Life is full of changes. Life is change! When we stop changing we stop living because change is forward movement, and we humans are moving beings; we're born to move and change. Evolution and involution are change. Sometimes change comes from the inside, as a by-product of our sadhana or spiritual work. Other times change comes from the outside, causing us to address our habits, asks us to step out of our comfort zone, and offers a new opportunity to practice. Change is new and is ultimately positive. Change is not always easy, and is sometimes painful, even destructive. The yoga sutra of Patanjali teaches us to expect some pain when it says, 'parinama tapa samskara duhkhair guna vritti virodhac ca duhkham eva sarvam vivekinah' – To one of discrimination, everything is painful indeed due to its consequences: the anxiety and fear over what is gained: the resulting impressions left in the mind to renewed cravings; and the constant conflict among the three gunas which control the mind. (translation by Sri Swami Satchidananda Yoga Sutra of Patanjali) Some pain is expected in all worldly experience by anyone who is awake. Fighting the natural progression of life, of change, only creates more suffering.
Change can be practiced. More than one of my teachers has said, "We don't come to yoga to stay the same, we practice yoga to change." Routine in asana practice is important because repetition helps to rewire the body, the mind, and the nervous system. When routine becomes mechanical we plateau in our practice; we stagnate. This is why it's important to move in familiar ways without always moving in the exact ways we've moved before. In asana practice if there are equal parts routine and new, we stay awake in our practice; we ride the waves of change deeper and deeper to our deeper selves. In the same way when routine in our life loses its forward flow, we need change; we call out, sometimes without even realizing, for change. As practice deepens and we begin to connect more with the source within, our thoughts and words are more charged and have power. In these moments of deep connection our thoughts, even unconscious thoughts find life. Change! Of course, when change presents itself we still have to decide if we really want it. Do we really want to step through the door? This reminds me of a passage from Everyday Osho:
Always remain adventurous. Never forget for a single moment that life belongs to those who are explorers. It does not belong to the static; it belongs to the flowing. Never become a reservoir; always remain a river.
The mind cannot cope with the new. It cannot figure out what it is, it cannot categorize it, it cannot put labels on it; it is puzzled by the new. The mind loses all its efficiency when it confronts something new. With the past, with the old, with the familiar, the mind is very at ease, because it knows what it is, how to do, what to do, what not to do. It is perfect in the known; it is moving in well-traveled territory. Even in darkness it can move; the familiarity helps the mind to be unafraid. But this is one of the problems to be understood: Because the mind is always unafraid only with the familiar, it does not allow you growth. Growth is with the new, and the mind is only unafraid of the old. So the mind clings to the old and avoids the new. The old seems to be synonymous with life, and the new seems to be synonymous with death; that is the mind's way of looking at things. You have to put the mind aside.
Life never remains static. Everything is changing: Today it is there, tomorrow it may not be. You may come across it again; who knows when? Maybe it will take months, years, or lives. So when an opportunity knocks at the door, go with it. Let this be a fundamental law: Always choose the new over the old.
Right now, everything is changing and I'm embracing it. A door has opened and I'm stepping through because on some level I know I've been asking for something new. But stepping into the new doesn't mean forgetting the old. Moving forward doesn't mean never looking back. The old is where our roots live. The old is where we were formed. The old is to be revered as much as the new. One day the new will be the old and there will be a new new. That's the nature of change. Move forward. Don't forget. Move forward. Don't forget. Move forward. Don't forget. The sankofa bird symbolizes this in the way he leads with his heart but turns his head to retrieve an egg from his back. The West African proverb that gives birth to this symbol is “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi," which translates to "It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten." Stepping through this particular door for me means leaving. Embracing this change means starting a new life in a new city. Moving forward means leaving the Bay Area. In August my little family and I will take up new residence in a little house in Madison, WI where Johannes will be the new Director of Jazz Studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison. It will be what Ruth Forman calls, "a day of painful breaking/a day of peace beneath" because we are excited to embark on our next adventure, but saying good-bye is never easy. Moving to Madison puts me closer to childhood turf of Chicago, and in some ways feels like going home. The new is the old.
Over the next couple of weeks I will scale back my classes a little to help facilitate a smooth and graceful transition at the Lotus. The time between now and then will go quickly, and the days leading up to my departure will be hectic. In these quiet moments before the real shift begins I would like to take a moment to bow and say thank you. Thank you to my teachers Jasmine and Danafor believing in me, supporting me as a teacher, for guiding me and for helping to mold me into the teacher I am. Being on this journey with you as examples has been a gift that I will treasure with respect for ever. Thanks to the Lotus, both Lotues. Being a part of this very special place for the last twelve years (nine as a teacher) has been truly transforming. Thank you to my fellow Lotus teachers for being you, for being inspiring, for stepping in and for rising up to support Laughing Lotus San Francisco. Thank you to all of you who have been willing to accept the teachings I have had to offer. I am constantly humbled that you continue to allow me to share with you what I love. Thank you to Oakland! You have been my home for these last five years. I love all your color, style, diversity, sunshine, and your issues. *snap* Thanks for keeping it real.
I'm not sure how life in this next chapter is going to look. Madison is wonderful city with a lot of good to offer. Johannes and I have already been welcomed with huge, open arms, and it feels like a place we'll be happy to call home. I'll be out in the world not quite on my own for the first time in my teaching career, and I don't know how that will feel. I hope to find a place or a couple of places to share these practices that I love. It's what I do. I will be on the road – Santa Fe and Joshua Tree in the Fall, Germany in the Spring and Portugal in the Summer. Look for me. I'll be releasing Soul Sangha's first album in the Fall too. Stay tuned for more info on that. I plan to begin working on my prerequisite classes in preparation for a degree in Physical Therapy. It feels like the natural next step for me. Mainly I'm open for whatever life and this change want to throw my way. Like the sankofa, I know that the egg on my back is always in reach. I'll try not to forget anything I've learned here, but when I do I'll pick up that egg and hold it close. I'll remember. One thing with change is certain: it ain't easy but you gotta do it.