Monday, March 23, 2009

Who Am I?

When you read that phrase I want you all to think of Derek Zoolander asking this profound question of his own reflection in a puddle, whose reflection responds, "I don't know," right before his face is splattered with mud. Why do I want you to think of Zoolander? I don't know. Maybe because it takes the pressure off such a big question. If Zoolander can have the insight to ask it, so can I right? And argument can be made that by the end of the film he did indeed get an answer, so there's hope for us all.

The journey of Self-realization, or as Jung calls it, individuation, is the process by which humankind tackles the universal question, "Who am I?" At one point or another most of us go through this questioning, though we often feel like the only one who is uncertain. Across the ages, cultures and societies have had stories, myths, or rituals that give guidance to this ubiquitous archetype. Examples range from the Vision Quests of the Native American to the life of Siddhartha to the quest of Frodo, and to even our beloved Zoolander. This wish for wholeness is not of just a few, but all of humanity.

Well, then, who are you? Often people begin to answer the question with labels such as name, occupation, relationships: "I am Marisa. I am a mother. I am a yoga teacher. I am an American. I am 30 years old. I am a sister. I am a daughter. I am a friend." And those things I correctly am, but then, who is this "I" that I am referring to? Where does this "I" originate?

Further inquiry reveals that my sense of "I" comes not from my my mind, because the mind is the producer of thought, and though I can think about "I", this "I" is beyond ideas. When I let go of names and forms there is a subtle energy, a sense of presence, of being, of I-Amness. Trying to capture this sense with words is like trying to raise water from a lake with a giant net; nothing sticks.

I have come to know my "I" as an energy of the heart because this limitless sense of being, this witness, feels loving and kind and open. When I reside in my heart I feel connected to something vaster than my opinionated personality. Oh yeah! I remember now, that's the union of yoga! The union of self with God, the Absolute, the Universal, the Self, or whatever you want to call it. This is not to say that Self-realization is a religious experience, though it is certainly one that the conscious ego finds itself grounded in something deeper to, prior than, and more foundational than the self.

It isn't simply within the writing of this blog that I have come to understand the task of individuation... My journey began years ago, and continues everyday. Through the adoption of cross-cultural tools such as yoga, meditation, Toltec journey work, art, travel, Vision Quests, sweat lodges, dance, and more, I have learned to love, to forgive, to question, to accept, to challenge, and to release into the core of being. Greatest of all, I have learned from my own leaps of faith into my path of heart, sometimes getting my face splattered in mud.

"There has got to be more to life than being really, really ridiculously goodlooking."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Keepin' It Real

During these nationally, globally and personally unsteady times it would be easy to lose sight, for reality to lose its luster. I could reflect and say to myself, "I'm unemployed, our economy is in shambles, we are in multiple wars, the earth is being destroyed...we're doomed, what's the point of it all?" I could become overwhelmed with anxiety, depressed, and stunted by fear.
Yet, I'm not.

I don't feel that I am calm and hopeful because I live in the bliss of ignorance. I think I am informed and alert, and at the same time am vigilant to what I allow into my awareness, and how I spend my energy. I acknowledge the negative and instead of feeding it, I try to focus on the light and see myself and the world through a kind and forgiving lens. I believe I have a choice in how I understand reality, and that the impressions in my own mind are capable of effecting great change. Intentional thought can create more harmony and healing than trillions of dollars.

When I face the Darkside I feel gratitude for its existence, for only through knowing what I don't like am I able to know what I do. If there were only white the radiance would blind us. Next to black, white is perceived, and then we have a choice. Choice is consciousness, and these define our humaness.

The Taoist philosophers guide me with their wisdom:

Who knows what is good and what is bad?
If you think you can have order without chaos, you understand nothing about the laws of the universe.
Flow around obstacles, don't confront them.
The acceptable and the un
acceptable are both acceptable.
Without desire or fear every dilemma spontaneously arrives at its natural solution.
All things appear as they truly are to those who are not blinded by their own self-interest.
Life is a great dream.
By changing ourselves we change the world.
Every end is a beginning.

Times like these are an opportunity to remember of what we are made and to establish where we are headed, and where our head is. The choice is mine and right now I choose a deep breath and a soft smile. You?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Yogini Infinity?

Yogini Infinity is a tag I came up with a decade ago when I was beginning to see my yoga practice as a defining characteristic of who I was becoming. Today, it feels a little childish and fluffy for me to don this assumed name, especially since I've given it to myself. When I read it the voice of my own mind switches to that of Buzz Lightyear and says, "Yogini Infinity...and Beyond!" Then I see myself taking flight, fuchsia sequin cape flapping in the wind behind me. It's silly.

Yet, there it is, right up at the top of this page. "Por que?" you ask, as I have asked myself many times. Because when I break it down, I continue to relate to the meaning of it, and can apply it to that being I am still becoming.
Here is how my logic goes:

Yogini: A female practitioner of yoga.
Yoga: Union; in particular the union of matter & spirit, of the individual self with the Divine.
Infinity: The state of being infinite.
Infinite: Limitless or endless; impossible to measure.

It's interesting to further note that the word infinite comes from the Latin infinitus, where in, 'not' + finitus, 'finished' = not finished.* By those definitions, when I refer to Yogini Infinity what I am getting at is that the act of joining the self with Cosmic Consciousness is one that cannot ever be truly completed. Since change is constant, the act of getting there, of being unified, is continual. There is no lasting moment of "finally making it." A Yogini Infinity is one who is constantly engaged in remembering their core Absolute state while dancing in the boundaries of the here and now. It's the both/and, to use Angeles Arrien's term, of the paradoxical state entered when one is fully awake. As is often quoted, you are in this world, but not of it; you are not seeking to escape but to embody.

And to me, the most beautiful part of all is that this state can't be measured. No quantitative research data will finally prove that the Divine is out there (or in here). No journal article will ever appear in JAMA highlighting the statistically significant rates at which people who enter a unified state of being become more fully alive. Not to say that the effects of yoga cannot be studied, because they can and are, on top of it's thousands of years of time-testability, which I hold as proof of its value and success. (It speaks volumes that something can continue to thrive and grow for centuries without the use of war, coercion or manipulation to create 'believers'.)
The internal, the qualitative, the experience which is subject to the subjective, and is ever changing, cannot be bottled and replicated. That truth is the beauty & poetry which the yogi or yogini lives.

To think that I will never "get there" inspires me and I feel the preciousness of every fragile moment. That all, any, of this is is miraculous. Hope becomes boundless. To have no beginning and no end is the ultimate prize. These ideas empower me with accountability and foster compassion for all beings. Life feels like a magic carpet ride fueled by unlimited potential and possibility. In moments large and small, from a quiet sunset over the ocean to the birth of a daughter, the exhilaration leaves me speechless. When I just am, I am Yogini Infinity. Even in times when I am spastic, chaotic, depressed, lazy, confused, sad, angry, fearful or lost, I am too.

So, I've decided I'll keep the label. It may be hokey to some, and at times to me, but it's a fruitful reminder of an aspiration I still consider worthy.

Thanks MacBook Pro Dashboard Dictionary.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My 4th Decade - Ready or Not...!

My stepdad, Roman, wryly informed me in the birthday card from my family that I am now in my fourth decade. Thanks, Roman. I hadn't thought about it that way before...

I turned 30 years old just a few days ago, and though I am very accepting of this new era of being, (the 30s! oh my!) the thought that I am entering my 4th decade carries with it a slight to moderate increase in weight. But once I considered it, he's right. Though I am just at the cusp of that 4th decade I'll remind you!

Heading up to the big day I often pondered how I felt about it. The message from society and American culture was that it was something I was supposed to dread, to feel remorse about, to go into kicking and screaming, as if its all down hill from here. And I tried to adopt that attitude, I really did. I'd look at Bill, my beau, with my most pouty and concerned face and with a big sigh say dreadful things like, "But I'm turning 30..." as if that fact alone was a life sentence. But try as I might, I feel great. Even that vendor at the Portland Saturday Market who we bought those magnificent photographs from didn't dampen my spirit when he asked, "Do you have a sister here? There's a woman, she must be in her 60's, and she looks just like you." I smiled sweetly, and replied, "No...and my mom is only 50."

Yes, I am excited about this next stage of being. As I assess my 20s, they feel full and complete. I've taken the inventory and there is no unfinished business or regret. The adventures, blessings, and lessons were plenty and stimulating to say the least. I have been faced with challenges of the heart, of the mind, of the financial, and overcame tests of my integrity, character and dreams, and though I stumbled and faltered at times, I feel wiser and stronger today.

I am filled with gratitude for all of life's dance: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the exquisitely beautiful. It is all the same soil from which we grow in soul.

I am ready, 4th decade... Bring it on!