When the kids were little we occasionally took them to make believe places because we thought they would have fun and it just seemed like what people did…with kids. These were places like The Rainforest Cafe at the mall. We waited in line with the other screaming toddlers and then escorted in by a boy scout clad waiter into the darkness filled with the sounds of volcanoes erupting, rainstorms, exotic birds and excited monkeys. Our table sat underneath a giant plastic tree with oversized leaves and fluorescent yellow insects glued on top. We ordered Jurassic Chicken tidbits and Python pasta and for dessert Lava Mud. When we left the mall and walked outside I recall the fresh air and open sky. I wondered “What the hell was that?”
Once we surprised our kids with a trip to Disneyland. We traumatized one child because we ensured her that the Pirates of the Carribean wasn’t scary nor would she get wet. After that experience, she was done with rides. Even “It’s a Small World After All” was too creepy.
When they got a little older we took them to a park where they often had soccer games but once a year a sprawl of white tents appeared and underneath it contortionists, magicians, clowns and Bjork-like sounds erupt into a surreal, awesome panorama of impossible acts of art and athleticism – The Cirque de Soliel. They enjoyed it, but after the show they wondered if they could play soccer at the park.
I honestly think that the world of Disney, fake crocodiles nibbling at the dinner table and flying trapeze gymnasts with lizard suits totally freaked our kids out. They have not asked to repeat those experiences. We were earnest in our efforts to expose our kids to amusement parks, bright lights and clowns, magic shows and Micky Mouse. I couldn’t have been more relieved when we checked those parenting “must dos” off our list. I mean, in my ‘parenting illusion” it seemed tragic not to experience Splash Mountain as a family. If I dare give a parenting tip; Yosemite is the new Disneyland.
Much has changed for me in the almost two decades of parenting. Much has changed in the over two decades of teaching yoga. What I find curious is how much of a real life circus it has all become. And I’m quick to find the culprit – is it American politics, capitalism, lululemon, the media or the iPhone? Why is it so challenging to distinguish between real and unreal, fantasy and fact? And isn’t there a need for some boundaries on how long the circus can stay? Isn’t there a good reason the circus only comes to town once a year?
Really — yoga in America is quite new and young. It is growing up and sharing it’s popularity with iPhones and all the media sharing ways in which we extoll the virtues of yoga and our genuine enthusiasm for the practice. Sometimes it all just looks like a lot of clowning around in bright colored pants and mala beads. Sometimes there are added on gimmicks to woe folks to class. And, often times all the traditional to modern yoga styles, teacher trainings, youtube classes and festivals overwhelm and distract. I yearn for the tree of yoga, not the jungle. Yet I know that this is the agitation and rub I need to clear my mirror, to figure out for me what is real in all this. And, I’ve had my part in the circus of it all too, especially the early years as I saw the popularity of yoga explode. For all the years I’ve been teaching it’s been mostly an exhilarating and transformative ride. Yet there are times I’ve wanted to run from it all; the circus of yoga, the trendiness and “truthiness,” the yoga lifestyle, the cult of the more informed or all knowing guru, and some of the ways it has become so commoditized, commercialized, and main stream. You could say that the yoga explosion has lost its way. You have to look long and hard now to find its humble roots. But I know running away is not my answer.
So, if I don’t run and I can’t hide my option is to” jump in to the abyss where therein lies the treasure.” (J. Campbell) What is the treasure? Is it truth? oneness? authenticity? love? bliss? Ariel the princess of the sea? What is it that I’m looking for? Why am I so devoted and dedicated to yoga?
I know whatever it is I’m yearning for is not going to be found following Instagram yogis, at the latest yoga circuit event or at the Magic Kingdom.
It’s going to be found much closer to home, in my own heart….let me say that one again…it’s going to be found in my own heart.
I sit on my mat, breathing and becoming aware of my senses and my thoughts (which can be at times like a roller coaster). I turn the newsfeeds off, I lower the bright lights. I settle into ease and stillness. I enter the garden of authenticity and reality. I notice my breath easing, slowing, calming and listening. I feel compassion for all of the suffering and injustice. I feel my own agitation. I visualize the false walls of fear and inadequacy coming down and replace them with a buffer of gentle and loving awareness. So, just as we all return from summer vacation to the joys of new experiences and old routines that delight us each autumn, I return to that house in the woods. I return to the simple, raw, practical AND magical practice. The practice is both and– timeless and progressive, order and reorder, interior and exterior. (Ah! the illusion of it all)
I reclaim this clear insight. Yoga is not a trend, a sport, a fantasy land for flexible, agile people from far away places like Montreal or Wanderlust. It’s a way in. It’s a portole into the beautiful and at times terrifying interiority of my humanness. I am curious. I am earnest. I am here. I am. Life is not a circus. Life is sacred.
Anyone want to join?