WHY I STOPPED TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OF THE SENSELESS

Yesterday was the ninth anniversary of my oldest sister’s passing. She would have been 60 years old and a grandmother of two, soon to be three. 

It’s on days like this when I realize, yet again, that I will never be able to understand WHY certain things happen.

As anyone who has lost a close loved one knows, we’ll never be able to answer the question why? Why what should have been, could have been, is never to be?

Yet, while senseless tragedies will remain just that, I choose to believe that there is something else, something greater, something more all-encompassing than the pain and suffering (as well as the happiness and joy) in our lives. 

Something fundamental, unshakeable, and essentially good. 

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I don’t want to say much more about that right now. But what I do want to say is that believing in goodness, believing in something beyond our suffering is a something I choose. It’s a decision I make over and over. 

It doesn’t mean I don’t question, or doubt, or struggle with the enormity of the suffering and injustices in our world. It’s just that I have come to peace with the futility of trying to figure it all out. 

Instead, I humbly accept that there will be some things that will never make sense to me. I also accept that I have the freedom to choose what I wish to believe. 

This perspective allows tragedy and hope to coexist. 
It allows me to embrace the immensity of the ever-unfolding mystery of life rather than shutting down. 
Often, it’s what allows me to keep going.

Letting go where I need to,
Doing my work,
Cultivating meaningful, authentic connection
Being a support for those I love and serve.

And perhaps most importantly, it allows me to remember the preciousness of it all. To savour each moment and each day of this fleeting life, including the challenges, the difficult days, the tragic stories – it allows me to be with it ALL.

This is what our practices bring us. Truly speaking, is there ANYTHING more urgent, more important than being grounded in the absolute preciousness of our lives?

I’ll be welcoming a handful of women to the beautiful countryside of Quebec in a few weeks to become established in this understanding. 

To dig deeper, to regain true perspective, to recharge, to once again turn toward the light. 

If you know it’s time, I’d love to welcome you into our sacred circle.

http://www.barrierisman.com/teachers-retreat-summer-2018/

HOW CAN I HELP?

I woke up this morning with a question on my mind. It's one I've been asking for many, many years, decades in fact. It's this:

How can I be of service?

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Like many of us, my yoga teaching (and practice) has ALWAYS fundamentally been about serving. Offering some of what I've been so fortunate to receive on this path. Generously, wholeheartedly. 

It comes down to this: SERVING is what motivates me, what fulfills me, what lights me up. 

I KNOW this is true for many teachers out there. We do what we do out of gratitude for what yoga has brought to our lives, in many cases, even SAVED our lives.

Truly speaking, I think we are ALL here to be of service.

So, the question is - what gets in the way? How can we, as teachers, ensure that we're able to CONTINUE doing what we're here to do? What brings joy and meaning to our lives? 

The answer is no secret. We all know that the ONLY way to be of service to others is to serve ourselves first. Regularly, effectively. There just isn't any way around it. 

I serve my body with nourishing movement.
I serve my mind with meditation and timeless wisdom.
I serve my spirit by surrounding myself with natural beauty and uplifiting company as often as I can.

What are you doing today (and everyday) to fuel your ability to be of service? How are you serving YOURSELF?

In a few weeks, a handful of women teachers will join together to dive deep into joyous, transformative, and sacred practices. 

This intensive retreat is INTENTIONALLY placed to arrive at the end of the summer and before the busyness of the fall sets in. It's the PERFECT time to do the ESSENTIAL work of rejuvenating, restoring, and reconnecting. There is no better moment to serve yourself, to fill your cup to overflowing. 

Here's the info, if it call out to you, I'd love to welcome you into our circle:

http://www.barrierisman.com/teachers-retreat-summer-2018/

 

CONTINUING

If there's one thing I've learned in 25 years of yoga practice, it's this: THE most essential skill in yoga is simply THE WILLINGNESS TO CONTINUE. 

Being willing to begin again, and again.

To get back on the path when you've veered away. Without judgement. Without shame. 

To greet yourself exactly where you are with tenderness and love. 

To once again recognize and make space for your heart's deepest longings to surface.

To gently welcome yourself back into the light.

Willingness to begin again is a skill, for sure. Something we hone over time. And, it is BEST done in supportive, focused, and joyous community.

Yoga teachers: Our sacred, intensive, and transformational 5-day retreat is coming up in a few weeks. We have THE PERFECT group of seasoned yoginis coming together and there are a couple of spaces left. Message me if you know it's your time to dive deep in celebrating your practice, your path, and continuing on. It would be an honour to welcome you into our intimate circle.

m.me/barrierisman

Teachers, Please Take Your Seats

Over the years, I’ve noticed that the teachers I am most deeply inspired by are not necessarily the ones who teach to huge numbers, nor do they have the most polished presentation. They are not necessarily the teachers with the most magnetic charisma, nor are they the ones that can effortlessly achieve every asana. The teachers I learn the most from are those whose commitment to their practices shines through their teaching, bringing it alive with the energy of their own experience and inquiry. It sparks within me the longing to practice with the same dedication, which in turn, hopefully allows me to offer the fruits of my own learning to students.

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Continuing

I created the Skilful Yogi Mentoring Program to support teachers to continue along the ever-unfolding path of their own studentship. As our Fall session wraps up, its clear that this program is succeeding at providing a framework (content + community + resources) for committed teachers to make real shifts their experience of yoga and in their teaching.

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3 Paths, 1 Class

The traditional 3 paths of yoga outlined in the Bhagavad Gita provide a useful framework for deconstructing the work of the hatha yoga teacher:

 Karma Yoga, The Path of Action

The disciplines we practice and teach. Asana, pranayama and the actions we perform, study, and refine within these practices.

The actions we use to teach: concrete skills including planning and preparation, the cues we give, the adjustments we make, the attention with which we observe our students.

Jnana Yoga, The Path of Knowledge

The understanding that informs these practices, including the teachings of our tradition.

The larger context we hold for the practice that evolves out of a combination of study, reflection and personal, inner experience.

The wisdom that gives rise to what we convey (whether overtly or subtly) when we teach. This includes the physical and energetic space we create through our welcoming, our interactions and our sheer presence.

Bhakti Yoga, The Path of Devotion

How the first two coalesce into a concrete, integrated and impactful offering.

The unique and particular way our skills and knowledge come together so we can effectively offer and teach others what we have learned, experienced, assimilated, integrated.

Viewed in this light we can appreciate the nuances and the complexity of what we bring to the class experience and the many skills that bring to bear on our offering as professional teachers.

It makes sense that in order to progress and sharpen our skills we need address each of these three areas. This is why my Skilful Yogi Teacher Mentoring Program leads committed teachers through a progression of engagement with your personal practice, deepening your understanding of yogic wisdom and refining your teaching skills.

Our Fall session is presently helping teachers in Canada and the US become better teachers with the support of local and online learning communities. It’s a unique and valuable opportunity for those of us who view our teaching as an integral part of our journey along the ever-unfolding path of yoga.

If you are a yoga teacher looking to take your teaching to the next level, I hope you’ll consider joining us for our winter session, which begins in February 2016.

Become a More Skilful Yogi

The Skilful Yogi is professional development program for yoga teachers that offers accessible, practical and empowering tools to refine your teaching skills, deepen your practice and reflect on the teachings of yoga within the support of a global community of teachers.

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Observing is a Form of Listening

Observation is a form of listening. 

How do you use your mental energy after you give an instruction? Are you thinking about the next thing you'll say? Evaluating what you just said? Or are you watching, listening, for how your words land in the students' bodies?

Teaching is like a conversation. We give the cue and then watch to see how it is received and  implemented by the students. In the watching is the clue for what should come next, if we can hear it. 

Making ourselves available to observe in this way there is connection to each other and to the energy of the moment. Student and teacher meet each other in the presence of yoga.

Taking the Seat of the Student

You might not always feel confident that you are a good teacher. That’s okay though, as long as you know how to be a good student.

Taking the seat of the student gives you permission not to know. In the not knowing lies the vast expanse of possibility and discovery. In this space you have the freedom to explore, experiment, ask questions, break out the books, clarify, try things out, make mistakes and learn from them.

When in doubt, become a better student. 

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Why the Skillful Yogi?

Today I’m introducing the fall 2015 session of The Skilful Yogi, an online mentoring program for yoga teachers. I created and piloted this program last winter. Throughout the offering of the program and in my reflections since then, I’ve become even more convinced that this type of work is essential for all yoga teachers. Here’s why.

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The Training Trap

What if, instead of signing up for another program, you chose to spend time assimilating what you have just received?

What if, instead of seeking out more tools, more practices, more inspiration and more sequences you considered how you might apply your new skills and learning through study, practice and experience?

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One Thought Makes you Larger, and One Thought Makes you Small

Like the devil and the angel battling on either side of the cartoon character’s head, the ego can persuade us that we are good, capable and effective teachers or it can disempower us with the “who do you think you are?” voice of self-criticism.

In times of self-doubt, it is worth remembering that the voice that thinks we have nothing to offer, that wants to shrink from stepping up and sharing our gifts is a function of the ego.

Just as ego can make us large, it can also hold us small.

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