Wa Yo Yogi

Leanne Kitteridge's adventures in Yoga

From Seeker to Finder October 24, 2011

Narita Temple, Japan

” Eventually as Seekers, we must become Finders”~ Paul Mueller- Ortega

I spent 4 days with Paul Mueller-Ortega in Montreal this month. I had known about Paul for many years through various yoga friends- most of them being Paul’s first students of Blue Throat Yoga. I decided that what emanated from these teachers is something I also wanted to embody so I signed up to meet Paul and become initiated in Neelakantha Meditation. I was worried that with certification going on, and then adding studying with Paul, I would be inundated but funny enough I was certified right before meeting him~ funny how the shakti works……

Paul gave a beautiful set of talks and practices over our 4 days together. He drops words like” profundity” as if he was saying “apple”~ amazing lecturer and one of the most intelligent beings I have ever met- yet incredible sweet and accessible. Nectar and fire most definitely. Though there were so many resonant teachings offered over the fours days one of the phrases that Paul said went off like a bell that has yet to stop ringing: – “Eventually , as Seekers, we must become Finders”. In my own thoughts I have pondered these words since I have returned.

So, what is a Seeker? A Seeker, in my my own words, is one who has questions- big questions. “Why am I here?” “What is my purpose?” ” How can I find happiness?” “Why do bad things happen to good people?” – there are a million others but you get the idea when I say big questions. In fact, I can actually say that just by reading my blog right now you are a Seeker. We all seek clarity, meaning, and understanding at some level and many of us go actually looking for it- you are probably one of them.

So, what is a Finder? Well I guess a Finder would be someone who as actually found an answer to at least one of their profound questions. How do we move then from Seeker to Finder? This is then the journey of practice…this is the journey of yoga~

If we follow the philosophies that inform Anusara Yoga, then we would say to find the answers, to become the Finder, we must do two things: recognize that the answers are actually inside of us ( Om namah shivaya gurave) and have a map, teacher or technique for the journey. I know that many realized beings have gone from Seeker to Finder without these things but for most of us we do need some help. ( or more specifically, I needed help). There are many maps and techniques to go from Seeker to Finder. Paul’s technique is meditation, Anusara Yoga’s technique is the UPA’s ( Universal Principles of Alignment), and there are many other tools, techniques, and teachers out there- all valid and all eventually taking us to where the answers can be found inside of us.

I taught this theme all week using the UPA’s. Patience as the heart theme with 1st principle- Set the Foundation and Open to Grace- as the main UPA to emphasize. So let’s go on the journey from Seeker to Finder through the UPA’s!

Set the Foundation and Open to Grace~

For any journey we set out on, we have to prepare. Setting our foundation is preparation for how, with what quality, we want to move forward on the path. Rather than being just a physical setting of the foundation it is an embodiment of saying ” I want to know- I want to become the Finder”. Opening to Grace then becomes the soft sweet opening of your connection to the realization that the journey is one of ongoing revelation. Passing through the layers of ourselves that block us from finding the answers that are right there inside. Invoking Grace in our journey allows her revelatory power to melt and dissolve the veils that hinder us from going deep inside- to the deepest connection of the heart where the Finder seeks answers. It is a journey of patience.

Muscle Energy~

As we draw in to the focal points with our outter gross body, we are also drawing deeper into the subtle body- adding our own desire to know, to understand ( iccha) to help to penetrate through the veils. How much do you hug in? As much as your desire to find the answers to these deep questions. We add our own efforts to the power of Grace.

Inner Spiral~

We move once again deeper into the back body- the place where Grace enters us from. We continue to harness her revelatory power as we continue deeper into the journey. We move slow and with great sensitivity as we travel together deep into our heart- the place where the answers reside.

Outter Spiral~

We had more fire and light to the journey as the ever more subtle layers we move through become more difficult to navigate. Our desire to Find once again reignites our heart as we root our tailbone.

Organic Energy~

Expanding out from the focal point in all directions- we create the optimal revelatory space for the answers to flow freely out of our hearts. As we breathe and continue to hug in and expand out on the exhales- we further clear the veils and the revelatory aspect of practice becomes fully embodied.

I found it interesting how easily the UPA’s fit this phrase. Sometimes, when I theme, it can be a difficult linking of thoughts, feeling and actions to make my theme and the physical class truly one but this was almost like the shakti just poured herself out over the paper. It shows how well these teachings from both John and Paul are developed as they dance together to make such a beautiful class.

I would have to say that I am still a Seeker- but I am also a Finder. If I look back over my 7 years with Anusara, I can honestly say I have found some of the answers to those profound questions I came to the practice with. I still have questions though~ how wonderful to have teachers, practices and techniques to help me reveal them.

“Seek, and ye shall find” – Matthew 7:7

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Montreal Intensive Day 3: The Picnic June 26, 2009

Montreal day 2 004Day three happened to fall on St.Jean Baptiste day which is a provincial holiday in Quebec. Illias(sp) from New York via Mexico, suggest that we all bring our lunches and have a picnic on the lawn of Dawson college as most stores would be closed.

Well, what I thought would be just a little sharing turned into the most gorgeous array of food and abundance I have ever seen come together in a short time. We found a group of picnic tables to set up food on and then laid our blankets, mats and shawls around the lawn. We laughed, talked, shared and even played Frisbee. We really were a merry band.

Day three also fell on Gurumayi Chidvilasanada’s birthday. John spent the morning in a really playful and celebratory mood and the Guru principle led our practice through the morning. He said that the Guru is really a tattva- a principle of existence even though it is not on the chart. It is the revelatory power of spirit that is found in every one of us. The teacher’s dharma is to show the student the teacher within them; the students grace (chali-kripa) allows the teacher to take the seat of the teacher. In the practice of sadhana ( spiritual practice), we awaken in relationship. We learn to see the Absolute in others and others show us the Absolute in ourselves. This revelatory power is found in every one of us, even if we don’t believe it.Montreal day 2 001

John told a great story about being very down and after just a short visit from Gurumayi he was completely changed. Those with a high vibration of light can lift the dark from us. We can also learn to do this ourselves. Tantra is a science- it is alchemy- it is the process of turning the impure into gold. We learn to turn negative situations and emotions into positive ones- it is not just a simplistic changing of your mind but it is through skillful means and practice.  When you are going up into backbend number 12 with John, I know he is not joking, and no matter how my body responds, my heart sings with the possibility that this next one might be the big one that changes and illumines everything. Every moment- especially the intense ones- is a gateway. It is a chance to do alchemy.

Alchemy happened. For the first time in my life I rocked up from urdva dhanursana to drop to my knees and then rocked back to urdva. I spent a minute going tick-tock smoothly back and forth laughing- it was so powerful. I realized all my skillful means of doing ustrasanadrop backs ( thanks again SJ) had now prepared me for this pose I had never even tried…or thought I could do. It literally “rocked” my world! (get it? tick tock… rocking…I know – it’s a groaner….)

In the afternoon we went back to basics: what is our vision? How is Anusara yoga different than other hatha yoga systems?

1) We see everything as a manifestation of Spanda. Tantra can literally mean the “loom” on which we weave- it is a philosophy that sees the world as an interconnected tapestry. Nothing is separate- nothing is discarded- it is merely woven back into the new fabric of understanding. We assimilate what has gone before- we do not forget the past- it is useful as a reference for that we chose to emphasise or not emphasise. We serve the present in life enhancing ways and we plan for the future so whatever we do now counts.

2) We use technology, a methodology that aligns with nature that we call the Universal Principles of Alignment.

3) We work in community. We bring everybody up- we are all members of the same orchastra. We celebrate each others success and we have great picnics together.

We ended the afternoon lecture with a very deep question: If the world is supposedly intrinsically good, why do evil things happen? I think that may be a blog unto itself after I do I little more reading that John has suggested.

The afternoon practice finished with giddy laughter trying to think of how many ways we could theme iccha, jnana, kriya and we ended up tying the whole Wizard of Oz to every possible notion. I had the tin man iccha- heart, the scarecrow as Jnana- mind and therefore the Lion as kriya – courage, but John started going on about Oz being the manifested word in all it’s colours and the downward shape of the tornado being in the shape of shakti’s downward pointing triangle and it just got really funny and silly. Ami beside said “Ok- let’s do Starwars now…..” . At least I have lots of themeing ideas for the next little while!

Well, the next time I will see John will be Vancouver in August 2009 and though I will be busy during the event as a volunteer, I hope to blog that training as well.

A bientot! Merci Montreal!

 

Are you sure we are doing yoga or road construction??? October 28, 2008

I landed home from Boston at 2:00 in the morning on Friday, spent Saturday recouping and preparing, and on Sunday I taught my workshop. This was Hari Om’s first official workshop and I am please to say we ended up with 15 people. We even had a few like Marcia who came all the way from Kamloops! My friend Lara Luer who is an Anusara Inspired teacher in Chilliwack even came out. It is really a nice treat because students who come to workshops are looking for more. The have a sense of curiosity and wanting to grow their practice so they come into the room pretty much ready to learn. It was a great group.

The workshop was on the Universal Principles of Anusara Yoga. They belong to the second of the three A’s that guide Anusara Yoga: Attitude, Alignment, and Action. Sometimes Anusara can be billed as “all about spirals and loops” but really, it is a heart-based practice that uses the alignment to better refine so we can get more joy out of our practice. I could teach someone all the alignment principles , and it could better their practice,  but it wouldn’t be Anusara. This is what I was really trying to emphasise as I taught the workshop because we take a small part of the big picture and teach it out of it’s full context. I tried at the beginning of the workshop to create a framework for what was to follow so that the alignment was seen in it’s true position: second to Attitude. Attitude is saying- “I do this practice for something greater. I do this practice as a way to remember I am connected to something bigger. I do this practice as a way to go to my own heart. I do this practice as a way to teach me how to offer out my gratitude.” In a nut shell: I do this practice to remember and to celebrate- Chit/Ananda.

The whole gang! Or construction crew....

The whole gang! Or construction crew....

So the whole time I am teaching alignment principles , I am gong back to Chit/Ananda. I am hoping that I satisfied those that came for technical information, those that came because they like Anusara, and those that are just beginners on the path. It was a varied crowd.

The way I teach the Universal Principles of Alignment ( UPA’s) is through a lot of hands on, visual aids, and partner work. I am becoming known for my yards of flagging tape that I bring to this workshop. We all tie each other up in flagging tape to visually see where the spirals start and stop and how they move. It was a teaching method I stumbled upon when trying to get some clarity for myself and my teacher, Christina Sell, suggested I teach it to others- Voila- a workshop is born. The UPA’s are a lot to cover in one 3 hour workshop,  but I try to tell the students to just have fun and if they get one “a-ha” moment then that should feel good. One student, Ian, told me happily that just figuring out his back leg in standing poses was worth the cost of the workshop. So good to hear!

Marcia and Amy getting wrapped up!

Marcia and Amy getting wrapped up!

The arm test- Lynna and Karin

The arm test- Lynna and Karin

I think I carried a lot of shakti back from the training in Boston and everything I learned there about my weaknesses I started to work on that very day. I tried some new things which I like- (we will see how my regulars react!) It was a fun morning and the studio did a lovely job of hosting. We mananged a little water and orange break and then finished with a 30 minute practice implementing what we had worked on. I could see from my regular students movements that they had gained some clarity- everyone in the room looked really solid- and they even smiled.

They remembered, they aligned and they had fun- and they left feeling better about themselves. Welcome to Anusara Yoga!