Every so often I’ll be listening to a podcast or reading a book and I’ll hear/ read something that just completely blows me away. Case in point I was listening to a podcast just last week – podcasts are the new Rock n Roll for me – any moment I’ve got 2 minutes to myself I’m poding myself up to the max. This particular podcast was a recording of a short talk by uber cool Zen dude Henry Shukman of Mountain Cloud Zen gaff – go check out their site now ( well after you’ve finished reading this blog). Henry was talking about the importance of daily zen practice and almost as a throwaway line he said ‘Who is your practice for’? I didn’t catch the full weight of the quote to begin with, in fact it had bypassed me at first but then my ‘Zendar’ went up to eleven and I pressed rewind – well not quite, I just pressed that button that allows you to rewind 15 seconds at a time.
‘Who is your practice for’ Henry went on as if that statement had no particular value. I stopped the talk and stopped the car (I always like to pod n drive) and sat in the car by the side of the road for a full 15 minutes thinking about who exactly is my practice for. And when I say practice for me that’s twofold as I’m doing this yoga thang and have been doing for over 20 years plus (yikes that’s a very long time) and for the past 10 years or so I’ve been staring at a wall doing the zazen zen meditation ting. So like anybody who does any type of mind and/or body practice, we are usually doing it for me myself and I. I practice yoga as it gives ME a strong flexible balanced body, I practice meditation because it helps MY mind. But when you drill down a little on who is your practice for, you suddenly realise, like I did in a light bulb ‘ah ha’ type moment well actually I’m not the only who one benefits from these disciplines. In fact when I thought about it for some time I actually realised I’m probably the LEAST important person on the list of benefiters of these yoga and zen practices I’m doing. Obviously my wife and kids were the first people on the list – and they benefit in all kinds of ways, a better husband a fun dad. Also I’m a much better person to be around when I’ve done practice. I was gonna say the ‘my’ word , as in ‘my practice’ and that I think is problematic as it sets up in your own mind that the practice is all about li ‘ol me – well it’s not – get over it! I’ve been in Mysore South India a whole bunch of times and the practice narcissism is off the scale- most people are talking about ‘my practice’. ‘Oh my practice was great’, ‘my practice was terrible’, and then ‘that’s enough about my practice what do you think about my practice’ …
So talking of narcissism , back to me 🙂 – post practice(s) I can think more clearly and I don’t put my foot in my mouth (or around my head , yoga joke -eyes rolling emoji) as much as I do normally. And that good vibz ripple effect goes out into the universe in a it’s nice to be nice, smile at someone and make their day stylee. Obviously not everyone is gonna pass it along, and that doesn’t matter the fact that you started the post practice wave is all that counts.
Practicing pretty much continuously for over 20 years has 100% made me a better teacher (see below to judge for yourself) and a more compassionate less selfish person. (I still completely lose my s,h ,one t when I’m watching the football though, Rome wasn’t built in a day or even in 20 + years!) Just thinking about it if I add the folk I’m teaching yoga to every evening and add in their circle of friends and family, dogs cats fish (add in as appropriate) you soon get the picture..
And I’m not one of those folk who get on the ‘my way or the highway yoga bandwagon ‘Yoga (and zazen) just happen to be the things that work for me – and when I say work for me , one of my teaching philosophies ,if you can call it that , is I think as human folk I do think we all have a responsibility to ourselves and to each other to find the right combo of mind/body practices that help us be a lil better to ourselves and those around us – and in turn those around us be a lil better to those around them . So whether you are a yogi or a mediator or a knitter or a crown green bowler it disnae matter, make your choices and join in the make yoself a better person fun.
And whilst you’re at that make a mental list of all the potential people (and dogs n cats too if you like) who will benefit from those practices besides yourself.
Am I a better teacher after 20+ years of Yoga and zazen ? Judge for yourself – click here for details of my online week day yoga classes. Hopefully see you later at 7pm.