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Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States
Karen is a yogini, writer, student, teacher and meditator. She founded Garden Street School of Yoga in 2000. Karen lives with her husband Chris. They have two amazing sons, Eli and Leo (both of them young men).

Jul 22, 2009

Good Company - The Presence of the Sacred

[I wrote this some months ago. Tonight I was deleting old unposted files - but I kind of liked this one so decided to post it after all. It is kind of a rant........but not too bad].

There is this thing going on in popular culture. That which is glossy and showy on the surface is highlighted. It draws our attention, dominates our awareness. There may or there may not be anything of substance under the surface but it doesn't matter -- we are "owned" by what I think I'll call the "over-story". (This sounds suspiciously like a term that somebody else has probably used to refer to something else -- like the story of the "over-soul"). We let the Popular Culture Over Story tell us who we are, tell our story to us. For example, The media "overstory" is that India is dangerous and, more recently, a hotspot of terrorist attacks. This story warns us, "DON'T GO THERE!" and by doing so dictates our story to us. Here's another example. The media generates a plethora of images that dictate what beauty in a woman looks like. Occasionally a woman with white hair will be pictured, but if you look closely, you see she is actually a younger woman -- with none of the sagging and wrinkles, but with the requisite white hair to make you think old. This Popular culture Overstory tells us "this is beauty." By doing so it tells us who we are - i.e. beautiful or not so much. Here's another example. In the Yoga world there are now "Yoga Stars". They are pictured in magazines and so on, and when people talk about them they sound like they are talking about Brad Pitt. this Overstory tells us that the common and local is not as good as that which comes out of "Hollywood".

OK -- there's the Over-Story part of things. Now the Overstory, in my mind's eye, is like a set of dead, albeit sturdy, branches. They dominate the landscape so much so that it is just about impossible to notice that underneath is a finely woven, very intricate, interconnected, and ALIVE ecosystem of moss and spider webs and insects and so on. This is the "understory" and it is vibrant and generative.

Back to the examples. India has some danger to it, and so does every other country. India has had a terrorist attack. We know all of this because the Overstory is LOUD. But the understory is where life in India is actually happening. People and families are in intricate, interconnected webs of relationship and love, and every part of the web is connected to every other part. Just like here.

As for the popular culture portrayal of female beauty. when we actually get to know an older woman, and love her, she is so beautiful to us. There is no doubt about it. The sad part is that same woman often has let the Overstory tell her who she is -- I know quite a few old women who think they look hideous.

And on to the Yoga-Star phenomenon. I have studied with SO MANY TEACHERS - Yoga Stars and Yoga-Nobodies. And I am here to tell you that the Yoga Star phenomenon has not much to do with the actual practice of yoga, day to day, or with the Yoga community of practice that is local and grounded in what is real.

So why rant? Well, I love my Yoga Kula and don't like it when I see Overstories telling them who they are and how they are -- like not thin enough, not hip enough, not looking much like any of the pictures in Yoga Journal. It's just so distracting from the real work which requires us to look inside ourselves and our kula, and see what's really going on. Which is a flow of life, and interconnectedness, and a kindness.

So there was my rant -- I was really revved up to teach it -- but then Remy came to class with her new baby. And I dumped my whole theme and sequence and we moved into a wonderful practice of blessing that baby, Anja, by practicing virtues conveyed by poses. It's like we were in a fairy tell, a bunch of fairly gods and goddesses, bestowing gifts to the new princess. It was a wonderful evening. And it expressed, better than all my ranting could have, what is really going on in our practice and in our kula.

The practice keeps working on us- strengthening capacity to be in relationship with our bodies and with one another. Its a relationship to the something that is very Real although not very Loud. I look around at the students and teachers at the studio and I see an ever growing brightness and steadiness. I really see a presence of the sacred in our studio and small town community. And i know that from the perspective of the Overstory we are just not going to make the cut. Thank Goodness.

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