The Feeling of Safety

When reading my daily meditation from Richard Rohr (if you haven’t check him out he is a fabulous writer focusing on how to live a contemplative life) I was struck by this simple conclusion:

No bootstraps needed to pick myself up!

No bootstraps needed to pick myself up!

The only people who change, who are transformed, are people who feel safe, who feel their dignity, and who feel loved. When you feel loved, when you feel safe, and when you know your dignity, you just keep growing! That’s what we do for one another as loving people—offer safe relationships in which we can change. - Richard Rohr

This idea had to tumble around my mind a bit before I came to agree with it. Typically, I think we understand transformation as the outcome of struggle and work. This is usually how I approach my yoga practice as well. While I view it as a form of spiritual expression, and I physically convey what is on my heart, I still want it to be work. I want to put in effort so that my intentions can reach their goals. I think of how we have to face our fears so often in life in order to move forward. To use visual clichés, we have to go out on a limb or pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. How then can transformation only be achieved from a place of safety?

Then I chose to replace the word “safe” with “nurtured.” After the verbal substitution, Rohr’s meaning became clear to me. True and lasting change can only be created if our environment or relationships support the change. We can will ourselves to be different but, if those around us aren’t invested in our success, we are doomed from the start.

Safety, nurturing, love — all these qualities need to be present in our lives in order to be transformed. Without them the changes we make in our lives will be superficial.

Satya is not Sarcastic

New studio. New perspective. Same goal: finding my truth.

New studio. New perspective. Same goal: finding my truth.

I am an extremely sarcastic person. I developed this habit in middle school partly as a defense mechanism and partly because it got laughs. Girls can be quite mean while growing up and becoming sarcastic was my way of being mean with the added benefit of saying I was “just joking.” I was also the youngest of five children and sarcasm was a great way to battle being picked on.

Now in my adulthood, as a manager of people in a service business, I am experiencing a reckoning with my sarcasm. The other night I was ribbing a client for offering too much feedback at the end of my class. This client is a regular and we have a long history of her offering input on everything from the lobby layout to which poses I should teach. I wouldn’t tease all clients in this way because I know not everyone will take my words as being good-natured. So then, why would I speak this way with one client if I know better than to do it with all?

This brought me to reflect on the Yamas and Niyamas (yogi dos and don’ts) and the concept of Satya. Sat translates to “that which is” and the idea of Satya is communicating things as they are. At it’s simplest, it is the practice of being truthful. Sarcasm and Satya cannot coexist in your communication.

Sarcasm, as I already admitted, is a way of deflecting or being indirect. It is an attempt to give yourself an out if what you say is not received well. You were only joking. You didn’t mean to say something hurtful. But in actuality, you did mean to be hurtful or at least to be harsh and pointed. The premise created by sarcasm is one that is false which, according to Yoga’s teachings, it is better to remain silent than to speak falsely.

Now, I also admitted that I did this as a way to be funny and make people laugh. I find great joy in making people smile and in making them take life less seriously. But humor does not require being mean or being untrue. There are sweet and simple ways to make folks laugh. One way that I use in my classes is pointing out the absurdity of a pose. Malasana pose (yogi squat) is an inherently funny shape to be in simply because we never outgrow potty humor.

I know that my pattern of sarcasm will not be an easy one to break. It is another layer that I need to remove to come closer to my higher self. As I clear this habit, I will be opened up to new perspectives and will find the freedom to express who I really am.

Non-attachment: The Yoga Practice That Keeps On Coming


I am sure that every yogi with a blog has written about the topic of non-attachment. The concept comes from the Yamas and Niyamas, which are the ethical guidelines laid out in the 8 limbed path of yoga. You can think of them as the dos and don’ts of the yogic lifestyle. Aparigraha, or non-attachment, refers to our fixation on the outcomes of our efforts. We are all raised to want the gold star, am I right?

So this is the basic concept: we work for the experience not for the reward. But I recently found myself in a situation where non-attachment seemed to come easily. If you have been following me, you know the studio I manage is relocating. We are nearing the finish line and are reopening this Friday. I will be teaching the first class in the new studio. And I really believed that, because of all the work I had put into the move, I deserved to teach that first class. No one, save maybe my bosses, deserved to teach that class more than me.

But then family obligations came up. It is no longer a guarantee I will be in DC on Friday to teach that class — the class that is so rightfully mine to teach. And I felt surprisingly ok with that outcome. I was accepting that it might not be “my class” that is the first to happen in the new space. The shift in my life’s priorities made me realize how silly I had been acting. I will teach many classes in the new studio. Some will be great. Others will be off. The first is only significant because I have attached a meaning to it.

When I look at the journey to opening the new studio, I can see just how influential this time will be on me as a person and as a professional. I boast of how I learned to calculate the size of HVAC system a space needs based on use. I have learned about commercial real estate (particularly in DC). I have also learned how detail-oriented construction managers are. Why yes, I did approve the size and swing of every door in the studio. Most importantly, this experience has taught me that I am stronger, more level-headed, and more steadfast than I ever thought possible.

None of those qualities will change if I don’t teach the first class. The journey to opening the new space isn’t any less meaningful. But that does not mean I have mastered Aparigraha. I have only released my attachment because of competing life priorities that have given me some perspective. There is a reason all yogis blog about their attachments. It is a lesson that comes around, and around, and around…