I was lost in The Paradise Circus, wrapped in a cloak of mist, you wrote me a list for eternal bliss, but it doesn't exist, so we dont need this. Is this who I am? Help me change my plan.
A bold statement and notice the 'was'. Am i referring to myself or is this a story I am about to tell you?
I am currently really drawn to storytelling and music that have a connection with moral codes of conduct and the need to move towards eternal bliss. I love the band 'Snufkin' for its integration of storytelling in their music (notice the use of their lyrics as you read on) and I really like the relationship they draw upon using Folk..
'My love she often says she has no wings to fly. Put some wind up in that rigging and hold on. My love she often says she looks for reasons why... Once i had a sweetheart and now I have none.'
Isn't it a marvel when you can experience something occurring for you and you have this incredible intrigue and desire to explore it, deeper and deeper, even when that thing deep inside yourself is saying 'hey!', "this isn't good for you." But we continue anyway. Is it because within us all we have this something that says we need to accomplish it, concur it, that we like the chase?! Does it relate back to our ancestry? Is it do do with science and the habits we have created in our brain>? I am uncertain. I went through the whole of last year feeling incredibly connected to my routes, the ethereal world and feeling very much drawn to the Celts and became really convinced that I myself was a Romanised Celt, with ancestry in Italy and yet my routes feeling very much in the same vein as the Celtic Water Maidens and Warriors.
I guess we reach a point in our life, a junction, call it what you like but where there is an opening. A questioning. A void. I point of space. There is the temptation to fill it with friends, distractions, and yet there is also something incredibly powerful about just sitting in that space and being aware of how exposing it can be. Like sitting naked on the edge of a cliff where the breeze caresses your skin and the entire world may see you from all sides if they just took a moment to stop and look up at the edge. I both love this place and also find it challenging. Do you know what I mean? Have you felt it? That place where you are both completely joyous at having this sense of being wide open and free, yet at the same time feeling naked to the world. There is intimacy within this, being vulnerable and raw is beautiful. Beautiful... what does that mean> ... beauty is mesmorising, it may also in extremes be freaky. And yet, its as if you strip yourself of the makeup and your scars, your flaws and broken skin, the sides of you that are hard to accept are far out there with no way of being hidden. Maybe without the mask you become more beautiful, without embellishments, you are pure. Well this to me, when I stop and look at myself and all those things that truly only myself may be the judge of settles my senses in to the knowing that in fact that its beauty right there. In the exposed.
I had a moment of clarity last night. I like to journal each night as a way of digesting my day and removing those thoughts from active mind mechanisms and find it incredibly stilling to place them to rest on the once empty page, helping me make sense of the motions in my mind. There are a LOT of thoughts that enter in this magnificent place. (Just because I am a Yoga Teacher, be under no false illusion that it is not a ritual for myself each day to make a choice to be in this World in a positive, honest and uplifting way). We all allow our minds to take over, we all allow our bodys to grab for what it does not need, yet we have a choice to witness it and then sit back and enter the deep knowing of ourselves. It can become quite a show, bring out the popcorn if you like, when you may just write it down or simply sit in stillness and watch them pass by.
However, after pondering and wondering if I myself needed to decide about one or two things that I was trying to make sense of I realised that we are rolling a dice with infinite sides. We may let the wind decide, as Snufkin sings. There is that yes. Or we may find the courage and step away feeling empowered that do you know what, its just another day in the Paradise Circus and that thing you need to decide on, maybe it is already decided, maybe there is nothing actually to decide upon. You see, I am someone that generally just likes to let life unfold, whilst racing through life pursuing passions and ambitions, making connections and seeing what evolves. The challenge for me is to simply make a finite decision and say goodbye. Why is that so challenging? Well, we all just sit and watch and wonder whats next. We may also sometimes just decide and be content in stopping whatever that is that does not serve us. The hardest part is when there are others involved and you may wish to keep it alive for who knows what might evolve right?
We may identify however that in doing so we begin to rust, we turn to dust... just another day in the Paradise Circus.
If we think about Rust as a metaphor for life, we could identify what happens... on a surface level it is flaky and friable, it provides no protection to the underlying iron. It is corrosion. We could say that when something is left, and we begin to rust, this is what happens to our spirit in letting something just be there without being attentive and caring of it, maintaining it and keeping it living. We all have a lifespan, everything when left unattended to may begin to rust.
But we keep on going with it 'there' existing within the Paradise circus. What do I mean by this term.
Well, The Circus, what is it?! You of corse know right. You may have been to the circus a million times, but would you consider your life a circus? Well with its 250 year modern history, it is typically known as a performance that may include acrobats, clowns, jugglers... demonstrating equestrian skills. In the early years of circus, there was a ring master introducing the show and the venues would be fairly exposed and have limited seating, big tops came about and the formation of watching these spectacles was more often that not, round. The word circus derives from the Latin circus which is the romanziation of the greek word meaning circle or ring. It is said that the goddess Circe performed the first circus games in honour of her father Helios, whom was The Sun God.
Circus, performers, circles, spectatcles. What has this got to do with Yoga?
Well, one thing that is fascinating is how the shows themselves often became reenactments of battles. A battle. What does battling mean to you? Do you ever feel like your life is a bit like a circus, a performance with characters that are often quite peculiar and itself is a ongoing battle, going round and round, round and round, in this circular motion. An extraordinary wealth of realistic display? It is a question for reflection. Old fashioned equestrian feats were later replaced by more ambitious acrobatic performers and by exhibitions of skill, strength and daring... circus itself became more complicated and expensive to produce as a result. This itself is a possibility such like the evolution of life for us in this current and unsettling political climate that we live in the year 2016? It became "the peoples art form" on a par with theatre, ballet, opera. With the introduction of television, it is said that peoples tastes became more sophisticated and circus had a decline of interest. The use of animals became an issue with Animal rights and new and inventive ways became innovated to become what we know now as contemporary circus. Contemporary circus combining traditional circus skills and theatrical techniques to convey a story or theme. The focus has become more attentive to the overall aesthetic impact, on character and story development, using lighting design, music, costume and the content is about the narrative.
A ha. A STORY. A narrative. We return. We have gone full circle.
Take a moment.
What stands out as my first introduction to circus, the brutality of life, people and this journeying element, was the film Dumbo. As a child of the age of 6 most likely, I found it so sad and brutal. It transported me out of my reality and into a place of empathy and compassion and an awakening to life, at such this early age and I would insist on watching it again and again. I even then, tried to make sense of it. The cruelty, the connections. You know the story right? ...
The main character is Jumbo Jr., a semi-anthropomorphicelephant who is cruelly nicknamed "Dumbo". He is ridiculed for his big ears, but in fact he is capable of flying by using his ears as wings. Throughout most of the film, his only true friend, aside from his mother, is the mouse, Timothy – a relationship parodying the stereotypical animosity between mice and elephants.
It's a powerful storyline. One which for children teaches many things and still as an adult, reminds me of some of life's lessons.
The mouse becomes Dumbos mentor and protector! After becoming stuck in a tree, Dumbo realises he can fly with the help of his 'magic feather' that helps to boost his confidence. One day Dumbo looses his 'magic feather' and looses faith. His mentor Timothy quickly tells him that the feather was never magical, it was psychological and that he is still able to fly without it. What's the lesson here? Do we all need a protector, that voice that reminds us of our skills and talents? Do we need to remember that we have the capacity to do whatever we set our minds to, if we just have faith. That we can in fact strike back, not in battle but with courage at those that become our tormentors and make us question, doubt or need to justify who we are and our performance, our life and all that it encompasses. Do we even need to perform or can we simply be the audience to all the drama and not ourself be stuck in a storyline of our own life?
If we think about the Ring Master and for a moment visualise that he/ she is you. The ring master presents performers, speaks to the audience and generally keeps the show moving. I guess that's your interaction with your life right. But do you have the simple clarity, the simple short and vocal ability to conduct it?! Why not try? Next time you need to introduce something new in to your world, do it, introduce it. You then switch places to be the audience and you decide! How is the performance of that person joining your circus? Do you applaud it? Or does it not benefit the show. If there is no applause or need for an encore, I think you have your answer. Maybe you want to watch them again, because maybe, just maybe, they are so intriguing that the benefit you receive from witnessing this is of a different kind, but could you travel with them? Think about it. We often talk of life as a journey (we had this debate in a previous blog post) but imagine for a moment that this new introduction is now a part of your travels, is it really welcome? Does it compliment the whole production or do you think that eventually it will become tiresome and that thing that was initially the exciting freak show will begin to RUST???????? Lets face it, we may all like to believe that we can tame an animal such as the wonderful female Mabel Stark that tamed big cats, but essentially a leopard never changes his spots and, Can our, their, his or her natural and wild self ever be tamed to be just how you want it to be? We may perform but outside of that, we are who we are, as are others. Change is the only constant but facing and admitting your true animal nature and theirs is Truth. Animal rights didn't change circus guidelines and create codes of conduct for no reason, they did it to create an inseparability between ethics and performance. Beating one in to submission is no answer, it is not honest and is not Loving, one may consider. These harmful, yet necessary for taming practices were defended by trainers as methods to protect themselves and and other humans in the circus. Isn't that interesting, that to hurt others is a method to protect yourself and felt necessary?!!!!
Well, before we complete this circular and investigative blog story and return to Yoga, lets enter in to 'Paradise' for a moment. Hmm.... What is paradise? I suppose we could use the definition of 'an ideal or idealic place or state'. For each of us, however, that is going to be completely different, from the landscape both internally and externally, that ideal is for us to own and visualise in our own way. Whats does your paradise look like, feel like, smell like, taste like???
Take a moment.
Are you safe in this paradise or do you need protecting? Are you wearing clothes or are you naked and exposed here???? Are there rusty things existing in your paradise?
So we have touched upon contemprary circus, I've asked you dive in to your own visualisation of the ideal state but what about YOGA i hear you cry out!!!!!!
Contemporary ethics can be applied in Yoga but are they necessary? The wonderful Christopher Gladwell, a Tantric practitioner of Yoga discusses this in his book on Engaged Yoga. That if we look at the history of Yoga we may find ethical practices that we may make acquaintance with such as the ancient Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. These are ethical codes, observances and requirements known as The Yamas and The Niyamas, we too have the stories such as The Bhagavad Gita that itself is set on a battlefield. I guess what needs to be highlighted here is that Yoga is not an exercise class! I am sure you have become aware of that or maybe not? These codes of conduct almost begin initially as selfish, a pragmatic system to boundary the ego of the practitioner. Chris describes this as crafting a 'ring fence' of codes that prevent the practitioner from turning the practices into fuel for a bigger and shinier self-story. Although we may think that we can live by these codes, of course they are unattainable! That is controversial to say right, as when I offer you teachings you believe you may attain 'non harming' Ahimsa, for example by being kind, right? Essentially, what these are, are paths to realisation and awakening. Waking up! This is key. So much like the circus trainers beating the animals in to submission, Chris highlights how we use these ethical guidelines as dogmatic rules with which to beat others and ourselves in to submission.
"In our understanding of Yoga as a science of the direct experience of reality, as a technology of subjectivity and as a method of ecstatic and blissful living, such dogmatic sadism and masochism is a phase to move through as quickly as possible."
Yoga as a science of direct experience is a system of methods, that themselves are a synergy of approaches that cultivate the direct experience of reality! An ethical framework in these codes of conduct, are methods to confine the self-sense and assist all other methods of practice to function. The realisation of all the methods is INSEPARABILITY! An embodied knowing of ones original and true nature, an awakening to the bliss, pure being and the ineffable structure of mundane everyday life. No ego-dectomy is needed. The ego functons to open the way and to present our individual gifts on to this planet, life, universe in an integral unified flow. it is not a competitive narcissism that fails to comprehend the basics of reality as it is. These codes of conduct connect you to reality! AS IT IS. We may bend ourselves in to contortions, we may 'perform' - but is this authentic? Without going in to details of The Yamas and The Niyamas, what we may say is that you may cultivate comfort and ease with paradox. You have to relax in to Paradox. This is a part of the path of continuous realisation, the evolutionary practice towards real freedom and liberation. Radical freedom begins when we acknowledge that no experience, appearance, thing, including our own existence has any continuos, separate, defined or permanent existence and is utterly empty of 'self'.... this is when a different story begins! Yoga and your own life may become not just about feeling good and another way to 'adorn now self -story with glittering jewels of fools gold'. As the foundation of practice, pragmatic ethics define movement of energy that the practice liberates. Yoga is the pot that holds the inquiry that is guided towards the exploration and the self-story mechanism and then the liberation from its tenacious grip. it is the circus that holds the spectacle and to keep it real, authentic and a pleasure to watch and be a part of, to perform, it needs guidelines inseparable from the spectacle itself.
Go ahead and explore all kinds of Paradise, all kinds of Circus - freak shows and all, BUT... release yourself from its Grip by visiting Yoga with a foundation of ethics! Rewrite your story as you go, watch it evolve, take twists and turns and be the most liberating and free life form you can be - eternal bliss.
For all crossing the rainbow bridge!
As Saturn squares the nodal axis, it's high time to get serious about where we are heading! Chiron, Neptune and the South Node, in Pisces, it's an inspired place, it's a place we remember, it's a place we may have forgotten exists, it's a place to source our forgotten dreams, it's a time to get back to the source, glean our amazing gifts and do the best we can with it!!
A theme song for you... Play it loud while you begin your best performance yet... "Entrance of the Gladiators"
See you in class!