How To Be A Tantric Paradox

Via Bernadette Birney
on Jun 4, 2011
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1.  Be a yoga teacher who spends most of the day, every day, barefoot but who has an unholy, slavish devotion to her shoe fetish.  Appease the shoe god by stacking your closets to the ceiling with boxes and boxes of shoes, and by regularly practicing arati.

2.  Religiously remind your students that sticking a pose is not the point, that the point is to be fully inside the process, then repeatedly re-injure your wrist wrestling with your old nemesis, handstand.

3.  Impress upon your students that yoga is about skillful action, and about saying what they mean and doing what they say, and that when they do that they’ll never find themselves apologizing for saying things they wish they hadn’t said.  Believe this, in your heart of hearts, to be true.  Then, in a fit of rage, tell someone you love like there’s no tomorrow to go fuck himself.

4.  Begin your day with both a green smoothie and an entire french press of coffee with half & half and sugar.  Feel yogic and healthy because it’s organic half & half.

5.  Although you’re not a Buddhist, wish for all beings everywhere to experience happiness and freedom.  It’s just a nice thing to do.   Except for that one person who you hate, and to whom not enough bad things can happen, and who should wind up a miserable shell of a broken person as karmic retribution for wronging you, fervently wish goodwill upon all sentient beings.

6. Have a hard time deciding whether to dedicate your practice to your teachers or to Rachel Zoe.

7. Try incredibly hard to be worthy of occupying that seat you’re sitting in, even though you’re not always sure that you are.  Buy yourself something nice online to make yourself feel better.

8.  Take it all very, very seriously but not too seriously.

9.  When out to dinner, finish chewing that bite of cheeseburger before you greet the student who stops by your table to say hello.

10.  Swallow your medicine down with a slug of martini.

11.  Hope. Even when life has served up profound disappointments, even when your heart is broken, deeply hope, for over the horizon of your heartbreak lies the promise of something more.


About Bernadette Birney

Bernadette Birney is a dyed-in-the-wool, freedom-loving tantrika. When she’s not busy conquering the world, taking hostages, feverishly freelancing, working on her book, and posting on-line essays, you can find her practicing the art of life-on-purpose, and teaching in Connecticut. / Bernadette has had the good fortune of studying with the great ones: she’s a certified Anusara yoga instructor, and has long pestered her Rajanaka Yoga mentor, Douglas Brooks. Known for her poetic and precise articulation, she insists that you can maintain a hard-core yoga practice and a sense of humor, too. Her classes, immersions and trainings are steeped in a life affirming philosophy that will invite you into the exploration of your own potential. / Bernadette was one of the earliest Certified Anusara yoga instructors in CT, and continues to mentor the local teaching community, leading trainings and retreats. She has contributed to Yoga Journal, Fit Yoga, Elephant Journal and Srividyalaya Amrta. She is also a Lululemon ambassador, and the author of the quirky, award-winning blog .


25 Responses to “How To Be A Tantric Paradox”

  1. Samantha says:

    I think someone truly practicing the 8 limbed path can do a lot better than this. Its cute but not funny, and below the surface there is self -loathing. As yoga teachers we can do much better and many of us are. Its our actions that matter in life, not our words. I feel sorry for this teacher, and her students. Its all a facade, and so not in the true spirit of the principles of yoga – no matter what your underlying philosophy – tantric or otherwise.

  2. Cat says:

    …Nr 6: Dedicate the practice to yourself!
    and thanks for being so human and humorous about it!
    I'm sure we all do our best to be so yogic but we're all so Human!
    Being/becoming aware of it is the first step to self acceptance.
    I like the quote of Yogi Bhajan " Yoga is not about Self-improvement, it's about Self-Acceptance".

  3. Monique says:

    Good thing you're here to take a crap all over it. Because that is totally yogic. Totes. Maybe you should try pulling your eighth limb out of your sacral chakra. Might loosen you up a bit.

  4. Hmmm, I think I'm beginning to see your problem here…

    Made me laugh a lot.

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  5. Anna says:

    In other words, be human.
    Oh, and I hope you *mindfully* chewed that bite of cheeseburger.
    Thanks for the good cheer!

  6. Esther says:

    Great list, thanks! My favorite is #7…

  7. Posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  8. bernieb says:

    Radical affirmation, baby!

  9. bernieb says:

    In that case–mission accomplished.

  10. bernieb says:

    Well said, Anna.
    You bet I did. (:
    My pleasure. Thanks for your comment.

  11. bernieb says:

    Thanks, Esther. Cheers.

  12. timful says:

    #3 stands out for me as something different. Another person on the other end of that may have been deeply hurt. Yes, we are all imperfect humans and often humorously so, but we need to see the difference between injuring ourselves, or our own self-image, and injuring another human being. That is not about how skillful or paradoxical you are, it is about what you did that one time, and what happened to them, and what you are going to do about it.

  13. MM3 says:

    Samantha, I am guessing you are an outcome of the mass-production of yoga teachers, 'authorized' by this dubious thing called the North American Yoga Alliance, who tend to think that the only authoritative texts of 'yoga' are the Yoga Sutra and the Bhagavad Geeta. There's a lot more. A LOT MORE. More than you can handle in one lifetime, or even several. My advice to you is to listen closely to the likes of Bernadette and others of her ilk before you throw out such inane comments. You might even want to ask Bernadette what her path is, rather than jumping to some pretty wild assumptions about this 8 limbed something or the other. You also might want to truly explore the path of Tantra…or at least begin the journey. If you are willing and open-minded, you might discover that calling yourself a 'teacher' at this really early stage in your journey is doing the world and yourself a great disservice.

  14. One of the things I love the most about Bernadette's writing is her willingness to put herself out there, regardless of people's reactions. She is profoundly honest about her strengths & challenges, which, to me, is a great example of how to live in the world with all of its complexities as well as with our own. Oh! and she's really really funny…

  15. Justicia says:

    love this, laughed out loud. and was just chastised this morning for being a non-vegetarian when I ordered breakfast ("because, you know, you're a yoga teacher" the guy told me)…..

  16. vanessafiola says:

    Loved your post!

  17. Maheshvara says:

    I am trying to understand where you are coming from and yes, true freedom can be attained whatever the circumstances. But just because "all is Shiva" it does not mean that the term 'tantrika' should be applied for any kind of behavior. Excusing one's flaws in self-discipline by claiming to be practicing a "life-affirming" sadhana is rather misleading. It is fine if you want to be whatever you want to be, but using the term 'tantrika' to define yourself because you feel free to be a cheeseburger-eating 'yogi' is not appropiate. One thing is to dissolve false identifications ('malas') by not judging yourself and avoiding putting yourself and others down for apparent imperfections and quite another is to celebrate them. To excuse yourself behind 'tantra' to do whatever you want and think it will lead you to ultimate freedom… hmmm not sure about that. It is fine to be and do whatever you want (you don't need anybodies permission for that) but to call it 'tantra'? Yogic practice certainly should be compassionate and mindful towards one's self and others. We are all walking towards our freedom at our own pace… my point is that tantra/yoga is a philosophy that requires steady practice and discipline… 24/7. But in my opinion, 'celebrating' attitudes and actions that lead to contracted states of consciousness is not 'tantra' or 'yoga'.

  18. allison says:

    B, I almost cried reading this.

  19. Amy says:

    Oh relax.

  20. Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

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  21. Rob says:

    Oh come on. It was incredibly funny and addresses the very issue that we yoga students and teachers often struggle with: the tendency to take things just a *bit* too seriously. Life is to be lived. Living includes laughter. This column made me laugh and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

  22. la femme akhilanda says:

    This list is made of win.

  23. Leah says:

    Samantha, I highly recommend a blog post by the lovely Vanessa Fiola entitled, "Your face sucks(and other things you shouldn't write on the internet).

  24. whoah this blog is excellent i really like studying your posts. Stay up the good work! You already know, many individuals are hunting around for this info, you could aid them greatly.