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Many years ago, I worked full-time as a personal fitness trainer at a wonderful private studio and fitness center. While I practiced a physical and fitness-oriented yoga at that time, I certainly was not practicing Yoga as I understand it now. I had yet to dive into the real practice of yoga, which begins with observation of the ethical practices that underpin yoga as a technology of transformation.
I had work and I had a work persona. I had a social life and a social persona. In a way that many people live, at that time I lived and expressed different "selves" in those different spheres of my life. There were ways I showed up socially that would have surprised some who knew me professionally, and vice-versa. To a degree considered largely acceptable in our society, bifurcating life was my way. An average week was a duel of the duals, if you will.
As a fitness trainer, one is visible on the floor at all times by many. All actions, instructions, words and glances while working with clients are being observed by others, who are making assessments about one's skill, character, and whether they might want to work with you in the future. In order to be a successful trainer, one must be many things - knowledgeable, energetic, kind, supportive, tough, consistent - perhaps most importantly, one must be thoroughly present with those charged under their care.
As I know from observing other busy gym floors during my own personal workouts, few things can erode an onlooker's interest in hiring a trainer more than seeing them staring off into space (or worse, into the mirror - at themselves!), rolling their eyes at something a client has said or done, texting, watching TV, or allowing their eyes to wander towards others not a part of the session. Presence and skillful attention are the service being offered by a professional trainer. Failing to offer these is abandoning the real work, and is always noticeable to others beyond the client. This visibility and it's accompanying responsibilities are gifts, and can serve as powerful motivation for developing the yogic Yamas (restraints) of both Asteya (non-stealing) and Satya (truthfulness).
As we begin the work of seeing and understanding the places where we hide, where we hold up false identities, where we lie, where we shut down and exit the present moment for any number of reasons, we begin to recover and reclaim our true selves. When we allow ourselves to look at the places where we "steal" from others by offering half-truths or by quietly shrugging off our commitments to relating, we can start to see the deep roots - often of fear or greed - that inspire all the self-splitting we've been up to. And we begin to integrate all of these things into the self that shows up in the room, becoming a self that can show up the same way in any room.
We largely do not know how our words, our peace, or our presence are informing the minds and lives of others. When I think of life-altering interactions and vision-altering moments in my own life, often they were small statements or minuscule acts of pure presence made by others - things they may have thought nothing of ever again - that opened doors to great clarity and growth for me. If we're committing to ethical practices that serve our own integration, we can trust that the presence we're able to offer to the world around us is cohesive, clear, more likely to serve the well-being of ourselves and others, and far more powerful than our split selves ever were. In honor of all that you are, I wish you steady discipline to receive and integrate all that you are, and steady courage to bring all of that to this world.
Dana Wyss Healing Arts
Breathe deeply, practice often, be well