across The Universe":
And the final free improvisation, involving everyone in the room...AMAZING! Take a listen:
It reminded me of the first principle of Open Space Technology: "Whoever comes are the right people." Once I sent out invitations, I released my need to know who was coming, or to interpret why certain people weren't. I released any guilt about not inviting certain people out of fear of offending them. I simply stood in my own love and desire to share what is deeply true for me with a group of other souls who I knew would have much to share in a free, open setting.
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The only "structure" I put around the day was the written invitation. Three blocks of time of two hours each were designated for the three types of activities I envisioned sharing: life coaching, music healing, and performances by local open mic artists.
The rest I left open to the perfect unfolding when the right people gather in the right time for them. This reminded me of the third principle of Open Space Technology: "Whatever happens is the only thing that could have."
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It required a trust, which I have been training and growing over the past year, that I did not have to tell people what to do, and that I did not have to know the answer all the time, and that there is absolute beauty in not needing to know.
I felt the profound magic of gathering in sound - the wordlessness of shared energy, the oneness of harmonious voices, the collective, improvisational creation of music in the present moment. I also saw the inspiration that happens when bridges are built, between people whose paths may not have intersected otherwise.
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I have always felt that one of my purposes in life was to be a bridge - a translator of sorts between the various different worlds I have inhabited. The event reinforced that image for me.
I was able to relax and enjoy something I created. (This was nearly a first for me)
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In observing myself prepare for the event and decorate the room, I learned about my own capacity to "overdo" and about the fine line between abundance and excess.
I practiced observing myself with gentleness, allowing myself to receive the information I was gathering without labeling it or criticizing myself in the process.
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Afterwards, I honored myself with rest.
I was surprised and delighted by so many moments that unfolded without my knowing or needing to know. I was simply a witness, wide-eyed, curious, receptive. I released my need to control what was happening, when it was happening, and whether people were having the kind of enjoyment I thought they needed to have.
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I wrote this post as a way to remember the perfect unfolding when we are allowed to be free and to share from what is essential within each of us. May you experience the trust and the unfolding of your own spirit in 2011!
I attended a wedding in Shakespeare Garden in Golden Gate Park this weekend, and one of the highlights was a custom poem written for me by Silvi Alcivar of The Poetry Store.
She sits at a cute antique typing desk with an antique typewriter, and writes "poetry on demand".
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Given just a brief description - one word is all she needs - she writes a custom poem on the spot, on any of her assorted paper designs. I told her I wanted mine to be about music. She asked what instrument I play. I told her violin, and gave her the name of my business. Here's what I got, within about 3 minutes:
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the music within us
plays like violin's
strings replacing the
voice we might use to
sing, making space for
silence inside us
to just listen.
- Silvi Alcivar, 6.6.10
I was totally floored. Isn't she amazing?? Check her out and book her for your next music or literary event, art opening, trunk show, wedding, party, or get together of any kind.
Copyright Lisa Chu, The Music Within Us, 2009-2019.