This weekend was about getting out of the comfort zone and setting foot in the adrenaline world of something new. When was the last time you did it? Remarkable moments I recall place me in the Drama Building of Brush Ranch Camps, introducing myself as the new art teacher to the 100+ campers and staff for the first time or to the stage at the University of Texas' Performing Arts Center where I announced the winners of the College of Fine Arts Teaching award at graduation. Heartbeats accelerated, cheeks flushed, blood rushing in my ears and wondering if there is just enough time to escape through a back door, unnoticed. There never is. From Rick Hawkins' lecture on his book The Buddha's Brain we learned that the brain remembers stress more than a mind at peace. Isn't that so true? That's how we all know where we were on the morning of 9/11, or where we were when we lost someone we love.
I will never forget this weekend. Ironically it was all about how to use this energy of anticiaption and nervousness in a positive, healthy way--and so much more. My friend and colleague Elizabeth Reese highly recommened attending Manorama's workshop held at the Dallas Yoga Center: Introduction to Sanskrit and Luminous Shabda/ Path of the Heart. Manorama is a woman I've been hearing about from Beth for several years now. She is about my age and travels the world studying and teaching Sanskrit and yoga philosophy. She is complex and fascinating. She is smart. She is demanding of her class, and her expectations are high. She said she looks for the highest her students can be. She is a guru, a teacher, and has many devotees.
After hearing about her gifts and insights, I wanted her to like me. I wanted to be wise in her eyes and able to learn quickly. The takeaway: I am not ready. Every question I answered out loud (imagine long adrenaline rush until I was actually able to have the courage to answer) was totally wrong. Not even close. I had forgotten that feeling. How seldom we put ourselves "out there" for examination and evaluation. When Manorama wants to connect with you she asks you her name. Getting close to her is on her terms. I waited for her to want to know me. I'm still waiting.
As she lectured and shared parables of her life and experience--all lessons for us to "sit with" I took copious notes--thinking fast and applying these principles to what I know and believe as a cradle-Episcopalian, but quickly sitting with the stun of how much I don't know. Here are a few of my favorite moments in the class (Manorama calls them Pearls):
- Sanskrit is the meeting place of many things
- Don't stick the landing (still thinking about this one)
- If you want to understand subtle things you have to get subtle
- You cannot catch the thief by means of the thief
- How do you know you're a beginner? You focus on the end.
- Awareness is like a muscle.
- Half of practice is figuring out how to play your mind.
- We are all God in baby form, we just don't know it.
- Silence is the absence of thinking.
- All you have to do is show up. Who is you?
- We are constantly playing in the universe of the unknown. We just don't know it.
- Just because we don't understand It doesn't mean that It isn't.
- People that love you study you. Love is in the details.
- Whenever we surrender it comes now, not in five minutes. That's the value of surrender.
- You can pave all of the streets you walk on in gold, or you can get really nice shoes that will take you on any road.
- Prayer is when we talk to God; Meditation is when God talks to us.
- Yoga asks you to look where you're not looking.
- Sanskrit teaches us to look for patterns.
- Control is the ability to stay fluid on a point with consciousness.
- Enlightment is totally available. Either you work for it or you get out.
- What we are doing in yoga is studying what we already know.
- Confusion is the partner of clarity.
Many of these pearls are the teachings of Manorama and her guru: Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati (Guruji). One of the toughest exercises in the class was a test of our learning where she asked us individually to chant the vowels of Sanskrit. There I was back in the Drama Building of BRC looking for the shortest, most invisible path to the door. I'm sure Manorama knew this because I was the second to the last person she called on to sing. Can you imagine? It was choppy and awkward, but I "passed"...and she went on to the last student. With the relief that it was over came a new awareness of how much energy I was dealing with--and the good thinking that follows an experience like that of "where am I going to place that energy next time?".
At the end of the second day I walked up to Manorama and expressed my gratitude for her wisdom. As she thanked me, she quickly looked past me and did not ask my name. Maybe the next time we will meet. The shoes of awkwardness while clumsy can teach us so many things. (Amy's Pearl)
Svaha (offering/surrender) and Amen.