This week we launched the #PracticeWithClara Morning Gathering on Instagram Live. You can join Clara and I weekdays at @11am PST for a discussion based on a weekly theme related to philosophy, movement, and the business of yoga. Our hope is to co-create a space with our community members where we explore eastern philosophy and how it relates to our practices on the mat and our lifestyle off the mat.
This week our theme was beauty. Our discussion revolved around how we honour beauty in our lives, poems to excite and inspire the senses, a brief history of tantric philosophy, and meditations for Lakshmi, the Hindu deity associated with beauty. We also touched on the teachers and processes that keep Clara inspired in her own practice and how she manages her business as a global yoga teacher with offline and online communities through the Practice with Clara web platform.
Below is a quick recap of our daily discussions on beauty.
The Beauty Report
We opened with a discussion on The Beauty Report, a practice from one of Clara’s teachers, Ana Forrest.The beauty report is a form of reflection that asks you to share three things you witnessed that gave you a moment of pause, left you in awe, or struck a chord in your heart. This reflection can act as a reminder of all the beauty we have in our lives, despite the suffering, angst, or sorrows we may feel from time to time.
In accepting great beauty into our lives we also welcome the sadness created by its eventual end. We welcome the Tandava, Shiva’s dance of creation, preservation, and dissolution. Shiva encourages us to open ourselves to the great mysteries of the world and take it all in, the beauty and the terror, as we move through all the moments of creation and destruction the world has to offer. With Shiva and the dance of the Tandava we surrender ourselves to each moment and stay present for every emotion as they arise.
Lakshmi is the Hindu Goddess of beauty, abundance, and fertility. Clara shared one of Lakshmi’s creation stories: Indra, the warrior god was given the job to protect the world. On one of his tours across his lands, he came upon a sage who offered him a garland of flowers. Instead of receiving the garland with grace, Indra casts the garland on the ground. Unbeknownst to Indra, the sage was Lakshmi in disguise. Lakshmi is known for being fickle and took this insult to heart. She decided to leave the world and jump back into the milky ocean of consciousness.
With her departure, beauty from the world also left. This meant that all the flowers stopped blooming, animals and people were no longer inspired to create and procreate. The world began to die. The gods lost their powers and the world was invaded by the demons. The gods run to Vishnu, the Sustainer, and ask what can be done to restore balance and bring Lakshmi back. Vishnu recommends that all the gods stand around the ocean of consciousness and sing prayers to Lakshmi to restore beauty to the world.
On Surrender & The Radiance Sutras
The Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche are a collection of 112 Sanskrit teachings from the Tantric text, the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra. Each sutra/stanza teaches a different form of meditation to help connect yogis to Divine. It is a conversation between Shiva and Shakti, who are the masculine and feminine aspects of ourselves.The main themes of the sutras are surrender, vulnerability, trust, and faith.
In reading the Sutras, you might ask yourself:
How do I want to be in the world as an individual and as part of a collective?
How might I approach this period of social distancing as an opportunity for self reflection to better myself for when I re-enter my communities?
Revealing Your Creative Process as a Business
As a small business or entrepreneur it takes time to appreciate how you work and develop practices and processes that are a benefit to you and your team. It may take many trials and errors to create a process that works. This is all part of surrendering to what’s happening right now and acknowledging the learning curve that comes with developing a new skill or working within a team. There are many ways to go about building a community, brand, or business, and finding a process that serves is as unique as it is exhilarating!
In managing her business, #PracticeWithClara, Clara is tasked with negotiating and harmonizing the varied perspectives and needs of studio owners, students, fellow teachers, and her team members, which includes her partner, Alejandro Arce. As you develop your vision and take your product out into the world, be it yoga or something else you’re excited about, be ready to shed what doesn’t work, compromise with others, and stick up for what you truly value.
Clara’s Advice to Budding Yoga Teachers:
- Set clear boundaries
- Know your intention in what it is you’re offering. Know what kind of lineage you will offer/honour, and what/where you will be comfortable teaching. Know what you will be comfortable giving up if it doesn’t align with the studio or students. This may be mantra and chanting if it is not allowed.
- Practice nonviolent communication
- Speak from a place of compassion. State what you feel, what you need, and make a request that honours the other person(s) involved and how you may work together towards a resolution where all are happy.
- Be open to feedback
- Be open to critical feedback and willing to adjust if that’s what’s necessary. Stay connected to your community and ask for feedback, and give feedback where it’s wanted!
- Find a mentor in your industry
- Work with someone who has more knowledge, experience, and expertise, to gain insight on what works and what doesn’t. It’s optimal to find someone who’s willing to assist you as you learn and adapt to the challenges- someone you can reach out to with questions or for inspiration!
- Work hard for what you want
- Stay focused on what you want and go for it! Sometimes it requires working multiple jobs or seven days a week to get to where you want to go. Clara waited tables and taught yoga seven days a week as she navigated her early days in yoga. Sometimes it means doing the tasks or jobs others don’t want to do in order to get to the next phase of your development.
- Work as a team
- Hire out for the jobs that slow you down or the tasks you don’t know how to do. Get creative in how you exchange services- it doesn’t need to be money in form of payment. There may be other things or ways to supplement your team!
The Dance, Find Your Rhythm in the World
Tantric philosophy is one of the oldest philosophies in the world, dating back to the Vedic period. This style of philosophy is unique in that it teaches that the divine is within us and the answers are already there. Most philosophy’s teach dualism in that we seek divinity by going outwards and reaching outside of our personal experiences. Tantra teaches that the only truth is our experience and that we are already connected to the divine; we don’t need to go anywhere to discover the answers.
Many tantric practices are forms of meditation that connect you with your physical body, observing your thoughts and deepening your awareness of the world around you. Examples are yoga, dance, running, or exploring nature. It may be artistic expressions such as painting, writing, or drawing. It could come through music or singing. Essentially, any outlet that widens your perspective and deepens your connection not only to yourself, but to the vastness of the universe, would be a practice of Tantra.
Another aspect of Tantra is the welcoming of “strong emotions”. In other schools of thought, strong emotions, such as anger, jealously, sadness are meant to be repressed or suppressed. In Tantric thought, these emotions are considered pure shakti/energy and can be channeled in a way that helps the yogis attain freedomIt would mean encouraging all emotions to move through us. It would mean viewing each feeling as a great teacher to learn from and evolve the way we approach and perceive the world. Tantra balances the inner and outer worlds and asks that you go inside to express outwardly what you want to create in the world we share.
Clara shared a passage from Oriah Mountain Dreamer The Dance. The poem invites the reader to: dance with their deepest desires and untold wishes, to be with the silence and stillness, to reach inward and welcome solitude, to open to the Mystery of everyday, to be with the fragility of our existence, in the risk and the wonder of what it means to be human, in allowing every emotion to enter the door. It’s an invitation to dance and to say, yes, to loving the world for being exactly as it is.
In dancing with the world we come to witness the beauty in every moment and our natural rhythm with the universe and all beings.
What Beauty Will You Create?
The lotus flower is a universal symbol for enlightenment and rebirth. Lotus flowers grow out of the mud and blossom on the surface of ponds. As the flower blooms, its petals are brilliant in colour and pure, untarnished by the mud of their beginnings. The lotus represents our souls. The mud and growth is the sticky, uncertain, periods of strife and struggle of life. Finally the blossoming lotus represents our own awakening. Clara had us hold padma/lotus mudra and reflect on our own awakening.
How do you want to show up in the world, and how are you using your time to create? We might use this time we have in isolation to discover what matters most. As we purge and get rid of distractions, our worlds become a bit smaller. Our world has shifted from the external to the internal realm where the buds of new beginnings are waiting to blossom!
How will I spend my time?
What are my natural rhythms?
What am I seeking or what am I hiding from?
If you want more information or access to resources, please join the #PracticeWIthClara Community Facebook Group.