By Kate Burne, a Semperviva Yoga Teacher Training student @kate_burne
Never has this statement felt more true than with regard to a weekend spent with Master Teacher, Janet Stone. Three days with the Californian-bred yogi and you get the feeling that she just has it all figured out. That she’s left no stone unturned (if you’ll pardon the pun), in both her yoga journey and life in general. That she’s somehow got the answer that we’re all searching for. (Even as I write this I can see the mother in her smiling at the thought. What was the question?)
Approaching life with a spirit of inquiry, an innocent curiosity, an eagerness to learn, and a desire to understand, her passion for yoga and genuine love for helping people is indisputable.
Even now, as I sit down to write about the experience a full week later, words seem inadequate. It feels as if there simply are no words, just feelings (and to be lost for words is, I assure you, new territory for me). I was humbled by her grace, wisdom, guidance and human-ness, and her strength, support and ability to hold the space for each and every one of us bringing something different to the mat and working through it. In yoga, the mat acts as a blank slate for self-discovery, if you’re simply willing to pour out what you’re going through, and sift through it during the practice. Well, mission accomplished. And with no shortage of tears.
So what will I remember most from a weekend spent with Janet Stone? I’ll try and keep this short, though brevity has never been my strong point.
Forgiveness, the “simple” act of letting go, is anything but simple. It comes first from a place of laying down our egos, our habitual thought patterns (samskaras) and the stories we tell ourselves, and simply surrendering and releasing. In full body prostration (Dandavat) woven beautifully and seamlessly into the sun salutation (Surya Namaskara) of Janet’s physical practice, we lay the ego, the carefully constructed “self” that we present to the world, down on the earth and surrender, opening ourselves up to a new way of thinking. In this we simply remember what it was like to be a child, carefree, humble and open. We remember this, and we come back to it.
Devotion. Regardless of what we may think we are dedicating our lives to, quite simply, what we spend the most time doing, becomes what we are really dedicating our life (our prana) to. Devotion is the act of ensuring that the ways in which we choose to spend our time and the things that are most important to us are in alignment.
Often we are ruled by our samskaras, our past experiences, past teachings, or just simply something someone once told us. They become the filters through which we see the world, and we cling to these ideas like lifelines because they’re familiar to us. But they’re nothing more than just that: ideas. Choosing to be awake, to pay attention, to live consciously, to question what we’re up to on this journey, what we’re dedicated to, and how we want to spend our lives, that is devotion. Devotion is simply choosing to live consciously.
In years to come, when I think of this weekend, I’ll remember Janet’s beautiful voice singing about Hanuman, and about all beings everywhere being happy and free from suffering (Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu). Yes, I’ll remember that crippling moment when we each had to lead the group in mantra (ego, I’m looking at you!). But mostly I’ll see Janet, in what I can only imagine is her happy place, behind the keys of a harmonium, reminding us that “You can’t rush your healing. Darkness has it’s teaching. Love is never leaving. You can’t rush your healing.” (Taken from Trevor Hall, “You Can’t Rush Your Healing”).