Today completes the sixth of 10 weekends of my yoga teacher training. A discussion point of the day was music and playlists and creating a place where your students can go internally, and a lot of music choices cause external focus. So the yoga class becomes a physical exercise, instead of a path to enlightenment.
During this conversation, a workshop I went to with Max Strom crossed my mind. Max had no music; Max had presence. Max’s class had no distracting elements; everything was focused on the internal, on finding yourself as your own teacher, on exploring the divine within. I experienced it in such a way in Max’s class in a way I have never previously or since. In this way, and in his presence, and in the way he touched me on a different level – I know he is my teacher. He is someone I will follow and find and seek out.
I chatted with another yoga teacher trainee, who experienced in a similar way the presence and light that Max brings. She recommended his book, and so this had been on my mind, getting his book and reading it and following him and meeting him again.
The other side of the story: recently I have been struggling with being present. I have a lot on my plate, and instead of taking the extra necessary time to center myself and be present, I have been putting my needs off to serve others first; to cross things off the checklist. As a result, I have been grumpy and dealing with things poorly; I have treated others less kind than I would have wished; I make silly mistakes and fail to show up as my best self.
So, as I got home from YTT this afternoon, I practiced being present while eating lunch, and enjoying the breeze. After an amount of time, I remembered the book recommended by Max Strom, and so I picked up my phone which was next to me to look up his book. The server wouldn’t respond. I hit refresh, and again, the server wouldn’t respond.
As I sat there, refreshing this silly page to look at a book on breathing, on being present, I realized the irony of my situation. Here I was, groping at some external product to provide me with internal transformation. Yet another lesson from Max Strom.
I took my cue and went for a walk with my dog. My dog, who is my guru for being present. Bird! Squirrel! Bunny! Dog poop! Everything is exciting. Everything smells delicious. Everything is the best and super exciting.
The weather was perfect. Beautiful for an early August day. It rained earlier and there was a slight breeze; it was perfect for a long walk on a Sunday. I live in a neighborhood full of young couples, many of which are starting their families. Yet, as I walked around, the streets were barren. Cars sat in driveways, doors and windows shut. No one in their yard. No one riding bikes. No one going for walks.
There were a few, of course, walking their own dogs, one woman running, one man bouncing a basketball. But where were the kids on bikes? Where were the dads and sons on the baseball field I passed by? Where were the lawncare takers, mowing the yard? Where were the people that once occupied those fifty-year-old front porches?
Walking around my neighborhood on a beautiful August Sunday felt eerily like a ghost town. And how sad this was, that I was one of the few people enjoying the breeze and the shade, enjoying the present moment. Enjoying the day off.
Where was everyone else? I don’t know for sure, but I’m going to guess indoors, watching television, playing videogames, looking intently at their smartphones. Is this a good day spent off work? Do you feel refreshed and revitalized and ready to go back to work after hovering over your computer all day, reading internet story after internet story? When was the last time you felt the breeze and enjoyed it?
I have a lot of work to do on being present, myself. It’s easy to do when life is simple, but when it gets busy, being present is a struggle. I know this firsthand. But we need it. The world needs our presence. Otherwise we’ll all be a bunch of drones, in service to no one, ghosts in our own beautiful world.