Martin Kirk, Anusara Yoga, and How I Found My Tibia
Yesterday just before dinner, I came home from a weekend away on an Anusara Yoga Immersion workshop. I scooped up my four and a half year old daughter, kissed her, listened to her adorable recounting of the day. I cuddled her up and said, “Oh, Elle, I just love you so much. Let’s be best friends forever and never ever fight.”
This is a line we have been using on each other for a year and a half. But today, she just smiled as if she were the mom and I were the kid and said, “Oh, Mama, I don’t really think that is possible.”
I burst out laughing, hugged her again and marvelled at her maturity. We agreed that it would be OK to fight as long as we made up and forgave each other; and that, in fact would be even better than not fighting at all. Fighting, it can be argued, can be sort of fun.
Five minutes later, she was lying on the floor having a tantrum because her dad was serving edamame for dinner and this was unacceptable. Twenty minutes after that, she was sitting in my lap gobbling up that same edamame and declaring it the best meal ever.
I spent the last weekend at the Yoga Sanctuary in Northampton, where I have been doing an Anusara Yoga Immersion in preparation for a yoga teacher training for the past year and a half. The workshop I just attended, taught by Martin Kirk, was on yoga anatomy. I wasn’t sure what to expect–after all, anatomy has never been my strong suit. I could never remember which of the six bones in the arms and legs were which. (I think maybe I knew that the femur was the thigh bone, but humerus, tibia, ulna–whatever.) But from the moment I took my seat in that gorgeous orange room on Friday night, I knew I had come to the right place.
Martin started with a discussion of what Anusara yoga founder John Friend calls “The Divine Matrix.” “There is an underlying Source that directs this dance [of creation, of life] called the Invisible Matrix. It is unseen, unmanifested energy that is you–the you that is you before you were you. That Invisible Matrix is always still there. In Anusara we are trying to line up to our individual matrix (or what is sometimes called our ‘optimal blueprint’), but we are all connected to a Supreme Matrix.”
I am not sure what exactly prompted me to push aside so many projects last year to focus on yoga. In many ways, it seemed a strange choice. I whittled down my coaching practice to make room for yoga classes and trainings during a year when I was under pressure to deliver a book to a publisher by a certain due date. I proceeded despite an injury to the wrist. I studied the Bhagavad Gita when I should have been blogging or writing songs. And even though the benefits of yoga for my mind and body have been abundant, I remained unclear about what inside me was so dogged in my pursuit.
The discussion of the optimal blueprint answered my question. This was why I was here. The number one guideline for Anusara yoga teachers is to help students “Align with the Divine;” and that alignment will be different for every single individual on the planet. My job is to align with the optimal blueprint of me, and to thereby be the Nerissa-est Nerissa possible; yours is to be the Elizabeth-est Elizabeth possible, or the Fred-est Fred possible.
This is exactly what I tell my clients and the writers who write with me. The hairs on my ears and arms, not to mention the back of my neck all rose when Martin reminded us teacher trainees of this number one directive. And this: When we’re injured, we ask “let me see if I can line up again.” When we are off track in our lives, don’t we ask ourselves the same question? What worked before? Where am I now? How do I get back to home/back to wholeness? When we find ourselves, our true path, we feel as though we have come home. When we heal, we become whole. We become holy. We return to our individual matrix.
I had a client recently who was in deep despair because he believed his whole life’s work up to this point was a reaction to what his father wanted him to be rather than what his own dreams were. “And now I think that even though he was a bastard, my dad was right. I should have gone to med school. I should have become a doctor. Instead I am a failed writer who can’t stop watching Grey’s Anatomy. I cut off my nose to spite his face. Only it was my face.”
There is a Tantric sutra that translates “Even the individual whose nature is consciousness in a contracted state embodies the entire universe in a contracted form.” The laws of physics tell us that if you cut a hologram in pieces, you still retain the entire image, though it does weaken in its resolution as it gets smaller and smaller. Martin called these pieces “God molecules,” and insists that, “It takes pure light to project the fullness of each piece. Only you are your frequency. Refine the pure light of your own frequency and you will be luminous and unstoppable. Even the parts of you you don’t like are God. It’s all condensed God.”
He was preaching to the choir. This is right in line (in line!) with everything in my understanding of late; that God is in the sweetness and the bitter. That everything we live through is allowed. AND that we can get closer to our own individual matrix, our optimal blueprint. Which reminds me of that old aphorism, “God loves me just the way I am and too much to let me stay this way.”
But how do we refine the pure light? What is the pure light? What if we wake up on a dark snowy day with a head cold and a pipe has burst and it’s negative two outside and our spouse is in a bad mood and the news on the radio makes us want to vacate the planet? And I’m not even mentioning the writer’s block.
Another aphorism: “The greatest gift we can give someone is our attention.” So far, this is my version of turning on the light. I give myself my own attention for starters. Instead of turning on Facebook (not that I don’t love it) or the TV or reaching for a donut or a beer, I sit quietly and listen to myself whine. Sometimes this takes a long time. But it works.
When my daughter was apoplectic over her dinner selection, I just held her and let her moan. Sometimes I repeated back to her what she had shouted to let her know I heard her. Eventually she cleared up, just like the sun coming out from behind the snow-filled clouds and wiped her eyes and took a bite. And remembered she liked edamame.
I listened to my client complain about his dad and his “bad” choices for a long time too. Sometimes I repeated back what he had said to make sure he knew I was listening. I try to be like a good yoga teacher; to offer support where needed, especially when I hear a painful unnecessary thought. I offer an adjustment. I point out when the form is gorgeous and right. But mostly I give my attention. In the light of pure attention, something miraculous happens. The client begins to heal himself. Yes, I definitely point this out, encourage the healing path. But, again, like a good yoga teacher, I am not the healer. I just make the space, offer the simple instructions. Then I let him work through his own possibilities. Should he at the age of 47 go to med school? Should he become a body worker? Or maybe send his resume to a medical journal for an editorial position? My job is to listen and ask him how each of these possibilities ricochets around in his body. What feels exciting? What feels deadening? What thoughts are contributing to each feeling? It is painstaking and delicious work. And nothing is lost from the process except a bunch of used up stories that he finds were not serving him. He finds himself a free man, free to rejoice in his past, and free to make new choices for his future.
There is a phrase in Anusara, an instruction a teacher will often begin with: “Inner body bright.” Martin’s version of this instruction was: “Let the sun shine in your heart.” I, of the notoriously slumped shoulders (which are getting much better!) notice that when I hear this instruction, I naturally lift the sides of my body as well as my rib cage. This small action not only erases the slump, it raises my spirits. I can’t help smiling and feeling hopeful, even on the darkest of snowy days. And I dare say, I think this is the way we shine that light to reconstitute our God molecules into so that we, in turn, become luminous.
Here’s to the return of the light.
Nerissa Nields is a musician, writer and coach who lives in Northampton. She works with groups and individuals to find their optimal blueprint on the page and off the mat. She has been studying Anusara yoga since 2009 and can’t believe her good fortune in finding this joyful path and sanctuary. She writes about the nexus of art, family and yoga (skill in action) on her blog at nerissanields.blogspot.com.