April 13, 2013

Please Don’t Judge.

Day one of Second Series Intensive with David Garrigues … 75 minutes into my two-hour Mysore practice:

DG: Peg, you doing the rest of your practice?
ME: No. I’m tired. I’m done.
DG: (quizzically, as if he didn’t hear my first answer) Peg, you doing the rest of your practice?
ME: Yes. just taking a little rest. 
DG: (smiles)

Of course. This is my teacher. DG. Not known for his lackadaisical approach to teaching … whose most frequent direction to me is “N0, Peg!” … a fiery and passionate powerhouse, who can teach for 10 hours straight with no break.

He prepared our group for the week by letting us all know that he was a high speed locomotive and the next five days would be full steam ahead—no stalls, no stops.

I finished my practice and in true DG style, as he forwarded me, onward and upward. Of course.

Day two (today) began with a led second and I was beyond nervous.  I’ve never had to practice this series to a teacher’s count—a high speed train, with no stops to fix my pony tail or pretend to straighten my towel.

My friend Laura assured me it wouldn’t be so bad. My friend Tova said I’d be alright. But they lied.

Half way in, I knew I was in trouble. My arms started to give and my body started shaking. Had I been in the back of the room, I would’ve escaped—but no, my mat was up front and dead center. And the conductor himself stood at the head, his feet were all I could see when I feebly lifted my head from the ball I ultimately curled myself into.

I think they call it child’s pose, but I don’t know because I’ve never heard an Ashtanga teacher actually call it.  

From my huddled position, I wanted to tell him how hard a few weeks month it’s been for me.  I wanted to explain that I’m usually much stronger, that I’ve just been having such a rough time and I’m just so damn tired.

Finally I muster the nerve to lift my head and face my teacher’s inevitable disappointment—but when our eyes meet, he just smiles. He doesn’t scold, he simply smiles back with genuine warmth. Like it’s okay. Like it doesn’t really matter.

Like perhaps,  it never really mattered.

And when my body took rest, the rest of me joined. I felt that choking sensation deep in my chest of the sobs that begged to erupt. Another time, I would hold them captive lest someone discover my vulnerability in a rare show of tears—and judge me weak.

But his smile reminded me I was safe. My acceptance in his room was not defined by whether I bust out galavasana or bust down in tears—it was unconditional. So I laid on my back and I wept. And instead of feeling weak, I felt grateful instead. To finally let go.

As DG would explain in a later discussion:  To serve others, you remove the judgment.

And when we remove the judgement, we give those we love and serve the space to be not as we want or think they should be—but who they are, in that moment. It’s the gift of a teacher, a friend, and a loved one—but also the gift of our practice as well. The open invitation to connect with what’s real, without pretense, in an effort to see our true self through the eyes of acceptance.

Because in the end, our judgment serves no one … and most especially not ourselves.


Now, if you want to cry—check out this video of DG taking kapotasana to the wall!


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Ed: Kate Bartolotta


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