Is suffering genetic?

In looking at what I do for work and how I approach healing I find myself at odds with the status quo. Over time I just step aside, I certainly hold less resentment and anger but my compassion grows by leaps and bounds. As a friend and I had a discussion about our mutual love for healing work we admitted to each other that we’re good at what we do because we’ve been broken. A healer is good at working on something they themselves have overcome. In blues terms, “you gotta pay your dues to play the blues.”

My strong empathic sense of people, their emotions and mental states leaves me in places where I remind myself that client’s stuff is theirs. I need not take on their emotions, feelings and mental states to aid their healing process. The more I heal the more empathy and compassion I have for those who suffer. Some suffering is what life places on the doorstep but most comes from ignorance. Ignorance causes more suffering than anything else. It’s not what others do to us, it’s what we do to ourselves.

It’s one thing if someone tells us we’re fat as a kid, teases us. It’s another when you somehow take that on as a part of your sense of self, “I’m fat” you tell yourself. That person may have teased you once but you carry that burden with you, inflicting it on yourself 100’s of times beyond what that one person said. If you remove your part in the game, it’s just someone who made a mean comment. All that pain, all that suffering, vanquished. The veil of ignorance is removed.

Things happen. I’m not immune to suffering on the mental, psychological or physical plane. I no longer wish to believe that this is simply the best I deserve. What if instead of believing I’m a dumb, incompetent, worthless, fat, lowly massage therapist I begin the process of changing those beliefs? What if I slowly work on myself until I decide on a heart level that I’m a worthwhile, strong, inquisitive, upright man who’s capable of anything he sets his mind to? I’m taking the latter road. If I seem confusing this may be why. My path is other that what the predominant culture provides.

A long term friend passed recently and while looking at her glowing beautiful daughter I told my friend, “that baby is the winner of 6 billion years of evolution.” This young girl is the biological product of intelligence refining the same stuff that stars are made of to produce life, human beings and a central nervous system. This child can look up at the stars and one day ponder that the universe is hers from her vantage point in the milky way galaxy.

Once the Dalai Lama had to stop a talk and discussion because he didn’t know an English word that was used. He said, “Self esteem? What is this self esteem you mention?” After someone explained to him what it meant, he grasped the chasm between his culture and our own. In what I believe was a compassionate moment he said, “We do not have this word in our language. We believe everyone has Buddha nature. We’ve no need to convince people that they have worth because we teach them that the highest potential is already within them, the potential for enlightenment.”

You think your pain, your suffering is fate, is genetic? You think you are encased in genetic code, dna? To a point this is true, you do hold a physical form. I also listen to teachers, tricksters and holy men who tell me you are not your thoughts. You are not your body. You are not what you think you are. Meditate and ask “who am I?” Who am I without my skin? Without my bones? Without a body? Without a mind? If you continue to peel away the layers what is left?

This process of awakening is something I’ve only scratched the surface of. My compassion turns toward myself, my own pain, my own suffering and forgiving myself for my shortcomings. I implore you to quit finding yourself to be garbage underfoot and realize that you are the sunshine that dispels the darkness. You are the crack that can let all of the light in. God can be seen through you, through your actions and through loving your neighbor as yourself.

Suffering is no more encoded in genetics than enlightenment is. The choice is yours.

“All this pain is an illusion.”~Parabol by Tool

Fat girls yoga pt.2

People think you have to already be thin, young, healthy, flexible before you can do yoga. I’ve no idea why this is the case since one of the greatest modern teachers of yoga was so sick his own teacher gave up on him when he first started learning. BKS Iyengar developed props to help people get into poses gradually, to open their bodies but starting where they were, no matter their physical state at the time.

Let me point something out. This is me.

I sometimes think I’m fat. Let me say that again for those of you who’re questioning my sanity. I sometimes…think I’m fat. Body image is an odd beast and there are winter days where I’m sluggish and feel like poop warmed over. I go to a Bikram yoga class and feel youthful and vibrant. I feel like Titus Pullo.

When I took this photo after a Bikram class I felt alive and well, certainly not fat. Years from now I can look back and remember that I had visible abs. For guys that’s some sort of benchmark in western society. Don’t believe me? Find a copy of 300 and watch it. Abs are a big deal. Why? Do you needs visible abs to do yoga? Well you certainly do if you want to strut around and flirt with girls after class I suppose.

Image and yoga? What do they have to do with one another? Very little but American marketing demands that its needs be met. Yoga even the physical hatha yoga isn’t about the physical. The end goal has absolutely nothing to do with your physical body. In fact the practice is supposed to teach you, to have you experience the fact that you are not your body. It uses the physical as a doorway to the spirit. You may have to walk through it but I doubt anyone has ever reached saint status then thought, “man, I don’t have abs any more.” Crunches needed.

So what’s the focus on fat? I’ve no clue. I presume it’s just the groans of a dying society lost in a whirlpool. Our species for most of its existence had to struggle to get enough calories. Many on the planet still starve but those who have food, especially here in America have, dare I say, too much food. Food is everywhere and you can’t avoid it. People say sex sells but how often do you see pornography on a billboard? How often do you see naked breasts on the convenience store window? You do see ads for poptarts, corn dog rollers, double bacon patty melts and a whole host of foods not only poor in nutrition but loaded with calories. Hold up some kale and ask kids what it is? Brocolli? Swiss Chard? Now hold up a burger, do you see my point?

Part of the issue with yoga and those considered fat is that yoga, a timeless part of Indian spiritual tradition hit America. The land of botox, lapbands, fake boobs and pastreurized processed cheese food has now tried to merge with a spiritual tradition whose goal was samadhi. Lord, save me from your followers.

If you are ill or unhealthy then you’ll have problems reaching that goal. That is what the physical yoga is for. It’s designed to help make you strong, limber, focused with open hips that allow you to sit and meditate. Notice that I did not mention cute $100.00 yoga attire, mats, blocks, straps, water bottles, yearly memberships or your neighbors excess or lack of arm pit hair. Those trappings and material components have nothing to do with yoga. It’s not the point.

The point is you. It’s helping you wherever you are physically to train your mind and body to experience who you really are, underneath the abs or fat or both. So for the fat girls out there, yoga is designed for you. Much like life and relationships, yoga is what you make it.

I teach yoga in a nursing home once a week and have for the past year and a half. These people have taught me more about the practice of yoga than anyone. Know why? Because they couldn’t do anything that I thought of as yoga previously. They can’t get on a mat, they must sit in a chair. They’ve never done any traditional yoga pose other than mountain pose in a standing position.

If you come to my yoga class and can’t do something, we find something else for you to do. We improvise. If you’re in a yoga class and a teacher makes you feel bad or criticizes the fact that you can’t do a pose find another class and teacher. My goal as a guide is to help you explore you, wherever you are. Out of shape? So what. That means you’re a perfect student. The practice is designed to help you not convince you you’re not worth anything. If I as a yoga teacher cannot look at new students with different bodies as an opportunity to grow my own teaching practice then I have failed as a teacher. Each new student with different limitations is my chance to find out something new about what I’ve devoted my life to.

Start where you are. There is no other option.

Oh and by the way, remember when I said I feel fat? I’m 5’10” and weigh 174lbs. According to BMI I’m 1lb overweight. Medically I’m overweight. If I lose 1lb I’ll be considered okay. Get my point? That guy in the photo with the abs is considered medically overweight.

I’m keeping my bacon and my fat girls.

Fat girls yoga pt.1

Each of the three words in the title elicit some response in the reader. I like all three. Fat whether it be from bacon or a good looking woman is usually pleasant to me. Girls are nice or at least hopefully are. Yoga is my preferred exercise and spiritual practice so combine all three and I’ve got a powerhouse of innuendo.

Recently it came to light that Paula Deen is diabetic. I felt an odd sense of well, duh when I first saw the article and after criticising her brunch donut sandwich felt like this announcement was the point I’d been trying to make while discussing Deen with friends recently.

I don’t want anyone to have diabetes. My mother is diabetic. It’s not fun, doesn’t make life easier and with high healthcare costs do we want even higher rates of diabetes showing up? I don’t. It’s a huge mix of issues from nature to nurture but people get diabetes for a whole host of reasons due to genetic factors and lifestyle. Can Paula Deen do yoga? Sure, whether or not she’s male or female or has diabetes has nothing to do with the practice.

Yoga was not originally taught to women. It was a men’s club in India. Fat people were less common because you had to figure out how to get enough food to become fat. McDonald’s didn’t exist when the vedas were written. Yoga is now an American institution and with ample food we wind up with fat girls in yoga class.

I’ll never forget a young lady showing up to work with me on yoga privately. We discussed health, diet, exercise and yoga. If allowed I have very relaxed meetings and discussions. My client announced in no uncertain terms that she would not allow me to tell her she should lose weight. If I pressured her in any way she would resist and cease working with me. To this point I’d mentioned nothing like this at all and found myself perplexed. I just felt puzzled and said, “what does being overweight have to do with health?”

We didn’t wind up working together but in retrospect I think she’d had so many health care workers focus on her weight that she had an assumption that anyone who worked in health would make issue of it. You’re fat? Ok. I’m not sure what that has to do with your ability to do yoga, live a long life or be healthy. People come in all shapes and sizes and it’s my firm belief that yoga is for everyone, not just the limber and biological elite.

I never want anyone to think they couldn’t come to my yoga classes. General classes would be difficult to work out if you were in a wheelchair but that’s just due to shooting to the middle of ability in a class with 6 people. Fat people can do yoga just as well as thin ones. The question is what is yoga?

For most it’s just a physical exercise. To me it’s more than this. It’s not your ability to do a certain pose but your ability to harness and focus your attention while in the pose. The practice can be done by anyone and is supposed to bring health, wholeness and make people at ease. I’ve never heard any mention of fat getting in the way. Your body is where it is. Start where you are, grow your roots.

People who aren’t some societal vision of physical perfection can stand, can sit, lay down and therefore you can do hatha yoga. If you go to yoga classes where the teacher or students look at you oddly then ignore the students and find another teacher. It’s as simple as that. You are wherever you are. Size has nothing to do with yoga.

I posted this video on my business facebook page and had quite the response.

Some announced this was why they couldn’t do yoga. They were comparing themselves to the woman in the video and announcing they’d never be able to do those things. Others like myself were in awe of her muscular control and grace in the middle of difficult poses. I found it tremendously beautiful.

I was discouraged to find that I could not find the video I wanted of big sexy girls doing yoga. If you type big sexy girls yoga into youtube or google be preprared for near pornographic non-yogic focus to your video. Much hilarity ensued.

My friend was asking me why I don’t use my wife and students to shoot a video of big sexy girls doing yoga and my first comment was, “because it’ll turn into my own personal youtube video of sexual shame!” I like big girls. I like girls that are considered fat. Nothing gives me as much joy as coming home after a Bikram yoga class where I have sweated and worked out in a hot room to my lovely curvy wife relaxing on the couch. She asks how class was, I get her a slice of cheescake. It’s not everyone’s choice but fat girls do yourself a favor and hang out with men and yoga teachers who appreciate bigger women.

I’ll see you in yoga class. Just remember I’m married.