Radical Inclusivity and Just Showing Up

August 10, 2017

Originally published August 10, 2017
Shambhala Mountain Blog

Written by Cyndi Lee

The other day a friend of mine texted to cancel our lunch date. The reason, she wrote, was that her body wasn’t feeling well and was telling her it needed to rest. After wishing her a delicious nap and a speedy recovery, I couldn’t help but wonder about this conversation between her and her body. I pondered how it could be that her body is not her and, if so, who is she that isn’t a body? Of course, this brings up age-old questions about the nature of consciousness, impermanence, and the definition of the true self. But what I’m really struck with is how we separate ourselves from ourselves.

The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word, yuj, which is typically translated as to yoke or bind, to join, unite or re-unite. In other words, yoga is relationship. Of course, we know that mind and body are part of each other. You cannot have a body without a mind or a mind without a body. But sometimes we forget.

One of my Zen teachers opens her meditation instruction by encouraging attention to upright posture: “Begin with that part of your mind that you call your body.” What a brilliant reminder that our relationship between our mind and body is our primary relationship. Yet, we keep trying to separate ourselves from ourselves all the time and in this way, we create our own suffering.

This is where the practice of yoga comes in. The great yoga master, B.K.S. Iyengar used the word, integration, to define yoga. His years of teaching gave him the insight that many of us don’t feel particularly integrated and this gives rise to feelings of being unsettled, confused, ungrounded, isolated.

Our habit of separating shows up in lots of ways. We have certain feelings we like and others that we don’t want to acknowledge. We like some parts of our body but not all of our body. We like to feel happy but not sad. We like sun but not rain, or rain but not snow, or winter but not summer. We like dogs but not cats. We like people but not our next door neighbors. We want to eat cookies but don’t want to admit that we have cravings so we blame it on our body — “I listened to my body and it said I need sugar.”

Radical inclusivity means that we can be bigger than we think we are. That we can be sad and heavy and light and smart and afraid and brave. That we may have pretty thoughts and ugly thoughts. And, that through mindfulness practice, we can start to recognize our habits of pushing away or clinging. As our thoughts come and go, we get familiar with the law of impermanence and teach ourselves to just relax a little bit. Everything that arises also dissolves. Like they say in the Caribbean, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes and it will change.”

Yoga is an excellent vehicle for exploring this. Sometimes it feels so good to twist and bend, and other times it is completely unsatisfying. Isn’t that interesting? When we relax our agenda about what we want and just show up, our capacity for curiousity and kindness grows. And our suffering shrinks.

This is why yoga asana practice is such a valuable aspect of dharma practice. You don’t have to do fancy Instagram poses or spend more than 15 minutes on the mat, a few times a week, to get the benefits of increased flexibility and strength, improved digestion and sleep. The main thing is to fully engage with your experience as you purposefully move your body. This is how you become intimate with your whole self. Whatever happens or doesn’t happen is fine. It’s about showing up and paying attention.

Everything we do, say, or think creates imprints and if we cultivate the habit of separating from ourself, we start to live that way. We feel separate from other people. We feel separate from the earth, plants, animals, the sky, the ocean and the earth. Just as we can get better at paying attention to whole selves, we can expand that awareness to realize that we are part of the whole wide earth. Step by step, breath by breath, moment by moment.

SMC hosts The Resiliency Practices of Yoga and Buddhism with Cyndi Lee, September 1–3, 2017 — click here to learn more


From The Yogis

  • Terri Bender Morrison, Owner, Mindful Motion Yoga, OM 500 TT 2015

    "Cyndi, I feel that my teaching has shifted a bit - sequencing is more interesting and effective. As I was driving home tonight, I thought about the statements of "leaving crumbs" and "connecting the dots". While you meant that for us as direction to be better teachers, I recognize you were doing that for us as well. I believe I am just now processing some of the things you taught this summer. The subtle parts of classes escaped me, but I am getting them now. Thank you for the crumbs, for leaving plenty of space between the dots....I think I see the moon."

  • Zan Margolis, OM 200 TT , 2012

    "The more yoga I experience, the more I realize how special it is that in your teacher trainings you actually teach your yogis how to *teach*"

  • Susan Golden, Studio Owner, Maine

    "Cyndi’s sense of humor and genius teachings have made this OM 500 TT very, very stimulating every minute of the day. I’ve learned so much. I can’t wait to let it all come together and bring this to my teachings and to my life."

  • Natalie Levin, OM Yoga Graduate, OM Warrior Weekend Teacher Training Program 2003

    "I am a graduate of the OM 2003 Warrior Weekend Teacher Training Program.  I had the honor to teach at OM yoga in New York City for several years.  I have since moved to another city and was instantly offered teaching jobs based solely on the fact that I had been a teacher at Cyndi Lee’s OM yoga.  Studio owners in my current city thought so highly of Cyndi Lee’s OM yoga Teacher Training that they hired me immediately and I found and continue to find that my OM yoga Teacher Training opens door after door for me.  OM yoga (practicing there, teaching OM yoga, and learning from Cyndi Lee) helped me professionally in my own yoga-teaching career.  Even more meaningfully for me, I feel that the path of mindfulness and attention to alignment that pours through the pores of OM yoga has influenced me and helped me to soften enough to become more “myself” since I first walked into the OM yoga studio."

  • Jeri Wilson, Studio Owner, Maine

    “I’m Jeri and I’m a studio owner in Maine and I just finished my 500 hr TT with Cyndi Lee. It was an excellent experience, partly because I had been trained primarily in Anusara and I was challenged to think very differently. I found it was very helpful to come back to teach with Cyndi’s influence. She is very, very funny and she will work you and challenge you and you will feel like you have actually gained something really deep from the training.”

  • Jeanie Gasque, Yoga Teacher, South Carolina, OM 500 TT 2015

    "Cyndi's skillful guidance lead me to a greater clarity of alignment based vinyasa.  The yoga combined with the charm of Lynchburg made the Sun Session an unforgettable experience."

  • Gina Callendar, Yoga Teacher, Yonkers, NY, OM 500 TT 2015

    "Cyndi truly follows the middle path and instills that in her teachings.  She combines disciple and humor to create an engaging, thought provoking and enlightening experience.  I had the pleasure of taking her 500 hour OM Yoga Teacher Training.  I have deepened my practice, work to continue challenge myself and never want to stop learning.  I am pretty comfortable teaching, but withCyndi’s guidance I am more confident in my hands-on adjustments and clarity of instruction with my students.  Thank you Cyndi for reinforcing my foundation, challenging me as a student and becoming my teacher.  I hope to continue to learn from you for many years to come.  Namaste."

  • Erica Settino, Founder, , Karuna for Animals

    "I have been teaching yoga for 12 years and over those 12 years I have often felt burned out and at a loss for inspiration. Now that I have taken Cyndi Lee’s OM 500 Teacher Training, I feel completely different, completely inspired, and so, so blessed. If you are even considering it, you must do it."

  • Donna Levenstien, Yoga Teacher, Lake George, NY

    "I am a student of the OM 200 and OM 500 TT. I keep learning from Cyndi Lee who is just a master teacher, every class I take, every hour I’m here she says something wonderful that I can bring into my life, onto my mat, into my classes with my students. As a teacher and a student, I feel enriched every time I’m with her and in her class."

  • Ann Megyas, Actor, Yoga Teacher, , Hospice Worker

    "I’m so glad I decided to take Cyndi Lee’s 500 hr TT. It advanced my personal practice in ways that I could not imagine. There is no pose I am afraid of anymore. It’s advanced my teaching practice, it’s advanced my dharma study. It’s just been a thrilling experience the whole time."