In my post-vacation-return-to-spending-eight-hours-a-day-inside-a-building funk, I grudgingly participated in a professional conversation about offering students “tips”. It was suggested that I create some workshops (six workshops, to be specific) that offer “tips” in its title, like “Ten Tips to Serenity”, or “Seven Steps to Nirvana”. I found myself grunting condescendingly in agreement—it felt there was no choice. Yet, after few days have passed, I still find myself stewing in this bubbling silliness. I say, silliness, since—truly—how important is it? Yet there is something here that warrants our attention.
As Westerners, we don’t fully comprehend the concept of practice. Practice is a journey; it is not a tip and it is not sexy. It is not quick; it is not a clicking together of ones heels. It is a commitment to the long haul of lifelong learning and spiritual growth. The commitment to repeating an action, watching the outcome, and returning again to its practice, this is the source of that very growth. On a grossly (and it is kind of gross) marketing level, the concept of practice does not sell well. We want the quickie, the fix, the tip that will take us to nirvana in the easiest and fastest way.
Rather than being separate from life, practice is woven into life, like the breath, woven into all we do. Once we begin practice, there is no un-practice. Whatever the practice is for you—limiting sugar, releasing negative thoughts, showing up on the yoga mat– whatever it is for you, we watch, we practice, we “lapse”, and we realign again. Again and again. There is no wrong practice. Once on the path, we are simply on the path.
Unlike practice, I imagine a “tip” to be an easier and softer way, perhaps an entryway. Yet I imagine, too, that the tip (the phrase and attitude that draws students and sells books and pays bills) would have to open the door to practice. Whatever direction the tip takes you in, in order to sustain and continue moving forward, you must practice.
Perhaps the question here is why am I so sensitive to this conversation? Am I a newbie to spiritual materialism? I think not, since I have worked for decades in a center in which people come and spend money, in order to be spiritually and health-fully directed. I am a yoga professional—working in the field of yoga (almost contradictory terms) has bought me a house, given me a car or two, put occasion shoes on my feet, and some kibble in the dog dish. It’s a tricky one! I like “stuff” and I’m beyond-grateful that right livelihood, from my heart to others, has been both my dharma and the source of my income. Yet the mega-business of yoga in our country (newest figures tell us 36 million Americans do yoga) is a slippery slope. Competition is ferocious in our industry. And industry, it is. Perhaps I am simply heartbroken by the corporatizing of this sacred art.
Our very own Jackson Browne just came to bless this blog! (I finally figured out Pandora music. Jackson floated in.) Here’s his contribution to this discussion:
When the morning light comes streaming in
I get up and do it again.
Say it again—
So friends out there in blog-land, as Jackson invites us, let’s together pray for patience and tolerance, to see life through the non-judgmental lens of practice, to know that practice, no matter its form, is the journey. This precious moment offers us that doorway.
Do you think yoga is an industry that has been co-opted? What are your thoughts?