Soon after I started my Nia training, I was telling a more experienced teacher my plans for completing all the levels of training as fast as possible and “making Nia happen” in Charlottesville. She looked at me kindly and told me a story about a famous Buddhist teacher who listened to similar plans from a student. The story goes that the teacher got a serious look and said, “Attachment to outcome: beeeeeeg problem.”
I had no idea what she was talking about.
I am a product of the American educational and corporate system. Until leaving my office job to teach Nia in 2000, I had spent my life working for the grades, striving for the job, closing the deal and getting the signing. Goal-orientation was the only way I knew how to approach anything: see what you want and make it happen.
My friend’s story and the Buddhist teaching of non-attachment baffled me.
I was doing my best to tuck my chin to my chest and place my forehead on my knee in Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose (Dandayamana-Bibhaktapata-Janushirasana) when my teacher, Madelyn said, “If you don’t practice this pose with your hands together, you will never do this pose with your hands together.”
I giggled at this (as much as giggling is possible when upside down with throat choked and sweat dripping into the nose) because I saw her point. If I am aiming toward something but I don’t do the steps to get there, I’ll never get there.
The key, as Yoga Mastah Kirk often points out (see his oft repeated quote above), is to do one step at a time and be in each step completely, without expectation or attachment to outcome.
This week, we’re launching a project of gratitude and invitation to one of my favorite musical artists, Michael Franti.* His music moves me, literally and figuratively, and I want to thank him for the difference he makes in my life and in my work.
I also want to invite him to dance in a Nia class and do yoga with us in Charlottesville … and oh yeah, also give us a concert.
The plan is to hand-deliver a community-created strand of prayer flags that express our appreciation and welcome him to come and play with us. As I’ve been making preparations and announcements about the idea and the project, lots of people have said they are excited and want to be part of it. I’ve also heard, “He probably won’t come” and “It’ll never happen” and “He won’t do it.”
I want Michael Franti to come to Charlottesville. I want him to dance with my class and practice yoga at my studio. I want to meet him and shake his hand (who am I kidding? I want to throw my arms around him and squeeze him senseless). I want to let him know how much his art means to me. But the process of dreaming about it, coming up with the idea (it was a group effort, culminating in Rebecca’s prayer flag idea), making plans, making the prayer flags with my community and sending them off to him are all steps along the way. I’m having fun with each step.
I hope he comes. I really do. But whatever happens, it doesn’t matter. I’m having a great time doing the steps.
Now, who wants to make some flags with me?