My first years of dedicated yoga practice was a special time in my life. I was living with my sister in San Francisco, and feeling both comforted by being close to loved ones and also inspired by all the spiritual practices that surrounded me there. Looking back, I see that this classic combination of feeling at ease and also motivated made for very fertile environment for my self-reflection and growth.
The yoga studio where I practiced and worked was graced by the presence of a dear and quirky old man we called GreenSufi (pictured above). The suuf (that’s what we called him) was scary, funny, and ever unpredictable. His shtick employed a dramatic Indian-English accent, an aloof almost teenager coolness, and an observant almost grandfatherly friendliness.
The suuf had a deep tool box loaded with provocative looks and phrases aimed to inspire yogis to on their search for Self. Among those one-liners, was favorite line was “WAKEUP!? it’s FAAANtastic”. He challenged me to be myself (which likewise can be sometimes scary, funny, and more), to stop trying to pretend to fit into some mold. It seemed to be his greatest joy to take people out of their heads, and back into the sometimes awkward present moment.
So now I am still considering the possibility of taking this moment for all it’s worth. It takes some courage to try to let go of both
-any comfort of future expectation (I remember as a kid thinking that as soon as I grew up everything would be fine…) and
-any fear based on past experiences (how often we extinguish the possibilities of the present by projecting past trauma…).
Yoga does exactly this; it takes us out of our heads and puts us into the present moment. If you unroll your yoga mat every day, it won’t take long to figure out that there is absolutely no way of knowing how a practice will turn out before you actually do it. Sometimes we can be totally prepared (having ate, slept and prayed well) but are falling all over the mat. Other times, when we may have been all night, eating popcorn and gossiping with your friends, it’s possible that yoga practice is a breeze.
The yoga is in working skillfully with what is right now, and continuing to do that so we can expect the unexpected…
The GreenSufi passed away last year. May he rest in peace. May we carry on his mission to ‘know the now’ and help ourselves and others to wakeup, because it truly is ‘faaantastic’.