In the series “Beginner’s mind” Mariana Romagnani shares her experience of going through the Dynamic Mindfulness Foundational Yoga Teacher Training during a pandemic.
Fire Module: Glowing coal
In the third module of Dynamic Mindfulness Foundational Yoga Teacher Training, the aspects of the Fire element, as referred to in Buddhist texts, are taken as a guideline for its progression. Fire relates to heat, radiance, energy, movement, digestion, transformation. However, it is also connected to the ideas of mental clarity and inner light. On the other hand, too much fire connects to negative aspects, such as overheating and burning out.
As we began the second half of the training, restrictions regarding the pandemic situation started to soften down in Berlin. For some, the enclosement within the very private and intimate space meant a process of quietness and focus; for others, a mental and emotional rollercoaster; and for many, the need and desire for shared moments of presence increased immensely. It seemed as if a much longer time had passed. Overwhelmed by the constant use of the screen, it became somehow obvious that it is challenging to imagine how online meetings could get any closer to the heat and energy that presence can easily bring about. In the group, few people were already experimenting with teaching relatives, friends and partners, but now, we started teaching ourselves within the group and, finally, we had again the chance and choice to meet in person and to check the many different issues that shared presence brings towards the surface.
If this arises, that arises. If this ceases, that ceases.
Right at the beginning of the training, Tatjana emphasized that the learning process is a group process. If, from one side, self-agency is important, on the other hand, nothing exists or gets transformed by itself. The many aspects of the contexts we are immersed in and the ones with whom we relate to have a constant agency upon the transformations at course. Since the online meetings offered an awkward common ground, it was challenging to grow a sense of community within the group. Nevertheless, connections were sparkling between people in a genuine way, and to have a group to join in a constant schedule brought up a cozy feeling.
The chance to meet in person again came in perfect timing with the needs we had to study the dynamics of presence, the complexities and subtleties of touch – while doing hands-on-assist, and the ways in which the exchange of energy is sensed, modeling relations with students and the ability to hold a shared space of practice. Spontaneously, people created opportunities to meet for studying and practicing together besides the already-scheduled course meetings. Tatjana herself also offered us some other situations in which we could practice with her and have more personal feedback. Throughout the days, a deepened awareness on matters of interconnectedness in the yoga practice, and on how things unfold within the delicate net of sharing knowledge, was arising.
In the yoga world, the notion of discipline is praised, especially in its connection to the term tapas, meaning inner fire or a burning desire for practice. I also used to do so. Then, having the experience of motherhood and lockdown, I’d rather talk about commitment. I realized that discipline can be misleading in a way that, instead of understanding the benefits of the practice as something that does good – especially when it radiates beyond ourselves towards others – creates an adherence to a quite bubbled self-centered focus. Even worse, it might serve to undercover a blind obedience to follow rules, or an unconscious strategy of escapism from challenges present in life. The notion of disciplined bodies has a negative connotation, linked to how we interject, within our wills, behaviors desired by biopower and its means of control. It seems that, especially in our times, the fact that even yoga can be used as a tool towards these means should be something for us to keep in mind. Commitment, on the other hand, seems like a softer concept lacking the sense of harsh austerity. It comprises the fact that transformations and changes are always on course, and by honoring that both ourselves and the situations we experience never remain the same, it welcomes the malleability of our connection to the practice. Afterall, there are so many ways in which the practice of yoga and mindfulness can be somewhere other than just on the mat.
When it comes to the fire element, maybe the middle way could be pictured as a glowing coal. Just enough to produce heat and change the atmosphere of a place in a soft way, while, at the same time, holding potential to grow big flames or release little floating sparkles. In this way, the “burning desire for practice” can be rethought so as to encompass a larger scope of possibilities, embracing whatever makes sense with what is at play for us.