Lessons learned during the 40 days’ workshop at Spira
“This I believe” is an NPR radio series that features a chosen number of men and women who unfold their philosophies of life and share what they deemed important. Not that long ago I have purchased the book “This I believe on love” that holds a collection of stories sent in by many folks in America featuring lessons in love. I like to read one story every morning. Each story is only about 3 pages long and I have found that it is a beautiful way to start my day. Often I end up choked up in tears about the bond these stories tell about romantic love, or love for family friends and pets. We have a lot of choices to start our morning off in the right mood. I find reading about love instead of World News and Economy makes a difference about how I look at my life. Waking up to seeing love in humanity sets me in the trajectory to see love and humanity throughout my days even if there are challenges on the road.
Here is my contribution to the series, though I am not sending this to NPR, I am just humbly posting it on Spira’s blog….maybe you get to read it one morning instead of the newspaper.
This I believe – The birth of a community
Spira community has been growing nice and steady since I opened the studio. I believe it is because of love, students not only come here to practice, they find friends.
When I set out to teach 40 days I knew something special was happening at Spira. I have taught 40 days before but I wanted to totally recreate the workshop to reflect my views and opinions. I don’t care if people practice for 40 days on the row. What I care about is that they find softness kindness and forgiveness in their own being. I believe too much discipline is violence against the self. In our culture we are already very good at pushing hard, working hard and getting through goals. I was interested in teaching introspection where the students are challenged but learn to listen to their mind and heart to find balance between self-discipline and self-love and simply find joy in life.
I went on a mad hunt for a book that would support my scientific curiosity and down to earth approach. After reading many I selected two;
The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt and the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I am forever grateful to the authors for their knowledge and wisdom.
To my surprise there were 42 people signed up to 40 days and one of them was my old VP from my corporate life. I was touched to tears, and a bit frightened; How was I supposed to teach anything valuable to a room full of professionals and moms (one who used to be my boss). Folks who clearly had more life experience than me. I swallowed my fear and stepped into class in my funny white socks as usual.
The rest is history.
7 meetings; each 2 hours long,
450 pages read,
Some optional movies, and additional bibliography
Weekly homework (that I know everyone did diligently 🙂 )
Nutritional discussion (thank you Simon, this workshop would have been much less knowledgeable and enjoyable without you!)
Daily yoga (as much as possible)
Daily journaling and introspection on specific weekly topic….
Finishing 40days – priceless
Stating in words what happened during 40 days is impossible, and against our rules. What happens at 40 days stays in 40 days….. I guess if you want to learn more you have to join the next session (yes this is the place for shameless self-promotion. Don’t blame me; I have to make a living too!
So to keep my students privacy, instead I will tell you how I have changed with teaching 40 days, and include some testimonials from students on their experience. Let their words speak the story…
Once Baron Baptiste told me; “There will always be people who love you and people who don’t like you at all, you may as well be yourself.” This I hold close to me.
Starting a business in a down economy after a divorce is quite a bit of adversity to handle. But I believe adversity is a true blessing. One of the many things that we read about in 40 days is adversity. Cognitive science regards adversity as a filtering device. If we process our life’s lessons well, challenges are nothing else but opportunities to start again. This year I had an opportunity to start new. I reset my priorities and found supportive friends and filtered out the rest. I am a lucky girl, I was given a second chance.
I have built a new community around me, at Spira my teachers are also my closest friends. They say don’t do business with your friends. But I believe if we truly teach yoga this is exactly what we have to do! We have to be a family of love. Children learn mostly based on how parents act and not what they say. So if I want to create a tight community, I cannot just talk about it. I have to live it, and take the risks with as much education and preparation as possible. If we cannot live in a community of love how can we teach a community to love? I know that there are risks mixing business with private. But there are also endless rewards. We must be willing to take on the risks if we want to create change.
As I was teaching 40 days I have realized that I have already applied part of the messages in the book (such as coping with adversity) into my life. But as we progressed in the book and I presented the subjects for review and discussion my great lesson emerged. My lesson was in faith in love.
I obviously knew cognitive therapy science well enough to teach it, but I have not fully felt every topic. Being in 40 days helped my feel and fully absorb the concepts.
I must learn to keep my goals always in check to make sure I am in the “flow” (joy of work – necessary for happy life ) and not chasing a target that succumbs to the “adaptation principle” (a new watch or a title front of your name is stuff that you get used to so it does not give lasting happiness)
So what exactly does all that mean? Looking at everyone in class smile, cry, and come to some kind of realization about their life made me feel what is important in my life. At times I do get caught up in keeping up with the business of yoga. Can I have more studios, better studios? Should I have my name in the yoga journal? Can I teach at yoga conferences? Will Jo Mo from Wachum County know who the heck I am.
After 40 days I can honestly say; I don’t care if Jo Mo from Wachum County never reads about me in Yoga Journal. Teaching is what I love. One class, one neighbor, one smile at the time. This is my truth. This is why I love yoga. And as far as I am concerned this is yoga. Yoga may be a business but if we treat it like any other business, it will become like any other business. All that other stuff is fluff to distract us from what is important; Love and Community! 40 days students helped me to focus my priorities by showing me that by teaching I am already doing all that I need to make me happy.
So…..this I believe. Love happens. If we listen and create time for our visions and our loved ones, love happens….and everything else falls in place.
By the end of 40 days, we have laughed and cried. I witnessed the birth of a community. Students were hugging, and making dinner arrangements to see each other out of class. Gifts and thank you cards were flying, and I was doing my best to keep my voice as my vocal cords were being swallowed by tears.
To tell you the truths, I am still not quite sure how it happened. I am sure it was not just me, and the books. I provided space and time, shared from my heart, and everyone else sprinkled in the secret ingredients.
Now I realize that the magic is just beginning. If you keep your eyes on the right priorities, and build lasting valuable relationships – you may just a reach happiness! As for enlightenment…. heck it is a long life. I am happy to be on a kick ass journey filled with joy and happiness even if I am never enlightened… Whatever that means anyway! 🙂 Find your truth, find your happiness!
Now here are some letters from students;
I am a runner and really needed some balance for my body. More stretching, less stiffness, more fluidity. One of the things I love about running is the movement, and the time to be on my own, my time to think. It is my meditation if you will. I was once, eons ago, a gymnast so I knew I would like yoga and would get all the benefits I was looking for – the limber feeling I needed. However, I didn’t want it to replace my running and I was skeptical about the new-agey, pose holding, slow, meditative side. That has never been my thing, I need movement.
So, when I signed up for the 40 days it was really just to work in a good long stretch, a good fluid feeling in my joints again and to commit to something. I was unsure of the introspection side of things and looked at it as an aside. I was hooked from meeting one. It wasn’t brainwashing. I’m a curious person and really see a lot of value in questioning and understanding things. I’m not one to jump on to a trend, or a movement. I like to take my time and understand what is involved before I dedicate my time to something. This is exactly the approach Dora took. The book she chose, The Happiness Hypothesis is a pretty involved book and worth looking into. But the real benefit was discussing the issues raised in the book and how they applied to us and our view on life, where we are, where we want to be. Not a quick fix, not an instant solution but a real, true understanding and discussion. These were thoughtful, supportive, engaging and understanding conversations that contained no judgements and no criticisms. Dora is honest and straightforward, she asks for discourse, she welcomes opinion. Yoga studios vary and can be very rigid about their philosophy, one reason I’ve avoided it in the past -you aren’t required to subscribe to anything here. This is all for you to take away and use as it applies to you. And there are a surprising amount of things you might want from this. At least I did.
I was genuinely surprised at how I appreciated this.
On the physical side of things – all I can say is 40 days of yoga will do amazing things for your body. Spira classes have such a good flow that for someone who needs the movement (like
me), you’ve got it, but for someone 20 days into the 40 who need to slow down (me too), there are instructors who are gentle. Before I signed up, I was in the habit of self-correcting my posture – I had that neck pain thing on a regular basis and knew posture had much to do with it. Now when that automatic check-in kicks in I’m already in a good posture position, and it’s comfortable– no more neck / sciatic nerve pain. My muscles are engaged as they should be. I’m feeling muscles in my feet and along my spine that have been dormant for years. I’m no longer stiff and uncomfortable when I climb out of bed in the morning. I had a very fancy engagement to go to during my 40 days. Not one to dress up I’m usually out of my element at these things. This time it didn’t matter. I chose something I was comfortable in and felt confident all night long, with loads of compliments.
It was definitely a physical and mentally positive feeling.
I also want to mention one more thing about the practice and the studio itself. Yoga is another “movement” I was hesitant to get into because of the explosion o popularity about it. I always worry that when something becomes this popular this fast, there are things that are overlooked. Safety being the main thing. Often when something becomes a trend people are so gung ho they get injured. The instructors at Spira address this head-on. They don’t want you to get hurt and they don’t want you to compare your abilities to the people on the mat next to you. They don’t push you and they correct you gently. It is very much a motto that you rest when you need to you and know the alternatives to the poses so you can meet what you need at whatever stage you are in. This is truly a welcoming, comfortable place to practice yoga. -Keri
Although I was not able to participate in the way I had hoped, my experience with Dora’s program was transformative. The energy coming from all of the other people in that room was extraordinary! I’ve discovered some great friends and that in itself is priceless. Our discussions helped me to see so many things in a new light! I never thought it could be done in 40 short days but Dora was a thoughtful (and kick-ass when necessary) facilitator who led us through discussions about nutrition, meditation, love, friendship, adversity, strength, peace and sooooo much more, and how it all intertwines. The breakthroughs I witnessed AND experienced have changed me forever. I look forward to doing it again and I can’t imagine how I’ll feel after being healthy enough to do the entire program. -Tracy