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Increasing the Odds on New Year’s Resolutions

2018 Edition: 10 Ways to Practice Community

I’m guessing that statistically we’re more likely to be hit by lightning than we are to stick to our New Year’s resolution, yet the ritual of reviewing and renewing our resolve is so great. I started a new tradition for my own resolutions. I’m renaming them “practices.” We can’t fail at practicing, right? But we can fail at a resolution. Basically, I’m hoping to increase the odds! Ha. But for real, framing a resolution as something we have to do is always a disastrous set up.

Practice is something we can pick up any time without threading it through self-judgement or the limited pinhole dichotomy of accomplished or unaccomplished.

My practice in 2018 is asking questions about things I care about deeply. By asking questions to myself, and others, I hope to open new dialogue and learn.

My first question is – How can I Practice Community? There are unlimited articles on how to improve our practice of yoga postures, or asanas. Why not magnify our focus on community? And, I’ve seen over the years in my own asana practice that learning is more rich and meaningful when I am actively engaged in community. Put-a-ring-on it – engaging – with practicing community!

I’m a list-a-holic, can’t get enough of them, I made a list. It’s intimidating to share intimate stuff. And, facing vulnerability is part of co-creating. Who knows maybe one of you can share your list too (comments below perhaps?)
Bring it on butterflies:

10 Ways to Practice Community Support

1. Receiving
Oh, we sure know how to give, right? We’re givers. We’re yoga lovers and we’re chasing peace. We’re the first to call ‘back middle’ instead of ‘shotgun’ just to, you know, be a giver.

I’m wondering why it’s easier to give so freely and yet so hard to receive.

Can we practice humility and recognize that all good teachers and students, ask for help.

2. Listen Carefully
Author Tim Ferris developed his interview technique by watching his favourite journalists conduct interviews. He noticed that all of the best, Oprah included I noticed, waited a seemingly unbearable time after a question was answered. Three or four full seconds would lapse, and then miraculously a gem seemed to emerge. After hearing this I tried it and watched it work while teaching philosophy at the teacher trainings, or even in conversations with friends.

When we give the speaker a little more space, the thesis arrives, brainstormed at the source, edited internally.

Wisdom is polished by silence.

3. Commitment
In an interview with New York Times writer and author Anand Giridharadas in an On Being conversation with community leader Whitney Kimball Coe and host Krista Tippett, Giridharadas said:

“…I think what’s happened to us is that we’re not committed to each other as a people, so it’s almost like we are in this kind of situation where any disappointment that we encounter in our fellow citizens is like a reason to break up, and any deviation from deeply fulfilling each other as fellow citizens is like a tragedy. And part of commitment as a citizen is embracing other people’s dysfunction, and embracing other people’s incompleteness, because you know you have your own.”

Community isn’t only developed in our yoga families, we cultivate it in our school groups, at the water cooler at work, in relationships — anywhere we want to say “‘F’ you, I’m, out of here” if something doesn’t go our way. I’d like to practice community support unceasingly, and weed my assumptions about others before they take seed and overpower the growth of the good stuff.

4. Forgiveness
I’m Canadian so I wait for a sorry when I feel a sorry is due. But it is so empowering to claim the processing that we need to do on our own instead of waiting for an external pardon. It’s so damn liberating I wish I had figured it out earlier, and wish I could remember it more readily! I’m still a fan of “I’m sorry”, but I’m not going to wait for it for a change in my own mental or emotional well being. And I will always — and only when it is safe of course — give a second and third chance.

Also, the more I see anger or stubbornness arise in myself or students, friends, or family, the more I see that anger traces a straight line back to hurt, usually, especially when anger is habitual, it’s old hurt. Remembering unseen wounds from mothers, fathers or whomever sure does make it easier to forgive.

5. Believing in Magic
Sometimes we practice yoga in its wholeness. Yoga has 8 limbs: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, Samadhi. Sometimes we practice its parts – like breathing consciously (pranayama), sitting in meditation (dharana) or exploring in postures (asana). In Yoga’s wholeness or in its parts – we bear witness to healing, a feeling of deep union, magnificent positive change, vulnerability… and other such magic.

Glimpses of understanding our connection with all things – Samadhi – arises as an exhausted single mother walks out of the studio renewed knowing she is not alone.

Cultivating magic means cultivating don’t-know-mind, knowing that mystery abounds and magic is happening around us. When I’m doubting magic or mystery I’ll schedule myself for a walk in the densest forest I can find, with a quiet mind, and notifications off.

6. Groundedness
Community, especially in a highly caffeinated, overworked, digital age, requires grounding. Full stop.

As you become popular or successful in any somewhat public way, we become vulnerable to projection. Projection starts with great love but can darken at the speed of light if the slightest misstep or unintentionally hurtful word is offered directly or in passing; a completely innocent email/FB comment can turn into viral vitriol.

We were called out publically on social media on a very well ‘liked’ post for using the name Moksha. Taking a sacred concept to create a ‘corporate giant business.’ It threw Ted and I for a huge loop. First for having potentially hurt anyone with our choice of the name Moksha as it came from a place of deep honouring and respect, and second for being called ‘a corporate giant!’ It would be easy to get defensive. Instead we sat quietly and took it all in. We are still taking it in.

We grounded down rather than acting out.
I want to do that more.

In community, something you say will be misinterpreted at some point, and if this misunderstanding happens publically and/or in the digital realm, it can be incredibly destabilizing …if you let it be. But, if you know who you are, and you are grounded in your ideals, and you are living in truth your roots will hold you. In the Yoga tradition living in truth is called ‘satya.’ When was I was growing up learning from my teacher Baba Hari Das I always thought of satya as ‘telling the truth’ or listening for the truth. It is this as well. But Satya is also living in truth. It is a very grounding practice. Let’s support each other in finding our roots and nourishing them.

7. Compassion
Trauma is multifaceted, complex and for the most part invisible.

I tell a story at the teacher training to illustrate that ‘you never know.’ I share a poignant moment when I was teaching a class and a student seemed to roll his eyes at everything I’d say. I kept thinking, “Man, why does he hate me so much?” At the end of the class I took a breath, conjured up compassion and asked him if I could give him a hug. He said yes. After the hug he said: “Thanks. Right before this class I cremated my mother.” Yes, he looked bitter and angry. Yes, he wasn’t ‘nice’ at the sign-in. He was so very sad. And his lack of friendliness sure had nothing to do with me.

Making assumptions is so human, so easy, and so dangerous.

There is no better place to source our habitual illusory assumptions than in community. Knowing that hurt is hidden and appears in unlimited ways seems to help me find compassion.

8. Change
Every Wednesday for the past 6 years or so I’ve met with our Moksha/Modo International team. We’re a group of 8 500-hour certified yoga teachers who all wear about 10 hat a week! Last month, Angela, our communications leader, wisely suggested that we change the colours that represent our personal agenda cells in our team meeting spreadsheet. I found the change SO hard, even though I loved the idea of change. I was used to my old colour, and for the record it wasn’t even a colour I like all that much! And yet, after another week, poof, change forgotten.

For some, all change is difficult, and for others change is just plain fun.

Change is hard, and yet it is constant. And in community we get to practice change. We get to witness change as we practice it in every aspect of the yoga. We see change as the start of every transformation.

9. Take Action
If you’re pissed off about something, one great place to take action is here, in community. If you don’t like something about your work community, this community, the global community, then take action to make it change. If I don’t like the way people plant trees in most carbon offset communities, then it’s my responsibility to find or create something better.

Any time I hinge into blame I see an opportunity to claim, take a breath, act, and change. And the best news is that we’re all here to support each other. We are only activists if we act, and there are unlimited ways to act. Unlimited ways to call for justice, speak for peace, and act for the health of the earth.

10. Make the Circle Bigger
We can always be more inclusive. I attend a bi-weekly women’s circle with my neighbours. When a mom who was putting her kids to bed at the start time, arrived late last week, the circle just naturally opened.

When I witnessed this a couple nights ago, while thinking about you all, this big sweaty community, and this list letter, I thought this is what we get to practice in community: making the circle bigger. I recall the first studio that created a gender neutral washroom and change space. I remember the student that first arrived to a class with a prosthetic foot, or speaking American Sign Language. Welcome we say as we lean in, adjust, learn and shift to engender access.

Diversity arrives, and we shift left, shift right to make the circle bigger.

I hope to practice into the best year we’ve had as a community. Want to do that together? Let’s practice into Community Support, our 4th pillar, as a way to remember that there is no change too large when support arrives from all directions in Sangha. Let’s rock 2018 for the earth and those whose voices remain on the margins. Let’s practice and learn and share support in every community we inhabit and share. Let’s take it all back onto our mats with love and respect for our bodies, our minds, and our spirits.

So grateful to share this practice,
Jess


5 Responses to “Increasing the Odds on New Year’s Resolutions”

January 29, 2018 at 12:25 pm, Rebecca Foon said:

Wow this is so beautiful Jess. So deeply inspiring, and such beautiful ways of seeing and moving through the world with ease and grace as we continue to collectively evolve as human beings and walk from our highest integrity – from our truest and highest selves in a wild world. I love the idea of continuing to push ourselves to create positive change in the world and perhaps even to challenge ourselves to play a bigger game to keep our spirits focussed on the beauty of life and help free ourselves of mundane dramas we can get so easily swept up in. Modo Yoga NYC just supported the last Pathway to Paris concert in NYC at Carnegie Hall, and on stage Bill McKibben asked the audience to write to Comptroller Scott Stringer asking for the City to divest its pension funds from fossil fuels. Shortly after the 3,000 letters were mailed and received, Mayor De Blasio announced that NYC will be divesting its pension funds from fossil fuels into renewables and on top of that will be suing 5 major oil companies for the damages caused by Hurricane Sandy! This inspired me to truly believe that together we can awaken others in so many ways through our community and open hearts, and that the opportunity is enormous and boundless!! I have infinite gratitude for this beautiful community of like minded souls. My gratitude helps keep me excited to grow as a human on our beautiful planet earth that is so worth fighting for! So much love.

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January 19, 2018 at 4:15 pm, Claire Colbeck said:

Tears met my eyes at the words “opening the circle” and the notion that opening the circle is perhaps all we’re ever doing— especially when it comes to our individual journey, within community, and in a way that can trickle out into our world, this universe and perhaps beyond. I’ve been sitting in circle regularly for nearly the past year and the experience has been transformational, foundational, simple and certainly sprinkled with that magic you touch on, Jess. The practice of showing up, being with myself and with others, being witnessed and witnessing others, sometimes sharing and other times holding silence. Being a participant of circle, where my presence helps to co-create a container of holding, exploration, in it’s ever-changing nature— feels not so different from a yoga class, and yet unique in it’s format and perhaps intention. Personally, circle has helped me to listen-in and express-outwardly those things that are often my unique, individual and personal experiences of practice in a shared yoga class. This shift in experiencing community in a different way has felt like a bridge and a medium to support my voice, my unique, ever-changing expression, as it has also played a vital role in connecting me more deeply to community and everything it encompasses. It sometimes even illuminates the uncomfortable shadow-aspects of myself— and within this living, breathing container, it feels as though a form of healing can occur. I intend to continue “opening the circle” in all the ways I can, and to let the circle open me, too. With love and gratitude, Claire. Xo

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January 22, 2018 at 11:55 am, Jess said:

> Claire, there is so much in what you wrote. I want to listen closely to your ideas around holding this container that is ever-changing. Your thoughts of listening-IN while expressing outwardly – that is a practice in and of itself. Thank you for taking the time, and for the bravery it takes to share your thoughts publically. Big love back to you and all the students that get to classes from a teacher that is cultivating magic in every corner of Being. xoxo

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January 18, 2018 at 1:05 pm, Airlie Ogden said:

What wonderful suggestions, Jess! Your reference to Krista Tippett’s interview with Anand Giridharadas reminded me of another incredible conversation she had with Martin Sheen. A thread that’s woven throughout that interview is that community is the foundation for how we show up in the world. Sheen shared a saying that came from his community as a boy, “…one serves oneself best by serving others first.” I see your list (I’m a list-lover too) as a series of checkpoints for how we can best serve those around us. Because let’s be honestly, we all need a little helping keeping course sometimes 🙂

I will add one. Something I’ve added to my practice lately came from an On Being blog post. (Can you tell this site is the source of much of my reading and listening?) In it the author, Sharon Salzberg, talked about how “the world we can most try to affect is one immediately around us.” She refers to our “three feet of influence.” Because our actions and emotions influence others, if we strive to behave with honesty, compassion, personal integrity, generosity, kindness, humour, and understanding with every being that comes into our personal three feet, we can change the world, bit by bit. So my 11th point would be this: Intentionally curate your three feet.

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January 25, 2018 at 11:31 am, Jess Robertson said:

> Airlie, thank you for beginning this conversation here.
I heard and loved that interview with Martin Sheen.

Thank you for the Sharon Salzburg link. You’ve written about walking through the hustle and bustle of the holidays and how you practised curating your own personal radius just by NOT being rushed. Being intentional about how our energy, and actions are influencing that of those in our immediate viscinity is so important, and yet so easy to loose in the hustle and bustle of any day. Thanks for the reminder and for your leadership and love.

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