Yeah, I Built This Thing and Now I’m Gonna Burn It Down

New Year’s Day began with a party where I was introduced to someone as the woman who created the first “intense” yoga in Nashville. Maybe it was brain vacuum from the eve before or the glass of wine that too quickly followed my toothbrush that morning but my response was “Yeah, I brought it here and now I want to burn it down”.  Frankly, I don’t think that woman liked me as much as she should have after what seems to have been a shocking statement. It kind of shocked me too.

But it delighted an encyclopedic friend of mine with a wicked sense of humor who overheard the exchange and shrieked, “You’re Herostratus! He was an arsonist who burned down the temple of Artemis in ancient Greece ‘cause you know, folks might not remember you for some things but they will definitely remember if you commit a crime.”

I guess that stayed with me because here I am. And I wonder about the banner I picked for my website now dusty and old as your first laptop;

Forget Safety, Live Where You Fear To Live, Destroy Your Reputation, Be Notorious.

At the time I hadn’t heard of the poet Rumi who wrote those words.  It was from a sticker a friend put on a gift one birthday long before. Life has a funny kind of synchronicity.

This year has already delivered one offense and another in yoga internet arguments. Despite its self indulgent swibble and silly sanctimony, the yoga community is sloppily slogging out of the muck in a race toward who is more authentic, many running from the title of asana teacher which is much decried by the elevated speakers for the eight limbed path.  And all I can think of is Oh for fuck’s sake, get me out of here.

When yoga was still India’s domain, some of us got indoctrinated into it on the sidelines in little ways: a TM mantra (I opted for that over the downers prescribed to me for anxiety in college), or accompanied by a little weed and communal sit/stretch languorous sessions, sweet afternoons curled up with the books of those exotic authors of yoga, attempts at the pranayamas we read about and for years the one posture that I practiced was headstand because it was so peaceful it would lull me to sleep which I later learned is pretty strange. We didn’t think too much about any of it and it certainly wasn’t a career choice or even a college elective.  You didn’t think you were eligible to teach something so foreign and vague, nor would you want to.

Twenty some odd years later I held the suspicious title of yoga teacher. No need to go over how or why. Who cares? The fun thing is that it exploded what was the silent work of a secret society into a mainstream party in a town I happened into by accident which is how I do all my big moves. I have no regrets. In less than ten years that town, this town, the country was a melting pot of yoga, dance and music. Folks more ambitious than I am marketed it.  It flowed freely through every neighborhood; power this and creative that. Ho Hum. Then people fought about it.  Now it’s just boring.

I haven’t done the work of hold your edge like a Marine while you vamp like a lady in years but people still associate me with it. Destroy your reputation is harder than it seems.

I didn’t mean to pose as a yoga guru, I just used the word yoga because I taught what I knew of it. I had started a class called the Bodymind Workout which seemed like a unique name at the time and a decade or so later the new age mantra of mind-body turned that name into something as unremarkable and not trustworthy as a Swanson T.V. dinner. Now yoga is starting to look like its ugly swarthy cousin who forgot to wax her upper lip.  But you need a name to go with a picture or you can’t describe it, right?

Tomorrow on the big Dreamer’s day I’ve got a Kirtan band of fellow travelers playing and singing their renditions of ancient chants depicting timeless sentiments and beautiful fables for my not yoga class. This one’s coming out of the fire like a soft silent bird. I am a dreamer too. I will dream up a way to move and breathe together with you in harmony with our friend’s music. Call it what you like.

(written on the eve of  Martin Luther King, Jr. Day)



Filed under yoga

4 responses to “Yeah, I Built This Thing and Now I’m Gonna Burn It Down

  1. I get sucked into this race toward who is more authentic. All the JF AY drama and he isn’t the first and he isn’t the last. Reading blog comments and posts trying to get the lay of the land, and it really can seem like it’s all about tightening up our butts. So the question is raised. Reminds me of the old SNL routine, “Que en es mas macho?” And all this purity and this is what we arrive at? To quote you, Oh for fuck’s sake, get me out of here. You can be forgiven. Buddhists talk about three types of doubt, and one of them is doubt in the teachings. I am able to say that my faith in the teachings is strong. That’s where I drive my stake in the ground. Another doubt is doubt in the teacher. I’m getting a new appreciation of that one. I’ve never told anyone my TM mantra. Love your stuff.

    • Is the third doubt self doubt?

      I did share my TM mantra with a boyfriend who got his too. But that was the only time it was uttered. I think it can never be attached to anything to maintain its effect. Isn’t it funny how most of our words are so well used that they carry memory on the sound? That’s why I still remember his mantra too.

      It’s hard to feel sweet, to feel love when competition creates fear, arouses ego, demands separatism. I also have no doubt in the teaching. I have had a sliver of doubt regarding most of my teachers if not about their teaching then about their intentions but it has been easy to receive the teachings and leave the rest behind. We are only or mostly human.

      And then there’s the mysterious third doubt …. Thank you

      • And you have named it. Self-doubt. Even if we believe the teachings and have faith in our teachers, we still doubt that we’re up to the task. This is the tough one. Funny how hard it can be to have faith in ourselves.

      • Hilary – This comment was on my blog but it wasn’t behaving as expected, so I’ve put it over here so I can respond. [Response at end]
        And self doubt is the one which brings us back to your question about Anusara. I think it takes a heap of self doubt to get involved in organizations like these.

        As for who is more authentic, wouldn’t that also be the domain of self doubt over any other? If you have faith in yourself you don’t care about authentic. You are authentic. What resonates with you is what matters. Authentic means it is as it was originally intended and follows exactly or is unchanged. That is more for the inventor than the follower if you ask me.

        I’ve had my own tussle with ego over my authenticity and I recognize that it was insecurity and anger at myself, doubt in my relationships, which comes back to self doubt, that got me going. No one cares if I was first. If I had gotten a community embroiled in this I can’t imagine how pathetic that would look. Fortunately, it was just me pissing in the wind, so to speak, and I got a taste of my own bitterness. I didn’t name my community “Rebel Yogis” for nothing. They came together for yoga and dispersed otherwise, leaders all, no followers, loved yoga and me but did not need that to define them.
        Fascinating idea – that self-doubt is a motivator for becoming involved in such orgs. Something very reassuring, isn’t there, about the guru? Just turn it over to the one who knows. Is that fundamentalism? Here we are, working on mindfulness only to become mindless.

        Yes, the domain of self-doubt… Is that the last wall to fall? When we are really progressing in our understanding of the teachings we are working toward the mind where the question of authenticity doesn’t come up. In that mind the idea of acceptance – of self or other – doesn’t arise. Those ideas are ego-bound. The journey to that mind is a hard one, and we have to fight our way through all the snarls that we think mean – you can’t do this, you’re not strong enough, better go back to sleep.

        And, yeah. Man, that would be a load to carry. To know that I had caused so much hate and discontent. It’s going to be very interesting and instructive to see whether the shields stay up or whether they come down so that people can get an honest look at themselves.

        I think Rebel Yogis is right on. If you really do this stuff you are in rebellion against the dominant themes of our society (or the tight control of your guru-community). And that’s going to make people uncomfortable. And that’s just asking for trouble!!!

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