Thursday, August 17, 2017

This Marvelous Gift Part III - the final chapter.

July 18, 2013. 

The last blog post. Its been over four years since the Mat last traveled (on the Internet). 

I had recently taught my first ever yoga teacher training, and was in the process of advancing my own knowledge. Even though I was pretty confident in my offering, I still wasn't sure who I was as a teacher (I promise to Instagram the exact pose I'm in when I have this moment of revelation). Since then I've led nine yoga teacher trainings, and completed two advanced trainings of my own. Teachers I've trained have their own following, lead their own trainings, and have opened their own studios. When I see how beloved they are, and how respected they are, and what great teachers they've become, it fills me with pride. I actually have the little sprouts of a teaching tree!! 

During this time I've also completed two courses in Thai Bodywork, the beginning stages of Thai Folk Healing. This is a practice that I was introduced to back in 2007, and through the years (and acro yoga) I found my way back. This practice is more than just a complement. It's has awakened a new desire share Spirit in a different way. Teaching yoga asana has taught me that people need to heal their bodies, as we much as they need to learn to use them with grace. Learning Thai bodywork has given me the tools to help facilitate that healing. It has also taught me to actively use Metta, which is a Buddhist principle meaning loving kindness. This type of active kindness is referenced in the Yoga Sutras as well described as the virtue "maitri" or friendliness. It is even said that by cultivating friendliness and compassion one attains the power to transmit friendliness and compassion. And so I openly wish you well. 

Personally it's been four years of change, triumph, success, failure, growth, experience, love and lost love. The interesting thing about being human is the being human part, because everyday is an adventure!! I really feel like I've done a good job of healing myself, and the relationships that needed healing. I have a lot of work to do on that one, but it's work I'm ready for. This practice has prepared me. 

Enough time has passed for me to have traveled to the other side of the world twice, then lose the right to do so. Pay your bills, debt karma may not have been mentioned in any of the classics of yoga philosophy, but that shit is real!! It will come back to get you. Don't worry Panama, I'll get there soon. #redfrogbeach

Enough time has gone by to gain faith in humanity, lose it, regain it only to lose it again (#trump). I realized some time ago that we all have a voice, and it's complete up to us to use our voices to send messages of peace and positivity whenever the opportunity arises. We also must use our voice and influence to push toward a more unified and collectively sustained existence on our beautiful planet. There is far to much at stake to allow our world to dissolve into chaos fueled by greed and hate. We have to champion our own causes, be heroic in our communities, and be monuments of humanity. We have to act more as stewards and less like "rulers". 

This realization, and the shaping of myself to be able to come to this realization could not have been possible without the practice and discipline of yoga. Throughout everything I've seen and been through, the places I've gone and the beautiful people I've met along the way, the common thread has always been this practice. Since I made up mind to attend my first YTT back in 2002, all of my best life experiences have involved or somehow been influenced by - yoga. 

<In writing this I realized that one of my children was born during this time, but I also quickly realized that he too was the result of yogic connection. Yoga created a life>

So when I have been trying to describe a "gift" it's difficult. It's not a tangible gift, though there have been definite tangible things. And please don't think it's my gift, as if I have some paranormal yoga teaching ability. It's not the things that yoga has done for me, thought I've joked that yoga saved my life. It was never that serious. But maybe, just maybe, maybe yoga GAVE me life. A purpose and and outlet. A methodology that enables me to navigate this realm of infinite human potential, and allows me to live my life to the fullest. The practice is the gift. I only have to keep going to this everlasting spring to stay replenished. It will never go away, and even when I forget it is always there to remind me. 
 Jah Bless

Much gratitude to the practice of yoga, my teachers, my students (who are also my teachers), any one who has ever attended class, and especially anyone who has ever taken the time to read any of my blogs. I never knew what I was really getting into when I started this, and I never finished it properly. This is as good a time as any I think. My original mat, the Traveling Mat, my old trusty mat that traveled coast to coast, and was the platform for thousands of hours of teaching and practice, has been lost for a while now. Misplaced in the shuffle of life I guess...

....and so with the mat gone let this blog, this public exercise in private introspection also come to a close. It's been a good ride, but always forward, forward always. There is something new on the horizon. A new expression to be shared perhaps??? Only time will tell. 

Peace. Out. 

{check out if you can't wait for time to tell. A new, as yet unnamed journal will be available soon - bless}

Thursday, July 18, 2013

This Marvelous Gift: Part II

Greetings from Satchidanda Ashram-Yogaville!

For the past two and a half weeks I have been living in a tent, attending the Integral Yoga Intermediate Teacher Training program, which is a residential course. At this very moment it is extremely hot and muggy in the hills of Buckingham, Virginia, which is actually a welcomed respite from the continuous torrential downpours I have experienced just about the entire time I've been here. Seriously, out of the first 14 days I was here, it rained 12. I was actually run out of my tent one particularly soggy night, taking refuge in the dorm for three days until things dried out. It has been quite the experience: intense, enriching, fulfilling, frustrating at times, enlightening, and exhausting. And hopefully I've gotten used to it because I'm signed up for the Advanced TT that starts on August 11. When I tell people that here they either look at me with wonder or concern. But this is me, all or nothing. I knew that once I made the decision to pursue an advanced certification, that it couldn't be a one weekend a month deal. I had to take the biggest bite I could, and jump into the hottest fire. So I know at the end of the summer I will be full and well cooked!

But being away has a cost (literally, as a yoga teacher with no benefits, I don't get paid vacations), and I've been on the go since 5/22. Austin, Charlotte, New York, and DC. Now here. It's a strain on my family, the people who help me to run Project Yoga Richmond and have to pick up my slack, and especially my students, who grow into a routine only to have it change each time I'm called away. It's a challenge to stay connected, while at the same time continuing to evolve, grow and experience new things in life. But I won't say its a sacrifice. In fact, since I've been doing this spiritual work over the past few weeks I've eliminated the "s" word from my vocabulary. What I'm doing is not sacrifice. I'm not giving up anything, and gaining everything. Whether its traveling to teach workshops and connecting with Yogis across the map, or diving headfirst into a residential program, everything that's being done now is preparing me for a more prosperous future and a greater ability fulfill all the duties and roles I've been given. The connections push me forward, and this immersion is what I needed in my life. And its all about the yoga, the teaching and the path. Whatever I do or have done since I've started this journey has been for the sake of yoga. I work to become a better student to improve upon my ability to teach. I teach because it is what I love to do and it so happens to be my chosen career path. And sometimes it takes me away from the very people who have supported me and enabled to utilize this gift.

But the going away isn't always so dramatic. Sometimes its just an issue of changing class times, or giving up a particular class to focus elsewhere. Sometimes class themes are modified to fit students have advanced in their practice. Change, change, change. The one constant in this life. And yoga teachers and their students are not isolated from it. I have gotten messages often "J, how come you know longer teach the so and so class?" One student said to me once "J, you said you would never leave the gym, and now they have cancelled the class entirely". This really breaks my heart, because the main role of a yoga teacher is service. I am here to serve, and when I feel as though I'm not doing my job, it makes me sad. But what am I to do? Before becoming a yoga teacher I was a person who had a "job". And if the job wasn't serving me I left and found another one. And no one cared. This is what separates a mind/body professional from all other means of employment. It is the connection, the bond that is formed when you are able to witness transformation first hand, and know that you had a part to play in it. Its the evolving experience of practicing yoga. As our yoga practice evolves, we begin to seek out instructors that can move us deeper. And not just physically. We begin to notice that the physical postures and sensations serve the purpose of waking us up to the possibilities of a more awakened and authentic existence. We want to know, "who can touch my spirit?" We look for those who are able to bring out the best that is hidden within us. Those who can help us to find our highest potential. A good teacher will help you to open the physical body and all it's potential. A great teacher will help you to open your heart. I hope that one day I will become such an instructor. This is my desire, if I should have such a thing. To help open the hearts of my students to be able to give and receive more love. This is my cherished gift, the role I seem to be growing into. And for that, I give thanks.

One Love, Om Shanti, Shanti, Shantihi

Monday, June 10, 2013

This Marvelous Gift - Part 1

Some time ago I entered a yoga photo contest that required that you submit two photos, and answer a specific question. The question was, "why do you do yoga?" I paused on this because I never really consider my on journey too much any more, intuitively I know that I'm still "on" my journey, and I've been much more concerned about the journey of my students more so than my path. But of course, I have my reasons to and this is how I tried to sum it up:

 I came to yoga because I was looking for something. I needed more hands on spirituality than orthodox theology could ever give me. I realized that "yoga" is simply a quest for the true self, and it takes many forms. Because I practice yoga I know I control my own destiny.  I practiced martial arts for discipline and physicality, but I studied the wisdom of the east to answer some of the questions that whispering at my heart. I found answers in the Bhagavad Gita, which only strengthened what I learned in the Bible. I was so excited to receive my stack of philosophy and anatomy textbooks in my first teacher training that I mostly ignored the asanas until close to the end and I realized I was going to have to actually "teach" yoga classes. I wasn't aware yet of the power of the asana practice. Now, when I practice Hatha there is a certain exhilaration that comes with the heighten awareness of one's self. I have that same awareness when I teach yoga as well. When I instruct the class, it is a true and genuine outpouring of love from my soul. I really feel and try to visualize my offering to the students, and I end each class thanking them for the opportunity to serve. There is a connection there that no other "job" could have ever given me. I do yoga because yoga has been life saving, life altering and a life blessing. I like to think that I was born to do yoga. Namaste

Of course there's more to this story, and I try my best to stay present as it unfolds. I have been very fortunate that yoga has become a part of my life, it's benefits to numerous to name. Through yoga I have made important connections, and lifelong friends. Through yoga, I've been given the ability to help reshape our world, by contributing to peace by finding it within my own heart. I have many wonderful people in my life who support me in my endeavors as I do theirs. I am so blessed to be able to share my gift, which is what allows us to express what is truly wonderful and awesome about ourselves. Indeed, teaching has become a form of meditation for me. True, as teachers our job is to help facilitate the heightened experience, but each time we sit down to teach, we have to bring ourselves into a heightened state in order to transmit the teaching. As the class proceeds, we move deeper into this state, and it's normally during the juicy parts of the class when we feel the most connected to the students. There is a sense of oneness, where effort and intention join forces with the ebb and flow of breath to create a harmonious dance of mind, bodies, and spirit. At some point during this process I sometimes realize that I'm not actually doing anything, it's happening and I'm simply observing. The doer and the doing become the same thing. These are the profound moments when my reason for doing yoga become crystal clear.

One Love and Namaste!

J Miles

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Where's The Love?

Hello Friends!

Today is as good a day as any to start blogging again. Love is in the air. The anticipation, the feel of it, the smell of it, even the taste of it, as evidenced by the sudden upswing of chocolate sales. I happen to be in love with my life, my friends, my children and family, and my community. I love that I've been given the responsibility of helping to guide people toward the path of health and happiness, even as I learn and grow. So with that, here's something from the archives. Hopefully on the day of love, which should be everyday, we'll see a bigger picture. Be well, Be blessed.....

Yogi J

WHAT IS LOVE? By Yogi J. Miles

What is love?
The unanswered question
The question that receives the most answers
Love is the ancient magical spell with the unpronounceable words
Love is that secret recipe
An exotic blend of passion fruit and perspiration
Sugar Cane and cayenne
It stimulate all five senses and awakens the sixth
It is the music that soothes the savage beast and is the key that unlocks the cage containing the beast within
Love is sought after with the same vigor that it is rejected
Love is the energy that drives us each day
Love is the light we try so hard to find in others, ignoring the fierce glow inside
Love resurrects us each morning
And keeps us warm at night
Easily recognized, it is hidden by invisible camouflage
Only seen with the soul
It often clouds the mind
Love is the most powerful weapon in the arsenal for good
The unwitting tool of evil
Love is seen in the slanted eyes of my Queen when I find her
Given back ten-fold with every touch
Love will make you expect the unexpected
Forget what you've learned
And believe the impossible
Led by Love, the voiceless sing like angels, and the sightless see unending patters of beauty and color
I could explain Love a thousand times over, filling page after page, each line an expression from my soul
But would you understand?
Love is toil and strife, the endless 8-hour day, the most difficult task
The ultimate goal
Love is what the blessed share with each person they meet
Love is the fantasy that turns dreams into nightmares when its denied
Love is the sacrifice made and the miracle given in return
Love is the holy grail of the broken hearted
Love will cause a preacher to doubt, make a non-believer worship the Divine
Love is the knight is shining armor and the damsel in distress fighting the enemy together
Love is the greatest gift, a microscopic view of what paradise really was
Love is the loudest whisper ever heard
And the silent scream of pure bliss
Love is the full expression of Self
Love is our spirits way of outwardly projecting the inner
Love is the manifestation of universal compassion and truth
Love is the vehicle we use to travel the path of liberation
Love is peace and understanding, wisdom personified in an expression of feeling
But so much more...
A feeling, a thought, an action, satisfaction:
Love is what is, the same as what it has been
Love is what is

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Move That Tree!!

Namaste and welcome back!!

Right off the bat I will go ahead and admit that I could perhaps be the absolute worst blogger ever!  Life, laziness, work, inaccessibility, any number of excuses will do. The truth is that I found it difficult to record my life while in the midst of trying to navigate through it. In the all in important quest to be "present", its hard to record moments as they slip immediately into the past. This started out to be a travel log of sorts, just a way to update students and friends about my whereabouts, experience and adventures. Along the way whenever I would stop long enough to give a status report, invariably personal experience, lessons I had learned and how I process  and view things through the magnifying glass off yoga were also reported. Trouble is, what happens when the traveling stops and there's no adventure to report? What about everyday life is compelling enough to blog about? What daily lessons can be thought provoking enough to share?


Every single day there is an opportunity to learn more about ourselves. We learn what drives us, what motivates us, the things that tempt us, the things that really show our "unattractive" side. And though we tend to back away from our fears or what causes resistance or resentment, we learn about these things as well. And so in my daily trials I realized that my travels have to be more inward. I have to navigate through the rocky roads of life from right where I stand. I need to visit the state of who I am. What ruffles my feathers? How do I overcome circumstance? In the past few months I've been able to see exactly what I'm made of. I've come to realize that I'm made of some pretty strong stuff :). I've always said that obstacles are in place to make the spirit strong. Burdens build toughness. We decide that our conditions are not going to be our final testament. We start to believe that anything is possible, in spite of.

No where is this sentiment more evident that in children. Remember your child-like enthusiasm? Remember when giants and dragons were real and your father had super human strength? Remember in your youthful imagination when any and everything was possible? As a child do you remember not having enough? Or was life simply abundant? I was reminded of this attitude the other day as I showed up to teach a noon class at a local fitness facility. As I parked my car, a very cute family was walking to their mini-van. The mother told the little girl to stay on the sidewalk and wait until she got the doors open and put the baby she was carrying in the car seat. The little girl went to the sidewalk and began to lean against on of the young sapling trees that had been planted maybe year ago. As her mother went around to get her, she asked "honey (I didn't hear her name), what are you doing?" The little girl was at that point really pushing now, with both hands, feet digging in. She said, "i'm gonna move this tree outta my way!" The mother said she didn't think the tree would move, I on the other had thought that this was the most awesome thing ever, and immediately wished that I could cultivate that same attitude. There was absolutely no doubt in her mind that if she continued to push, the tree would move. No fear. No expectation of failure. No feeling that she lacked the strength. Only the resolve of a small child. My lesson for the day. Look out trees, here I come!


Yogi J

Friday, March 30, 2012

There's No Place Like Ommmm

Hey there my friends how long has it been, a month? I suppose you think I've flown out of this orbit on my traveling mat by now, right? Actually I landed in a familiar place, Richmond VA. Back among friends and loved ones, back to back to responsibility and reality.  I also landed right back into a full teaching schedule and tons of exciting work to do for Project Yoga Richmond. I also landed in what could possibly be the worst pollen season of the century, thanks to the "non" winter here in the southeast. Kinda makes me long for the clean ocean breezes that kept me company for the month of February....

Believe it or not, other than a year and a half in college, my little venture was the longest I had ever been away from "home". From 2/1/12 through 3/12/12. In reality I was only two states away. I didn't go very far at all. Yet my trip took me a very long way in terms of my growth as a teacher and more importantly as a person. I learned I didn't need a lot to survive and I enjoy solitude. I like being a Nomad. My practice deepens when I spend more time doing it, instead of talking about it. Some days it was almost unbearable to not see my youngest son for that long, and more than once I was in tears when I got off the phone with him. I also had a few times to really ask myself, "why am I doing this", when expectations were high, but attendance was low. And every phone call I received reminding me of my responsibilities in Richmond, I knew I was not on a vacation. But I got to practice yoga everyday, sometimes 2 or 3 times a day. I got to talk about yoga and what it meant to be a Yogi everyday. Everyday I learned something new from someone, or shared some new experience. And I was well taken care of. There was always someone offering a meal, or having a place for me to shower or wash clothes. I really learned to appreciate the kindness of others, how to be a good guest and to appreciate the exchange of energy we all share. And it was that exchange of energy that I will treasure most.

I will probably never be able to fully express the joy and the outright pleasure I had living in a yoga studio, living, breathing and talking yoga everyday. Talking about it in a "how can we use our practice to help us lead more fulfilling lives" type of way. As a plus, there happened to be a teacher training in progress. With the grace of the instructor, I was giving the opportunity to sit in from time to time and observe the cultivation of the next generation of yoga teachers. It was really uplifting to see the dedication, the inquisitiveness, the lightbulbs going off, even the angst and anxiety of wondering if one will ever know enough or be qualified enough to take the responsibility of teaching yoga. Something I know every teacher who has ever gone through training has felt, including me. I still sometimes feel ill-equipped to do what I do, but this is what keeps me from feeling as though I've "figured it out". I still try to cultivate the mentality of those students, keeping a quality of "learning" in my yoga practice. I think being on the road for a little while allowed me to the freedom to learn again, to study, to reflect and to continue "becoming".

And now back home. Back to being a daddy, back to having familiar faces to look upon and familiar streets to travel on. Back to regular schedules and regularly set alarm clocks. Back to being the head of an organization. Back to new challenges and opportunities. Back to basics. Back to becoming.

Peace and Blessings,

Yogi J Miles

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Goin "Coastal"

Give Thanks!!!

Hello to you, fellow travelers of life. I trust this post finds you healthy, happy and free. Today was what I would call a "chill" day. No classes, no appointments, no demands, no expectations. I woke up late, got out of bed late, had a late breakfast and then hit the beach. Today was pretty glorious, as far as days go and I used it to read and prepare for THREE workshops this upcoming weekend: an arm-balancing/inversion workshop,  a workshop based on the concept of Dharma, and a workshop for teachers focusing on flowing transitions. This coming on the heels of a weekend spent in Charleston, SC, where I taught the free community at the Lululemon Showroom and followed that up with a two-hr master class at Serenity Now Yoga. I also managed to squeeze in some practice for myself, visiting the Jivamukti Yoga School of Charleston last sunday. All in all this trip, excursion, journey, expedition - whatever you want to call it - has provided me with the opportunity to visit, talk to, teach, learn from, and just be constantly in the presence of other yogis and yoginis. It seems as though my entire world is an ashram and everyone I meet is part of my "sangha", my spiritual family.

Below are some new members of my extended family and the latest stop along the way:

After two hrs of Vinyasa, the students were all smiles

As I continue along this path, I've been continuously asking myself why I do what I do, and why did I choose this particular route, at this particular time. It has not been easy, yet it has been less that two months. That's not nearly enough time for wondering "what if" or second guessing. I've been thinking about my Dharma, and how I can best contribute to making the world better. I've been trying to figure out how can I become a better teacher, a better leader, a better father. The quiet and seclusion (well except for the live streaming b-ball. Thank you internet) has afforded me the chance to really get to know who I really am, and really observe closely the areas in my life that still need a bit of "touching up".

And what have I learned? We are all works in progress. We are all searching for what is True for us, and (hopefully) how to best reflect that Truth in such a way that is to the benefit of our fellow Being. My truth is I teach yoga. This is the vehicle that I have been given to help spread love and joy to whoever needs it. Yoga is my teacher. This is how I connect, how I reach out, how I serve. And I'm happy to do so :).

Peace and Love from the Mat,