2010-11-24

Yoga-Phone Madness


What's all the talk on dharma, relationships and how to get along in life if we can't put it to the test? Without going mad? Without getting just a bit p*&%* d off?

Ah-aaa! That's when the real test comes.

As background, I have been dealing with Bell over many issues that are now 7 months old. To date, I have been called "Cindy", have 5 ticket numbers for services that went AWOL and a guy named Marshall asking, "You having trouble with your line?"

Let me count the problems:
1. fax line, there is no fax;
2. no signal/line;
3. competing line;
4. busy signal;
5. cut line;
6. no voice-mail;
7. ?

Progress is extremely slow.

Explaining the issues (again)

PS: They better not ask if they can take a survey.


2010-11-18

Happy BA Customer


If you were following my post about my BA complaint letter in poor customer service on my recent flight home from India, I finally received a reply.

As anticipated I got the "we are sorry" bit and "thanks for your patience". I also got a $15 cheque for the monies I spent on food in London and few thousand miles added to my account. I also got the standard and overused line about how they are not responsible and try to do their best. And because the flight was not cancelled it does not fall under the recently new refund/compensation act called EU Compensation.

Well, heck no, the flight was never cancelled; it just left on-time and without a lot of the passengars!

In the end, I had the sense British Airways was a bit more humane than other airlines in that they "try to listen, learn and improve." I was surprised at the free miles so at least that says something.

But as I read the line about the $15 cheque they were sending, I wondered why didn't I order a steak, a wine, a beer, a cream puff pie....??? (even if I don't eat those kind of foods)...I could have hung around longer and chatted up the guy next to me at the bar. He was interested in my travels while shoving fresh fries into his mouth.

Ah, dealing with the customer relations of an airline.......all part of the adventure.

2010-11-15

On Teaching


A student recently asked me to write down some of the lines I say in class. He feels they are 'classics' and worth remembering. Well, good that one of us thinks so, because I often have a hard time recalling what the heck I said since it happens on the spur of the moment. And besides, like many things in life ‘you sort of had to be there' to appreciate what was said. Taking it out of context looks like I might have the yoga whip close by. This is not true....just let me reassure you.

That said, here’s a few lines which are good enough to make public. To help things remain in their proper context, I have prefaced each line with what was happening.

To a student who was not breathing:

“Only dead people do not breathe.”


Instructing a student in warrior pose:

“Straighten your leg. In yoga straight has a new meaning. Straight is straighter.”


Giving an adjustment to a student in cobra:

“If I had another set of arms I’d really be able to help you out here.”


When a student misinterpreted the instructions and went to the resting pose:

“I know you are already at the resting pose. But sorry, we have a bit to get through.“


In shoulder stand posture:

“Don’t go for plastic surgery practise more shoulder stands. Marilyn Munroe practised this routinely. (Pause with laughter)...Also good for the boobs” (More laughter).


To be honest, I think a yoga class without a few good laughs at yourself, the teacher or just life in general is not worth taking or attending.

I could probably write a book on teaching, the art of it, its challenges, the intense way it makes you strive to be a better communicator and the way it challenges me to understand people, including myself. Because if I can't explain this to someone else I might not understand it properly either. I am pretty sure, however, that a lot of people do not understand that the teacher is also learning. In the West we are more accustomed to the G-E-T the degree and S-E-T-T-L-E down mentality. It was the Great Yoga Master B.K.S. Iyengar who said that ALL Yoga teachers are learning. He also said he was a beginner and this is well over 75 years of teaching and practising. So if he is a beginner then I must be back at the embryo stage.

It is the beginner mind that remains fresh, open, relaxed, non-judgemental and non-defensive. In zen they call it "no" mind and in yoga e-ka-gra-ta (one pointedness). Remaining beginner-minded is probably the toughest thing to do especially after practising for many years. It is something to be reminded of and in many ways the most important lesson of yoga.

I recently read a quote on someone’s blog entitled the Reluctant Ashtangi about when you fall, learn to fall better. There is some hidden poetic justice in there....re: fall better. It was nice and uplifting, because usually when we think of falling we see it as a failure. Maybe it is only words but it better to have tried and failed then to never have done anything.

backbending


"Just as a piece of iron is forced to bend when placed into the fire,
the body too will fold when heated and sustained within a posture."

2010-11-08

Journeys


Often we think of a journey in the literal sense as going to a specific place and returning home. Journeys, however, can take place right in our very home, our families and within the hum-drum of everyday existence. Perhaps it is then that they are even more significance in that the ordinary becomes extra-ordinary. Too bad we seem too thick to catch it!

In India there is a beautiful saying on how journeys are forever. People come and go....and when it is sad to leave the line is:

I go so that I may return


I do not personallly believe that one has to travel around the world to have the feeling that they have embarked on a journey. They don't HAVE to but probably they should! The journey can also lie in the every day activities. It might entail being in the process of moving, writing a blog, calling up a friend, doing something for someone else or saying a kind word to help brighten another person's day.

The journey takes place everyday not just when we hop on a plane, bus or train. But to be honest, I was in my traveller's state of mind while writing this and feeling homesick for India. I could happily jump a plane tomorrow.

2010-11-06

Spirituality


Nearly everytime you talk about spirituality or any related topic people tend to cringe and jump to the conclusion you are discussing religion. Much of the literature on spirituality does not help either by calling it the Big "S" word. I remember this from the material I thumbed through while writing my thesis on Yoga in the Indian School System. And since Yoga is historically attached to spirituality it became a 'meaty' topic to fill up a few chapters (no vegetarian pun intended).

My thesis discussion was mainly focused on what does spirituality refer to? And how to re-educate parents, children, administrators and in general the entire Western educational system from placing religion and spirituality in the same pot. (I know a bit pretentious to think the entire system could be revamped, but not without merit.) Getting back to the point, however, when we talk about "spirituality" what do we mean or not mean?

As per my 'lecture for today' during the meditation class I asked the students what thoughts and ideas come to mind when they hear the word 'spirituality'. Here’s what came up:


Internal Energy
Belief
Faith
God
Related to religion


Generally in this culture (re: North America) we have tended to equate spirituality with faith, devotion, a type of religion and the church. But is this how Yoga sees it? Is this how the Great Yogis have explained it? As an aside when I refer to the Great Yogis I am talking about human beings who went beyond the asana (posture) stage and toward the deeper and higher realms of consciousness. In the asana world these people are hardly known or in some camps of Yoga they might not be known at all!

One man who comes readily to mind is Swami Sivananda: a great man who pretty much stands in his own class. For those not familiar with him he was a medical doctor before renouncing both family and wordly life. He dedicated the remainder of his mission on earth to healing the sick, caring for the needy, building ashrams, sending his disciple Vishnu-Devananda to the West and wrote over 300 books on spiritual life. He also created the Divine Life Society.


Sivananda's view and definition of spirituality is very different from what most of us have been conditioned to understand as spirituality. He said spirituality is eradicating and lessening the negative qualities (the asuric aspects) of our personality. These negative qualities are irritation, depression, envy, jealousy, competitiveness, anger and pride. He also went on to say that no one should ever believe they are even remotely close to that goal. By reducing the negative tendencies the following arises:

Kindness
Ego (less sense of “I”)
Purity

This, he said, is the meaning of TRUE spirituality. Frankly speaking I wished I had read or rather understood this sooner. I could have cut to the chase earlier while doing my thesis research.

Bringing forth this definition is really interesting, because no where does Sivananda say anything about God, church, religion, having faith and/or devotion. The latter may arise after lessening the negative tendencies of one's personality, but no where does he state you HAVE to start with it. Taking this point a bit further, Swami Vivekananda also remarks in the Raja Yoga that you should not believe in anything blindly. If I may be so bold as to paraphrase Swami Vivekananda's words he felt one should get out there and find out for themselves. The Buddha also talked about this in that one would be better off learning by "direct experience"; a similiar viewpoint taken by Sage Patanjalim in the Yoga Sutras. That is, direct experience alone is the only truth. (Yoga Sutras: Samadhi, Verses 7-13.)

In one of Sivananda's letters he wrote on spirituality: Remember what it means.

Kindness
Less Ego
Purification


Hm, maybe someone can use this for their sermon in church on Sunday!

Pathetically Funny


If I had a sense of humour I would find the bolded line in the itemized list below of British Airway's bad customer service funny. But since this actually happened to me I do not find it all that funny (well, maybe in 10 years)...

On the way back from what was a wonderful trip to India and a stop-over in Zurich with a surprise hop to Matterhorn, it ended with the saga of BA. The flight home was missed due to bad weather conditions in Zurich. What happened afterwards was so pathetic it had to be funny.

In a recent letter to BA's customer relations in which I am attempting to get back my 9 Euro dinner (I know, that's also good for a laugh, but it is the principle of the matter), I wrote the following:

While delays and missing planes are common it was the behaviour and treatment we received as passengers that was absolutely terrible. This is an itemized list of the poor consumer service:

1) Standing in line for 6 hours to rebook the ticket;
2) Bad information provided by BA staff such as advising passengers to pick-up their luggage and/or go to another ticketing booth, which resulted in passengers losing their spot in the long queue;
3) Passing out a number to call the BA reservation center to speed up the process but who (byw) do not handle ticket rebookings (more bad info);
4) Only 3 BA staff members to serve over 150 economy class passengers and 2 BA staff members to serve 20 people in First Class;
5) Reaching a hotel for the night who served one half eaten pasta dish and a cream-puff pie for dessert;
6) Being informed by the manager of the hotel it was BA’s fault for not giving sufficient notice that 200 people were arriving.


I'll let you know the end result, which will probably be:

Thanks for writing and sorry for your trouble.

2010-11-02

the Smallest B.G.


Today I received a package I had ordered from Mysore. Two of the smallest editions of the B.G. (Bhagavad Gita meaning the Song of Devotion or God's Song). This book is often known as the Hindu bible, but stands equally as strong as one of the greatest epics on life; how to live, think and understand karma, attachment and culture.

Written in 18 chapters with 700 powerful verses on all aspects of Yoga; right thinking, purfiication, battling inner and outer demons, and practising non-attachment. Unforunately, this kind of text has become somewhat under-rated and left unread. Many savvy yogis might even think of it as being too abstract, boring, irrevelant and high-spirited. Yet it is bang on when it comes to what Yoga is truly about; i.e., moving beyond asana practice and into the heart of the matter.

So for those who have a really short attention span the B.G. is available in this handy pocket sized version. Probably not only the smallest B.G. in size, but the smallest in content.

To illustrate just how small it is the B.G. was taken next to a pencil in this photo!

The Journey So Far

Life is an adventure and yoga is the greatest one of all. Here I share my love of Yoga, travel, practice and becoming a part-time cook. My life adventures have taken me from growing up in Toronto to living and working in South Korea to studying in India, marriage and finally closing my Yoga school of 15 years.

What I can say so far is that I truly believe that it is necessary in life to let go of one dream in order for another to be born. This might be painful to do so but it is the only way to move forward. We often believe that if our original plan does not succeed it is the recipe for failure. But what if it is the door to something new and great? The horizon is wide and life is not a straight line. This is the way I see it and my journey so far. Having also recently given birth to my first child and at 43, it is another new beginning.


ME

My Photo
Heather Morton
is a perennial teacher and devoted student of yoga. Having made 18 extended trips to India she studies with her teachers annually. In 1997 she founded and directed The Yoga Way (TYW), Toronto's only school for 6-week yoga programs and not drop-in classes. For 15 years, TYW was a part of the growing Toronto yoga community and supported many charities by offering karma classes. As a teacher she holds many academic degrees including a BFA (Fine Arts in Theatre) and a Masters of Education. With a published thesis on Yoga for Children in School, her post-graduate work was a 2-year ethnographic project in the Indian school system. Heather has produced 2 dvds, meditation cds, a backbending manual and podcasts. Freedom of the Body DVD is the first of its kind as an instructional practice to the backbends of yoga. Heather has been featured in the Toronto Life magazine, The Globe & Mail, Yoga4Everybody and other on-line sources. She contributes to MindBodyGreen, Hello Yoga in Japan and Elephant Journal. She writes to inspire and share her experiences with others on yoga as a life's practice.
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