love

meeting the enemy

meeting the enemy

Ultimately, as I reflect, the greatest obstacles I have faced in life have molded me in to the person I am. Injuries have made me a clearer and safer teacher, times of financial hardship have given me insight into the value of money and empathy toward others who struggle with it, experience both first and second-hand with depression has gifted me with the ability to hold space for myself and others at their lowest. Moving to a new land where I do not speak the language or understand the cultural nuances gives me a small glimpse into what it feels like to be invisible or powerless. It has also given me a greater appreciation for the ways in which I am incredibly privileged. When I offer gratitude to my challenges, when I meet my "enemies" with thankfulness and compassion, it transforms me. Even if the person or situation is not changed at all, I am. How I see and feel and taste hardship changes. And, in my limited but real experience, it makes a profound difference. 

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bell hooks and Thich Nhat Hanh on love and compassion

bell hooks and Thich Nhat Hanh on love and compassion

You want to be human. Be angry, it’s okay. But not to practice is not okay. To be angry, that is very human. And to learn how to smile at your anger and make peace with your anger is very nice. That is the whole thing—the meaning of the practice, of the learning. By taking a look at your anger it can be transformed into the kind of energy that you need—understanding and compassion. It is with negative energy that you can make the positive energy. A flower, although beautiful, will become compost someday, but if you know how to transform the compost back into the flower, then you don’t have to worry. You don’t have to worry about your anger because you know how to handle it—to embrace, to recognize, and to transform it. So this is what is possible.

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To Begin With, the Sweet Grass

Will the hungry ox stand in the field and not eat
of the sweet grass?
Will the owl bite off its own wings?
Will the lark forget to lift its body in the air or
forget to sing?
Will the rivers run upstream?

Behold, I say – behold
the reliability and the finery and the teachings
of this gritty earth gift.

Eat bread and understand comfort.
Drink water, and understand delight.
Visit the garden where the scarlet trumpets
are opening their bodies for the hummingbirds
who are drinking the sweetness, who are
thrillingly gluttonous.

For one thing leads to another.
Soon you will notice how stones shine underfoot.
Eventually tides will be the only calendar you believe in.

And someone’s face, whom you love, will be as a star
both intimate and ultimate,
and you will be both heart-shaken and respectful.
And you will hear the air itself, like a beloved, whisper:
oh, let me, for a while longer, enter the two
beautiful bodies of your lungs.

What I loved in the beginning, I think, was mostly myself.
Never mind that I had to, since somebody had to.
That was many years ago.
Since then I have gone out from my confinements,
through with difficulty.

I mean the ones that thought to rule my heart.
I cast them out, I put them on the mush pile.
They will be nourishment somehow (everything is nourishment
somehow or another).

And I have become the child of the clouds, and of hope.
I have become the friend of the enemy, whoever that is.
I have become older and, cherishing what I have learned,
I have become younger.

And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?
Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.

~ Mary Oliver ~

The New Era of Breakti: Beyond me

Perhaps you have been wondering why things have been so quiet on the Breakti front lately.  There are several reasons for that.  I am writing today, at a crossroads, as I prepare to let go of the two weekly Breakti classes that Om Factory has been so gracious to let me try on at their studio.  It is time, for many reasons, to let them go.  

As I always imagined it to be, Breakti has become larger than me.  I never wanted it to be the Anya Show and it initially had become that more than I ever planned - perhaps a necessary step in the process, but it certainly wasn’t my vision of what was ultimately possible.  What is amazing is that now there are many teachers out there who have trained with me who can represent this work in some way.  Some teachers, like Elisa Mangubat, are working with teens and doing incredible things with the meeting points of hip hop culture and yoga.  Other teachers, like Sasha Nelson, are integrating their knowledge of holistic nutrition, wellness and coaching into workshops and retreats that span mindful movement styles and self-awareness on many levels.  Angelina Borodiansky incorporates what she has learned into her aerial classes incredibly skillfully.  Many other teachers who have trained with me incorporate the work in their own ways.  That is amazing.  It is awesome.  It is what I always wished for the work.  And I will continue to mentor them along in that process, however what I recognize is that the capacity for me to mentor them on their own journey is dependent on me letting go of part of my own journey, in some ways.  

In the same breath, I have struggled to make Breakti a codified practice and have realized that it isn’t. Break”dance” is a freestyle dance.  Yoga is a freeform practice that meets you where you are and is meant to be healing and connective on every level.  Hip hop as a movement has evolved, devolved, drifted and meandered in its path.  All of these forms influence who I am and what I teach and so every time I came up with “set sequences”, “set rules”, etc. for the teachings, my own practice would ultimately supersede those structures and I would find myself leaving them behind.  In the times that I have tried to force the expected into a practice that could not, should not encourage expectation, I have been left with frustration and a heavy heart.  

Ultimately I am working with a practice that is continuously evolving, constantly re-integrating and reforming itself.  In other words, it is alive.  To codify the form could perhaps make me a lot of money and help me to easily teach others to teach it as one simple style of class, taught in rote fashion and let that be enough.  But it wasn’t ever enough.  The trainings I have given have been similar but also vastly different.  The material was in many ways the same but even within a span of six months the Breakti practice had changed enough that I was teaching different things to new trainees.  I recognize this is a part of every good practice and every good teacher, but for the companies that wanted to make money off of me and Breakti, it can’t work like that.  And for branding and marketing purposes, it can be hard to pin down the “look” of something that seems to shift as soon as you try to fix anything about it.  I have outgrown the “get down in your dog” tagline of five years ago.  I have outgrown the urban influenced ganesha logo that still represents this class.  I still love those things and the thought and work that went into them, but they don’t speak to what I am doing now.  The more I have tried to rebrand myself, the more I question why?  In another five years I will simply be in the same boat again.  So I’ve decided to take it from a different perspective.

Over time I have realized that Breakti has become just another iteration of what yoga is.  It is a yoga practice, through and through.  There is nothing flashy, trendy or incredibly innovative about it, except that I am constantly present with what I am teaching, constantly looking at my own mindful movement practice and seeking out what is valuable and potent and offering that out, often straying out of the realm of traditional yoga through the influence of other forms I study which inspire me; breaking and contemporary dance, therapeutic body work, and more.  I suppose this could be considered “innovative”, but I also believe that weaving the tapestry of our livelihood through felt experience should be the norm of yoga teachers everywhere.  No matter what we teach, what style or form, we should always be trying it on and questioning what is working, what is skillful; what can be incorporated and what can be let go.  Ultimately, all of the scaffolding that we create for ourselves and in which we learn must also be taken down at some point in order for the inherent grace and beauty of the practice to spill forth.  

What I teach in Breakti-labeled classes is what I teach everywhere - it influences all of the yoga I teach and it always will.  There are certainly some unique and slightly different postures and transitions you may not find in other teachers’ classes, but movement is archetypal and the internet leaves nothing to guessing should you wish to include breakin movement in your yoga classes.  How I teach everything is my very own method, taken from a myriad of other methods that work well and are skillful, put together in a way that makes sense in my body, in my heart and mind.  At the same time, I continue to study.  I continue to be curious about where my blind spots are and I continue to bring what moves me into my classes in a way that connects with people.  That is Breakti.  That is also yoga.  Yoga is Breakti.  Breakti is yoga.  

So what’s in a name?  This name Breakti has both haunted me and cheered me on.  At first it was a meeting point between bhakti and breakdance; still two things I hold dear to my heart and which influence me in numerous ways.  My dear and longtime friend and former Breakti DJ affiliate, Ben “Scribe” Goldfarb came up with the name and it was perfect for the time.  It was a perfect meeting of where I stood at that moment.  It still resonates in many ways, especially for the incredibly fun and bhakti-filled workshops I still lead and for the amazing work myself and others are doing with Breakti Kids.  But somehow the name has also limited me.  It has confused participants or would-be participants at times , and it has alienated perhaps more than included for one reason or another.  

In some ways Breakti has defined me in the same ways that I have defined it, and yet both the practice and I are so much more than the limitations that can be imposed by being viewed as one thing and one thing only.  Without going into much detail, I will say that I have felt confined by the image that the Breakti practice has led others to project onto me and I’m ready to shed some of that.  I am also ready to turn my attention onward and encourage the teachers I have trained to grow in their own way.  Maybe one of them will take Breakti and run with it, and maybe no one will.  But what is important to me is that they all feel supported and I haven’t had the time or energy to give them time even when they asked for it.  That all changes now.  

I began this letter by stating that this work is so much larger than me, and it is.  It will continue to grow in many ways.  I will continue to teach Breakti workshops, and am currently working on a Breakti Kids training; I know other teachers have some really cool stuff up their sleeves as well.  But no longer do I wish for it to be the solo Anya Porter Show.  It was certainly fun for a while, but it gets lonely going solo.  Breakti is about community.  It is about connection, integrity, and acting from a place of skillfulness and realness.  It is certainly about living your potential but it is also about lifting others up along the way.  That hasn’t been happening the way I have wanted it to happen, so here starts a new era.  

I want to thank so many people who have supported me in this process.  I can’t even begin to list you all.  I hope to see you in class sometime soon, or at a workshop or training.  Until then…  keep it real.  

So much on my mind that I can’t recline
Blastin holes in the night til she bled sunshine
Breathe in, inhale vapors from bright stars that shine
Breathe out, weed smoke retrace the skyline
Heard the bass ride out like an ancient mating call
I can’t take it y'all, I can feel the city breathin
Chest heavin, against the flesh of the evening
Sigh before we die like the last train leaving

Black Star, Respiration

I wrote the following passage on my Breakti page yesterday, it applies to the class, but it also applies to anything that you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t out of fear of some kind of failure. Go talk to that cute person. Go buy some oil paints and learn to stretch a canvas. Go call your family member that you got in a fight with and apologize. Go take some time for yourself and be still in a beautiful place. ….. 

……The more people tell me they are afraid come to Breakti because they are worried it’s too hard or they are nervous…. The more I realize I have to make myself try things that scare me or are new so I can keep it really real and reinforce for my students that it’s not about being the best or doing tricks. Breakti is about finding ways to approach our experience with open mind and compassion through the process of movement. Start there and no matter what you “get” in terms of the “fancier” postures, it’s really ALL GOOD because you already “got” it by trying. The point is that you show up. You show up for yourself and you might actually surprise yourself. Nothing that is new is really easy. That’s why it’s a PRACTICE. And stepping up to the things that take us out of our comfort zone from time to time is an amazing way to practice being exactly where you are. #love #breakti

John Steinbeck to his son - on love...

A letter from Steinbeck to his son, in response to his son’s confession of love while at boarding school.  A beautifully written letter, indeed.  From Brainpickings.

New York
November 10, 1958

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply — of course it isn’t puppy love.

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it — and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone — there is no possible harm in saying so — only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.

Love,

Fa

To recap the weekend… 

LOTS OF LOVE.

Little Dragon concert Friday night, Reebok Sports Club #Breakti Saturday afternoon, and an amazing benefit filled with some of my favorite people last night at YogaWorks.  There are no words to describe how it feels to be so lucky.

Instead I leave you with the song that Yukimi finished the encore with Friday night.  My all time favorite…