In the candid, contemplative memoir May I Be Happy, revered yoga teacher Cyndi Lee gives readers an unforgettable gift: the ability to focus on our experiences as we have them, on the way to a lighter life.
For all her wisdom as a teacher, Cyndi Lee—founder of New York’s world renowned OM yoga Center—understood intuitively that she still had a lot to learn. In spite of her success in physically demanding professions—dancer, choreographer, and yoga teacher—Lee was caught in a lifelong cycle of repetitive self-judgment about her body. Instead of the radical contentment expected in international yoga teachers, she realized that hating her body was a form of suffering, which was infecting her closest relationships—including her relationship to herself.
Inspired by the honesty and vulnerability of her students, Lee embarked on a journey of self-discovery that led her outward—from the sacred sites of the parched Indian countryside to the center of the 2011 earthquake in Japan—and inward, to seek the counsel of wise women, friends and strangers both. Applying the ancient Buddhist practice of loving-kindness meditation to herself, Lee learned that compassion is the only antidote to hatred, thereby healing her heart and changing her mind.
With prose as agile as the yoga sequences she creates, May I Be Happy gives voice to Lee’s belief that every life arises, abides, and ultimately dissolves. By becoming her own best student, Lee internalizes the strength, stability, and clarity she imparts in her Buddhist-inspired yoga classes.
Favorite Book Quotes from Readers:
“Any of the answers you suggested could be the right one, depending on circumstances. Figuring this out is where your teaching comes alive. Teaching yoga – and living yoga – is not about reproducing anything. It’s about seeing what is needed right here, right now.”
“But, in the end, that just became another kind of craving. Because righteous and clean is not a balanced way to be, any more than feeling guilty and dirty.” Bingo! All about finding that balance and letting go of high expectations as well as letting go of guilty feelings. “Stability doesn’t come from holding on to extremes. It comes from riding the waves, not holding the water. The very word balance comes from the Latin word balare, which means “to dance”.
“Yoga, like meditation, offers a method for coming together after you’ve come apart.” One of my favorite passages, one that I can visualize as with the sutras, the strings of yoga webbing together and making a nice neat safety hammock to embrace you. The whole idea that yoga is not something that you can ever be finished with, can never master. “The whole point is that you maintain commitment to the process, stay open to the changes that arise and pass, and most important, always take a friendly approach to your experience on the mat.”
“Louise Hay said, ‘Look in the mirror and say, ‘I love you.’ Another favorite teacher of mind, Sakyong Mipham, said, ‘Look in the bathroom mirror every morning and repeat three times, ‘It’s not about me.‘ Gelek Rimpoche said, ‘Equanimity begins with you. Treat yourself better. You can’t divide yourself into parts and hate one part and love another–both parts are you.’”
“The advanced students have already learned about the meaning of practice. They’ve embodied the knowledge that if they stay steady, stick with the process, and keep moving along, even if they are unsure of both the path and the destination, eventually the way will become clear. They learn to be comfortable with problem solving and, in fact, understand that that is what a lot of yoga or meditation or any kind of mindfulness practice is really about. Taking a look at any given situation and working with things as they are… The yoga word for friction is tapas, which really means that where there is heat, there is the potential for transformation. For the super advanced students, this is where the practice begins.”