This week I’m going to see my teacher, Swami Jaya Devi, in Atlanta. I have four workshops a year with her for my advanced 500 hour teacher training and I love every minute of them. I also love the ashram in Atlanta, which is a mere five and a half hours away.
I know someone who is in India right this very minute. We did our training together at Dragonfly Yoga Studies in Fort Walton Beach. Now she is also doing an advanced training in Ashtanga, I think. There is a teacher from New Orleans who I adore and she and a merry band of yogis are in Bali. Travelling yogis abound and I admire every single one of them.
Atlanta is enough travelling for me. I’m the nervous type; the fraidy cat of yogis. I don’t care for travelling at all. My mind goes to all the things that could go wrong, not go right and generally terrifies me with all manner of dark imaginings.
What is interesting is that the workshop theme and title for this weekend immersion with Swami Jaya Devi is The True Surrender – Lay Down Your Fear. Yeah, that’s it, no big deal, right?
It’s interesting that since I registered for this workshop the usual neurosis that arise, the terrifying and dark imaginings that haunt me as I pick my outfits and catalog the small library I’ll take, get swatted way with (slightly) more ease.
I’ll share my theory as to why. Here they come, full tilt boogie, all the scary things that can happen while travelling in a foreign land! Buzzing like a dive bombing honey bee, scare number one tries to sting! The thought has occurred to me more than once that these are the exact thoughts that this workshop is coming for. There’s a great big trowel digging around in the weeds of my consciousness and its name be Durga.
I see the thought coming and with the alacrity of an obnoxious teenager throwing up a hand, regard this particular set of eccentricities as naturally arising due to the nature of the workshop. “Well, of course you’re here, I’m about to travel and also surrender my fear. You’re bound to show up.”
Like the mean girl at prom, just in time to see the nerdy kid having a good time, she’s going to try to ruin things. But this time, the nerdy kid brought silly string and a friend and Her name be Durga. That mean girl can talk to any one of Durga’s hands.
Who is Durga? Mighty multi-armed Goddess. The ultimate Shakti. Some simply call Her Ma.
Her many hands and multiple weapons are beheading monsters of insecurity and fear mongering demons all over Uru Yoga and Beyond already as she takes Her place on the altar in the blue room. For me She hails from Kashi Atlanta, a stunning yoga studio nestled right in the middle of Atlanta, Georgia.
Sure, She’s a Hindu deity, but She’s The Mother of Egypt, Her face feline and fearsome. She crosses cultures, seen deep and loving in Europe’s Black Madonna. She is relevant, present and undeniable – Ma.
My insecurities still arise with meaningful regularity. Already today I’ve imagined three and a half horrible things that could happen on my way out of town Friday. I find myself well armed against this thinking, even if I only have the two instead of sixteen limbs. I see my patron on a lion even though I’ll be riding in a black Dodge. The two realities overlap and I know that even though the actual workshop doesn’t begin until Friday at 7 o’clock, the work has already begun.
I would love to say that we’ll be working on this theme this week in my yoga classes. We could talk about the Abhaya mudra and the ways in which our demons of fear and insecurity can be slain by grace of the Mother. But I don’t so much instruct a theme until I’m a little practiced in it and I cannot say, dear Reader, that I’m very practiced in fearlessness.
It’s not even something I can say I’m working on. In some very real way the practices are working on me. The more I just hold still and let ’em go the more thoroughly I’ll be steeped in them – if I’m lucky. This week I’m just a wild card.
It’s always like that when I get ready to go see my Teacher. You can’t do anything with me, you can’t do nothing about it. I’ll just be a little wild and a little raw around the edges of my mind. It’s such a quick trip that changes me so much every time I make it. True change is scarier than anything I can conjure up to be afraid of. Transformation is what all of these spiritual practices are about and it can be terrifying – who in the hell will I be without this long standing neurosis? Who knows?
These practices are tools for transformation. Their name be Yoga.
In the Bhagavad Gita, chapter two, Krishna tells us, dare I say reassures us, “On this path effort never goes to waste and there is no failure. Even a little effort towards spiritual awareness will save you from the greatest fear.”