Compassion course: week 5

Hey there! This is the fourth installment in a weekly svadjaja (self study) series I’m doing based on NYCNVC’s online Compassion Course. As I go through the weekly lessons offered in the course, I share my thoughts here. Check out last week’s post on needs and strategies!

Oh man, did I need some compassion this week! Though the lesson for this week was to notice subtler, “non eventful” interactions, I’ve been preoccupied with moving out of our apartment and becoming nomads for the next 5 months. I haven’t been very good about keeping a journal and jotting down interactions throughout the week. However, my weekly NVC group has kept me coming back to the NVC mindset and given me an opportunity to practice this skill with others. It’s such an open and warm atmosphere that we’re creating, and a grounding experience of Being Present for each other and for ourselves for 90 minutes each week. I’ll be sad to leave the group — but also looking forward to connecting with NVCers outside of the US.

I had two big take-aways from this week’s lesson:

1. Noticing and listening are a big deal.

Simply being present for yourself or another goes a long way. It sounds easy, yet I often either assume it’s happening or dismiss it as unnecessary. But I’ve noticed that really being paying attention — not thinking of a response, going through my to-do list for later, or reading something on my phone — is a big deal. Truly listening to someone and receiving what’s alive within them at the moment does a lot to connect me to them. I end up having a much more meaningful conversation and I feel we both walk away fulfilled with the interaction.

2. Anxiety is not a bad thing.

Check it out. According to Merriam-Webster, anxiety is simply defined as

: fear or nervousness of what might happen

: a feeling of wanting to do something very much

After realizing the excitement and happiness I felt this morning about our trip was also anxiety, I was a bit confused. M encouraged me to look up the definition, and so I found what’s above. Huh. Though I’ve been told almost all my life that anxiety and fear are bad things (to be avoided or gotten rid of as quickly as possible), I’d never actually looked up what they meant. And it’s not bad at all. “A feeling of wanting to do something very much”? Hell, that’s how I felt about becoming a yoga teacher, and it brought me to a little town in Central Illinois for a year of intensive study and discovery! And fear? Though unpleasant, I’ve learned over the last few years that when I give fear space and look it in the eye, it’s a valuable tool for me to learn from. As I learn to choose what my relationships with fear and anxiety are, I can more skillfully use them to become who I want to be.

Lastly, here’s a picture from a walk I took through Washington Square Park, NYC in 2012 (damn, time flies!):

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The man in the cowboy hat was working on a mandala, and I’d stopped to admire his work. I appreciated the detail and care he put into his work, one grain at a time, knowing it would be swept away after it was complete. I’m beginning to see life this way. I work to create something of my own, one grain at a time with my actions and words, which show who I choose to be. And one day this beautiful work will be complete, and I will be gone. So today I’ll put on my cowboy hat and let fall a few grains of sand. Can’t wait to see what I make 🙂

Round-the-world itinerary

Edit: M asked why our US leg was not included. I’d thought of them as two separate trips, but I like his idea of calling it a warm-up. So there it is.

At the end of September, my partner M and I embark on a one year round the world trip. As we travel,  I plan to teach yoga along the way and connect with fellow yogis and anyone curious about yoga. I also hope to deepen my studies of yoga.

Here’s our itinerary::

The Warm-Up..

August: NYC

September: San Francisco, Seattle & Tri-cities, WA, Vancouver

The Main Event..

September: Japan

October: Taiwan, Thailand, Myanmar

November: Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam

December: Vietnam, Indonesia

January: Malaysia, Italy

Feb – TBD: Europe, N. Africa

Excited to embark on this journey! Can’t wait to share photos and stories like these! 😉

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Aahhhhh! We’re moving!

Just picked up malaria medication for our trip! The countdown is real: 3 days till we move out, 2.5 weeks till we leave Champaign, IL for good, and 8 weeks till we leave the US of A!

So many changes happening now: packing up the things we need and shedding the things we don’t, scouring the web for daily costs at each country (and we’ve got quite a list: Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Italy, Myanmar to name a few), beginning the process of eventually moving to Europe: deciding which country makes the most sense, where can we find jobs, and don’t even get me started on work visas…it’s all exciting and stressful and scary and — what I try to tell myself — fun.

My partner M has been immensely supportive when I start freaking out about the future. He reminds me that I’ll only experience this moment once. Isn’t there a yoga sutra about this?

Ah, how about the first one? Atha yoga anushasanam: yoga is now. Today, I’m reminded to be present and not let fear rule my perspective. Much like working on a difficult pose on the mat, working on letting go of incessant (non-helpful) thoughts is yoga off the mat.

I leave you with this Buddhist temple that I came across on a hike outside of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia back in 2013. It was tucked away, bathed in the silence of the forest surrounding it. For me it’s a reminder of being present, and letting the little mysteries of life unravel on the path I’ve chosen to take 🙂

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Compassion course: week 4

Happy Friday! This is the third installment of a weekly svadjaja (self study) series I’m doing on a year long online Non-Violent Communication (NVC) course that I’m taking. I’m tracking my progress as I go through each week’s lessons. Check out last week’s post on feelings here!

Needs. The root of compassionate thinking. This week was a revisit of needs. Why do they matter? Are there good and bad needs? What about needs vs. strategies (i.e. how we try to meet our needs)?

The idea that the things people do are their attempts to meet their needs is new to me. I think this course will be the beginning of a new way of thinking, and of improving communication and relationships by maintaining connection during times it’s easier to just disengage. How many times have I written someone off based on something they said, their actions, or how they look that day? It’s tempting to disconnect, especially with something I feel strongly about (like during an argument…*cough cough*) because it’s easier for me to think about right vs wrong or fundamental differences than to consider that I might be wrong or that the other person has their story and their needs too.

The biggest takeaway I got from this week was the idea of strategies vs needs. Our needs are universal, but the strategies we use to meet them can differ. So the next time I get into a conflict with someone else, I’ll try to think less of “why the hell would they say that to me??” and ask myself “what universal need are they trying to meet?” I think this is a step in the right direction 🙂

Compassion Course: week 3

Hey guys! This is post number 2 in a weekly svadjaja (self study) series I’m doing to share my thoughts during a one year online Non-Violent Communication (NVC) course with NYCNVC. I’ll be publishing every Friday my thoughts on the previous week.  Click here for weeks 1&2!

Feelings. What are they good for? Absolutely nothing?

This week was about feelings and what they do, exactly. From the NVC perspective, feelings tell us what our needs are. They could be “good” feelings, meaning needs are being met, or “bad” feelings, meaning those needs are not met. In short, feelings connect us with our needs.

Whoa.

I wish I had known that growing up. I was raised in the US by Taiwanese parents, and traditionally, Taiwanese people don’t talk about feelings. Opening up or sharing the vulnerability and tenderness of feelings was unheard of, and greatly discouraged when I tested the waters as a kid. Though feelings of anger, disappointment, accomplishment or satisfaction were ok, things like being scared (and why) or feeling affectionate were not. I spent a lot of my childhood trying to understand why that was, and why the “American” kids were more able to express their feelings.

A few years ago, about two years into my practice of yoga, I really began to look at what was going on inside. I recognized points where I would feel extremely frustrated with myself or others, yet unable to find the words to express it, much less move forward from it. These uncomfortable feelings were trying to tell me about my unmet needs for things like autonomy, connection, acceptance, and understanding. But no one had taught me that.

So, I started with guided meditation to let myself feel my feelings. I’d spent over two decades pushing them away! This was an intense experience, but so worth it. I began to open up to myself, and as a result I felt more connected to my internal weather and climate (and more grounded too). I saw my relationships with family and friends improve because I was more aware of who I was and more accepting of where I was in my journey to understand myself.

Most importantly, I was honoring who I was. I continued to meditate and joined a meditation group when I moved to Champaign, IL last year. I also met with a counselor for a few months to get clarity on things I felt stuck on. And my yoga practice gives me a chance to check in regularly to see where I am and how I’m feeling that day.

Thats not to say there aren’t days where I do not feel accepting of where I am or how I’m feeling. But being aware of that goes a long way, and my interactions with myself and those around me are that vastly more authentic and fulfilling because of the work I’ve done. But good days or bad, each one is an opportunity to change old, stale patterns (samskaras) of thinking and create something new. It’s all part of the yoga practice 🙂

Soyee Yoga FB and upcoming site!

Hey guys!

My Facebook Page, Soyee Yoga is up and running! Check out events and follow my travels as my partner and I take off for a one year round-the-world trip beginning in August. I’m also working on a site with my good friend, foodie/movie buff and talented developer Kim (check out her site here). That will be a great place to find out more about me, my yoga teaching experience and inspiration, and check out photos from my trip as well as finding out where I’ll be. Even better: if we’re in the same neighborhood, let’s connect and practice together!

I’m really excited about sharing more yoga with you, and about embarking on this trip! The roll out date for the site is the end of the summer, so stay tuned!

I’ll end with this mantra: lokah samasta sukhino bhavantu — may all beings everywhere be happy and free 🙂

Compassion Course: Weeks 1 & 2

I plan to do a weekly series on my thoughts and a-ha moments from my Non-Violent Communication course, published every Friday to kick off the weekend with some love for yourself and those around you. Jai!

I’m currently two weeks into a one-year online Non-Violent Communication (NVC) course with New York City-based Thom Bond, founder of NYCNVC. I chose to take this course to deepen my understanding of myself and how I interact with the world around me. I think it will be especially enlightening as I am traveling around the world, beginning in two months!

In this last month that I’m in Champaign, IL, I also meet once a week with other NVCers at Green Yoga Spa, a lovely house and spa run by longtime yogi Mary Wolters. In the last two weeks, we focused on needs and judgements. The main idea is: everything we do, we do to fulfill a need. This is an eye opening concept to me, something I’m pondering as we delve deeper into the course. It’s a simple statement, but woooosh! It’s powerful. Pretty regularly, I meet people who do or say things that baffle me. People that have had vastly different life experiences than I, with different (and sometimes conflicting) perspectives and attitudes. Sometimes it’s hard for me to see where they’re coming from. That’s when the judging happens.

In our meetings, we identify feelings that we feel as a reaction to a conversation or action with another. Then, we connect those with needs that we had associated with those feelings. That is pretty eye-opening in and of itself. Kind of like “oh, so that’s what my feelings are for. I didn’t know they could be so useful!” The second part is an even bigger whammy: doing the same process for the other person. What were they feeling, and what possible needs were they trying to meet?

When I think about the violence happening this week in the US between police and Black Americans, my first reaction is frustration and helplessness. Frustrated that the problem is so deeply embedded in our law enforcement system, and at the lack of awareness and acknowledgement by so many in this country. Helpless because I feel like I’m on the outside looking in. What can I do to change things? I can voice my support to my black friends, to the black community, that I stand with them. But real change comes when we unite and see each other. Real change comes when we see our very real and very different experiences growing up Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, rich, poor, gay, straight. How can we make this happen? How do we unite the law enforcement community with all of those they vowed to serve and protect?

Compassion is a word I come across all the time, but what does it really mean? I love this take on it: compassion is love in action. It applies to actions toward yourself and towards those around you. I think if we practice this by being compassionate towards our own feelings and needs and by recognizing and honoring the feelings and needs of someone that seems so different from ourselves, then we have a chance of truly uniting and enacting real and meaningful change.

Living yoga: making money as a yoga teacher

So…lately I’ve been thinking about the financial viability of being a yoga teacher. The question that’s looming in my mind is, “can I make it as a yoga teacher?” During my year in teacher training, I focused on deepening my understanding of yoga and learning how to teach it — mindfully sharing my knowledge with others. This is what I’m deeply passionate about. I’ve also been lucky enough to have another job that allows me to study and teach yoga with minimal distractions and financial stress.

But now that I’ve received my certification and have begun getting paid for teaching, my next thought is “how do I shift a bigger part of my source of income to yoga?” My goal is to exclusively teach yoga. However, I’ve spoken to my yoga teaching friends and read up on salary statistics and yoga teachers’ anecdotes online, and most of them shout, “for your sanity and survival, don’t quit your day job!” Yikes.

So how do typical, non-celebrity yoga teachers make it work? A few ways: 1) they offer overlapping services such as massage therapy, Reiki healing, nutritional/lifestyle guidance, or physical therapy, 2) they offer workshops, retreats, or teacher trainings, or 3) they have supplementary income from another source. Often it’s a combination of these.

With the pragmatics of teaching yoga in mind, I check back with myself again. How do I define “making it”? What is my intention behind teaching yoga exclusively? What am I afraid of?

***meditation break***

Ahh, some clarity! My picture of success, after setting aside my ego, is to share the joy of my yoga practice with others, and to help others see themselves and live their dharma,  or purpose. My fears are not making enough money to live off of, and at the same time letting money and egotistic measures of success cloud my intention, my message and my teachings. Fear of uncertainty of the future.

So…what’s the answer? The answer is…I don’t know what will happen. But what I can do is set up ways to share yoga in the world we live in: through classes, workshops, word of mouth, online presence, and to track how much I earn doing what I love. Since I’ll be traveling around the world beginning this fall, I’ll have a unique opportunity to connect with people from many places and with many perspectives. If anything, this will help me become a better yoga teacher. Who knows where I’ll be in 5 years? For now, I will be here, practicing yoga.


Image credit: Hanson Mao