January 31, 2012

I Have Decided to Leave Nothing. ~ Dana Slamp

One Teacher Responds to Recent Gossip & Questionable Press

I have decided to leave nothing because I joined nothing.  I have decided to honor those who joined and admire those who left.  I have decided to support those who don’t talk smack when they leave an organization, because they exhibit the cool equanimity I aim to achieve; and I’ve decided to remain neutral to those who do feed on gossip, because their behavior looks a lot more like mine.  I’ve decided that Sutra 1.33 has got a lot going on.

In it, Patanjali suggests that, “By cultivating attitudes of friendliness towards the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind remains calm.”  In this light, can we then jump to the conclusion that a certain bunch of clever yogis who are distancing themselves from an organization are doing so because of some kind of evil?

No.  We cannot.  And  besides, we’re supposed to stay away from evil gossip anyway.  That should be easy for a non-joiner like me, right?

Not so much.

My current monthly dose of gossip magazines exceeds my consumption of desserts, and though I don’t often read the chatty yoga blogs, my ears perk up when I hear something tasty.  Social scientists wouldn’t characterize this common behavior as sociopathic.  Far from it.  Gossip has been shown in studies over the past decade to serve important social functions, mainly self-policing and defining group membership for a stronger society.  But when, exactly, does it just turn into a feedback loop of Schadenfreude?

This is one of the many places where Sutra 1.33 comes in handy.  It directs us in right intentions–compassion, friendliness, and delight, no less–even if our brain stem seeks social survival around the water cooler.  And when I imagine myself in the position of a teacher who has been attacked by bad gossip or bad press, such compassion can come naturally.

From the perch of the non-joiner, I couldn’t care less if a great teacher is “certified” by this or “inspired” by that.  We should, of course, always honor our teachers, but we must also honor ourselves.  How do I know I’m in the presence of a good teacher?  Whether or not we teach the same style or wear the same brand or do triangle pose the same way, they always make me feel at home.

Dana Slamp is a senior teacher at Pure Yoga and the former managing teacher of Pure West. She teaches, lectures, and leads kirtan nationally at festivals, studios, and teacher trainings. Her Prema Vinyasa classes and trainings are based upon the guidelines of Krishnamacharya and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. She would never be a member of a club that would have her as a member.

This article was prepared by Sheri McCord.

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