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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).

Jun 18, 2014

Fig bars and dharma and yoga

I have been alert and listening (behind the scenes and under the radar) to a conversation going around on social media about a growing problem of there being more and more Yoga teachers, making less and less money, doing their work of teaching. That is - at least - the problem on the personal level. The problem on the macro level is economies of scale applied to a relationship-based and practice-based tradition like Yoga. Big business has pimped  the flesh and blood of Yoga. Commodification and commercialization seem to be eating the heart of Yoga. 

Most of us who are in "the game" of teaching Yoga for our income have benefited to some extent from the pimp-problem. We made some decent money (some of us - for a while there). We got a higher percentage because the pimp was in the game too and the chips were high. Sorry - but its true.

I just happen to be re-reading - for the umpteenth time - the bhagavad gita as part of an advanced training that is under way at Garden Street.  So it is a perfect time for me try to apply the Gita's lessons to the situation and conversation that is going on in my Yoga-world.

In the bhagavad gita  there are 4 main lessons. 

The first lesson is "Recover your dharma".  Figure out - or remember - why you came here.  What is your work?...your Work? Mostly I think this means gaining or regaining  remembrance that your life is not a random accident but that it is Sacred and that you have some contribution or work to do that is necessary and useful.

When you recover your dharma, you can usually look back and see a thread that you have held (or that you let go of and found again and lost again and found again) and that thread has been consistent. It is difficult to see that thread if you are young or if your life circumstances have been hard or chaotic. Nevertheless - there is a consistent thread - that will tell you - if you listen and see beneath the loud surface of life - what your life purpose or dharma is. 

I am lucky - blessed -  to be at an age and with life circumstances such that I don't really  wonder what my dharma  is.... I don't have to recover it. I know. My dharma is Yoga. I will practice Yoga and transmit yoga and teach Yoga. I will keep doing so in a variety of contexts and not just in Yoga classes. My dharma is Yoga. 

(Please note: I did not say my income is always going to be Yoga-based).

So I know my dharma beyond a shadow of a doubt. But I had to - and I suppose everybody has to - go through a shredding, shriving and weeding out  - in which I was forced to clarify my aspirations and surrender my split allegiance to a more unified intention.....(FYI - this is an ongoing process, not a permanently done deal - at least not for me). 

The second teaching of the Gita is "know you are not the "doer".  Life - the Sacred - is doing it's work through you. You are a carrier wave. This is for sure how it has been for me with yoga and sadhana. At first I thought I was pursuing Yoga - doing Yoga. But at some point it was abundantly obvious to me that Yoga was pursuing me - doing me. The reins were (are) no longer really in my hands. It is too late for that....I'm in too deep. And its always this way with dharma:  it grabs hold like a strong current. It directs you and holds you and carries you along. Nevertheless, paradoxically, it is important that you not turn your back and swim against the current of your dharma. I guess that is the one "doing" we need to do - stay in the current of dharma - hold to the middle - remember why we came here. Otherwise we will most likely be pulled under or dragged through the gravel and bushes on the shorelines of divided allegiance.  

So whether or not I can continue to support a studio - or make a living teaching Yoga - I can not turn my back - ever - on this dharma of mine which is to bring the Light of Consciousness into my body via steady practice over a long period of time, with devotion.....and to share Yoga philosophy and practice - in a context that sometimes will - and other times will not - resemble a Yoga asana studio. 

Once you are in the Work - in your dharma - you will be enfolded by its current. And purified too. Like my guru said:  "If you become important to the Work, but you lack Alignment, then the Universe gives you Mount Saint Helens and storms and personal disasters to get your Attention.  It touches your family, your business, your “everything” until you get it!  Once you get it, you are under the Wing of the Work, getting Blessings." 

So! Each of us has to discern, " What is YOUR dharma?  What current has always been pulling on you, drawing you to service and Love. That. 

You'll notice that when you are engaged in your dharma you are "in Yoga" whether or not that has to do with the traditional path of Yoga.

OK - what a thriller - you are on the edge of your seat waiting to know the 3d teaching, right?
The 3d teaching is to "surrender the fruits".....Hmmmm. could I "just say 'no'" to that one? I mean - that goes against everything reasonable. I like working hard and then getting a reward. I like fruit. Especially I like fresh apricots straight from the tree. Also I like figs. Actually I love figs. Apparently I told my family, when I was 4 years old, that I love fig bars as much as I love God. Some members of the family claim that I said I loved fig bars MORE that I loved God. Maybe I should not write about this 3d teaching.

And the 4th teaching is - "Know who you are: Eternal, Unchanging. You are the force that drives green shoots to break the winter ground. And you are the great flowering and the fruit of that flowering. And you are the return to the unimaginable peace of the root.  You are That which lives always, which does not die. Radiance. The Light that shines in the highest heavens. The Light and Love that shines in your own Sacred Heart. That is what you and I truly are. So say the great saints and mystics.So says Yoga. So say we all.

OK - maybe I can consider surrendering the fig bars..... 

But - just to be perfectly clear -  I do like being able to buy fig bars -- as well as necessities like food, shelter and transportation  -- with the income I make from teaching. And I do wish for all the amazingly dedicated, deeply studied and practiced teachers I know to be able to do the same. And hope I do NOT have to watch while those teachers lose their livelihood to every new hot-core-poser-studio that opens its doors.
(probably I shouldn't say that - but then probably not many people read this far into the I'll just say it and probably I'll stay safe under the radar with my fig bars.



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