Thursday, January 26, 2006

Response to first class...

Alanna's discussion of teachers and students was interesting to me on several levels.

The first is rather idiosyncratic to my religious training -- so a brief explanation of background. My religious tradition teaches that we can, and should, experience God's guidance and influence directly. It teaches that we can recognize the influence of God through a warm feeling in the heart space. We call that experience "testimony of the Holy Ghost," and ascribe truthfulness and importance to experiences that are accompanied by such feelings. During Alanna's instruction, I experienced that feeling. While I can analytically ascribe it to a variety of deterministic physiological conditions, I don't. I understand it as a way that my body expresses its affinity for a person, a situation, or an idea.

The second level is intellectual and analytical. I have a strong resistance toward trusting a stranger. That resistance is amplified manifold when someone tells me to trust them just because it will be good for me, if I do. That's the sort of approach to life that very quickly proves itself to be more than a little dangerous. I'm a lawyer, so not only have I had enough lifetime experience to teach me to be especially on guard when I'm told to lower my guard, I'm also professionally trained to distrust such instructions.

The third level that swirled through my mind during Alanna's discussion was this: I've been blessed to have a "guru" in my life. And everything that Alanna said about having such a relationship is 100% true of the relationship I had with that guru: I found her, not the other way around. She wasn't really looking for devotees. As she guided me through the Bikram series of poses every so often over the course of several years, I came to love her simply, trust her implicitly, and to rely on her to help me live in the larger context that the practice opened up to me. I still believe, deep down, that she is partly magical. Although she and I viewed and understood the world quite differently, I could not argue with her results. A Reiki master, she would explain about energy fields that sounded suspiciously New-Agey and artificial to me. Yet under her touch, I perceived energy flows I never imagined. A quirky Buddhist, her explanations of prior lives sounded contrived to me. But she readily guided me toward practices that honored and respected the upwellings of otherwise unexplained emotions yoga brought out. A mature and devoted yogini, she modelled poses with ease that I still can only observe. Who made her my guru? I did. By my actions.

So to sum up the score so far: (1) my body's telling me via its own language to pursue the path Alanna's telling me to follow; (2) my rational mind thinks I'm nuts even for listening to such instruction, let alone paying for it; and (3) my memories are reminding me of all the upside to having a guru, confirming that faithfully-pursued, open-minded yoga leads to connection to such of the divine as I've discovered in my life. So how do I score that? Two to one? How could that sort of math make any sense?

So far, I'm still on the fence about investing these barely known teachers with anything like what I've given to others in the past. But lurking in my mind is this: the absurdity that Alanna taught us last night has a remarkably plausible feeling to it. It might just be that existence is so oddly constructed that she could be right.

I'm not yet ready to trust very far these unknowns who ask for my confidence so bluntly.

The remarkable thing about yoga postures, though, is that sometimes even moving a little ways into a pose unlocks more than I expect.