“When you do something, you should do it with your whole body and mind; you should be concentrated on what you do. You should do it completely, like a good bonfire. You should not be a smoky fire. You should burn yourself completely. If you do not burn yourself completely, a trace of yourself will be left in what you do.”
― Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
Blessings to you all. I am listening currently to the beautiful melody of Aidan Hawken’s “Into the Sea” which you can listen to by clicking on the Youtube video link below:
Autumn is a time of reflection, transition, and new beginnings. It has been some time since I have sat down and committed to writing my next post. Since I last wrote to you, my transition from public practice back to private practice at a boutique litigation firm has occupied the last six weeks of my life. So much has occurred this last month and a half – all of it good and right – that it is hard to select one event or one topic that I wish to expound on in this forum. I have never been happier than at this juncture in my life.
These past weeks, I have been involved in my firm’s work in a number of litigation areas, including research and writing appellate legal briefs for a significant aboriginal litigation matter currently before the Supreme Court of Canada. I have also transitioned into the seat of a new sessional business law instructor at MacEwan University (with 30 eager students who love learning about the law!). As well, I’ve taken on a new part-time gig as a featured yoga & meditation instructor at a brand new yoga studio in downtown Edmonton called Full Heart Breath Yoga. Stay tuned for more details on when and where you can find me teaching at Full Heart Breath!
With all of these new beginnings in my life, there is one topic – the beginner’s mind – which has surfaced in a very unexpected but blessed way in these last six weeks. I’d like to tell you how this experience of the beginner’s mind has represented another important ‘course correction’ – to borrow from Stephen Cope – that has inspired me to sit firmly in the seat of a teacher of yoga and mindfulness to my fellow brother and sisters. In a word, the beginner’s mind has revealed itself most clearly in the eyes of Omar, my dear soul brother.
On August 15, 2016, I began the next chapter of my journey at a new law firm in Edmonton. I admit, there was a part of me that felt somewhat nervous – in a good way, though. I had not been back in practice for two years, and so the idea of once again being surrounded by clients and billable hours was foremost on my mind. Any yet, almost immediately upon my arrival at the firm, I felt at home. This was a new beginning, a time for renewal, change, and movement into expansion.
I am not quite sure how to explain the feeling I had. All of the anxiety and nerves that I experienced almost vanished when I met my colleagues for the first time. Unlike any other law firm I have worked in, there was an infectious energy about this place that I knew was good and right for my soul. Everyone welcomed me with open arms. In fact, when it became known that I was a yoga teacher, a number of my colleagues expressed to me that they were glad to know someone who “got them”.
It did not take long for me to share the teachings of this practice with my colleagues. By Friday of my first week, I felt called to guide my colleagues through a 20 minute mindfulness meditation practice in the main boardroom. The majority of those who attended were my fellow lawyer colleagues. The overall impressions I received after the meditation practice were positive, and so I have maintained a regular Friday afternoon meditation practice for those interested in attending. It is indeed a highlight of my work week to be able to provide this meditation offering to my fellow colleagues!
Omar and the Beginner’s Mind
One of my colleagues in particular came up to me after our first meditation practice and expressed to me how the practice struck a deep chord with him. His name is Omar. Omar’s eyes were glowing with curiosity and interest. He was grinning from cheek to cheek. It was as if when I looked at Omar, I was staring in many ways at a mirror image of myself when I first began my journey in yoga and mindfulness in the Autumn of 2014. Indeed, I was staring at myself when I first experienced the power and grace of the beginner’s mind.
When I first met Omar at the office on my first day at the new job, I remember very distinctly exchanging looks with this young man, but without exchanging very many words. Instead (and we both noticed this later), we both felt an immediate connection to each other’s energy.
You see, I detect much of myself in Omar. Omar is currently articling with the firm. He possesses a quiet confidence and a keen desire to absorb as much as he can in his year as a lawyer-apprentice under the tutelage of the senior partners of our firm. He is respectful, humble, generous and kind to everyone around him. He is not boastful, nor does he crave material things. He seeks excellence in his work life as much as his family and spiritual life.
Omar expressed to me that he wanted more; he was ready to commit himself to exploring deeper the ancient teachings of the practice of yoga and meditation. Indeed, Omar was ready to begin his journey in yoga and mindfulness – his journey towards his personal dharma.
We are each other’s Spiritual Teacher
In the course of our each of our journeys in this life, we will find ourselves following under the guidance of others who embody certain ideals, certain values and belief systems that we find resonant with our entire being. Our teachers sometimes will be there to guide us for a short period of time, some will stay with us our entire lives. The time that a spiritual teacher shares with us is not what matters in the end. What matters, I submit, is that which is borne of the teacher-student relationship in the precious time that one has with their spiritual teacher. This is how I felt when I began to deepen my yoga practice under the guidance of my beloved teacher, Lindsey Park. This feeling of proximity to and resonance with Lindsey as my spiritual teacher has never left me; it continued over the course of my yoga teacher training to the day that I was released to the world as a 200-hr Registered Yoga Teacher this past June.
Over these last few weeks, it has been my great honour and privilege to sit in the seat of a teacher – first to my students at MacEwan – and now, as a teacher to Omar, both as his informal mentor in the practice of law, but also as his spiritual mentor and guide in the practice of yoga and mindfulness. I can already tell from the types of questions Omar has asked me about this practice and his genuine interest in understanding the source of these ancient teachings that he already possesses a high level of studentship and dedication to the practice. I shall not soon forget our exchange of texts early into the morning one time in which Omar was so eager to learn about the sacred teaching of self-discipline or ‘tapas’ in the practice of yoga.
As a new yoga teacher, I am learning as much from Omar as he is from me. Omar’s desire to aspire to excellence in his life has, in turn, inspired me to transmit these teachings to him at every opportunity I can inside and outside the office; on and off the mat. Amidst a month of constant deadlines at work, Omar has held me accountable to the standards of excellence in body, mind and breath that I have introduced (or reminded him?) to him in the practice of yoga and meditation this past month. In this way, we have pushed each other to remember why we do what we do, to love what we do, and to do what we love to do with intention.
Always moving into expansion in the present moment
If there is one teaching that I have treasured in the practice of yoga and mindfulness, it is this. Always remember there is liberation, freedom, and clarity in moving towards expansion in this tender and precious moment. Never look back in contraction at what could have been. Never dwell in fear or anxiety or hopelessness as to what the future might be like. Live, love and breathe with expansion into the nectar of this moment, and all will be coming to each of us.
In these last six weeks, I have re-discovered what it means to experience the beginner’s mind. I feel so blessed to have arrived at a place in my life where I feel wholly aligned in body, mind, and breath. I feel blessed to be surrounded by a group of colleagues who have embraced me like family. I am blessed to have been reunited with my soul brother, Omar, whose example of the beginner’s mind inspires me to strive for expansion and spaciousness each and every day. For all of these things, I am so very grateful.
In my next post, I wish to share with you a story about my friendship with another person, Richard, who has left an indelible mark on my life already since my arrival at my new firm.
Until then, my dear brothers and sisters, I wish you love, happiness and hope, always.