Container Principle

February 12, 2014

Life in Lynchburg, VA has much to offer — spectacular natural beauty, pleasant climate, farm-fresh food, and, of course, wonderful, smart, friendly people.  But, so far, for me it is not a place where I can earn a living.  I continue to travel 15 out of every 30 days, and it is on the road that I get to see most of my closest colleagues and friends.

When I come back home again, I feel spent and blah.  So, I end up hanging out on FB way too much, telling myself that it’s because I can stay connected to everybody that way.  But, in my heart I know that is not the only reason.  I’m dilly dallying.  When I am traveling my schedule is very full.  I am tightly booked and, being a yoga teacher, I have no wiggle room in my schedule.  Class must start on time and I must be there.  I can’t come late and I never leave early.  I generally work from 9-5 teaching long days of yoga and I love it!  I am grateful for the opportunities and for all the yogis that take my classes and workshops.

Here in Lynchburg I teach two classes on Thursday afternoon and that’s it, other than a special workshop now and then.  I am also grateful for these opportunities but on a daily basis, it mostly means I don’t have to show up at a certain time and place to earn a living.  It means that I earn my living on the computer — writing a book proposal, skyping with private clients, developing on-line courses.  This means I can make my own schedule and that has turned out to be too loose for me; so I fill time — ok, let’s say it, I waste time — hanging out on FB and twitter.

This unhealthy pattern became abundantly clear to me recently when I went back to Upaya Zen Center for a retreat with Roshi Joan Halifax.  My dear friend, Sarla Nichols, joined me in Santa Fe and we had our own mini-pre-retreat before going to the zendo.  We walked, ate, drank, got massages, shopped and mostly talked about everything.  What a gift to be with a true friend who knows you well.  Through our talks I realized that my life needs more containment.  It needs tightening up.

So I made two firm commitments:

1) Exercise every day no matter what

Living in NYC, one just naturally walks a lot, goes up and down lots of steps and in general, is active. Not to mention that I used to work at OM yoga Center where I could take a yoga class pretty much any hour of the day — and I did.  Here in Lynchburg, I have to figure out how to be that active.  Yesterday I joined Iron and Grace Evolved Fitness Studio and had my second TRX/Pilates class today.  It was really fun and made me schvitz!  The main thing I have to work on is — guess what?  Firmly engaging muscles to support my hyper-mobile body.  Container principle shows up for the body!

2) Formally Receive the Buddhist Precepts

I decided to ask Roshi Joan if I could receive the Buddhist Precepts and she said yes!  She only does this once a year and the next one is March 15.  She encouraged me to do it this year and so that gives me about 30 days to complete the fairly significant preparation.  I won’t be sitting around on FB now!  I will be studying and practicing and contemplating the Buddhist precepts; taking them into my heart, mind, body (dear Enkyo Roshi says, these are 3 words for the same thing…) and into my life.  I will be sewing a rakusu, stitch by stitch by stitch.

Creating and committing to these containers has given me fresh energy, direction and motivation.  Not to mention, sore muscles or what my ballet teacher called,  “profitable pain.”

Moving to a new town and a new life can be overwhelming.  No wonder I got too loose.  It is understandable that one would want to just rest from all the learning curves involved in moving to a new place.  But the truth is that under any circumstances, with or without going through lots of changes, we all have times when we feel overwhelmed and lost.  We ALL have a tendency to avoid waking up.  Being with Sarla and Roshi was a like a fingersnap that roused my energy,  helped me tighten my focus and clearly formulate actions toward living the life I want.  A life that is meaningful and beneficial for me and others.


Just like every yoga pose is a physical container for sitting with what arises, these two commitments provide containers for me to cultivate more awareness of body and mind; to go deeper into understanding my habitual patterns of thought and action and to make more conscious choices — about how I spend my time.  Because every night Roshi said to us:

Let me respectfully remind you.

Life and death are of supreme importance.

Time passes quickly and opportunity is lost.

Let us awaken – awaken, take heed.

Do not squander your life.




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