Yoga

The Ganesh in the Room

If you teach yoga, you’re probably familiar with the phenomenon of the yoga audition. And if you don’t teach yoga, this may sound a bit disconcerting. But it’s a “thing” and yes, it flies in the face of what yoga is supposed to be all about in more ways than I have room to write about.

A friend of mine recently “auditioned” to teach yoga at a popular upscale fitness center in a major city. Her story is about as close as I’ll get to being a fly on the wall as I’ll never go to one of these cattle call auditions myself. She had three to five minutes to give it her best shot or rather, performance. She also had to participate as a student in everyone else’s auditions as well. This was part of the deal.

Am I alone in thinking that this is a messed-up way to find the most skilled yoga instructors? To that end, what other industry subjects job candidates to sit through other prospective employee interviews? But this is indicative of how upside-down the yoga industry has become. Pun intended.

I know a lot of professional actors and auditioning is a necessity if they want to land a role. But think about it: Yoga teaching is not acting, although it’s helpful to keep students engaged and entertained. It’s teaching.

What’s going on here? How did teaching yoga become another ego-filled offshoot of the entertainment industry?

I’m not just talking about the ludicrous way yoga teachers have to strut their stuff to land a teaching gig. I’m talking about the whole kit and caboodle. The entire yoga industry has run amuck and I’m not afraid to say so.

Let’s take a closer look at the general state of teaching yoga, keeping in mind this isn’t how we all roll:

  • Yoga teachers are expected to work their way up to prime teaching slots at coveted studios. This means “volunteering” aka working at the reception desk, sweeping floors, cleaning up props and more. For free. If you’re a studio owner you may balk at this saying that your studio offers “work-study” – meaning your volunteer labor can take classes in exchange for work. This isn’t entirely awful, if you are made of money or perhaps a college student who wants to take a couple of classes a week as a hobby. But, barring those circumstances, if you’re aspiring to teach yoga, why not “volunteer” your services at a needy charitable organization versus a for-profit yoga studio? And to studio owners: I suggest paying wannabe teachers, even at minimum wage. This way they can decide how to spend their discretionary income.

A starting out yoga teacher is akin to a starving actor. It’s time the industry stops preying on these newbies.

  • A skilled yoga teacher isn’t necessarily a marketing maven. Yet, owners of studios, gyms and fitness locales can’t seem to differentiate between the two. Either that or they just don’t care.

 

Those with the most class groupies, the highest numbers of “followers” on Instagram and Twitter, as well as thousands of Facebook friends, often win by filling their classes. Meanwhile, the best teachers out there – the ones who actually know their stuff and would never think of posting Instagram pictures in a one-handed upside-down pose – don’t get hired because they can’t attract swarms of students and it doesn’t make financial sense for the studio. I get it. But how do we reconcile it when students leave classes wondering how they too can achieve a one-handed upside-down pose or lose weight to fit into those skinny yoga pants?

 

  • 200-hour and 300-hour teacher training courses have proliferated – some good, some bad, some ugly. As a result, our industry continues to spit out teachers who practice their most impressive poses in order to audition for menial wage teaching jobs. Oh, did I mention that the yoga industry is unregulated so the onus rests on students to figure out where to go to earn a quality education that will prepare them to teach this ancient healing practice as well as land teaching jobs.

 

  • Then of course there is the issue of whether yoga class students can sort out the riff from the raff in a regular class setting. I don’t think so, at least not when you’re new to yoga. Just think about it: If you’re a new student who attends your first class at studio XYZ and the teacher offers a kick asana workout and you’re looking for a new fitness routine, you may think that this is the be all and end all of yoga.

 

Since When Is Teaching Yoga Like Starring in a Broadway Show?

Once you’re done mulling over the above points, let’s pause for a moment and talk about the Ganesh in the room, er yoga studio.

Yoga has become all about the ego. Some may even go so far as to say that modern day yoga actually promotes the ego. I know, it’s tough to swallow. Yoga teachers and studios thrive off having the biggest classes, most popular workshops, and teacher trainings with waiting lists. Some teachers walk around with headsets on because without these contraptions, no one can hear them say, “Leave your egos at the door.” You may argue that you need a headset because your classes are too crowded. But, I say to that: time to limit class sizes. This way you can actually see all the students in the room and do your job: Teach them instead of shouting poses and commands into a microphone.

But this is a tough one as yoga teachers often earn their income based on the numbers of students that attend their classes. Students might as well walk in the door holding up dollar signs. Teachers need to be popular. It’s part of being successful in this industry. It feeds the ego, not unlike getting a lead role in a Broadway show or movie.

It’s enough to make your head spin as this ego trip is about as far away from yoga as we can get.

Stepping Down from the Soapbox

This may be ruffling some feathers out there. But I speak from experience as I was part of this circus act until recently. I ran a bustling yoga studio for 10 plus years. I offered a 200-hour teacher training course for eight years, hosted scores of workshops featuring nationally known instructors, led retreats, guest taught at prominent resorts, and hired dozens of teachers  – alas never any “volunteers” to sweep the floor.

However, I am opting not to run my studio anymore by choice. It was time to step off the hamster wheel as I didn’t like what was going on in the industry around me. I still teach two classes a week out of my space but I no longer run a studio. There’s a big difference.

I have moved onto other things, yet I love yoga and consider my practice a vital part of my life. To that end, I’m now focusing on expanding my online kids’ yoga teacher training business, Pretzel Kids. I’ve also gone back to writing and my journalism roots.

What’s to Come of the Yoga Biz?

Meanwhile, other studios and teachers – and there are some darned good ones everywhere – are still fighting to succeed and to do so, they need to retain students, have an audience, and market like crazy. Doesn’t sound much different than any other industry, right? Yoga teachers and studio owners deserve to earn a living too, right?

Trust me, I understand and support this. But, here’s where the buck stops: Yoga is VERY different from other industries. Other businesses, you see, aren’t all about teaching others to drop the ego. If we could just figure out a way around the ego, there would be no issue. But, here’s the contradiction: If we really wanted to banish the ego, we’d get rid of conventions, festivals, podcasts, posing on Instagram, lululemon, and the list goes on. What should we do? Close down all the studios? Stop teaching? Stop attending classes, workshops, yoga events? Make a mass exodus and turn to other careers and income streams? It’s a big dilemma. The industry is changing and it’s up to you to decide if you want to be part of it and how.

Find Balance

Here’s an idea. Maybe it’s time to stop and find balance – in the name of yoga. Everyone’s idea of balance is different. Find out what works for you and try not to get caught up in the yoga rat race. For me, I focused on developing the Pretzel Kids online yoga training course. It seemed the right time to move this exceptional course online for a low price point. This way aspiring yogis and non-yogis alike can move their teaching aspirations in another direction – take it to the kids and out of the adult yoga studio. Pretzel Kids helps those taking the course learn how to teach children’s yoga and market classes where kids congregate: schools, camps, daycare centers and more. I resisted the online yoga world for a long time, but ultimately, this was the best way for me to reach masses of adults worldwide who want to teach a quality kids yoga curriculum. This experience has taught me that you can find balance by teaching yoga in an ego-free way with the help of modern technology and tools.

Find Truth

Maybe the yoga community should just be honest. Isn’t truth a big part of yoga? Let’s all fess up: This industry is where it is today because, generally speaking, looks and appearances have become more important to yoga than the practice itself. The ego is winning. But you can change this – for yourself at least.

So what to do? There’s no one answer but here’s a good start: Try spending some time alone on your mat. Move any way you want to. Get quiet. Wear pajamas. Learn not to care about who is teaching you, who is listening, and what studio you go to. Be your own teacher. Be creative and figure out new ways to hone your skills.

As a yoga teacher and yogini, my wakeup call came when I took time off from teaching adult yoga classes and taught myself. Give it a try. The Ganesh in the room will appreciate it.

Robyn Parets is a journalist, business writer and retired yoga studio owner based in Boston. A former writer for Investor’s Business Daily and NerdWallet, Robyn is also the founder and owner of Pretzel Kids (http://www.pretzelkids.com), a children’s yoga brand and online teacher training course. You can follow her on Twitter @RobynParets or @Pretzelkids, and keep up with her musings on her blog at http://www.awayfromom.net.

Advertisements
Categories: business of yoga, challenges, Etcetera, get real, letting go, musings, Philosophy, That's Life!, Truth, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

And One Day It Happened……

About a month ago, I was talking to my oldest son, Ethan, on the phone. He was nearing the end of his freshman year at Northeastern University as a journalism and film studies major. Usually our conversations consisted of something like this:

Me: How are you?

Ethan: Fine

Me: What’s going on?

Ethan: Not much. Same old: school, improv

Me: Do you think we can get together soon for dinner? I’ll be in town next Wednesday.

Ethan: Maybe. I’m pretty busy. Can I let you know next week?

Me: Sure. Well, just called to say ‘hello’. Talk soon?

Ethan: Sure. Bye mom.

But this particular conversation was different. Ethan was working on a particularly challenging story assignment. We spent about half an hour discussing the story, his angle, his interviews, how difficult it was to find the right people to talk to, and how he came up with his idea to begin with. THEN, wait for it……he actually listened to my advice. Now, granted, I am a journalist and sometimes actually know what I’m talking about. But still, this was MONUMENTAL. And, then….we had a two-way conversation about a common interest.

Flash forward to two weeks ago: Ethan was about to leave for a five-week journalism semester in Spain. I was leaving the house before he would be picked up for the airport, so we went through his check-list to make sure he had everything for the trip. As this happened, my young adult college journalism life flashed before me. I was in Spain this exact time my freshman year in college and I did a similar journalism semester in London as well (albeit with typewriters and no cell phones). I said goodbye to Ethan and saw his eyes welling up with tears. He gave me a big hug and then, a second hug. I told him how proud I was of him and he promised we’d talk via Face Time and chat via instant messenger (which we’ve done several times). I said goodbye as I left the house, holding back my own tears of pride.

Since Ethan has been in Spain, he has started his own blog, written his first article for the NU Journalism Abroad news site, (a brilliant story on the controversy surrounding an abandoned bullfighting ring — you should all read it!) and is now en route from Barcelona to Madrid where he will work on more stories and blog posts. Since he’s been gone, we’ve talked about his stories and blog posts as if we were peers.

And then it hit me: My son is an adult.

Not a young teenager who has some mature thoughts and seems like an adult sometimes. He’s a real, bona-fide adult. How the hell did that happen? Yes, he’s 19 years old and at some point I knew he’d be a grownup. But, like most parents, there comes a time when it hits us smack in face. That time has arrived.

As parents, we try to raise our children in the best way possible. In our family that meant, above all else, teaching our kids how to make wise choices, pursue their passions, be kind to others, and engage with the world. I understood that my kids may grow up to be like their parents, or turn out to be nothing like us.

But when you see yourself in your adult children, even a little bit, it’s both eerie and enlightening.

Ethan, you see, did his best to defy everything that I was about. Yoga and health food topped the list. Although there were likely other reasons for his aversion to yoga and vegetables, I think he wanted nothing to do with my choices because he didn’t want to be like his mother. I’m sure you can all relate. I mean who wants to be just like their mother, especially teenage boys?

Up until Ethan was about nine years old, I was a full-time freelance journalist. He was young so I doubt he remembers much about what I was doing locked in my office writing. What hits more close to home for him is my second “career”: a yoga studio owner. This consumed most nights and weekends of his childhood. So, reflecting back on this (and the fact that he probably thought it was a little strange that his mom also practiced and taught yoga while his friends’ moms were lawyers, bankers, and doctors), it seems well, a bit normal, that he would steer clear of my career and interests.

This, my friends, makes it all the most fascinating to me that my son is choosing my other passion as a possible career: writing. He didn’t witness me working in a newsroom or burning the midnight oil writing stories on deadline (I did most of this before he was born). I never pressured him to go this route. Yet here he is. And here’s the uncanny coincidence: As I watched Ethan make choices for himself, I started making new career choices as well. Our discussions about writing caused me to pause and realize that I truly missed writing. So, as Ethan discovers his path, I am creating a new chapter for myself.

Could it be that I am following in my son’s footsteps?

Categories: being a mother, College, Etcetera, get real, growing up, journalism, letting go, mother, musings, On the Road, parenting, Philosophy, raising boys, raising sons, That's Life!, Travel, Truth, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Careening Down a Dangerous Path

So, I’m perusing through my Facebook feed the other day and I see this post:

“Sometime soon, we may reach a point where half the women in America will be teaching yoga to the other half…”

An interesting quip from a man I worked with at a California newspaper in the early 90’s.  To my knowledge, he’s a PR executive and not a yoga teacher. Hmmm, even non-yogis realize things are out of control and there’s no end in sight.

I touched on this in late 2013 when I wrote an article that evoked much discussion in the yoga community. My honest reflection resonated with many, ticked off some, and got people thinking.

Icicles on studioSo, here I am watching the snow fall outside my window in Massachusetts. It’s been about two years since I traveled to 40 cities in the US and Canada in the course of 15 months. I got a realistic pulse of the yoga landscape in America and hit classes in strip malls, YMCAs, intimate settings, large chain studios, gyms, and pretty much every place in-between. When I returned home, I reassessed where I wanted to go with my studio, Breathe Joy Yoga, which sits behind my house in the woods.  After witnessing the state of the yoga industry, I knew it was time for a change. I was done operating a full-blown studio where part of the job was competing for yoga newbies who are more concerned about sweating, low prices and convenience than immersing themselves in the practice. So, instead, I focus on teaching two to four classes a week at Breathe Joy Yoga. Everyone is welcome and every class is engaging and unique as I never have a yoga pose playlist prepared. I also oversee Pretzel Kids® trainings and classes, and I have returned to freelance journalism. Once in a while, I offer PR and marketing consulting services to other yoga professionals trying to navigate this rocky landscape.

So why revisit this topic? Well, because we’re no better off than we were two years ago. In fact, we’re much worse off. And this, my friends, affects how and where we practice yoga, as well as the integrity of our community as a whole.

Today, I would guess 30-50% of yoga studios offer 200-hour yoga teacher trainings. It’s no surprise as these courses generate fast cash and help pack studio classes. Now, don’t get me wrong. Studio owners deserve to earn a living and hopping on the teacher training gravy train is a sure-fire way to ensure that they do so. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. But, here’s the problem: As long as students continue to drink the Koolaid served at the closest yoga studio, teacher trainings will multiply like bunnies in a highly unregulated industry. Seems a little harsh, I know. But let’s peel off some more layers here.

DSCF0442Yoga in America isn’t what it used to be and we, as a yoga community, should stand up in Tadasana and take notice. It was only 11 years ago when I opened Breathe Joy Yoga. I offered a comprehensive teacher training course as much out of need as desire. There were simply no programs in my area. The market wasn’t saturated and skilled yoga teachers were in high demand.

Flash forward to today: If you throw a ball out a window in any major US city, it will hit one yoga teacher on the head and bounce onto another instructor’s asana. Taking classes and teaching yoga is the “in” thing and many students wear rose-colored glasses and think that, if they become a yoga teacher, they too can open a successful studio (just find an empty corner, start a Facebook page, and viola!) or at least teach a few classes a week (good luck finding a studio without a two-page list of subs). The plot thickens. Many still think they can quit their day jobs and make big bucks teaching yoga. Now, I know…..some of you are thinking I sound cynical or this is just sour grapes. But, let me tell you right here and now: I sure as heck don’t have sour grapes. I love to practice and teach yoga. And, I enjoyed the challenge of turning a small, community-supported studio into a thriving business. I wouldn’t have chosen any other life or livelihood for the eight years I ran a yoga studio full-time.

Here’s another thing: I love that yoga is now readily available. I just wish we were more responsible about this mushrooming growth. One of the pitfalls of working and practicing in an unregulated industry is that many businesses offer yoga classes and have no idea whether their own yoga instructors are skilled. A certificate from a crash course is sometimes all a health club needs to hire a teacher. It’s even become commonplace for prospective teachers to “audition.”  Here’s a common scenario: A club owner sits through a slate of “auditions” and then, regardless of whether this “casting director” knows the difference between yoga and Pilates, a yoga teacher who fits the “part” is selected from the lot.

And then there are master classes. What defines a master class? Well, nothing really. At least not anymore. Any newly-minted, recent 200-hour graduate can throw together a workshop and call it a master class. Scratch that. No 200-hour certificate is necessary as anyone can teach a master class. It certainly sounds impressive and many students take the bait, especially when they see this so-called expert on Instagram striking a perfect pose. Our industry has run amuck here. In my opinion, there are only a small handful of teachers who should be considered “masters” in any field. Yoga is no exception.

About now I’m probably pissing off some of you. But, put your egos aside for a moment. I’m saying it like it is. Satya for ya in its truest sense.

To that end, I’m going to tell you a story that may help illustrate where our industry is headed. I’m warning you: It’s a doozy.

A couple of months ago I received a pitch for a workshop from an out-of-town teacher whom I had never met. I usually only offer workshops taught by experienced teachers I know. This way, I feel comfortable about what I’m selling and confident that my students will take away something valuable from their time and financial investment. But, it sounded good so I decided to give it a go. The teacher sent me a description of the workshop for beginners, which would include backbends, arm balances and inversions. She then explained that the inversions would encompass variations of headstand, shoulder stand and maybe handstand. Further information indicated her method will help students reach happiness faster. Ok. Let’s stop right there. Reach happiness faster? By doing a headstand? Wow. Now you really got me going.

Call me crazy. Call me responsible. I don’t care. I had to put my foot down and question her proposal. Here’s our email chain:

The “teacher”: “Regarding inversions, I am skillfully trained to teach them in a very safe and attentive way. I realize that not a lot of instructors feel comfortable teaching them (and thus they go untaught which I believe is a shame), but I feel that if proper alignment is taught, modifications are given and safely precautions are taken, inversions are not only extremely beneficial but tangible to even the most beginner of yogis. (INSERT HERE THIS TEACHER’S STYLE, PURPOSEFULLY LEFT OUT) places a strong focus on inversions and without them, I wouldn’t stay true to its homage….”

I agree that inversions are beneficial, however, kicking our egos to the curb: Even with modifications and the best instructor in the world, my experience is that it’s impossible to watch everyone at the same time in a large room filled with upside-down beginners who you don’t know. I was getting squeamish just thinking about the possibility of someone falling over on my hardwood floor. I also wasn’t feeling too warm and fuzzy about a teacher who felt that, without teaching specific inversions, she was not staying true to her yoga lineage. I mean, c’mon, really? Aren’t there plenty of other asana choices out there? Um, yes.

Here’s how it ended peacefully as I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt:

Me: So, here is my position: From a liability perspective, I feel it’s not responsible or safe for me to offer this at my studio.  I understand that you would prefer to stay true to your homage but I need to stay true to safety and health. Are you able to offer rabbit pose, basic tripod and/or modified shoulder stand with legs up in an “L” (like legs up the wall without the wall) as alternatives? Let me know your thoughts. Thanks again.”

She wrote back: I understand your concerns. Yet on the other hand I ‘respectively’ [sic] disagree.

That was that.

So let’s talk a little about homage and lineage. What does that even mean? Back in the heyday (meaning hundreds and even thousands of years ago – long before lululemon pants graced our yoga classes), yoga teachers were taught by true experts to pass down this ancient tradition.

Take my primary teacher, Diane Lagadec. Diane is the real deal. About to turn 71, Diane runs Maha Yoga Center in Bridgewater, Ma. and you can often find her in a safe backbend or inversion. She trained with Shri Khanna, who was one of the yogis who came to the states in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s to learn and teach.

“He came to Boston to complete a doctorate and while he was here he created a small ashram in a home in West Newton. He was friends with Yogi Desai, Dr. Mishra (also known as Swami Brahmananda Sarasvati), etc. We got to meet and learn from wonderful teachers. Shri was from the Maha Ananda Ashram in Simla, India. I studied with him for years,” said Diane.

I realize there’s no one path to anything, but I am fairly certain that enrolling in a 200-hour teacher training for a handful of weekends or taking classes in a hyped-up studio with packed classes and hotshot teachers is not going to help you reach nirvana faster. What to do? For starters, do your research.

If you practice yoga, inquire of yourself: Why am I choosing this teacher to guide me? Maybe you have no idea whether he/she is skilled. Maybe the time works for your schedule. Maybe the quality or safety of the class doesn’t matter to you. You still should ask.

If you’re considering enrolling in a teacher training, ask yourself:  Why do I want to take this course with these teachers at this studio?

If you’re a yoga teacher or studio owner, ask yourself: Why do I want to teach? Why do I want to run a 200-hour course? There is no right or wrong answer.

The point is: We should all be digging deep. Or, as we yogis say, it’s time to practice self-study, a.k.a. Svadhyaya.

I may be going out on a limb here but we are careening down a dangerous path. Literally. Yoga students are blowing out hips and shoulders regularly. I’m thinking Patanjali didn’t have this in mind. Take a look at the Yoga Sutras. Depending on your interpretation, only about five of the 196 sutras (II: 29 and II: 46-49) discuss anything to do with asana. Let’s sit on that for a while.

Robyn Parets, a journalist and yoga teacher, is founder of Pretzel Kids® and owner of Breathe Joy Yoga studio in Massachusetts. A former writer for the Los Angeles Times, Inc. Magazine Group, Investor’s Business Daily, and many other publications, Parets turned to yoga and meditation in 1999 after her life was interrupted by a neurological disorder. Bedridden for nearly two years with two children under four, Parets credits her dedicated practice with helping her gain back her health. She recently traveled across the country, documenting the changing yoga landscape along the way. Parets is now focusing on blogging, reconnecting, and creating her next chapter! Find inspiration at: www.awayfromom.net

 

Categories: business, business of yoga, Etcetera, get real, humor, journalism, Philosophy, That's Life!, Truth, Uncategorized, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Frozen in Time

As I drove to a yoga class earlier this week,  in a hurry to make it there on time, I slowed down to a snail’s pace when I got to the school zone for a local elementary school. Sure, I had to slow down to 20 miles an hour as this is the speed limit. But, for a brief minute, everything slowed down, not just the speed on my speedometer.

Ethan and Noah

Ethan, left, Noah, right at about age 7 and 4

For a brief minute, it was as if my life was frozen in time. I watched the crossing guards channel the children into school and the parents walking with their children, who looked as if they were going to topple over underneath the weight of those heavy backpacks. I stared at one little girl with bright red hair and watched her trying to walk tall and proud with her books in tow. And then, for no more than five seconds, I locked eyes — out of my left driver’s side window — with an attentive father en route to school with his child. I quickly looked back to the road in front of me and then glanced to my left again. He was no longer looking my way but, rather, looking forward as he continued his slow and steady pace toward the school. It was as if he knew what I was thinking: Where did the time go? Wasn’t it just yesterday when I walked my once proud first-grader to school?

I was caught up in a trance-like state, only coming out of it when I realized I was no longer driving through the school zone and it was time to speed up again. But I wasn’t ready for speeding back up. I wanted to slow down again and walk my boys to school. My eyes got teary as I started to drive faster. When I hopped on the highway, I was back at the speed limit but I couldn’t let go of that father. Still can’t.

Today, I was on my way home and my eyes started tearing up again. I looked to my left and saw a large, bright orange sign: “Be Prepared to Stop.”  Workmen were on the street doing repairs. But I took it as a sign — my own personal sign. And, in case, I forget what this sign says, I can see it from my yard. Guess the universe wants me to keep seeing this sign.

Today, I drove past the parking lot at Sharon High School. I looked to my left and saw my son’s car (err, my car) parked in its usual spot, covered with dirt. My eyes teared up.

Ethan and Noah laughing

my little boys!

I looked out at the women in my yoga class this week and realized I have lived a whole phase of my life (their lives too) with them. When I started teaching this group, our kids went to Cottage Street Elementary school together. Now our kids are either adults or almost adults. We are empty nesters or almost there. And we sure as heck aren’t meeting at the entrance to school to pick up our children and talk about the upcoming school fair.

One could say I am turning into a sentimental mess. Or, going through a phase. Or, realizing that I’m not 30 anymore and time just sort of sped up while my eyes were closed. Or, all of the above.

Ethan Senior portrait

Ethan’s senior picture

In less than a month, my oldest son Ethan is graduating from high school. Next week, he turns 18 and I go get my grey hair covered.  He is taking AP tests today so I drove Noah, who just turned 15, to high school. We were talking and I caught him rolling his eyes at me. My first instinct was to say, “Why did you do that? Was that necessary?” But I said nothing. He’s a typical teenage boy and I am a typical teenager’s mom: I think I’m hip and cool (do they even say those words anymore?) but I am really a 46-year-old mom trying hard to hold fast to memories and my little boys.

In yoga, we all talk about “being present” and “living in the present.” Today, it hit home that the “present” goes by way too fast. We get one chance to do it right “in the present” and then that chance is gone, forever. All we have left is the past and future and we’re not supposed to dwell on that, right? But this week I am struggling to let go and thinking of all the things I should have done better. I know — that’s not productive or healthy. But I’m only human.

Here’s the truth. The gosh-darned human truth. My truth……I am afraid to let go. I am scared out of my mind. I write this as my eyes well up with tears. I am afraid to let my son go to Northeastern University in August. I am afraid for him to move out on his own and begin his adult life. And it’s not because I don’t think he’ll succeed or be ok. I know he will do just great in whatever he sets out to do in life.

It’s because I don’t know if I’LL be ok. There, I said it. I wrote it.

Up until this week, I thought I was fine with Ethan graduating and moving on. I couldn’t possibly be more proud of him. But now, I am reduced to a tearful mess. Ethan and I haven’t always got along in his high school years. Maybe it’s because we are so much alike — both headstrong and opinionated but yet we give 100% of ourselves to others. I’ll admit it: there were times when I couldn’t wait for him to move out. But now that this is becoming a reality, I know that I am just not ready to lose him to the world. I’m not ready to walk into his empty room (which will most likely turn into his room/guest suite next fall) and not trip over piles of dirty laundry. I’m not ready to have nothing to remind him about, all the time. I am not ready to be the mother of a college student.

I am not ready for how I will deal with the void.

Me and the boys in the snow

Frozen in Time

These next few weeks will be particularly challenging. I will cry tears of joy and sadness. I will do my best, even when it’s not good enough, to stay present and enjoy every moment. I will never get these moments back. That much I know. I will try not to cry hysterically next time I pass a group of elementary school children and their parents walking to school. I will always look for that father with the big brown eyes and all his dark brown hair intact.

He has “30” frozen in time.  Take care of that beautiful child weighted under that monstrous backpack. He will be 18 in no time.

 

 

 

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, Etcetera, get real, letting go, mother, parenting, raising boys, That's Life!, Truth, Uncategorized, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Oh Yeah, Life Goes On

As I sit here reading the Sunday paper — the one hard copy periodical I still read regularly — I begin thinking about when my kids were little. Things weren’t always easy for them, for us.

When my oldest son Ethan was two, we moved across the country, from Los Angeles to Boston. Soon after that, I got ill with a neurological disorder. Noah, my youngest, was only 5 months old when this happened. I was in bed for two years and missed his first steps and many other firsts. Then, when they were in 2nd and 5th grade, their father and I got separated, then divorced. I got remarried a few years later and my sons got a new step-brother out of the deal too. In the middle of all this, I changed careers – went from a journalist to a yoga studio owner.  A lot of changes and I worked a gazillion hours a week. When things were finally starting to settle down, Noah got cast in a Broadway touring show. I was running  two yoga businesses at the time but I knew what I had to do: leave it all behind and go on tour with Noah. But, I also left behind my husband, two other sons, my businesses and my dog.

3 Boys

My big boys

When I came home five months ago and 15 months later, I had a lot of decisions to make and catching up to do. Should I build my businesses back up to where they once were? Should we move out of this house if I no longer need the yoga studio that is on the property? At the same time, I had a lot of catch-up work to do with Ethan on his college applications and visits. Then it hit me: Where did life go and where is it headed?

Honestly, it feels like a blur. Next year this time, Ethan will be out of the house, living at college and starting his adult life. Noah will be a sophomore in high school while pursuing his dreams of a dance and theater career. Yes, I was there for my boys, always encouraging them and supporting them. But yet, I don’t remember a lot of details. Life changed and moved too fast.

Lake Massapoag

when things get quiet, you see clearly

So I decided to put the brakes on – at least in the best way I knew how in this ever moving forward swirl of life. For the past five months I have committed to making no major decisions for myself. That’s right: None. Rebuilding Breathe Joy Yoga was just too big of a decision so I decided against it. Been there, done that. I just wanted to spend some time “being.”

Not rushing, not racing, not having to do a million things at once. For the first three months, this felt, well, weird. I woke up every morning thinking I had to be somewhere, but I didn’t. I raced to my computer to open my email fully expecting messages from yoga students wanting information on classes and workshops. Nothing.  In my new experiment of “nothingness”, I didn’t even practice asana every day or even 4 days a week like I used to. Sure, I exercised BUT I made sure I didn’t take myself too seriously or put pressure on myself to do any one kind of exercise. And, I will admit this openly now: I let my meditation practice go by the wayside. You see, when I meditate and get quiet, I hear what I need to hear and do. I just didn’t want to listen to advice, not even my own. I was afraid of what I’d hear, like “You are spending too much time doing nothing. You should be running a business. You should be making more money. Yadda, yadda, yadda.”

This little experiment has been one of the biggest challenges of my life. I’m a “doer” by nature, not a “be-er.” I had no idea how hard this would be and it doesn’t help when even my kids say: “Mom, what are you going to do next? Are you going to get a job, start a new business, go back to the studio? What do you do every day?” They aren’t used to this new me.

Ironically, this little experiment was not intended to actually be an experiment. I just wanted to slow down. And, in doing so, opportunities have come into my life for myself, my family and my children. Amazing how that happens when you commit to nothingness.  You actually become more receptive to positive change AND you leave room for new opportunities to come into your life. Imagine that?  And, by the way, isn’t this a form of meditation of sorts? Isn’t this being present?

In this moment, this is my yoga – sans asana and all. Seeing life as it is: right here, right now.

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, Billy Elliot, business, business of yoga, get real, letting go, Philosophy, That's Life!, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Wake Up and Smell the Incense

By Robyn Parets

Holy savasana!

It’s time for yogis to wake up from resting pose — the English translation for the Sanskrit word pronounced shiv-asana — and smell the incense.  In the latest salvo proving big business is here to stay in the yoga world, a company received a patent last week for its technique of filming yoga classes for online distribution.

On December 10, Santa Monica, Ca.-based YogaGlo, Inc. was issued a patent claiming that its technique for YogaGlo class renderingfilming a yoga class is novel. In a nutshell, the patent gives YogaGlo exclusive rights to film yoga classes from the back of a room with a camera about three feet off the ground. It also requires that there be a “no mat zone” or “corridor” from the camera to the teacher whereby students are situated on mats on either side of the corridor. This enables a clear view from the camera to the instructor.

Yogis aren’t the only ones wondering why a patent this general and certainly not novel was granted in the first place.

Joel Lehrer, a partner at Goodwin Procter LLP in Boston, said it didn’t appear as if there was any legitimate invention in the way YogaGlo films its classes. Filming from the back of a class with an unobstructed view of the teacher is commonplace. Yet, YogaGlo managed to get the patent probably because the patent examiner didn’t quite understand the dynamics of a yoga class and that filming a teacher down a center aisle from a specified height is not unusual, he said.

“This patent (US serial number 8,605,152) gives YogaGlo the right to restrict others from doing what their patent covers and gives them a government-granted limited monopoly if they choose to enforce it,” said Lehrer, who specializes in patent and intellectual property law.

Oftentimes vague patents in other businesses do get approved. The software industry has been grappling with this for years, said Lehrer. In fact, even software companies with valid inventions are sometimes hesitant to file patents for fear of alienating their customer base. He explained that there is a stigma surrounding what some consider “inhibiting the advancement of technology.”

“Some companies in the software space choose not to pursue patents for fear of the backlash. They are afraid people won’t want to work for them or do business with them for ethical reasons.”

This industry backlash, said Lehrer, is something a company like YogaGlo could face if it chooses to enforce its patent.  In fact, while waiting to see if its patent would be approved, YogaGlo did send companies cease and desist letters, including the non-profit organization Yoga International.  Now, however, YogaGlo also has the right to charge licensing fees to companies that want to continue filming videos in a way consistent with the patent.

YogaGlo, which did not respond to inquiries for an interview, has been radio silent on this issue since last week’s news. But Lehrer said the company could also decide not to police the patent at all. “They are under no legal obligation to enforce it,” said Lehrer.

Todd Wolfenberg, executive director at Yoga International, said his organization removed 14 videos from its website in response to YogaGlo’s cease and desist letter.  “They were filmed in a similar way (to YogaGlo’s classes). Our cameras were about five feet off the ground but we also had aisles with students on both sides and a teacher in front.  Many people have filmed using this orientation before. Without an aisle, you can’t see the teacher,” said Wolfenberg, who said his organization, part of the 400-acre Himalayan Institute, does not want to get embroiled in a court battle.

Yoga International, said Wolfenberg, has the means and ability to film classes from different angles and is in the process of doing just that.  Visitors to the site usually have to pay for video content. Yet, while Yoga International is re-shooting certain classes, all video content is free.

“We think it serves you better in the long-term to take the high road. It’s better than lashing out and getting angry,” he said.

Yoga International is not the only one that this patent may affect. Companies in the business of filming yoga classes are plentiful and include Gaiam Inc., a publicly traded corporation that recently purchased My Yoga Online (MYT); YogaVibes; Yoga Download; and Yoga Today.  All of these companies charge fees for viewing content. There are also plenty of yoga teachers and companies that provide their streaming classes for free or by donation, such as DoYogaWithMe.com.  Still other large studio chains, like YogaWorks, now offer their own online system for viewing classes taught by their instructors.

Jamie Kent, president and founder of Denver-based Yoga Download, couldn’t believe a yoga company received a patent of this nature.

“This is far-reaching and goes beyond the yoga world. It has implications in the film industry, fitness business and other markets as well,” said Kent. “If one company can patent a camera angle, what’s to stop others from doing the same thing?” she said.

Yoga Download, with 9,000 monthly members, both creates its own content with a group of teachers and works with content partners who wish to stream videos on the Yoga Download platform.  About fifty percent of its business comes from membership and the other half is generated through single downloads or other non-member purchases. Kent said the company will now diligently convey new filming guidelines to its content providers.

Kent, as well as others in the yoga video streaming field agree that as the industry grows, smaller studios and yoga teachers will need to be aware of this patent and its ramifications.

Tania Neild, founder of StudioLiveTV, works with yoga studios to create a platform, or channel, to deliver online classes.  Since StudioLiveTV handles the technology end for its partners, it will ensure that classes are filmed in a way that doesn’t infringe on the patent, said Neild.

So far, the YogaGlo patent has only affected a couple of classes on the company’s Fitness for Action channel. The fundraising channel was launched to raise money for victims of the typhoon in the Philippines and other charities. YogaGlo, as well as other yoga content providers, donated classes. YogaGlo asked StudioLiveTV to remove a couple of the classes that infringed the pending patent and StudioLiveTV obliged, said Neild.

“They were very polite and were also generous in donating to our channel,” she said.

Nonetheless, it was a wake-up call that expertise from companies like StudioLiveTV and Yoga Download will be in high demand. Neild and others also note that the patent flies in the face of what many consider yoga to be all about: a healing art meant to help people on their path to wellness. Despite this, yoga is emerging as a business, not unlike any other industry. And with that comes potential lawsuits. In fact, the only way to challenge this patent entails going to court or a filing at the Patent Office, said Lehrer.

One way to invalidate a patent in court is by proving the existence of “prior art.” Essentially this would mean others, or even YogaGlo, used the same filming technique before August 2009, at least one year before YogaGlo initially filed for its patent in August 2010, said Lehrer. Yet, simply challenging the validity of a patent, regardless of its merit, can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said. The only other legal alternative, also costly, entails going to court as a defendant if YogaGlo threatens a lawsuit, he said.

The buzz in the yoga community is that perhaps Yoga Alliance, a non-profit association representing yoga teachers, will step up to the plate. Yet, YA isn’t sure what it will do next.  Although YA opposes the patent, President Richard Karpel stated, “I can’t provide more details about our plans because they haven’t been determined yet.”

As ugly as all this may sound in a business built upon peace, love and flowers, this may not be the last patent for yoga related businesses. ”Sadly, exclusive feels good to some. It’s contradictory to yoga, but it happens,” said Neild at StudioLiveTV.

According to Wolfenberg at Yoga International, it’s important for those involved in the yoga and business community at large to educate themselves. “It’s a very strange type of situation and I don’t know where Pandora’s box is going to open up next,” he said.

There’s one thing Wolfenberg knows for sure: “Yoga is changing.”

Robyn Parets is a journalist, editor, yoga teacher, and owner of two yoga-related businesses: Breathe Joy Yoga studio (www.breathejoyyoga.com) and Pretzel Kids, a trademarked children’s yoga brand (www.pretzelkids.com). She also blogs about yoga, business and life in general and can be found at www.awayfromom.net.

Categories: business, business of yoga, Etcetera, filming, get real, journalism, patents, Truth, Uncategorized, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How I Got My Groove Back

Once upon I time I wanted to be Lois Lane. Or so I thought.Lois Laneclipboard

That was almost 30 years ago when I had pie in the sky ideas of exposing truth through telling stories. I wanted to make a difference. This was back in the day when there was no Internet or Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. People got their news from broadcast television, radio, and newspapers. That was it.

I studied journalism in college, where we used electric typewriters to write our stories. Without the simplicity of editing on computers, I learned to choose words wisely the first time around. Upon graduation, I went right to work at the Ventura County Star-Free Press, a large daily newspaper in Southern California. I wrote about crimes and court cases. I covered political events. I reviewed movies and concerts. I interviewed all sorts of people with all sorts of stories. I drank lots of coffee. I never smoked a cigarette. I worked hard and slept erratically.

Occasionally, I wrote a story that made a difference, but usually not. One of my rare articles that did just that still sits in a weathered box in storage somewhere. It was a story I picked up off the police radio while I was working in the newsroom one late night. A man working for the gas company was putting a pipeline down near a riverbank and stumbled upon a homeless man who resembled someone he saw on a recent broadcast of “America’s Most Wanted.” The police were hot on the trail and so was I. I told my editor I was going down to the riverbank. He didn’t think there was anything to the story but said I could certainly go check it out.

When I got there, the police had taken the homeless man away to question him. As it turned out, he was formerly a teacher who had been accused of molesting several children. He fled and had been hiding among the bushes for years – unnoticed, under the radar. He lived among other homeless people, many of whom I interviewed for my article. They loved him and thought of him as a close friend. I talked to these people after they learned about the true identity of the man they thought was their friend. They trusted him. They cared about him. Their children spent time with him. It rocked their world. I was about 22 years old and it rocked my world too.

The next day, my breaking story appeared on the front page. It cracked wide open a case that police and the judicial system had all but dismissed.

I never wrote anything like this again. I soon changed jobs. I wrote for trade magazines, business newspapers and eventually became a freelance journalist. I wrote about everything from travel to hotels to business to entertainment. I interviewed celebrities like Gregory Peck and chefs like Wolfgang Puck. Every day was different. For about 10 years, I traveled all over the world filing stories. It seemed way more glamorous than it was. I missed my children, my home, the monotony of daily life.

My stories became vapid and meaningless. Writing became a chore – something I no longer loved to do. At around the same time, I got sick with an autoimmune disorder (another blog post for another day). I quit writing.

Not sure what was to come next, I fell into yoga. I never thought I’d teach or run a studio, but that’s what I ended up doing. I started teaching for the same reason I began writing: to make a difference. But then the cycle started all over again. I started to burn out on running my business. So, before waiting until I was completely fried and had no desire left to teach, I pulled back. No need to risk my sanity and health. Wise decision.

I started blogging when I stopped running my studio full-time – about 18 months ago. And two fortuitous things happened: Not only do I love teaching again but I love writing again. Imagine that? I began writing from the heart, writing about things that mattered to me, writing about topics many can relate to, writing for the sheer love of it. Eventually people started reading my words. My yoga students enjoyed the stories and my readers enjoyed learning about this thing called yoga. Imagine that?

I was lost and now found. Twice already.

But, it’s a new world out there when it comes to publishing stories. The internet and social media make it easy to share information but these mediums also create a lot of clutter for people to wade through. Back in the day, hundreds of thousands of people read my stories daily over a cup of coffee in the morning. But now, where do I begin to find readers in an information ocean? How do I entice people to open my story instead of the thousands of others crowding their Facebook stream? How do my simple stories compete in feeds clogged with sensationalistic videos?

I decided to try something new. On Friday, one of my articles ran on website with thousands of readers. A few hours later, a couple hundred people had read my story. By the next day, 10,000 people had read my story. By the next day, that number had ticked up to 20,000. It is now at about 27,000 and still rising.
So, thank you for reading. Thanks for listening. Thanks for helping me get my groove back.

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, get real, journalism, Philosophy, That's Life!, Travel, Truth, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Witnessing the Yoga Scene

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/11/witnessing-the-yoga-scene-around-the-country-makes-me-consider-closing-my-studio-robyn-parets/

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, Etcetera, get real, humor, letting go, On the Road, Philosophy, That's Life!, Travel, Truth, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Discriminate and Eliminate: Walk On…….

I’ve been home for two months now. For the first time in a VERY long time, I have space to reflect. Life feels peaceful and calm – a major contrast to the whirlwind of a lifestyle I had for the past 15 years. Between having kids, working full-time as a journalist, running a yoga studio (open seven days a week), and then going on tour with Noah, I felt like I didn’t ever have a break. Oh, and I almost forgot: I was sick for two years with a neurological disorder (that I am blessed to have recovered from) and I got divorced, re-married and acquired a step-son along the way. Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining. I had two successful careers, have an incredible husband, a supportive ex-husband, three wonderful sons, and my health. My future is sprawled out in front of me. I am blessed.

field with a path

follow your path

But in order to get to a place where I can look across this huge, spacious field of opportunity, I needed to walk away. Walk away from people, jobs, houses, sticky situations and more. Just walk away. There have been times when I have tried to walk away while others kept trying to drag me back in. There have been times when I have found myself knee-deep in a situation I desperately wanted out of and the only way to break free was to make a choice: walk away and not look back. There have been situations where I know I was right YET my happiness was being sacrificed. So I walked away. There have been times when I wished I had told people my side of a story or situation. Yet, I knew this would cause controversy and instead kept quiet. In those instances, I walked away. I know this is very vague, but there are just too many situations that come to mind. I somehow know that you can all relate.

It all boils down to this: Sometimes the path to peace and happiness in your own life is to pick another path and change your direction. Now, everyone has their own opinions and surely for some, walking away is a cowardly route. Yet, look at the alternative: staying in a toxic situation, place, relationship or job (just to name a few) is simply unhealthy – emotionally and physically.

When leaving a difficult place, you will notice a lot of commotion around you. This makes it even harder to walk away. Some people will support you without asking questions. Others will demand explanations, as if your choice to let go is somehow their business. Others will ignore you because they don’t know what to say. Still others will talk about your decisions and tear you down as a person, leading to rumors and gossip which can become not just untrue, but ugly. These types of people are usually the ones who have nothing better to do then gossip about others rather than deal with their own lives head-on. The truth is: your life is your life and your choices are uniquely yours. No one else, except those you invite in, need to know what led to your decisions. If they insist on knowing or opt to start rumors, they were probably not worth having in your life to begin with. Hmmm – maybe time to walk away.

Walking away is the same as letting go. And this is not easy. How many of you have struggled with leaving behind a love relationship, even when you know it’s a bad one? What about friends? This can be challenging too. Have you ever grappled with ending a friendship because you’re afraid of the ramifications such as mutual other friends walking away from YOU or this so-called friend starting negative rumors? Not all relationships are meant to go on forever. Surround yourself with good, kind people. People that lift you up, not pull you down. When people no longer do this for you, maybe it’s time move on. Ultimately, letting go is very personal. Some of us hang on for way too long and others don’t give things enough time. There is no right or wrong choice. There is only your choice.

field of flowers

create your field of dreams

A wise yoga teacher once said (and it has stayed with me): Discriminate and eliminate. Plain and simple.

If we all spent more time figuring this out and walking our path instead of involving ourselves in situations which are none of our business, the world would be a more peaceful place.

So here I am in the now. I’m doing the work. Simplifying and letting go. Looking ahead at the vast field and not knowing what’s on the other side. I’m ok with that.

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, Etcetera, get real, letting go, Philosophy, That's Life!, Travel, Truth, Uncategorized, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Think Inside the Box

Yeah, I know. The saying is “Think Outside the Box.” But sometimes, you need to turn things inside out and take a look inside because what you think is going on around you isn’t what it appears to be. Huh?

Let’s back up a bit. I am now home. This marked my biggest stretch of time away from home since going out on tour with Noah. I was gone for two solid months, a bit more. The last time I was home was for only a few days in mid-March when we came back for Noah’s state exams. He was in testing and I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get a months’ worth of appointments crammed into four days’ time.

So now we are home for a couple of weeks. Although I still have tons of appointments and organizing to do (including opening mail, sorting files, paying bills, etc.) this time at home also includes time for introspection. It’s necessary. It’s about time. You see, living on the road leaves little time for contemplation of any kind. My meditation practice has been kicked to the curb, I hardly have time for an asana practice anymore and I feel lost in the shuffle of an odd sort of reality show.

It’s like living in a traveling college dorm. You live, eat, travel, work, exercise, and socialize with the same people for months on end. You grow to understand each other and know each other – sometimes a bit too well and sometimes not really at all. The “not really at all” part is when things tend to go awry in a social experiment like a touring musical. You see, rumors can run rampant and people often get sucked into believing things about their travel mates that can be, well, let’s say not nice and untrue. Usually I just try to be the best mother I can be to my son and stay away from the fray. It can be isolating at times but mostly, it feels safe. Most of the people I live with do not know me very well. With this said, I can say I have some tried and true tour friends – some people I hope will be my friends for life. They are good, kind and honest people – people I know I could go to for any kind of help. But in order to really know me, or anyone you live with, you have to look inside the box and not just at what’s going on outside. This means forming your own opinions of people and not listening to what others may say. It seems easy but it isn’t. It’s hard enough in the “real world” when you go to work every day and come home to the sanctity of your own home and family. It’s even harder on tour.

Yesterday I enjoyed something I haven’t had time for in a while: reflection. I delved into my Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, an ancient and brilliant sage. For those of you unfamiliar with the Sutras, they are a collection (sutra can be translated to mean “thread”) of kick-ass advice on how to live a more compassionate and fulfilling life. I immediately gravitated to Sutra 1:33:

“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness” – Sutra translation by Sri Swami Satchidananda.

The first three parts of this all-important sutra come easy to me but the last part is where I struggle. I’m going to paraphrase a couple of pages from Satchidananda’s book so you all can understand what I’m talking about here. After that, we’ll discuss and hopefully you will all weigh in as well.

           “Whether you are interested in reaching Samadhi (enlightenment) or plan to ignore yoga entirely, I would advise you to remember at least this one Sutra. In my own experience, this Sutra became my guiding light to keep my mind serene always. 

            Who would not like serenity of mind always? Who would not like to be happy always? Everyone wants that. So Patanjali gives four keys: friendliness, compassion, delight and disregard. There are only four kinds of locks in the world. Keep these four keys with you and when you come across any one of these four locks you will have the proper key to open it. What are these four locks? Sukha, duhka, punya and apunya – the happy people, unhappy people, the virtuous and the wicked. At any given moment, you can fit any person into one of these four categories.

            When you see a happy person, use the friendliness key. Why would Patanjali say this? Because even four thousand years ago there must have been people who were not happy at seeing others happy. It is still the same way. Suppose somebody drives up in a big car, parks in front of her huge palatial home and gets out. Some other people are standing on the pavement in the hot sun getting tired. How many of those people will be happy. Not many. They will be saying, “See that big car? She is sucking the blood of the laborers.” We come across people like that: they are always jealous. When a person gets name, fame or a higher position, they try to criticize that person. They will never admit that she might have gone up by her own merit. By that jealousy, you will not disturb her but you disturb your own serenity. She simply got out of her car and walked into the house, but you are burning up inside. Instead, think, “Oh, such a fortunate person. If everybody were like that how happy the world would be. May God bless everybody to have such comfort. I will also get that one day.” Make that person your friend. That response is missed in many cases, not only between individuals but even among nations.

            And what of the next lock, the unhappy people? We should have compassion. If you can lend a helping hand, do it. If you can share half of your loaf, share it. Be merciful always. Remember, our goal is to keep the serenity of our minds. Whether our mercy is going to help that person or not, by our feeling of mercy, at least we are helped.

            Then comes the third kind, the virtuous people. When you see a virtuous man, feel delighted. “Oh, how great he is.” Don’t envy him; don’t try to pull him down. Appreciate the virtuous qualities in him and try to cultivate them in your own life.

            And, lastly, the wicked. We come across wicked people sometimes. We can’t deny that. So what should be our attitude? Indifference. Don’t try to advise wicked people because wicked people seldom take advice. If you try to advise them you will lose your peace. I remember a small story from the Pancha Tantra which I was told as a small child.

            One rainy day, a monkey was sitting on a tree branch getting completely drenched. Right opposite on another branch of the same tree there was a small sparrow sitting in its hanging nest. Normally a sparrow builds its nest on the edge of a branch so it can hang down and swing around gently in the breeze…it was warm and cozy inside its nest and the sparrow just peeped out and, seeing the poor monkey, said ‘Oh, my dear friend, I am so small; I don’t even have hands like you, only a small beak. But with only that I built a nice house, expecting this rainy day. Even if the rain continues for days and days, I will be warm inside. I heard Darwin saying that you are the forefather of the human beings, so why don’t you use your brain? Build a nice, small hut somewhere to protect yourself during the rain.’ You should have seen the face of that monkey. It was terrible! ‘Oh, you little devil! How dare you try to advise me? Because you are warm and cozy in your nest you are teasing me. Wait, you will see where you are!’ The monkey proceeded to tear the nest to pieces, and the poor bird had to fly out and get drenched like the monkey.

            This is a story I was told when I was quite young and I still remember it. Sometimes we come across such monkeys, and if you advise them they take it as an insult. They think you are proud of your position. If you sense even a little of that tendency in somebody, stay away.

            So have these four attitudes: friendliness, compassion, gladness and indifference. These four keys should always be with you in your pocket. If you use the right key with the right person you will retain your peace. Nothing in the world can upset you then.

Okay, discuss or think…but take it all in.

I am sure that some of you who know me personally might be thinking, she wrote this about me. If so, check the egos with your baggage and get real. I am writing about me and you and everyone who is human. And remember, the sage Patanjali said the words above, oh, about 4,000 years ago. This means that WE, as human beings, have not changed much in thousands of years. We have the same issues, the same problems, the same struggles that our ancestors had. The reason I brought up my current situation (being on tour) is because living in a bubble gives me a unique perspective. Once I stepped out of the bubble, it became much clearer to see where my own struggles lie. It’s also evident that Sutra 1:33 can be applied to everybody and every life circumstance in some way, shape or form. It’s like taking a good, hard look in the mirror and then placing the same mirror in front of everyone you live and associate with. Most of us can relate to one or more of the four character types outlined in Sutra 1:33. Maybe you’ve even associated with all of them at some point or another in your life, as life is constantly changing.

We have ALL also encountered happy, unhappy, virtuous and wicked people and have probably handled these folks quite differently depending on our world views and life experiences. Again, for me, the toughest type to deal with is the fourth. Wicked is a pretty strong word, I know. But it was not my word choice, it was Satchidananda’s. And, wicked, as I interpreted it through my readings of various Sutra translations over the years, doesn’t have to mean wicked as in “Wicked Witch of the East.” Sometimes it’s difficult to see “wicked” on the surface and again, this is why we need to look “inside” the box.

Patanjali says there are four keys. My struggle, again, lies in finding and accessing the key to number four. You see, it’s hard for me to be “indifferent.” Usually I internalize things for a while and take everything personally. Slowly, I am learning to let go and go about my own business. I know I need to try harder still just to disregard and ignore these types of people. If I can do this successfully, anyone with a wicked nature can’t affect or hurt me. Again, this fuels my resolve to work towards letting go through yoga, meditation, breath work and whatever other means are useful to me.

What keys are challenging for you? Have you taken a good hard look in the mirror lately? What type of person do you see: happy, unhappy, virtuous or wicked or a combination of more than one? How do you best deal with each of these types of people? Do you hold the keys?

Life is not easy. The best we can do is be friendly to the happy, compassionate to the unhappy, delighted for the virtuous and indifferent to the wicked. Amen Patanjali.

Categories: Etcetera, get real, On the Road, Philosophy, That's Life!, Travel, Truth, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: