Lakshmi is the bringer of abundance and sweetness. She helps to remind us of the beauty of all that we have by enlivening the senses and keeping us in the flow of gratitude. With her grace we can recognize and stay true to what we value, which can be a difficult task in this world of chock full of social media, instant shopping and all of the other distractions the world of technology and busy mind brings.
The tantric yogis define love as the unending experience of bliss. What is bliss? We could define bliss as experiencing everything we encounter as wonder full, or being full of wonder. When we are full of wonder we are not busy judging, indulging in criticism, or experiencing lack. Isn't this also true when we are experiencing love? We are full of wonder for that which we are loving! We experience the object that has inspired love freshly, with all of our senses awake, and we take in all of the details. We sit in the precious present moment as we interact with that object that is sparking the love in us. As with many things, it is a razors edge to experience the power of love. If we desire it too much, we co-opt it by our attachments and craving, if we fear it, we push it away, if we are unsure of ourselves, we get jealous and that leads down the road of mistrust. What can keep us balanced on that razors edge of love? Lakshmi of course. That is one of her jobs and delights.
Let's face it, we all fall to one side or the other of the razors edge when it comes to interacting with love. We grab too hard, or we don't make a move forward, we push it away, or we miss the opportunity because we were stuck in paralysis. These things apply not only to human love, but to love of all things- nature, art, literature, non-human animals etc.
One of my favorite songs by Neil Young is "Love is a Rose". Take a listen to the very beginning of the song, I think he captures the essence of the razors edge in the first 4 lines. When our busy minds co-opt love, we forget how to dance with the fear may come in which makes us grabby or stingy, or the lack that comes in and makes us arrogant and rigid in our interactions. We forget the essence, the beauty of the rose, and we forget that we can stay in wonder of its delicate petals and it's heady scent, without needing to grab it. Lakshmi reminds us that to be the observer of this beauty is actually all we need, as we can be showered with bliss by being the witness more so than by being the owner. And as the observer we might be able to see how much the rose gives without requiring anything in return. Lakshmi does this because she keeps us in harmony with what we value at our essence. She helps us perfect our dance with fear so we can sit by the beautiful rose, and simply be with it. She does this because she wants us to be close to what we value, what we adore, and what brings us closer to our true nature.
If you want to know more, join me on the 15th for the Lakshmi Sadhana. It is true, all you have to do is ask Lakshmi and she will show you these things, but you do have to know how to ask. She is a bit more particular than some of the other deities- after all what she gives is the pure wealth of awareness, and if you value that, you will value knowing her.
This past Thursday I was in Philadelphia for a workshop and decided to go in early and take a yoga class. It is harder and harder for me to find a class that I feel comfortable in, for many different reasons. If it is in a city and is a vinyasa flow or similar level of activity, I look around and see I am the oldest one in the room. (That is not the part that makes me uncomfortable, it's the look from the teacher who is afraid I am going to have a coronary that gives me pause.) Sometimes it is because the music is not in harmony with the instructions from the teacher, and I find that disharmony disruptive to my nervous system ("Follow the smooth slow flow of your breath" might be the instructions when there is a rapid chaotic drum beat in the background.) Most of the time however the discomfort is because the teacher is following a disturbing trend. "Feel a stretch" teacher says. "Where is that supposed to be?" inner voice says. "Feel the stretch in your back body as you come into this backbend" teacher says. "Too bad the muscles are actually in contraction." inner voice says. "Put your arms this way.... because it is sattvic" teacher implores. "How does she know if its sattvic for me, with my injury and all?" inner voice muses. I wont even get in to how ruffled I was by Thursday night's teacher telling us that if we cross our fingers the opposite way of comfort it will help fend off Alzheimer's. My inner voice almost pushed my outer voice into protest.
This class happened to be described as "alignment based". When I walked in the teacher welcomed me, introduced herself and went into a quite long explanation about how her yoga is not one size fits all, as I will see when she offers modifications, and that my alignment might not fit with what the cue is, etc. I ordinarily would love that intro, except I really had to go to the bathroom, having been on the train for 1 1/2 hours, and it turned out not to be accurate.
What is the disturbing trend I reference above? It is this: at no point did the teacher ASK anyone what they were feeling. When she gave her one-size-fits-all cue or individual correction, she never followed up with "do you feel that?" or "is that better for your body, more sattvic, can you feel your body more?" (I would have settled for even a "Y'all still with me? Is this making any sense?"). Instead, she literally told the class what we should be feeling based on her script. She might have let slip a "See how that is better, right?!!" every now and then without waiting, or really inviting, an answer. Here is why this disturbs me- This kind of "guidance" takes all the power away from the student on the mat and puts it in the hands of the yoga teacher, who, unless there is something I don't know about their super powers, does not know the students anatomy, surgical or injury history, does not know what kinds of physical activities the student currently or previously has participated in, does not have a complete (or like in my case as a drop in brand-new student, ANY) idea of what the students proprioception is (knowing where your body is in space) or interoception is (knowing how your body is feeling internally) or know if the student is able to connect with the present moment and not be triggered by something that causes them to dissociate. Without all, or even some, of that information, there is NO WAY a teacher will know what the student is feeling and experiencing. If you tend to dissociate, or just have had a bad day, and the teacher TELLS you what you are feeling, you will believe them and believe it to be true, without question (especially if they are very charismatic) . If they ASK you, or even invite you to look for what you are feeling, it will help to ground you, bring you present, and allow you to know more about yourself and EMPOWER you to continue to know yourself more. Understandably it can be quite comfortable to have someone tell you what you are feeling rather than looking for yourself. But what happens when you are in real life, and you are having a confusing emotional disturbance, or a pain in your body that you have to explain to a doctor, and you can't reach the teacher to tell you what is happening, or what is next in the script?
Yoga teachers have an obligation to guide a student to find out more about themselves by asking good questions. The truth is, we yoga teachers DO NOT need to know the answers. In fact, if we think we do know the answers, we are doing our students, clients and ourselves a great disservice. A good question posed to a person in a pose is worth much more than a script written by someone who has never met your body, and repeated by someone who doesn't feel it necessary to ask "how are you doing, what are you feeling, what is going on in your body?". And if the question is asked open-ended, that is with no agenda, then a door is opened to a beautiful array of potential discovery and intimacy with your soul and it's vehicle, your body.