In September, I had the opportunity to attend the first week of Andrey Lappa’s teacher training, in Leesburg, Virginia. Andrey’s the guy who systematized the Dance of Shiva, a moving meditation practice that is one of my very favorite things in the whole world, so I was eager for the opportunity to study with him. I had no interest in being a yoga teacher, but I do enjoy yoga a lot, so I figured it would all be good.
It was intense. This wasn’t just any old yoga teacher training, because to Andrey, “yoga” is not simply a physical practice, as is most often taught in the United States, but one part of a complete science of enlightenment. And enlightenment? SRS BSNS. Andrey is not screwing around.
Each of the six days had a very challenging 3-hour asana practice. I’m used to much more comfortable practices — but spiritual advancement is rarely comfortable.
I began the practices with a host of limitations. I’ve been slowly recovering from a serious illness last May, and though most of my overt symptoms have disappeared, I still tire easily, and I’m not nearly as strong as I used to be. My yoga practice has been haphazard, and I’m usually too tired to practice when I get home from work. I’m not nearly as flexible as I used to be. I hurt my shoulder once and don’t want to reinjure it.
The first one did, and the second one left me in tears. Then the third practice was a little easier, and the next day was impossibly vigorous but somehow I hung in there.
Andrey asks us to practice with our eyes closed, so we can pay better attention to our own sensations, without the distractions of the other students. He constantly exhorts us to be present and aware. It’s hard to pay attention when you’re two hours into a hard practice and even your shins are sweaty — but it’s also hard not to pay at least a tiny bit of attention when you are constantly being instructed to do so by a stern Ukranian.
Slowly, I started to notice: hey, this isn’t so bad. I started to pay more attention to what my body was doing than the old stories my brain kept retelling. I started to pay attention to what was really going on right now, instead of what I was lazily assuming was going on.
I started to notice: wait, I’m ahell of a lot stronger and more capable and more energetic than I’ve been telling myself. I’ve been playing this stagnant story over and over again, and it’s just. not. true.
So yeah. In some ways, this week-long training changed nothing: I still want to teach Dance of Shiva, I still don’t want to be a yoga teacher. But it changed everything, because I learned, in a really visceral way, that most of the stories I tell myself are total bullshit.
The story that I’m too weak to do intense yoga? Bullshit. The story that I’ll never really recover from when I got sick last year? Bullshit.
The story that I don’t know enough about marketing to teach Dance of Shiva? Bullshit.
The story that everyone else writes better fiction than me, so why bother? Bullshit.
The story that I don’t know how to write blog posts? Bullshit.
All the other stories I tell myself about why I can’t do things? Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.
Oh, I still have a lot of unexamined stories, and I still catch myself telling the same old stories again and again. But now I know what it feels like to really drop a story, however short the time is before I pick it back up again.
It feels like the easiest, truest thing in the world.