I admit, I’m a bit snarky about wellness, however, as a wellness facilitator I’ve been lucky. To the point whereI feel close to possessing somewhat of a super power for finding great teachers, information, and partners, but honestly, it’s closer to luck. I’m grateful either way.

Ya see, I appreciate the “bad” and the “good”, we need em both.  However, the folks I’m in cahoots with here are quite special.  The bay area is over saturated with yoga, massage, acupuncture, healing, or…wellness.  Which is actually, pretty damn cool, but it can be overwhelming to find what we’re looking for when we’re having to filter through so much.

In my experience I’m TIOLI about most organizations I run into, we’re all saying pretty much the same thing, and I only hope we can one day not be bound by some grandiose mission statement, and just be able to take the pressure off and practice together.  Who’s better, more pure, the real deal? Practice and find out.

This brings me to Adi yoga. There are places to practice yoga which are somewhat alternatives to health clubs, and then there are straight up devoted yoga kulas.  This group is highly devoted… and a really cool group of folks.  Yoga people like to be called folks, I think.

When I first met them, I was blown away by their grounded and humble ways. They don’t do that fake humble that is so common. “I’m a student myself” “the kids teach me more than I teach them” you know the drill.

If you want to get too deep too fast, or ahead of yourself, they’ll kindly say, “it would be irresponsible for me to teach that to you right now” or  “I’m learning still and can only take you so far.”  Just as a good chiropractor can adjust your bones, but the good ones know when not to adjust.  This wisdom comes from one thing… Conscious time in practice, with a good teacher.

Their 6-7 year apprenticeships and submersions are refreshing in an industry where we are spitting out teachers after just 200 hours that are more than happy to guide you on a spiritual journey. When the 200 hour teacher training is usually clearly defined as “basic”. I appreciate and respect their devotion to practicing for growth.  It’s not a way to make profit or a potential career. Thus the students shine when you meet them. They’re a community. They’re a kula.

The students are a reflection of their teacher Dharmabodhi.  This guy can and will push you on all levels, he can ruffle your feathers, (sometimes honesty does that) and inspire the best out of you. Just looking at the devotion of the students, I’d say the proof is in the pudding however, in this day in age no one eats sugar, so I don’t know where to find proof anymore.  Guess I’ll have to ask Oprah.

I instantly knew they had information I wanted to learn and dive deeper into.   Tantra is very in line with my views on wellness and life itself. I won’t get too far into it because in honor of them, and to not make a fool of myself, I have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to tantra, thus I invite you all to experience the first gate workshop, or find something similar.

I know what you’re thinking… “Matt, you’ve never been bound by facts before, tell us more.” The only thing I know about tantra, and others I’m sure remember, is that in the 80’s it became popular due to the whole “sex for 8 hours” thing.

But there’s actually a lot more to it than that. A lot lot lot more.

The 6 realms workshop itself blew minds… Amazing!!! Taught by Michael “Yogi” Boyle of Energy of mind Everyone that was there completely agreed that they wish they’d been exposed to this work earlier on.  Such a great tool in just choosing a path, a teacher, or building internal awareness.  Now we’re doing it again with the accompanying yoga for each realm?  there’s a yoga for each realm?  of course there is, this stuff is deeeeep, and really simple.  hmm.

I’m really not a superfan or foe of any system (other than those chair aerobics hacks. C’mon granny that wheelchairs a copout do some burpees and get that heart pumping again!!!  just kidding I love you, can I get you some tea?) due to I feel that the best one is the one we’ll show up for and practice, hopefully we have the awareness to find good guidance along the way. I’d just written some posts about some beneficial realizations of Bikram’s sequencing, and another on why not to do yoga.  There’s more to it than that, it’s not about bad or good it’s about essence, balance, observation, service and integration.

I seek the essence of practice and the essence of the lives we’re living, today, now. Not just what we want, but what we do, and what what we are willing to doThen ask why? Big change is hard, big time commitments are sometimes even harder.  Just because I agree with something or see a positive side of it, doesn’t mean it’s for me. Doesn’t mean that I agree.  Doesn’t mean that I feel it’s high quality.  Doesn’t mean I’m able to meet the demands. Doesn’t mean that I reject everything else. I hear more often than I’d like, “I want to do a back flip.” I’ll usually reply, “let’s do some squats and squat jumps” and after 100 or so, more times than not, the desire to do a backflip goes away, practice will allow your true desires to unfold. Hopefully the desire to seek and keep seeking is the true intention. In this wellness world we’ll find some of the most inspiring and “right on” wisdom that has ever been layed out, the pinnacle of our mind and body’s achievements. We’ll also find some flakey weirdo charging a crystal with a folk song and waving it at your girlfriend wondering why you two won’t lighten up and just get naked and “let love flow”

Doable’s the word here, and I’m not talking about your girlfriend. I’m talking about practice, and integration.

I look at things such as Cardio kickboxing, Zumba or Bikram, like I do Linkin Park or Nickelback fans.  I’m not a fan, and I’ve never really met one, but they’re albums always seem to debut at the top of the charts, sometimes #1.  So hey, whether I agree or not, they’re tapped into a very essential pulse of our culture.  Apparently I’m not. Do we enter into a world we don’t accept with acceptance, or do we use our “alternative views” as a moral high ground over what we consider mainstream?  you know… like when we assume that people working in cubicles are miserable, thus artists must be shining beacons of joy brimming with health and full of expression.

So,why are we getting into a practice of wellness? What’s the door we’re entering through?

Is it physical, mental, spiritual?  That’s a question you answer for yourself.

The fun part is that in many of the traditional systems, it’s all there, especially when we keep the martial aspects too.

The place I struggled with most in my practice was the fact that my life wasn’t the same as, nor did it cooperate with many of the demands placed on me to devote to the practice exactly as the textbook said. You know, because it was written before… umm… paper.

Case and point:   there was a moment where I was told that by 9pm I was to turn off and meditate, be in bed by 11.  I was also told to avoid large crowds.  Ok.  I was supporting myself and others at the time as a frontman in a rock band and on stage at least 5 nights a week.  We sometimes wouldn’t go on till midnight, and the crowds kept growing.  This didn’t mean that I wouldn’t meditate, and practice everyday. What’s wrong with supporting yourself with your art? Would I have to choose? Is it a call to sacrifice the things I love?

I’m just going to assume that a couple thousand years ago, they were not considering, “hey, but what if you make your living driving around in a van playing really loud music?  Because rock and roll is gonna be pretty bad ass”  then the lame monk guy would say “they can just play these singing bowls during the day” and the monk with some sense and passion would say, “yeah… Umm… Not the same man.

So what’s the door?  In my experience as a trainer, we got options:

The “Look better, feel better” door: Sounds good to me. Shallow?  Sure, but wanting to do a handstand, kick ass, or be enlightened can be a

little ambitious and shallow at first too. Self defense can be a shallow one sided way of looking at martial arts, as just a way to defend yourself… From what?  Gangs? Our fearful minds? Our own bad habits? I see nothing wrong with wanting to look better and feel better… I tell my young student’s… don’t practice to look good… practice, you’ll look good, it’s a presence thing. Of course we’re a little shallow, we’re new at this.

and work, and sweat

Then there’s the “Chore” door:

Dr. Told you that you have to start working out or you just know you have to do it.  Maybe your body’s starting to tighten up.  Maybe some pain, etc… we know we have to, so we do it and get through it. Your body is not the dishes, your body is the thing that does the dishes.

There’s the Next Level door: I like this one. One of my favorite moments in this work was when I was practicing in a racquetball court in the 90’s.  This trainer lady who taught cardio kickboxing and “body sculpt” saw me.  She told me that it’s unhealthy for the body to bend like that.  (I was doing yoga.) Then as the weeks went by, we kept bumping into each other. She then suggested, “you should take my cardio class, it’ll kick your butt.” I suggested we trade sessions.  So I took her class… I threw ever punch as a real punch and every kick as a real kick.  Basically, I did a friggin’ hour long round.  It was fun, it kicked my butt, I’ll never do it again.  Then I got to train her.  We went through the martial arts sides of yoga and functional strength, relaxed power, breathing, etc.  After that she went off and completely devoted to deeper practice, and yes she still does body sculpt.

This door is why I love accessible practice of all kinds.  Nothing like a gateway drug.  Zumba… the wine cooler to the heroine we call holistic wellness.

This is also why I respect the Dharma Inc. (Adi Yoga) Kula.  They’re devotion was, at first, a little intimidating.  I got my own challenges.  I realized that they also have many doors and levels to their practice.  Yep, some people just show up because they want to look and feel better, cool… Then show up, you might get more than you bargained for.

Back to that superpower… when we find the “real deal,”  they can meet us at any door we’re knocking on.   My teachers, and community have been so accessible and humble, with enough depth to always be able to take me deeper, or slow me down and pull me out of the deep end when I’m getting too anxious or ahead of myself.

My approach with all this “ancient wisdom” is the same as what I use when buying a guitar.

Most electric guitars are trying to be either a Fender or a Gibson.  So… When I’m looking for a guitar, unless it’s some really good deal… I’m going with a fender or a gibson.  There are a ton of equivalent companies and budget is a concern.  However, I’ll try some other brands, but the goal is to one day just get rid of my 5 other guitars and just use one well made Fender or Gibson.

Don’t read too far into this all you boutique heady types that are now thinking, yeah but now they’re not made the same, and in factories out of… I know… It’s a metaphor, then I retract my statement and say “most guitars are trying to be 60’s fenders or gibsons”  there are you happy now.  This is what I’m talking about when it comes to “seeking essence”.

The essence of our practice must align with the essence of our lives.

What can we do, what will we do? What is your system really trying to be, a fender? a gibson?

I feel a good practice will integrate and flow with our day to day, it will enhance you, challenge you, and feel worth the effort and sacrifice. Therefore the best practice, again, is the one we’ll show up for and even do a little when we’re alone.

So do your research, where and what are the roots of the wisdom your seeking? In martial arts and yoga, there are the Total lifestyle systems such as Taoist stuff, or Traditional Shaolin, Tantra… Then there are pieces such as internal components (qi gong, tai chi, meditation), competition/sport or fitness components like kick boxing or BJJ, or Bikram. They even go as far as to combine them in MMA (kickboxing mixed with jujitsu) or power flow yogalates, I’m sure someone will come up with Taebogalates soon, so we can all save a little time, and just get it all in one swift series.  There are tons of variations, but hey there’s always the roots.  I seek the roots. Yoga…

I hope we all get there someday, It’s probably gonna look and feel a lot different than we thought.