Recently I wrote this blog post for Twisted Trunk Yoga. Here is an adapted and updated version of that thought weave.
I was brought up in yoga with an understanding that the community is the teacher, or guru. As a fluid experience, rather than centrally located around or inside one person a community can feel freeing for everyone in it, or it can feel as tight as a governance. The community, or kula can be defined as a collective gathered with similar interests and intentions. The common intentions keep everyone on the path and so holds the weight, like a teacher or guru. The community at Twisted Trunk is my first conscious connection to kula. Many of us have been together on and off since 2002 during a tenuous, sensitive time following 9/11 as we began our Teacher Training, and it’s delightful for me to be connected again. On again, off again, this concept of kula as teacher has taken me years to understand through personal gain and loss, and through misunderstanding it over and over. I’m coming to understand it again as its pulsating back to center again, and back into this first home of mine.
Sometimes I understood kula to just mean alikeness, or all-togetherness, and I’ve witnessed yoga communities behaving as if there is no difference amongst them. As if each person forgot that they were allowed to be themselves with separate and different opinions, styles, and expression. Plus with the increased media coverage of yoga and the insistence we get on this program of if-you-wear/drink/use-this, your-practice-will-improve, it can feel harder and harder to feel grounded in what you do choose to wear, drink, and use, and even call your practice.
Don’t get me wrong – I love a group practice, be it asana or meditation, for my own discoveries, revelations, and inquiries feel supported by the power of the group. This is how the group becomes the teacher by holding the space for inner reflection and growth to happen. The challenge of a yoga or spiritual community is not allowing group think to take over, since our alikeness isn’t what brings the group power. Skipping the hard work of self inquiry and just wearing the outfit du jour, mala beads, and chanting an opening invocation doesn’t make your yoga a living part of life. The collective is the teacher, the but the collective needs you to be you, fully, for it to be authentic and effective as a channel for divine power. I think healthy communities are ones that don’t cancel out individuality for the sake of being a group, but use the group power simply to magnetize individual divine purpose. This in part is what’s amazing and magical about group yoga classes and their power to create attunement to divine power. Like individual threads of the same fabric, the unique colors of the thread make the most divine weave of the fabric.
I’ve seen the community of teachers at Twisted Trunk grow strong as individuals and work hard on the practice of walking the talk. I’ve worked hard at walking the talk, and I’ve mastered some things – even beat some demons to a pulp. The community has been my teacher and challenged me repeatedly to do so. Me and my fellow teachers don’t just teach yoga (at a masterful level I might ad). We’ve grown into our talents as leaders, as musicians, as writers, as dancers, as parents, as partners. We’ve withstood the challenge of re-crafting our personal missions, of great expansions, of explosions because of expansions that couldn’t bear it any longer, back to the contraction of refining the individual and deeply personal meaning of yoga for each of us. Because of this each class has such personality. To me this community really has become the living embodiment of the definition of kula.
Our individual responsibility lies in being grateful for the gifts we have, and to work with them, thoroughly and fully. To do the yoga means to inquire, to dig deep, to purge, to rise up and then polish our skills and turn them into fuller expressions of who we are. The rest falls away, comes and goes, like everything else. The clothes and malas become an expression of our practice, not just a show piece that we practice. Our contribution to this giant web we call yoga lies in living the joy that comes from having put our all into becoming who we really are.